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People v. Barnes

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fourth Division

November 30, 2017

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MITCHELL BARNES, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 11 CR 14718 Honorable Bridget Jane Hughes, Judge Presiding.

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

          OPINION

          BURKE PRESIDING JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Following a jury trial, defendant Mitchell Barnes was found guilty of home invasion and robbery, then sentenced by the trial court to consecutive terms of imprisonment of 18 years and 5 years, respectively. On appeal, defendant contends that (1) he was denied the right to a fair trial where the court prohibited him from presenting evidence of the victim's prior convictions to support his claim of self-defense, (2) the court displayed "antagonism and bias" toward defense counsel in the jury's presence, and (3) the court increased his mandatory minimum sentence by finding that he caused great bodily harm to the victim, even though that issue was not presented to the jury for a finding beyond a reasonable doubt. Defendant also contends that his sentence is excessive in light of his youth, lack of criminal background, and rehabilitative potential. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 A. State Witnesses

         ¶ 4 William Mallette testified that on August 12, 2011, he was staying in room 251 at the Homestead Suites hotel in Schaumburg, Illinois. That night, he left the hotel at 9 p.m. for dinner, returned to the hotel to change his clothes, and then left the hotel again to go to a bar. He returned to the hotel that night and smoked a cigarette in the hotel's designated smoking area. Three males, two black and one white, were also in the smoking area. They were discussing drugs, but Mallette told them that he was too old for that. He went back into the hotel, taking his money clip out of his pocket to retrieve his hotel keycard, and then returned to his room where he fell asleep.

         ¶ 5 He was awakened later that night by "very aggressive" knocking on his hotel room door. The person knocking told him through the door that the hotel was on fire. Mallette opened the door to his room where he saw a tall, black male, who punched him in the head. Mallette was not sure if the black male was one of the people he had seen earlier that night while he was smoking outside. The black male rushed the door, and a white male entered the room behind him. The two males attacked Mallette with a "barrage of punches." Mallette testified that he was being hit so hard and fast that he went to the ground to try to protect himself. The fight started in the kitchen area of Mallette's hotel room, but the two males dragged him into the living area where they continued to punch and kick him.

         ¶ 6 The black male punched him in the ribs, face, and kidneys, and Mallette asked them what they wanted. The black male told him that they were there to "rob and kill [him]." The white male pinned Mallette on his stomach while the black male kicked him in the ribs and stomped on the side of his face. The black male then got onto the bed and then jumped off the bed onto Mallette's lower back. Mallette lost track of the white male, and the black male threw Mallette onto the bed face down. The black male got on top of Mallette and put his arms around his neck and tried to twist it. Mallette testified that he felt like the black male was trying to "rip [his] neck off [his] body." The black male told Mallette that, if he stopped fighting, he would snap his neck, and it would be over.

         ¶ 7 Mallette tried to bite the black male's arm, which startled him, and Mallette was able to break free from the chokehold. Mallette punched the black male in the face and in the groin. However, the black male was able to put Mallette back into a chokehold and continued trying to break his neck. Mallette lifted the black male up onto his back and tried to run through the nearby window, but he did not make it out. The black male continued punching Mallette and then threw him facedown onto the bed. The black male stood on top of the back of Mallette's head and neck and pushed off the ceiling, forcing Mallette's face down into the mattress with his foot. Mallette lost consciousness.

         ¶ 8 When he regained consciousness, there was no one else in the room. He called the front desk of the hotel and the police and stated that he was in excruciating pain, could barely move, and believed his lung was punctured. The police and paramedics transported him to the hospital, where he stayed for one week. He discovered that his wallet, credit cards, driver's license, and cash were missing from his room. He testified that he has constant back pain as a result of the injuries he suffered that night.

         ¶ 9 On cross-examination, Mallette stated that he did not have any drugs in his system on the night of the incident but acknowledged that he drank several beers at dinner and at the bar that night. He denied offering defendant money for oral sex and denied touching any of the three males he saw outside while he was smoking a cigarette before the incident. He further stated that he had complained to the hotel management several times about the three males because they would smoke marijuana and drink beer in the hotel.

         ¶ 10 Joseph Stein testified that there were charges pending against him in relation to the incident with Mallette and that, in exchange for his testimony, he was agreeing to plead guilty to a charge of robbery and all other charges against him would be dismissed and the State would recommend a sentence of six years with boot camp. He testified that in August 2011 he was homeless and was friends with Joseph Pinsel, who lived at the Homestead Suites in Schaumburg. He testified that he would visit Pinsel at the Homestead Suites, where they would hang out with Gerard Golston and defendant, who were both students at Harper College. On August 12, 2011, he and Golston went to the Homestead Suites around 6 p.m. to visit Pinsel. They were drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana in Pinsel's room and then went outside to smoke cigarettes. Golston and Stein testified that while they were in the hotel's designed smoking area, Mallette approached them.

         ¶ 11 Stein testified that Mallette made "racial remarks" toward Golston and then put his arms around Stein and hold him that he was cute. Golston could not hear what Mallette said about him, but saw him touching Stein. Stein told Mallette to leave him alone and that he was a homophobe. Mallette asked Pinsel if he knew where he could get any cocaine and then showed the group some cash in a money clip. Mallette went back into the hotel, and Stein, Pinsel, and Golston returned to Pinsel's room. Defendant joined them in Pinsel's room, and Pinsel told him about the money clip and said that he wanted to try to steal it. Golston testified, however, that it was defendant's idea to steal the money clip and that defendant was the first person to suggest robbing Mallette. Defendant started to formulate a plan to steal the money clip whereby defendant would knock on Mallette's hotel room door and tackle or hit him when he opened the door. Then, Golston would go into the room and take the money clip while Stein waited outside in case defendant needed help with Mallette. Pinsel was supposed to stay in the hallway and be a lookout.

         ¶ 12 Defendant and Stein left the room, but Golston testified that he and Pinsel stayed in the room because Golston did not want to take part in the plan. Once Golston saw defendant knock on Mallette's door, Golston ran out of the hotel and went to the convenience store across the street. Stein testified that he was behind a wall when defendant knocked on the door, but after Mallette opened the door, Stein testified that he heard a "boom, " as if defendant had tackled Mallette. Stein entered the room and saw defendant and Mallette fighting. Defendant was punching Mallette in the face and ribs and then started choking him. Stein grabbed the money clip from the kitchen counter and told defendant to leave with him. Defendant did not stop choking Mallette, however, and told Mallette that he was going to kill him. Stein ran outside to the parking lot, and defendant came out 45 minutes later wearing different clothes and shoes. Defendant told Stein that he changed clothes because he had blood on the clothes he had been wearing. He also told Stein that he was not sure if he killed Mallette or if he just hurt him badly. Stein observed that defendant had swollen knuckles and a bite mark on his arm.

         ¶ 13 Stein and defendant drove to a gas station and tried to use a credit card from Mallette's money clip to buy gas, but the card did not work. They then went to Denny's and used a debit card from the money clip to pay for their meal. When they returned to the Homestead Suites, they saw a police vehicle or ambulance in the parking lot, so they parked in the parking lot across the street from the hotel. They returned to the Homestead Suites after the emergency vehicle left, and Stein returned to Pinsel's room while defendant went back to his own room. Golston testified that later that night police officers knocked on Pinsel's hotel room door and they spoke to the officers. Golston further testified that the next day he saw defendant with Mallette's money clip. On cross-examination, Stein testified that after they saw Mallette outside in the smoking area, Stein went to his room to apologize for telling him that he was a homophobe. Stein stated that this was Pinsel's idea because Pinsel wanted to see if he could see the money clip inside the room so that they could steal it.

         ¶ 14 Schaumburg police officer Jim Hackett testified that on August 13, 2011, at 4:45 a.m., he was assigned to a battery at the Homestead Suites hotel. When he arrived, he observed two officers and paramedics were already with Mallette in room 251. He spoke with Mallete for less than one minute and, as a result of the conversation, went to speak with the occupants of room 254. He spoke to Mallette later that day in the hospital and noticed injuries to his face and legs. On cross-examination, Officer Hackett stated that Mallette told him he had "contact" with two black males and one Hispanic male, but the 911 call said three black males had been involved in the incident. He also stated that Mallette told him that "the black guy in room 254 just kicked my ass." Officer Hackett stated that he had an issue with Mallette's timeline of the events because Mallette told him the attack occurred 20 minutes before the 911 call at 4:45 a.m. but also said that the attack occurred between 1:30 and 1:50 a.m.

         ¶ 15 Dr. Elizabeth Schupp was qualified as an expert in the field of critical care medicine and pulmonary medicine and testified that she treated Mallette at the hospital on August 13, 2011. She noted that he was having trouble moving his lower extremities and complained of chest pain. Mallette told her that he had been assaulted in a hotel room, and she observed that he had the imprint of the sole of a shoe near his right ear. He repeated the version of events as recounted in his testimony but told Dr. Schupp he had lain still on the ground because he thought the two men would leave if he played dead and did not tell her that he lost consciousness. Dr. Schupp took an X-ray of his chest and discovered a partially collapsed lung. Dr. Schupp could tell from the X-ray that Mallette had previously sustained injuries to the right side of his chest and collarbone, but he had recovered from those injuries.

         ¶ 16 Dr. Schupp noted that although Mallette denied drug use, his drug screen tested positive for opiates. Dr. Schupp opined that the positive drug screen could be explained by the fact that the paramedics gave Mallette a Fentanyl IV in the ambulance. Dr. Schupp took Computerized Tomography (CT) scans of Mallette's chest and back. She observed a contusion to his right lung and fractures of the transverse L2 and L3 lumbar spine. Dr. Schupp testified that a lot of force, 200 or 300 pounds of force, is required to fracture the transverse spine. The chest CT also showed a deflation of the right lung and three rib fractures.[1] Dr. Schupp also took a CT scan of Mallette's neck, which showed a fracture of the thyroid cartilage. Dr. Schupp testified that the thyroid cartilage can be fractured when someone tries to choke another person. She also testified that fractured thyroid cartilage is a very rare injury because it takes a lot of force to fracture the cartilage. Dr. Schupp explained that a fractured thyroid cartilage can be a life-threatening injury.

         ¶ 17 Dr. Schupp learned that Mallette was HIV positive but did not believe his HIV status had any effect on his injuries. She testified that she did not see very many people with the level of trauma Mallette exhibited. She testified that she was particularly "impressed" with the fact that Mallette had the imprint of a boot mark on his cheek because it meant that someone had stepped down on him with a lot of force while he was lying down. She further testified that the information Mallette provided her about the incident was "very consistent" with the injuries he exhibited. On cross-examination, Dr. Schupp acknowledged that at the time he arrived at the hospital, Mallette's blood alcohol concentration was 0.162, well above the legal limit of 0.08.

         ¶ 18 Schaumburg police sergeant Greg Klebba testified that he was previously a detective with the criminal investigations bureau and was assigned to investigate the incident at issue in this case. He read the reports of officers who had previously worked on the case and then began looking for Mallette, defendant, and Pinsel. He spoke to Mallette at the hospital with his partner, Detective Tillema. He then went to the Homestead Suites, where he learned that defendant and Pinsel had been asked to leave the hotel. He went to defendant's room and found a pair of high top shoes with a red stain on them that Sergeant Klebba thought could have been blood. The blood was later swabbed and sent to the Illinois State Police Crime Lab for testing in conjunction with a buccal swab from Mallette. The testing showed that the blood on the shoes was consistent with having originated from Mallette.

         ¶ 19 Sergeant Klebba learned that Pinsel was staying at another hotel in Hanover Park. Another detective interviewed Pinsel, and while he did, Stein arrived. Both Stein and Pinsel were taken to the Schaumburg police department, where Stein gave a statement to police. Pinsel returned to the Schaumburg police department a few days later, and Sergeant Klebba learned that defendant was staying at 5628 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

         ¶ 20 Sergeant Klebba and a team of officers and U.S. Marshals followed Pinsel to that address. Sergeant Klebba observed defendant enter Pinsel's vehicle, and U.S. Marshals surrounded the vehicle. Sergeant Klebba arrested defendant and took him to the Schaumburg police department. On cross-examination, Sergeant Klebba acknowledged that Mallette told him that he was unconscious after the attack and that Officer Hackett's report of the incident was not accurate.

         ¶ 21 Assistant State's Attorney (ASA) Michael O'Malley testified that he met with defendant at the Schaumburg police department on the evening of August 18, 2011. He gave defendant his Miranda warnings, and defendant agreed to speak with him. Defendant's account was memorialized in a typewritten statement, which ASA O'Malley typed while defendant was sitting next to him. ASA O'Malley testified that defendant reviewed the completed statement and was able to make corrections, which were marked by defendant's handwritten initials. ASA O'Malley then published defendant's statement to the jury.

         ¶ 22 In the statement, defendant acknowledged that he was smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol in Pinsel's hotel room with Golston and Stein on the night of the incident. Stein and Pinsel told him that a "gay guy" (Mallette) had hit on Stein and said racist remarks to Golston. Defendant also learned from them that Mallette had $500 in cash in a money clip and that he was staying in the hotel room across the hallway from Pinsel's room. Defendant stated that everyone started talking about robbing Mallette and the plan was that defendant would knock on the door and when Mallette opened the door, he and Stein would hold him or knock him out. Golston would then enter the room and grab the money, and Pinsel would be the lookout.

         ¶ 23 Defendant knocked on Mallette's hotel room door, and when Mallette answered, defendant grabbed him, tackled him into the room, and put him into a chokehold, but Mallette did not pass out. After a few minutes, Stein entered the room and kicked Mallette while defendant was choking him. Stein grabbed something from inside the room, but defendant could not see what it was. Stein then left the room, but defendant kept choking Mallette. Mallette tried to bite him, so defendant briefly released him but then put him into another chokehold. Mallette then tried to grab defendant's crotch, and defendant "freaked out" because he had been sexually assaulted by his brother when he was younger. Defendant worried that he could not leave Mallette conscious, so he clasped his hands together and slammed them down on the back of Mallette's neck and then started elbowing Mallette's spine. Defendant told him that he was going to knock him out and kept kicking and punching him while Mallette was on the floor. Defendant then stomped on Mallette's spine with the heel of his right foot "because [the heel] is the hardest part of the foot." Defendant also stomped on Mallette's head with his heel. Mallette stopped moving, and defendant left the room.

         ¶ 24 Defendant stated that the fight lasted about 30 minutes and, after he left Mallette's hotel room, he went back to his own room and changed his clothes, including the red shoes he had been wearing during the fight. Defendant was worried he might have killed Mallette. After changing clothes, he met up with Stein, and the two of them went to a gas station. They tried to use the credit cards from Mallette's money clip to pay for gas, but the cards did not work. They then went to Denny's and used one of the debit cards to pay for their food. Defendant stated that Stein signed the receipt.

         ¶ 25 B. Defense Witnesses

         ¶ 26 Schaumburg police officer Troy Stanley testified on behalf of defendant that on August 13, 2011, he responded to a battery at the Homestead Suites hotel. There, he spoke with Mallette, who told him that, after he heard a knock at his hotel room door, he looked though the peephole and recognized a black male he had been smoking with outside earlier that night. He opened the door, and the black male began punching him and demanded $1000. Officer Stanley acknowledged that Mallette did not say anything about the black male choking him or trying to break his neck. Mallette told Officer Stanley that the black male left the room after kicking him. On cross-examination, Officer Stanley stated that he was the first officer on the scene and arrived before the paramedics. He also acknowledged that when he arrived, Mallette was bleeding and in obvious pain.

         ¶ 27 Michael Hansen, a firefighter and paramedic for the village of Schaumburg, testified that he treated Mallette before he was taken to the hospital. Hansen testified that Mallette told him that he was assaulted by three people in his hotel room but did not mention anyone choking him or trying to break his neck. Hansen noted that Mallette had swelling and a boot print on his face. On cross-examination, Hansen stated that he gave Mallette a Fentanyl IV in the ambulance, which is an opiate, and that Mallette complained of pain in his chest and back.

         ¶ 28 Defendant testified that in August 2011 he was attending Harper College in Palatine, Illinois. He attended the college on a full-time sports and educational scholarship, and his father paid the remainder of his expenses. Harper College did not have dorms but had an arrangement with the Homestead Suites to offer Harper College students discounted rates. On August 12, 2011, he was speaking with Stein at the Homestead Suites, and as a result of their conversation, defendant went to room 251 at the hotel. He knocked on the door, and Mallette opened it and told him to come in. Mallette said "you finally made it, " but defendant had never seen Mallette before. Mallette told defendant to "show [him] something, " and defendant removed his shirt. Mallette started walking around and touching defendant.

         ¶ 29 Mallette then asked defendant to perform oral sex on him, and defendant agreed, but then Mallette changed his mind and asked if defendant would have anal sex with him. Mallette told defendant that if he did not want to, he would pay him to do so, but defendant stated that he did not need any money. Mallette asked defendant if he would consider having sexual intercourse with him without using a condom, but defendant said that he would not. Defendant started to leave, and Mallette asked him why he came up to his room. Mallette then grabbed defendant on the arm and asked him where he was going. Defendant pushed Mallette in the chest, and Mallette grabbed defendant's neck and told him to get on the bed. Defendant testified that this interaction brought back memories of when he was raped by his older brother when he was 10 years old.

         ¶ 30 Defendant was afraid Mallette was going to rape him, so he punched him in the nose. Defendant kept punching him and fighting with him and was eventually able to leave the room. Defendant called Stein, and the two of them went to Denny's. Stein paid for their meal, and defendant testified that he believed Stein had used his own credit card to pay. Defendant was arrested on August 18, 2011, and taken to the police station.

         ¶ 31 The officers at the police station told defendant that he could go home if he signed a statement admitting that he committed a robbery with Stein and Pinsel, but defendant refused to sign the statement. Defendant testified that he was interviewed by multiple officers and eventually an ASA walked into the interview room with a statement saying that defendant had robbed and attacked Mallette. Defendant had not seen the statement before and did not agree with its contents but signed it anyway because he thought he would be able to leave if he did so. On cross-examination, defendant acknowledged that he did not call police after the incident with Mallette.

         ¶ 32 C. Verdict and Sentencing

         ¶ 33 Following closing argument, the jury found defendant guilty of home invasion and robbery. At the subsequent sentencing hearing, defense counsel argued in mitigation that defendant had no criminal background and noted defendant's potential for rehabilitation based on his supportive family. Defense counsel also pointed out defendant's age, 22 years old at the time of sentencing, and the fact that he was attending college at the time of offense. Defense counsel also noted defendant's "troubled background, " which included being put up for adoption by his birth parents and being molested at a young age by his older brother. Defense counsel also acknowledged that, for purposes of sentencing, the court would have to determine whether Mallette suffered great bodily harm and noted that, although the injuries in this case were severe, they were not permanent. In aggravation, the State focused on Mallette's injuries as detailed by Dr. Schupp and contended that based on her testimony defendant caused serious harm, which was a factor the court should consider.

         ¶ 34 In sentencing defendant, the court noted that it found the testimony of Dr. Schupp to be particularly significant. The court noted that it already made a finding that Mallette suffered great bodily injury, which allowed the court to consider home invasion as a triggering offense to the robbery, so that the terms of imprisonment could be imposed consecutively. The court stated that it had reviewed all the statutory factors in mitigation and aggravation. The court found that "one of the most significant" factors in aggravation was the injuries to Mallette. The court also found that defendant's lack of criminal background was "the significant factor" in mitigation. The court thus sentenced defendant, as a Class X offender, to consecutive terms of imprisonment of 18 years for home invasion and 5 years for robbery, to be served at a minimum of 85% instead of 50% time because of the court's finding that defendant had caused great bodily harm to Mallette. In denying defendant's motion to reconsider his sentence, the court found the fact that defendant caused great bodily harm was shown by the evidence.

         ¶ 35 II. ANALYSIS

         ¶ 36 On appeal, defendant raises four contentions. First, he asserts that the trial court erred in prohibiting him from supporting his claim of self-defense by introducing evidence of Mallette's prior convictions for violent acts. Defendant also asserts that the court's "antagonism and bias" against defense counsel in front of the jury deprived defendant of a fair and impartial trial where the case was a "credibility contest" between defendant and the State's witnesses. Defendant further maintains that the court erred in finding that he caused great bodily harm to Mallette and increasing his mandatory minimum sentence where that fact was not submitted to the jury and found beyond a reasonable doubt. Finally, defendant contends that his sentence is excessive in light of his young age, lack of criminal background, and other mitigating factors that demonstrate his rehabilitative potential.

         ¶ 37 A. Mallette's Prior Convictions

         ¶ 38 Defendant first contends that the court erred in prohibiting him from supporting his theory of self-defense by introducing evidence of Mallette's prior convictions for violent acts. Defendant asserts that his defense at trial was that it was Mallette who initiated the fight after defendant refused his sexual advances and defendant injured Mallette while attempting to protect himself. Defendant intended to support his defense, pursuant to People v. Lynch, 104 Ill.2d 194 (1984), with evidence of Mallette's prior criminal convictions from 1991 for battery and for resisting arrest.

         ¶ 39 1. Standard of Review

         ¶ 40 A trial court's ruling regarding the admission of evidence will not be reversed on appeal absent an abuse of discretion. People v. Becker, 239 Ill.2d 215, 234 (2010). A court abuses its discretion where its decision is arbitrary, fanciful, or unreasonable, or where no reasonable person would adopt the view taken by the trial court. Id.

         ¶ 41 2. People v. Lynch

         ¶ 42 Where a defendant raises a theory of self-defense, he may offer evidence of the victim's aggressive or violent character under one of two circumstances. Lynch, 104 Ill.2d at 199-200. If the defendant knew of the victim's violent character or prior criminal acts, the evidence may be offered to support the defendant's contention that he reasonably believed the use of force in self-defense was justified. Id. at 200. That circumstance is not present in this case, as defendant never claimed to be aware of Mallette's criminal record prior to the incident in question. A defendant may also present evidence of the victim's violent character where there are conflicting witness accounts about how the events in question transpired and the evidence proffered by the defendant serves to bolster his claim that the victim was the initial aggressor. Id. Defendant asserts that this second prong of Lynch applies in this case. Evidence under the second prong of Lynch is admissible only if it constitutes "reasonably reliable evidence of a violent character." Id. at 201. This court has held that the supreme court in Lynch "stopped short of holding that refusal to admit such evidence [of the victim's prior convictions for violent crimes] is per se prejudicial and, thus, preserved the trial court's discretion to exclude it based upon the facts of each case." People v. Armstrong, 273 Ill.App.3d 531, 534 (1995).

         ¶ 43 3. Mallette's Prior Convictions

         ¶ 44 Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion in limine, which contained his contentions pursuant to Lynch. This motion, however, is not included in the record filed on appeal. Nonetheless, our review of this issue is not hindered where there is sufficient information to support the trial court's ruling included in the report of proceedings. The court discussed the prior convictions with defense counsel and the State prior to trial and instructed defense counsel to get more information about the convictions but noted that the convictions occurred 21 years before the incident. The court therefore granted the State's request that defense counsel be precluded from mentioning Mallette's prior convictions in opening statements so that the court could determine how relevant and probative the convictions were.

         ¶ 45 Prior to cross-examining Mallette, the court held a sidebar outside the presence of the jury where defense counsel informed the court about the circumstances leading to Mallette's convictions for resisting arrest and battery.[2] The two offenses precipitating the convictions occurred "four or five days apart from each other" and were pled together. The complaint alleged that police officers arrived at an apartment in response to a fight in progress between two male subjects. The officers knocked on the apartment door, and Mallette answered and started yelling at the officers. The officers attempted to enter the apartment, and Mallette closed the apartment door on one officer's hands. The officers then entered the apartment to handcuff Mallette, and he "resisted some more."

         ¶ 46 After hearing argument from both defense counsel and the State, the court ruled that it was going to exclude the evidence of the prior convictions "simply on the basis that [they were] 21 years old." The court noted that although there was battery against a police officer, the "sole reason" the court was excluding the evidence of the prior convictions was the "remoteness in time from the date that the incident [in this case] occurred and the date that [Mallette] was convicted of [the prior] offense." Defense counsel asked the court if length of time was another element of Lynch, but the court stated that it was within its discretion to not allow the prior convictions in as evidence. Following Mallette's testimony, the court clarified its ruling, stating that it did not allow evidence of the prior convictions to be presented to the jury because the only evidence that had been presented at trial so far was Mallette's testimony, which did not include any indication that defendant acted in self-defense. The court also noted that the court in Lynch discussed the timing of the prior convictions, noting that the prior convictions in that case were "very recent" in relation to the incident at issue. Accordingly, the court observed that because the supreme court in Lynch considered the length of time that had passed since the prior convictions, the trial court could do so as well in this case.

         ¶ 47 4. Remoteness Under Lynch

         ¶ 48 Defendant now contends that the court erred in excluding evidence of Mallette's prior convictions solely on the basis of their remoteness in time. Defendant asserts that the passage of time is not a relevant consideration in determining whether to admit evidence pursuant to Lynch and that it was proper for him to present evidence of Mallette's violent character through the prior convictions to support his claim that Mallette was the initial aggressor. Defendant maintains that the age of the convictions is a consideration for the jury in determining the weight of the evidence, rather than a consideration for the court in determining the admissibility of the evidence.

         ¶ 49 Contrary to defendant's contentions, in interpreting Lynch, both this court and our supreme court have implicitly recognized that remoteness in time is a valid consideration in determining whether it is reasonable for the trial court to allow the admission of evidence pursuant to Lynch. See, e.g., People v. Morgan, 197 Ill.2d 404, 455-57 (2001) (finding that the court did not err in excluding Lynch evidence on the grounds of remoteness of the prior conviction); People v. Ellis, 187 Ill.App.3d 295, 301-02 (1989) (excluding evidence of a victim's prior convictions because the conviction occurred more than 10 years before the defendant's trial). Although defendant contends that neither Morgan nor Ellis stand for the proposition that a circuit court may consider remoteness in time in determining admissibility under Lynch, we decline to adopt defendant's narrow reading of these cases.

         ¶ 50 In Morgan, the supreme court noted that it failed to see how the testimony of a witness's childhood from "many years earlier" was relevant to the claim of self-defense. Morgan, 197 Ill.2d at 457. Likewise, in Ellis, this court noted that under both Lynch and People v. Montgomery, 47 Ill.2d 510, 516-19 (1971), "the court could have also excluded the admission of the victim's 1972 conviction because it occurred more than 10 years before the trial in this matter." Ellis, 187 Ill.App.3d at 301-02. Although the court in Ellis was discussing the evidence under both the Montgomery standard, which has an explicit 10-year limitation period, and the Lynch standard, there is nothing in the decision to suggest that the remoteness analysis applied solely to the evidence under Montgomery, as defendant suggests, and not under both standards.

         ¶ 51 Defendant, nonetheless, relies on People v. Gibbs, 2016 IL App (1st) 140785, ¶ 34, where this court affirmed the trial court's decision to allow the defendant to present evidence of the victim's 14-year-old conviction for domestic violence via stipulation. The defendant in Gibbs sought to question the victim on cross-examination regarding the prior conviction, but the trial court required the prior conviction to be introduced via stipulation only. Id. In affirming the trial court's ruling, this court found that the "[t]he trial court certainly could have exercised its discretion to allow limited questioning of [the victim], but given the age of the conviction and its factual dissimilarity to the charge in this case, it was likewise appropriate to address the matter via stipulation." (Emphasis added.) Id. Thus, although the court in Gibbs affirmed the trial court's ruling to allow admission of the evidence, the court also acknowledged that the age of the conviction was a relevant factor for the trial court to consider in determining how the evidence should have been presented at trial. The court also recognized that these considerations are within the discretion of the trial court and the trial court's ruling on these matters should not be reversed absent an abuse of that discretion. Id. ¶ 33 (citing People v. Coleman, 347 Ill.App.3d 266, 269 (2004)). Thus, the court deferred to the trial court's discretion and affirmed its ruling based on the specific factors present in that case. We find the same deference is warranted here. See Armstrong, 273 Ill.App.3d at 534.

         ¶ 52 Moreover, although the trial court in this case stated that its ruling was based solely on the remoteness in time, we observe that the court also could have excluded the evidence of Mallette's prior convictions because of its lack of relevance.[3] Although the evidence may have indicated that Mallette had a lack of respect for police officers or had the capacity to act insolently, it did not indicate that Mallette was physically violent toward others. There was no evidence that Mallette intentionally tried to attack the officers-the battery apparently occurred when Mallette slammed the door on the officer's hand-or anyone else or even threatened violence. There was no evidence presented regarding the "fight in progress" between Mallette and the other individual at his apartment. Thus, the proffer did not constitute reasonably reliable evidence of Mallette's violent character as required for admissibility under Lynch. Lynch, 104 Ill.2d at 201. Accordingly, we cannot say that the trial court's decision to preclude admission of Mallette's prior convictions was so arbitrary or fanciful that it constituted an abuse of the trial court's discretion. Because we find that the court did not err in excluding this evidence, we need not address defendant's contention that the court's error was not a harmless error. See People v. Nash, 2012 IL App (1st) 093233, ¶ 33.

         ¶ 53 B. The Trial Judge's Bias

         ¶ 54 Defendant next contends that the trial judge's "antagonism and bias" toward defense counsel in front of the jury denied him a fair and impartial trial, where the case was a "credibility contest" between defendant and the State's witnesses and the trial judge's comments to defense counsel damaged defendant's credibility in the eyes of the jury. Defendant asserts that following an exchange outside of the jury's presence, the trial judge displayed antagonism toward defense counsel during defendant's testimony. Defendant maintains that the trial judge's "repeated[ ] berating" of defense counsel in front of the jury was highly prejudical and suggested to the jury that defendant's testimony was not truthful.

         ¶ 55 1. Forfeiture

         ¶ 56 Initially, we observe that defendant has forfeited this issue for review. In order to preserve an issue for appeal, defendant must specifically object at trial and raise the specific issue again in a posttrial motion. People v. Woods, 214 Ill.2d 455, 470 (2005). In this case, defendant neither objected at trial, nor raised the issue in a posttrial motion. ...


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