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In re Christian W.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fourth Division

August 31, 2017

In re Christian W., a Minor.
v.
CHRISTIAN W., Respondent-Appellant. THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Petitioner-Appellee,

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 15 JD 3178 Honorable Patricia Mendoza, Judge Presiding.

          ELLIS PRESIDING JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices McBride and Howse concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          ELLIS PRESIDING JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Michael and Travadis Bryant were ambushed and shot in the head while sitting on a porch on the afternoon of July 29, 2015. Fourteen-year-old respondent, Christian W., was charged with two counts of attempted murder and related offenses in connection with the shooting. The charges alleged that Christian shot Travadis and was accountable for a second assailant, who shot Michael. After an adjudicatory hearing in juvenile court before the bench, Christian was found guilty of the charges relating to Travadis and not guilty of the charges relating to Michael.

         ¶ 2 We reverse the adjudications, because the State did not prove Christian guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

         ¶ 3 I.

         ¶ 4 Michael testified that he was sitting on a neighborhood porch with his brother Travadis at the time of the shooting. He had turned his back momentarily to put out his cigarette when he heard Travadis say, "Boy what the f***." Michael turned back toward Travadis and saw Christian standing four or five feet away, pointing a black revolver at Travadis's head. After two seconds or so, Christian fired one gunshot at Travadis, at point-blank range, and stood there for a few more seconds with his gun raised. Michael tried to disarm Christian, but a second assailant came out of the gangway, fired three or four gunshots at Michael, and tried to pull Christian away from the scene. Michael was shot in the back of the head and fell on top of Travadis. When he came to, he went looking for help, and a friend drove him to the hospital.

         ¶ 5 Michael testified that he immediately recognized Christian, a "random little guy" from the neighborhood who had "started hanging around [Michael's] crowd." Michael and Travadis, who were roughly twice Christian's age, were "taken" with the young boy and became friendly with him. Michael knew Christian for four or five years and saw him around the neighborhood several times a week. Michael knew Christian's first name but not his last name.

         ¶ 6 At the hearing, Michael described Christian as having "raccoon-ish" eyes, with bags or darkened skin underneath; and "fair hair" that was "kind of curly straight almost like Hispanic, " so that he did not look "fully African-American." At the time of the shootings, he said, Christian wore a black shirt that he held up over his face, brown or tan pants, and black gym shoes. Michael had seen Christian wearing these same clothes for the previous three or four days.

         ¶ 7 The second shooter had "short nappy hair" that looked like a "miniature fro, " and a complexion a bit lighter than Michael's; he wore dark jeans and a black hoodie. Michael was not certain about the identity of the second shooter, but he thought it was another young boy from the neighborhood known as "Munchie, " whose real name was Davon McGee and who would later testify as one of Christian's alibi witness.

         ¶ 8 Detective Rios interviewed Michael in the hospital a couple hours after the shooting. Michael had a graze wound to the back of his head and was getting stitches. Michael initially testified that he "didn't tell [Detective Rios] anything" because he was just "trying to get sowed [sic] up" and "wasn't trying to talk to anybody at the time." Michael said he "didn't like [Detective Rios's] vibe"; the detective's "aggressive" "approach" made him feel "like [he] was the shooter and not the victim." But Michael then testified, in sum, that he gave Detective Rios the same descriptions of two shooters that he gave in later police interviews and again at trial.

         ¶ 9 The defense called Detective Rios to the stand. He testified that, although Michael was not completely cooperative and was, understandably, more interested in his brother's condition than in talking to the police, Michael did provide the following information: While he was sitting on the porch with Travadis, someone came out of the gangway and started shooting. After Travadis got shot, Michael stepped in front of him and got shot in the back of the head. Michael did not say, in so many words, that the same person shot both of them, but when defense counsel asked, "how many suspects did [Michael] tell you were involved in the shooting, " Detective Rios answered, "One."

         ¶ 10 Rios testified that Michael described the suspect's features and clothing in detail to him. The suspect was a black male, 18-20 years old, 5'4''-5'5'', and 140-145 pounds; he had a medium complexion and short hair; he wore a green, red, and brown hoodie; and he held up a black scarf that partially covered his mouth. Michael did not say that he knew the shooter, and he did not mention Christian by name. When defense counsel asked why he did not, Michael said, "I don't know. It just didn't seem right at the time to me."

         ¶ 11 The day after the shootings, Christian turned himself in on an unrelated warrant and was held in custody at the juvenile temporary detention center (JTDC), where Detective Galliardo arrested him for these offenses about two months later. The parties stipulated that (1) the inventory of Christian's belongings when he arrived at the JTDC included a black t-shirt; tan jeans; and red, black, and white shoes; and (2) Christian wore a black t-shirt, tan pants, and black and white gym shoes when he was arrested.

         ¶ 12 Five days after the shooting-August 3, 2015-Detective Galliardo (and a second, unnamed detective) interviewed Michael. Neither detective testified, but Michael testified that he gave them the same description of Christian he claimed to have given on every other occasion: fair, Hispanic-looking hair and "raccoon-ish" eyes; a black shirt; brown or tan pants; and black gym shoes. For the first time, Michael gave the police Christian's name, and he explained how he knew Christian from the neighborhood. Michael also said there was a second shooter, another young boy from the neighborhood known as "Munchie, " whose real name, he believed, was Davon McGee.

         ¶ 13 Six days later, Detective Galliardo showed Michael two photo arrays. Michael identified Christian from one array and said he was certain it was Christian who shot Travadis. Michael tentatively picked out "Munchie" from the second array, but he did not make a positive identification because "[he] wasn't sure, so [he] didn't want to tell them something [he] wasn't for sure about." The second shooter's physique and "small little nappy fro" looked like "Munchie, " but he "was kind of like 50/50" because the second shooter wore a hood and mask.

         ¶ 14 Almost a year later-June 29, 2016-prosecutors met with Michael to prepare for Christian's trial. When they told Michael that "Munchie" had an alibi-the same alibi as Christian, an irony that was not further explored at trial-Michael responded that the second shooter was not Davon McGee but Donovan McGee, who was also known as "Munchie." Donovan was a black male with dreadlocks, but Michael could not describe him in any further detail. In a supplemental answer that was read into the trial record, the State disclosed Michael's statement that Davon and Donovan were different people. Michael testified at trial, however, that he was referring to one person all along; he was just confused about that person's real name because he knew him only as "Munchie." Michael also testified that Davon used to have dreadlocks, and this somehow confused Michael into believing that Davon and Donovan were two different people.

         ¶ 15 In trying to explain why his description of the second shooter changed over time, Michael also testified that he incorporated information he received from the police into his own uncertain recollections. Michael told Detective Galliardo that "Munchie" had a "short nappy fro." Detective Galliardo responded that the "other people [Galliardo] had interviewed" all said "the [second] shooter had dreads." Michael told Detective Galliardo, "that ain't what I seen and that all I know is-I remember the guy Munchie." After his interview with Detective Galliardo, Michael nonetheless "went with * * * the dreads." As Michael explained, "I was never one hundred percent sure about the guy had dreads, " but "I did tell the State I thought the guy had dreadlocks because that's what [Detective Galliardo] * * * was telling me, " and "I kind of got confused by the officer coming to tell me what other people were saying."

         ¶ 16 Davon McGee and La'Keyvion Goings testified to Christian's alibi. Christian and Davon grew up with La'Keyvion's brother, Lavion Goings, and they were friends of the family. Lavion and La'Keyvion lived with their mother Aleena Greene on the southeast side of Chicago. Christian and Davon both lived in Lawndale, where the shooting occurred. Davon lived three houses away from Michael and Travadis, but they were not his friends. Davon testified that his nickname is "Munchie."

         ¶ 17 The day before the shooting, Christian and Davon went to Aleena's house on the southeast side of Chicago to hang out with Lavion. They got some takeout from a nearby restaurant and spent the night. The next day, sometime in the morning or early afternoon, someone called Aleena and told her about the shooting. Christian, Davon, and Lavion went back to Lawndale after they heard that Michael and Travadis had been shot. Davon testified that they took public transportation; La'Keyvion testified that Aleena drove them. La'Keyvion also testified that Aleena and Lavion told the police about Christian's and Davon's whereabouts at the time of the shooting.

         ¶ 18 Davon testified that they got back to Lawndale at 1:10 p.m.; he knew because he asked the "train lady." They took the CTA to Pulaski Road and 21st Street. The shooting took place at 2126 South Harding Avenue; Harding Avenue is one block east of Pulaski Road. They walked toward Davon's house at 16th Street and Komensky Avenue. They stopped somewhere along the way so Davon could talk to someone named "Snuggles"; meanwhile, Christian and Lavion hung out on the block. They all got back to Davon's house around 3 p.m.

         ¶ 19 The witnesses had various estimates of the time of the shooting. Darnise Riley, Michael's and Travadis's mother, testified that she learned of the shooting on a phone call around 11:40 a.m. Davon testified that the call to Aleena about the shooting was at approximately 11 a.m.; La'Keyvion testified it was in the afternoon, sometime between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Detective Rios, who testified with the benefit of his reports, said the shooting took place around 1 p.m. Michael testified it was around 3 p.m.

         ¶ 20 Michael had a cousin named David Stuart, aka "Little Dave." The defense sought to cross-examine Michael about his alleged dealings with "Little Dave." In an offer of proof, the defense asserted that Michael's father had indicated that Michael sold drugs with "Little Dave" and had been accused of stealing from "Little Dave." The defense argued that the police were aware of this accusation but failed to follow up on it and thus failed to adequately investigate a plausible alternative suspect with a motive to shoot Michael and possibly Travadis. The defense also argued that because Michael had not been charged with a drug offense, he had a "motive and bias to shade a story to create favor with the State."

         ¶ 21 The trial court appointed a bar attorney to advise Michael regarding his fifth amendment privilege against self-incrimination before allowing the defense to question him on these matters. When he was recalled to the stand in the defense case, Michael denied that he was ever accused of stealing from "Little Dave, " but he otherwise invoked his privilege against self-incrimination and declined to answer any further questions about his alleged drug dealing or involvement with "Little Dave." The defense moved to strike all of Michael's testimony, on the ground that he could not be cross-examined about his alleged bias. The trial court denied the motion to strike but said it would consider Michael's assertion of the privilege when weighing his testimony.

         ¶ 22 The trial court found that Michael's identification of Christian was positive and reliable. In reaching this conclusion, the trial court conducted its analysis entirely within the framework of Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188 (1972), and People v. Slim, 127 Ill.2d 302 (1989). The trial court found that all five of the Slim/Biggers factors supported Michael's identification. The trial court paid special attention to one factor-the accuracy of the witness's prior description-and used it as an analytical framework for addressing Christian's challenges to Michael's credibility.

         ¶ 23 II.

         ¶ 24 Christian's principal challenge is to the sufficiency of the evidence. The requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt applies in the adjudicatory phase of a delinquency proceeding, just as in a criminal trial. In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 368 (1970); In re W.C., 167 Ill.2d 307, 336 (1995). In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence, we ask whether a rational trier of fact, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, could have found the essential elements of the crime-including the identity of the perpetrator-beyond a reasonable doubt. In re W.C., 167 Ill.2d at 336; People v. Ross, 229 Ill.2d 255, 272 (2008); Slim, 127 Ill.2d at 307.

         ¶ 25 We do not retry a defendant on appeal. People v. Smith, 185 Ill.2d 532, 541 (1999). We remain mindful that the trier of fact heard the evidence and observed the witnesses. Id. The trial court's findings on witness credibility, the weight to be given certain testimony, the balancing of conflicting evidence, and the reasonable inferences to be drawn from the evidence are entitled to great deference. Ross, 229 Ill.2d at 272. Thus, discrepancies and omissions in a witnesses' identification testimony do not necessarily create reasonable doubt; ...


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