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People v. Green

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fourth Division

December 29, 2017

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JARON GREEN, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 13 CR 11785, The Honorable Vincent M. Gaughan, Judge Presiding.

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

          OPINION

          GORDON, JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Following a jury trial, defendant, Jaron Green, was convicted of first degree murder for the fatal shooting of the victim, Bruce Lee. After considering factors in aggravation and mitigation, the trial court sentenced defendant to 51 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC). On appeal, defendant argues that his conviction should be reversed, claiming that: (1) the trial court improperly defined the reasonable doubt standard of proof prior to trial, (2) the State made inappropriate remarks during closing arguments, (3) the evidence at trial was insufficient to prove defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and (4) cumulative errors warrant a reversal of defendant's conviction. For the following reasons, we affirm defendant's conviction.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 I. Pretrial Proceedings

         ¶ 4 In June of 2013, defendant was indicted by a grand jury on six counts of first degree murder, and defendant was arraigned on July 11, 2013.

         ¶ 5 On January 22, 2014, defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that he was deprived of a full and complete defense because the police failed to preserve videotape evidence from the crime scene. The motion to dismiss argued that, in a supplementary report, Detective Patrick Deenihan and Sergeant Patrick McDonagh stated that they observed a camera in the rear of an apartment building on the 700 block of North Hamlin Avenue. According to the report, the detectives viewed the video and observed a man running eastbound through the south alley on Chicago Avenue shortly after the shooting. The report further states that the detectives requested an evidence technician to come to the apartment building to retrieve the videotape. However, the motion to dismiss claims that an assistant State's Attorney informed defense counsel that the police did not preserve the video because it contained "nothing of evidentiary value."

         ¶ 6 In response, the State argued that the police determined that the video lacked evidentiary value because the person depicted in the video was too far away to be identified. The State claimed that the police called for an evidence technician to retrieve the video anyway, but they ultimately never recovered the video due to either technical or human error. The trial court then denied defendant's motion to dismiss.

         ¶ 7 Defendant also filed a motion to suppress his identification, requesting that two separate physical lineups, conducted in May of 2013, be suppressed. In his motion, defendant argued that the witnesses, Christopher Roberson[1] and Darian Broomfield, mistakenly identified defendant due to the unduly suggestive nature of the lineup. During the suppression hearing on September 3, 2014, Sergeant McDonagh testified that, in addition to the physical lineups, Broomfield and a third witness, James Holmes, [2] were shown photo arrays in 2011, and that a both witnesses identified defendant as the shooter. Detective Rolando Rodriguez also testified that he conducted two physical lineups and that Roberson and Broomfield both identified defendant as the shooter. The trial court considered the totality of the facts in the case and determined that the photo arrays and physical lineups were not unduly suggestive, and it denied defendant's motion as a result.

         ¶ 8 On January 12, 2015, Darian Bloomfield signed an affidavit claiming that he did not observe defendant shoot the victim and that his previous statement, given on May 17, 2013, was the result of police coercion.

         ¶ 9 II. Preliminary Jury Instructions

         ¶ 10 On May 8, 2015, the trial court began voir dire by welcoming the venire and checking that none of the potential jurors had a relationship with the parties or potential witnesses. The trial court then instructed the venire on basic principles of law, stating that its comments are "not final or complete instructions" but those necessary to assist the eventual jurors to "follow the law and evidence in this case." The trial court described the charges against defendant, the nature of the indictment, the presumption of innocence, and the State's burden of proof. Specifically, the trial court stated:

"These are not your final or complete instructions. Those will come after you've heard all the evidence and the final arguments of the attorneys. When the time for giving instructions come [sic], I will first read them to you, and then you'll get them in writing ***.
* * * The next constitutional principle I want to talk to you about is the burden of proof. In a criminal case, the burden of proof is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Some of you may have sat on civil juries, there the burden of proof is preponderance of evidence, and if you look at a scale, all you have to do is tilt it. And the definition is it's more likely than not that the event occurred, that's preponderance of the evidence.
In a criminal case, again, proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest burden of proof at law.
Does anybody have any problems understanding the burden of proof being beyond a reasonable doubt? Please raise their hand.
Indicating no one raised their hand."

         The trial court also explained that the burden of proof never shifts from the State to defendant, that defendant is not required to testify, and that no negative inference can be drawn from defendant's decision not to testify. The trial court concluded its opening remarks by telling the jurors that it is their duty to find defendant guilty if, only after hearing all of the evidence against him, they are convinced he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

         ¶ 11 III. Evidence at Trial

         ¶ 12 At trial, the State presented testimony from nine witnesses: (1) Antoinette Monique Butler, the victim's fiancée; (2) Willie Patterson, a delivery driver who was near the shooting; (3) Sergeant Nellie Harb, the first police officer to respond to the crime scene; (4) Larue Bey, a local resident who heard gunshots the night of the crime; (5) Darian Broomfield, an eyewitness to the shooting; (6) Sergeant Patrick McDonagh, a Chicago police officer who interviewed Broomfield; (7) Officer Victor Rivera, a police officer who processed the crime scene; (8) Lisa Gilbert, a forensic fingerprint examiner with the Illinois State Police; and (9) Detective Rolando Rodriguez, a detective who had Broomfield view the physical lineup. The defense presented testimony from one witness: Detective Patrick Deenihan, a detective who interviewed Broomfield. Defendant exercised his constitutional right not to testify at trial.

         ¶ 13 A. Antoinette Monique Butler's Testimony

         ¶ 14 The State's first witness, Antoinette Monique Butler, testified that she was the victim's fiancée and that she had known him for four years until his death. She identified a photo of the victim in court. On cross-examination, she testified that the victim revealed that he been shot before and that, on May 18, 2011, the day of the shooting, he told her "kiss my baby for me, but I won't be back." The victim then left the house but she did not know where he was going. She also testified that the victim knew defendant.

         ¶ 15 B. Willie Patterson's Testimony

         ¶ 16 Next, Willie Patterson testified that he is a delivery driver and that he conducted a delivery to a grocery store on the 3800 block of West Chicago Avenue on May 18, 2011. Patterson and his delivery partner, Jimmy Puckett, [3] arrived at the grocery store at approximately 10 a.m. and parked on the south side of Chicago Avenue facing east. After dropping off the delivery inside the store, Patterson returned to his vehicle. While standing by the driver's side of his vehicle, he heard between two to four gunshots coming from the direction of the store, so he ran into the cargo hold of his vehicle to seek shelter. Once the shooting stopped, he exited his vehicle and observed the victim holding his stomach while crossing Chicago Avenue to the north side of the street. The victim approached a vehicle parked on the north side of the street and bent down by the passenger side away from Patterson's view. A couple seconds later, the victim ran back across Chicago Avenue. Patterson then checked to determine that his partner was unharmed. Patterson never observed who shot the victim.

         ¶ 17 The parties then stipulated that (1) the manager of the grocery store, Iaad Hamat, would testify that there were surveillance cameras inside and outside of the store and that they were functioning properly on the day of the shooting, (2) Hamat would testify that, between 9 and 10 a.m. on May 18, 2011, a shooting occurred outside the store while he was receiving a delivery to the store and that he did not observe the shooting, (3) Hamat would testify that the State's Exhibits Nos. 3A and 3B were videos recorded on the surveillance cameras during the shooting. The videotapes were then placed in evidence and published to the jury. Patterson testified that the videos showed him and his partner enter the store, complete the delivery, and then Patterson exit the store. The video outside the store showed Patterson then walk to the driver's side of his vehicle, and later showed the victim running across Chicago Avenue after being shot.

         ¶ 18 On cross-examination, Patterson testified that, after the shooting, he observed a person who he did not know walk to the area near the passenger side of the parked vehicle where the victim had previously bent over, and that there were a "bunch of people" outside near the crime scene within a minute or two of the shooting.

         ¶ 19 C. Sergeant Nellie Harb's Testimony

         ¶ 20 Sergeant Nellie Harb testified that she is a sergeant in the 17th District of the Chicago police department. At approximately 10 a.m. on the morning of May 18, 2011, she received a radio call of a shooting near Ayers and Chicago Avenues, so she drove to the area. As she approached from the west, she observed "a lot of people running eastbound on Chicago [Avenue], " including the victim, who was holding his chest. She stopped her vehicle to find out what happened to the victim, and he told her that he had been shot. The victim continued walking south on Chicago Avenue and then laid down near a red vehicle parked on Avers Avenue. Harb called for medical assistance, exited her vehicle, and approached the victim, and she remained with him until an ambulance arrived.

         ¶ 21 D. Larue Bey's Testimony

         ¶ 22 Larue Bey testified that he is a private investigator, a former sergeant in the Cook County Sheriff's police department, and a resident of the neighborhood where the crime occurred. At approximately 10 a.m. on May 18, 2011, Bey heard "quite a few gunshots" while he was standing in the kitchen of his house on the 3800 block of West Huron Street. He was not sure where the gunshots originated from, but it sounded like they came from right in front of his house. He approached his front window and observed "a red or orange Bonneville-type" vehicle traveling eastbound at a high rate of speed on Huron Street, a westbound one-way street. Bey estimated the vehicle was traveling 15 to 20 miles per hour over the 25 or 30-mile per hour speed limit.

         ¶ 23 The State then showed Bey the State's Exhibits 6, 7, and 8, which were all still frames from a videotape recording of the intersection of Avers and Chicago Avenues the morning of the shooting, and Bey testified that the "red or orange" vehicle depicted in all three photographs appeared to be the same vehicle that he observed through his window. Bey testified on cross-examination that he had observed the vehicle approximately 5 to 10 minutes after hearing the gunshots, and that he was not sure of the make of the vehicle. The State then introduced State's Exhibit 15, which was a certified copy of vehicle records that indicated that defendant owned a 1998 Pontiac Bonneville, but it did not specify the color of the vehicle.

         ¶ 24 E. Darian Broomfield's Testimony

         ¶ 25 Darian Broomfield testified that he is currently incarcerated in the IDOC for a narcaotics case and that he has three prior convictions for possession of a controlled substance. Broomfield identified defendant in court and testified that he had known defendant almost his whole life, but he did denied knowing defendant by a nickname. Broomfield testified that, at approximately 10 a.m. on May 18, 2011, he was at an aid office at Pulaski Road and Ferdinand Street to obtain a Link card. He denied being on 750 block of North Avers Avenue that day.

         ¶ 26 Broomfield testified that, on August 20, 2011, he was arrested for a narcotics-related offense and he met detectives at the corner of Chicago and Springfield Avenues. He denied meeting with Detectives Patrick Deenihan and Patrick McDonagh at the Homan Square police station, and he denied telling them that he had observed defendant shoot the victim. The detectives showed Broomfield a photo array but he denied that he selected a photograph of defendant as the person who shot the victim. He also denied signing his name on defendant's photograph, as well as signing an advisory form for the photo array.

         ¶ 27 Broomfield testified that, on April 16, 2013, he worked at the grocery store at the corner of Avers and Chicago Avenues, and that Detectives Rolando Rodriguez and John Hanichak[4]came to the store and spoke with him. The detectives "harassed [Broomfield] every day, " and he denied telling them that he observed defendant shoot the victim. On May 17, 2013, Broomfield viewed a physical lineup at the police station on the 2400 block of West Belmont Avenue and defendant was in that lineup; however, Broomfield denied that he selected defendant in the lineup as the person who shot the victim. After viewing the physical lineup, he met with Detective Rodriguez and an assistant State's Attorney. During this meeting, Broomfield signed a statement "against [his] free will" because police officers "threatened to harass [him] to make [him] lose [his] job." Broomfield testified that he did not read the statement.

         ¶ 28 Broomfield denied that, on May 18, 2011, he was playing dice on Avers Avenue with some people from the neighborhood. He denied that he observed the victim park his vehicle on the west side of Avers Avenue, enter the grocery store, and exit the store five minutes later. He denied observing defendant run from an alley on Chicago Avenue toward the victim and shoot the victim five or six times. Broomfield denied that defendant was standing next to him when he fired the last shot, and he denied that he became scared and ran away after the shooting. He denied that he observed defendant 20 to 30 minutes after the shooting driving a black four-door sedan one block away near Chicago and Springfield Avenues, and denied that he observed defendant's face and that defendant was still wearing the same black hooded sweatshirt. Broomfield denied that he identified State's Exhibit 2 as a photograph of defendant by signing his name. Broomfield testified that, outside the presence of the detective, he told the assistant State's Attorney that the police treated him well because he did not want the offices to continue harassing him. Broomfield testified that no threats or promises were made to him in exchange for his statement, and that he told the assistant State's Attorney and the detective that he provided his statement freely and voluntarily.

         ¶ 29 On cross-examination, Broomfield testified that he received probation for his August 20, 2011, narcotics arrest, and that he never contacted the police to identify the victim's shooter in the three months from the day of the crime to the day of his arrest. On redirect-examination, Broomfield denied that he told Detective McDonagh on August 20, 2011, (1) that he was outside playing dice, (2) that he observed the victim park his red vehicle and enter the grocery store at Avers and Chicago Avenues, (3) that he observed defendant approach the victim and begin firing a handgun as the victim exited the store, and (4) that he observed the victim fall near a Ford Taurus.

         ¶ 30 The State later offered Broomfield's statement into evidence and published it to the jury by instructing Detective Rolando Rodriguez to read the statement to the jury during his testimony:

"Darian Broomfield states that he is 24 years old and that his date of birth is February 19, 1989. Darian states that he lives at *** North Harding in Chicago Illinois. Darian states that he lives with his grandmother Fannie Broomfield and his grandfather Curtis Broomfield.
Darian states that he was born in Chicago and that he has lived at *** North Harding his entire life. Darian states that he went to Orr High School in Chicago but did not graduate. Darien states that he received his GED in 2012.
Darian states that on May 18, 2011 he was on Avers Avenue and Chicago with some guys from the neighborhood playing dice. Darian states that he was on the east side of Avers Avenue north of the alley but south of [the grocery store].
Darian states that he was playing dice for about one hour when he saw a guy from the neighborhood named Bruce Lee turn off Chicago Avenue and drive south on Avers Avenue and park his car on the west side of the street. Darian has identified a photo marked Exhibit No. 1 as a picture of Bruce Lee by signing his name.
Darian states that he has known Bruce Lee from the neighborhood for more than five years. Darian states that no one else was in the car with him. Darian states that Bruce Lee got out of the car, he crossed Avers, and walked into [the grocery store]. Darian states that [the grocery store] is on the east side of Avers.
Darian states that about five minutes later Bruce Lee walked out of [the grocery store] and he was starting to cross over Avers Avenue back to his car. Darian states at that time he saw a man he knows as Ronnie run out of the alley from the east side of Avers towards Bruce Lee.
Darian has identified a photo marked Exhibit No. 2 as a picture of Ronnie by signing his name. Darian states that he does not know Ronnie's real name. Darian states that he has known Ronnie from the neighborhood for five or six years. Darian states that when Ronnie came running out of the alley he had a gun in his right hand.
Darian states that he was about ten feet away from Ronnie when he came running out of the alley. Darian states that Ronnie was wearing a black hoodie but with the hood up, but he knew it was Ronnie because he could still see his face.
Darian states that a hoodie is a sweatshirt with a hood on it. Darian states that it was light out and nothing was in his way of seeing Ronnie. Darian states that Ronnie was running straight at Bruce Lee and started firing his gun at Bruce Lee.
Darian states that he saw Ronnie shoot the gun at Bruce Lee five or six times. Darian states that Ronnie was running at Bruce Lee the entire time he was shooting the gun and that he came up right next to Bruce Lee when he fired the last shot.
Darian states that after he saw Ronnie shoot Bruce Lee he got scared and ran to the alley on Avers south of Chicago Avenue and ran westbound towards Springfield. Darian states that he was running down the alley towards Springfield. He saw Ronnie run down the alley at Avers south of Chicago Avenue and run eastbound towards Hamlin, the same place where he originally saw Ronnie-originally saw Ronnie come from with the gun in his hand.
Darian states that he waited a couple of minutes and he went back to Avers to see if Bruce Lee was okay, and he could tell that he was not.
Darian states that about 20 to 30 minutes later after the shooting he saw Ronnie about one block away at Chicago and Springfield driving a black four-door sedan. Darian states that he could see Ronnie's face and he was still wearing the same black colored hoodie.
Darian Broomfield states that he has been treated well by [the assistant State's Attorney] and by the police. Darian states that [the assistant State's Attorney] asked Detective Rodriguez to leave the room and asked Darian how he had been treated by the police. Darian states that he told [the assistant State's Attorney] that they treated me good.
Darian states that he was allowed to use the restroom when he needed. Darian states that he has been given food and water while at the Area North police station, specifically a bag of chips and bottled water.
Darian states that he has not been handcuffed at any time while at Area North police station. Darian states that no threats or promises have been made to him to make this statement. Darian states that this statement was given freely and voluntarily. Darian states that he is not under the influence of drugs or narcotics at this time.
Darian states that he can read and write English and that he demonstrated this by reading the first page of this statement out loud and then followed along with [the assistant State's Attorney]-followed along as [the assistant State's Attorney] read the rest of the statement as he read along and was told to ...

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