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People v. Henderson

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

November 30, 2017

AARON D. HENDERSON Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit, Rock Island County, Illinois. Circuit No. 13-CF-1089 Honorable Michael F. Meersman, Judge, Presiding.

          JUSTICE SCHMIDT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Carter and O'Brien concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 Defendant, Aaron D. Henderson, appeals from his conviction for first degree murder and his subsequent 40 year prison sentence. Specifically, he argues that the trial court (1) committed reversible error when it conducted ex parte communications with the jury during deliberations, (2) committed reversible error when it allowed the jury to observe audio and video evidence in the courtroom during deliberations in the presence of only a representative of the State's Attorney's office, (3) failed to conduct a preliminary inquiry into defendant's pro se allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel, and (4) abused its discretion in sentencing him to 40 years' imprisonment. We reverse and remand for a new trial.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 In December 2013, defendant was charged, in relevant part, by information with first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(3) (West 2012)) for the death of Derek James Jackson based on an accountability theory. Specifically, the charge alleged that defendant, while acting with another for whose conduct he was legally responsible for, during the attempted commission of robbery, shot Jackson with a firearm causing his death. The following month, defendant was charged with a second count of first degree murder with a firearm (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(2) (West 2012); 730 ILCS 5/5-8-1(d)(iii) (West 2012)), for personally discharging the firearm that killed Jackson.

         ¶ 4 Defendant's trial took place over the course of four days in March 2015 during which the following evidence was presented.

         ¶ 5 Alyson Schippers testified that she was Jackson's girlfriend. Over her lunch hour on December 17, 2013, she was with Jackson, Jackson's three-year-old son Remy, Kameron Bolden, and defendant, whom she knew by the nickname "Dewy." She explained that Jackson and defendant were "good friends" and that defendant was at Jackson's house "a lot." While on her lunch break, Schippers overheard defendant and Jackson talking about Jackson purchasing a gun from defendant and someone else. Schippers did not find this unusual because Jackson had guns at his house and went to the shooting range. Jackson later picked her up from work, and she, Jackson, and Remy returned to Jackson's home where they spent the night. Schippers stated that the three of them woke up the next morning around 10:30 to 11 a.m. Jackson had money lain out on the dresser, which Schippers assumed was for the purchase of the gun. She was getting Remy dressed while Jackson was getting ready for work when the telephone rang. According to Schippers, Jackson answered the phone and then told her that Dewy was on his way. Jackson asked her to turn on the music, and he went downstairs. She plugged her phone into the sound system. Jackson's house was also equipped with an alarm system, and she heard a beep upstairs which indicated the front door to the house had opened.

         ¶ 6 Approximately 5 to 10 minutes later, Schippers heard a gunshot. She went downstairs to see what happened and saw Jackson lying on the ground as defendant, who was wearing a black hoodie, was leaned over Jackson rifling through his pockets. Schippers was scared so she went back upstairs and "took [her] phone off of the music" but then she "plugged it back in" because she did not want "them" to come upstairs. Shortly thereafter, she saw two people "running up the street." Their back was to her and all she could see was that they "had dark clothes on, pants and shirt." Schippers ran downstairs to check on Jackson and saw that he had been shot and was unresponsive. She called 911. A recording of the 911 call was published to the jury. During the call, Schippers tells the operator that "Dewey" and "Kam" shot Jackson. Schippers further testified that Jackson's cell phone was never located nor was the cash he had set out to purchase the gun.

         ¶ 7 Nicholas Pauley, a police officer with the city of Rock Island, testified that he responded to the scene of the shooting. Upon arriving at the scene, he entered the house and saw that personnel from the Rock Island fire department were treating Jackson's apparent head wound. Pauley then secured the scene. He located three spent shell casings in the vicinity, one in the kitchen and two in the dining room, which he marked with a piece of paper. Pauley was also present during the execution of a search warrant at defendant's residence. During that search, he collected a pair of black jeans and other clothing.

         ¶ 8 Ellen Chapman, a forensic scientist with the Illinois State Police, testified that she tested the pockets of the black jeans collected from defendant's residence. According to Chapman, the right front pocket of the jeans tested positive for gunshot residue. She further testified that the gunshot particles could be the result of being in the same environment as the discharged firearm.

         ¶ 9 Garrett Alderson, a criminalist with the Rock Island police department, testified that he was dispatched to the scene of the shooting to take photographs and collect evidence. He collected four shell casings and two bullets from the scene. The next day, he returned to the residence and collected a third bullet from the residence and a fourth bullet from Jackson's body that was recovered during autopsy. Alderson stated the shell casings collected from the scene were 40-caliber TulAmmo Smith & Wesson casings. He also participated in the execution of the search warrant at defendant's residence. At that residence, Alderson collected some of defendant's clothing. He also took possession of money that had been seized from defendant and turned over to the Rock Island police department. Alderson found a potential blood stain on the money but no latent fingerprints. He then returned the money to a detective to enter into evidence.

         ¶ 10 Mark Staes, a police officer for the city of Rock Island, testified that he was dispatched to the scene of the shooting. Schippers let him in the back door of the residence. After securing the residence, he took Schippers and Remy into an upstairs bedroom. At that point, Schippers told him that Jackson had been on the phone with defendant and then, shortly thereafter, he let defendant and another person into the house. A few minutes later, she heard what she thought were two gunshots. She went downstairs and saw defendant going through Jackson's pockets. Schippers showed him a picture of defendant on her cell phone.

         ¶ 11 Ranzan Ahmad testified that he was the owner of the 11th Street Mart in Rock Island. The market was equipped with a video surveillance system, which was working on December 18, 2013. He turned the surveillance video over to the police.

         ¶ 12 Timothy Metzger, a police detective with the city of Rock Island, testified that he collected surveillance videos recorded by the 11th Street Mart convenient store, which was near Jackson's house. He reviewed the videos and located footage of defendant. Redacted portions of the surveillance video were published to the jury. The video begins at 11:33 a.m. on December 18, 2013, and it depicts defendant and Bolden walking across 11th Street into a parking lot, which is located near Jackson's house. Approximately eight to nine minutes later, defendant and Bolden again appear on the video. Metzger described the clothes defendant was wearing as blue jeans, a black "leather-ish looking" coat, a "[g]rayish colored stocking cap, " and white tennis shoes. He described Bolden's clothing as dark colored jeans with a white T-shirt "hanging out underneath" a "gray or purplish hoodie" under a "darker or black outer coat."

         ¶ 13 Chad Sowards, a police detective with the city of Rock Island, testified that he responded to the scene of the shooting and interviewed Schippers. During that interview, Schippers told him that defendant was at the residence during the shooting and that she observed him going through Jackson's pockets afterwards. Sowards then executed an arrest warrant for defendant at defendant's girlfriend's residence in Davenport, Iowa. At the time of his arrest, defendant was wearing a white hooded sweatshirt and maroon jeans. Sowards stated that defendant waived his Miranda rights and agreed to speak to the police. According to Sowards, defendant told him that he was at his residence from 3 p.m. on December 17, 2013, when he was dropped off by Jackson and Schippers, until 3 p.m. on December 18, 2013, when his girlfriend picked him up and took him to her house. Sowards further testified that defendant told him the last time he had been at Jackson's home was December 17, 2013. Sowards's interview of defendant was recorded and the recorded interview was published to the jury.

         ¶ 14 Herve Denain, a crime scene technician for the Davenport, Iowa police department testified that the Rock Island police department had requested him to assist with collecting evidence from a Davenport residence. He collected $227 in ...

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