from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria
County, Illinois. Circuit No. 15-CF-726 The Honorable John P.
Vespa Judge, Presiding.
Attorneys for Appellant: James E. Chadd, Peter A. Carusona,
and Matthew Lemke, of State Appellate Defender's Office,
of Ottawa, for appellant.
Attorneys for Appellee: Jerry Brady, State's Attorney, of
Peoria (Patrick Delfino, Thomas D. Arado, and Justin A.
Nicolosi, of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's
Office, of counsel), for the People.
JUSTICE LYTTON delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justice Carter concurred in the judgment and
opinion. Justice Wright dissented.
1 Defendant was charged with and found guilty of unlawful
possession of a weapon by a felon and sentenced to seven
years in prison. Defendant argues that (1) the trial court
erred in admitting other-crimes evidence, consisting of
testimony that he possessed a different weapon prior to being
charged with the crime at issue, (2) the trial court erred in
instructing the jury that it could find defendant guilty, (3)
the prosecutor's closing remarks deprived him of a fair
trial, and (4) "cumulative errors" resulted in an
unfair trial. We affirm.
2 I. BACKGROUND
3 On November 10, 2015, defendant Johnnie Lee Sims was
charged with unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon. 720
ILCS 5/24-1.1(a) (West 2014). The indictment alleged that
defendant possessed a handgun on or about October 26, 2015,
and had previously been convicted of the offense of unlawful
possession of a controlled substance.
4 Prior to trial, the State filed a "Notice of Intent to
Use Other Crimes," seeking to "introduce testimony
and evidence of the Defendant's conduct with regard to
other firearms as proof of intent, knowledge, design and for
other lawful purpose in this case." Defendant filed a
motion in limine, seeking to exclude all evidence
and testimony of "other alleged crimes" committed
by him, claiming that such evidence would be
"substantially more prejudicial than probative."
The trial court denied defendant's motion in
5 At trial, Nathan Adams, a police officer with the Peoria
Police Department testified that he was dispatched to Shenita
Brown's home at approximately 11 p.m. on October 26,
2015, "for a civil matter between Johnnie Sims and
Shenita Brown." Defendant and Brown were arguing because
defendant thought Brown hid the keys to his vehicle. After
searching for about 15 minutes, Adams found the keys in
Brown's bedroom. According to Adams, defendant was
"yelling" and "very angry." He kept
calling 9-1-1 even after Adams arrived. As a result, several
police officers responded to the scene.
6 After Adams found defendant's car keys, defendant began
moving boxes of his belongings from Brown's home to his
vehicle. He continued to do so for approximately 30 minutes.
Brown and defendant continued arguing, and Brown eventually
told Adams to look under the seats of defendant's car for
a gun. Defendant responded by saying that if there was a gun
in the car, Brown put it there. Adams searched
defendant's vehicle and found a .380-caliber handgun in
the center console. Defendant said the gun belonged to his
son who had gone to the shooting range earlier in the day and
left the gun in the car.
7 The parties stipulated that neither the gun nor a magazine
found in defendant's vehicle provided prints with
sufficient detail to be compared to defendant's
fingerprints. The parties also stipulated that defendant had
"previously been convicted of a felony."
8 The State called Shenita Brown to testify next, but before
she testified, the judge read the following statement to the
"Evidence will be received about the defendant's
conduct involving firearms other than the one for which he is
charged in this case. This evidence will be received on the
issue of defendant's intent, knowledge, lack of mistake,
lack of accident, and may be considered by you only for that
limited purpose." Defendant objected to Brown's
9 Brown testified that she was defendant's ex-girlfriend
and lived with him for approximately two years. During the
time they were together, defendant spent most evenings at her
house. About a month prior to October 26, 2015, defendant
accused her son, Shaquille, of stealing a gun from his car.
Defendant told Brown his stepson, Tylen, would get him
another gun because "[h]e wouldn't be caught out
here with these n***" without a gun. The gun defendant
accused Shaquille of stealing was different than the one
police found in defendant's vehicle on October 26, 2015.
10 Brown testified that defendant called the police on
October 26, 2015, because he thought Brown was hiding his car
keys. When police arrived, defendant was "irate"
and "started hollerin' at the officer."
Defendant continued to call the police until 10 to 12
officers arrived. Brown and defendant continued bickering,
and Brown told the officer standing next to her to check
under the seats of defendant's car "and see if
there's a gun up under there." Police found a gun in
defendant's car. Brown testified that defendant was the
only person who drove the car that day.
11 Brown and defendant reconciled after October 26, 2015, and
spoke about defendant's criminal charge. Defendant told
Brown that he told his stepson, Tylen, to say he was driving
the car on October 26, 2015, and had left his gun in it.
12 Matt Trimble, a police officer for the city of Peoria,
testified that he responded to a call on October 2, 2015.
Defendant reported that he was missing $300 in cash, about
$100 worth of compact disks, and a .45-caliber handgun from
his vehicle. Defendant believed his girlfriend's son,
Shaquille, stole the items. Brenda Chepanoske, an information
technician at the Peoria Police Department, testified that
defendant came into the department on October 4, 2015, and
provided the serial number of the gun taken from his vehicle.
Defendant stated that the owner of the gun was Tylen Wright.
13 Tylen Wright testified that he bought a .45-caliber gun
and stored it in his bedroom. Wright testified at trial that
defendant took the gun from his closet and put it in
defendant's car. Defendant reported the gun stolen after
someone broke into his vehicle.
14 Wright further testified that he bought a .380-caliber gun
on October 15, 2015. A couple days before October 26, 2015,
Wright intended to go to the shooting range with the gun but
never made it. He placed the gun under the driver's seat
of defendant's car. Wright testified that he told
defendant that the gun was in the car. After defendant was
arrested, defendant told Wright to tell police that he left
the gun in the center console.
15 Wright testified that defendant was married to his mother,
Crystal Sims, but admitted that defendant was frequently not
home at night. Sims, however, testified that defendant spent
the night at her house the "majority of the time."
She testified that defendant had access to Wright's room.
16 Defendant testified that, on the night of October 26,
2015, he drove his vehicle to McDonald's to purchase food
for Brown. After he returned to Brown's house with the
food, he and Brown began arguing, and his car keys became
misplaced. Defendant called the police because he thought
Brown was hiding his keys. Defendant continued calling the
police, and a total of five officers arrived on the scene.
Adams, one of the officers, found his keys.
17 Defendant asked the officers to remain at Brown's
house until he retrieved his belongings. After making a few
trips from the house to his car, defendant heard Brown tell
Adams that there was a gun under the seat in his vehicle.
Defendant responded, "[I]f there's a gun, she must
have put it there." An officer looked inside
defendant's vehicle and pulled a gun out of the console.
Defendant told the officer, "[T]hat's my son's
gun." Defendant explained that he recognized the gun
because Wright showed it to him after he bought it. Defendant
denied ever using the gun.
18 Defendant testified that, in October 2015, he was "in
between places" because he and Crystal "were
havin' some issues." He said he helped at
Crystal's house but was not residing there. He testified
he lived at several locations at that time. He considered
Brown's home a "satellite location." Defendant
described his relationship with Brown as "off and
on." He denied knowing that the .380-caliber gun was in
his vehicle on October 26, 2015. He also denied advising
Wright or Brown about what to tell authorities about the gun.
19 Defendant testified that in the summer of 2015, he woke up
to find the trunk and doors of his vehicle opened. He did not
immediately know that Wright's .45-caliber gun was
stolen, but he thought it might have been because Wright
drove the vehicle the day before and "he has an issue