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People v. Sheley

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

October 27, 2017

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
NICHOLAS T. SHELEY, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit, Whiteside County, Illinois, Circuit No. 08-CF-402 Honorable Jeffrey W. O'Connor, Judge, Presiding.

          JUSTICE SCHMIDT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Holdridge specially concurred, with opinion.

          OPINION

          SCHMIDT JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Defendant, Nicholas T. Sheley, appeals his conviction of four counts of first degree murder. Specifically, defendant contends that the circuit court erred in denying his motion for a mistrial because reversible error occurred when the judge fell asleep during the jury trial. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 The State charged defendant with 15 counts of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 2008)) for causing the deaths of Dayan Blake, Brock Branson, Kilynna Blake, and Kenneth Ulve. With regard to the murder of Dayan, the indictment alleged that Dayan was under 12 years old and his death resulted from exceptionally brutal or heinous behavior indicative of wanton cruelty as set forth in section 9-1(b)(7) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (720 ILCS 5/9-1(b)(7) (West 2008)).

         ¶ 4 A jury trial was held. The evidence at trial showed that the four victims were last seen alive in their apartment in Rock Falls, Illinois, on the evening of June 28, 2008. Two days later, the bodies of the victims were found in their apartment. The victims had been bludgeoned to death.

         ¶ 5 The State also presented evidence that on the morning of June 28-prior to the murders of the victims in the instant case-defendant stole a truck, a work shirt, and a hat from Illinois Oil Products in Rock Island, Illinois. Defendant drove the truck to Galesburg, where he murdered Ronald Randall and then stole Randall's truck. The State presented a videotaped deposition of Pamela Sebben. Sebben was a gas station clerk who sold cigarettes to defendant on June 28 in Galesburg.

         ¶ 6 When the police searched the victims' apartment, officers found the work shirt that defendant stole from Illinois Oil Products. The shirt contained DNA consistent with that of defendant and was stained with Randall's blood. The officers also found pair of khaki shorts in the apartment. Testing revealed that the inside of the waistband of the shorts contained defendant's DNA. The shorts were stained with Ulve's and Randall's blood. Additionally, officers found two cigarette butts that contained defendant's DNA.

         ¶ 7 Two shirts and a pair of shorts belonging to Branson were missing from the apartment. A police officer found those items in a dumpster in Festus, Missouri. The clothing contained DNA consistent with that of defendant. One of the shirts contained several bloodstains. Testing showed that the bloodstains contained the DNA of Ulve, Branson, and Kilynna. The State also introduced photographs of defendant in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 29. In those photographs, defendant was wearing one of Branson's missing shirts.

         ¶ 8 Officer Brad Cirimotich testified regarding security camera footage purportedly showing defendant in Galesburg on June 28. Cirimotich testified regarding the contents of the security camera footage while the videotapes were being played. After the videos ended, the following exchange occurred:

"MR. ELWARDS [sic] [Assistant Attorney General]: Judge, we can have the lights back up.
MR. KARLIN [defense counsel]: Judge?
(Counsel Karlin approached the bench.)
MR. KARLIN: Judge O'Connor?
(Counsel Elward approached the bench.)
MR. ELWARD: Judge, could we get the lights back on?
THE COURT: Hmm.
MR. ELWARD: We need the lights back on.
(The Court complies.)
MR. ELWARD: Thank you.
Judge, I've got some chain exhibits that I need to do with Detective Cirimotich, perhaps this might be a good time for us to break for ...

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