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People v. Simmons

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District

July 26, 2019

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
LARENZ SIMMONS, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 19 CR 20791 Honorable Thomas J. Byrne, Judge Presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant: Stephanie A. Ciupka, Sophia Lau, and Cathryn Stewart Crawford, of Lawndale Christian Legal Center, of Chicago, for appellant.

          Attorneys for Appellee: Kimberly M. Foxx, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, Assistant State's Attorney, of counsel), for the People.

          PRESIDING JUDGE DELORT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Cunningham and Connors concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          DELORT PRESIDING JUDGE

         ¶ 1 The defendant, Larenz Simmons, was charged by indictment with one count of armed robbery with a firearm. The circuit court denied his motion for bail pending trial. Simmons has filed a motion for review of the bail denial, pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 604(c) (eff. July 1, 2017). Appeals of bail orders are exceedingly rare. Case law regarding them is virtually nonexistent. Noting the recent public interest and legislative attention to the issue of bail reform, [1] we issue this opinion setting forth the applicable standard of review and the reasons why we must affirm the denial order in this case.

         ¶ 2 Appeals under Rule 604(c) are governed by special rules that recognize the need for prompt disposition of bail denial orders entered before conviction. A defendant cannot file a Rule 604(c) appeal unless he has first filed a motion in the circuit court setting forth his financial condition, family status, prior criminal background, and certain other information. Ill. S.Ct. R. 604(c)(1) (eff. July 1, 2017). The defendant in a Rule 604(c) appeal files a motion, rather than a formal brief. Ill. S.Ct. R. 604(c)(2) (eff. July 1, 2017). The motion must list certain additional facts and include a copy of the motion that he filed in the circuit court. Id. The State need not file any answer, but may do so if it wishes, and oral argument is not held except by request of the court. Ill. S.Ct. R. 604(c)(2), (c)(5) (eff. July 1, 2017).

         ¶ 3 But the most significant characteristic of Rule 604(c) is the manner in which the record of what transpired in the court below arrives in this court. In most appeals, this court receives a certified record from the clerk of the circuit court containing all of the pleadings, filed documents, exhibits, and orders. See, e.g., Ill. S.Ct. R. 608(a) (eff. July 1, 2017). In some appeals, the attorneys are allowed to dispense with the clerk's record and instead provide a "supporting record" containing copies of pleadings and an affidavit that the copies are authentic. Ill. S.Ct. R. 328 (eff. July 1, 2017). In a Rule 604(c) appeal, however, neither method is used. Instead, we must rely upon the limited materials listed in the rule and provided by counsel, along with an uncertified transcript of the hearing on the defendant's motion to set his bail. The rule does not otherwise address what, if any, materials from the court below a party may provide or this court may consider.

         ¶ 4 We proceed, therefore, with an extraordinarily sparse record before us. At the bail hearing, the State indicated that it would establish the following facts at trial. At around midnight on September 12, 2018, the victim, Jerome Hill, entered the gate to his residence in the 1200 block of South Independence Boulevard in Chicago. As he did, he was confronted by two people. One individual placed a handgun to his back, and the other pointed a gun to the back of his head. They threatened Hill, and the taller offender, later identified as defendant, took money from Hill's hand, while the shorter offender took Hill's Ventra and Link cards, as well as his phone and keys. Both offenders then fled the scene, and Hill went into his house and called the police.

         ¶ 5 At about the same time, police were called to 1200 South Independence Boulevard to investigate a possible armed robbery in the parking lot of a gas station. Officers arrived at the gas station and began canvassing the area. Based on descriptions they had received, they detained two individuals. They then attempted to locate the victim of the gas station robbery but were unable to do so. The detectives assigned to the investigation created a photo array based on the proximity to the robbery of Hill.

         ¶ 6 On September 27, 2018, [2] officers presented a photo array to Hill, who identified defendant as one of the men who robbed him. Hill stated that he was "75% sure" that defendant was one of the offenders. Defendant was arrested on February 7, 2019. Defendant allegedly admitted robbing Hill but claimed that he only pointed his gun at Hill's waist whereas his co-offender pointed a gun at Hill's head.

         ¶ 7 On May 21, 2019, defendant filed a motion to set bail. Defendant noted that he had "strong ties to the community and was an active father and an important caretaker" for his five-year-old daughter and various cousins. Defendant further noted that he had an IQ of 54, warranting an individualized education program in his school. Nonetheless, he successfully graduated from Morton West Academy last year, when he was 19. Defendant conceded that when he was 15, he pleaded guilty to aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and had one finding of juvenile delinquency. Defendant added that he had no adult felony convictions.

         ¶ 8 The court held a hearing on defendant's motion on May 23, 2019. The State noted in its argument that defendant had a "prior failure to appear on reckless conduct from September of 2018" and that he also had "a prior juvenile gun conviction[, ] which was originally sentenced to probation," but that defendant subsequently violated that probation and was sentenced to 30 days in the juvenile detention center. After hearing arguments-and only arguments-from the parties, the court denied the motion, stating in part as follows:

"Thank you, counsel. I have read the motion filed on behalf of Larenz Simmons in its entirety. Read the exhibits and looked at the exhibits which includes Exhibit D, which is ...

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