from the Circuit Court of Logan County No. 09CF171 Honorable
Scott D. Drazewski, Judge Presiding.
Attorneys for Appellant: James E. Chadd, Patricia Mysza, and
Peter Sgro, of State Appellate Defender's Office, of
Chicago, for appellant.
Attorneys for Appellee:Kwame Raoul, Attorney General, of
Chicago (David L. Franklin, Solicitor General, and Michael M.
Glick and Eldad Z. Malamuth, Assistant Attorneys General, of
counsel), for the People.
JUSTICE KNECHT delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Turner and Cavanagh concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 Defendant, Christopher J. Harris, appeals from the summary
dismissal of his pro se petition for relief under
the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (Act) (725 ILCS 5/122-1 to
122-7 (West 2016)). On appeal, defendant argues we should
reverse the trial court's judgment because his petition
states an arguable claim his trial counsel rendered
ineffective assistance by failing to request a continuance on
the last day of his trial to secure testimony from two
witnesses who would have supported his claim of self-defense.
We disagree and affirm.
2 I. BACKGROUND
3 On September 21, 2009, several members of the Gee family,
including Raymond ("Rick") Gee, Ruth Ann Gee,
Justina Constant (16 years old), Dillen Constant (14 years
old), and Austin Gee (11 years old) were found dead in their
home. The youngest member of the Gee family, T.G. (3 years
old), was found alive but suffering from severe head trauma.
Defendant, the ex-husband of Nicole Gee (a daughter of Rick),
was later charged with various criminal offenses associated
with the deaths and injuries caused to the members of the Gee
4 At a May 2013 jury trial, defendant testified he acted in
self-defense and killed 14-year-old Dillen after he entered
the Gee residence and discovered Dillen was in the process of
killing the other members of the Gee family. The jury
disbelieved defendant's account and found him guilty of
five counts of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a) (West
2008)), one count of attempt (first degree murder)
(id. § 8-4(a), 9-1(a)(3)), one count of
aggravated battery of a child (id. §
12-4.3(a)), one count of home invasion (id. §
12-11(a)(1)), and one count of armed robbery (id.
§ 18-2(a)). The trial court sentenced defendant to five
terms of natural life imprisonment for first degree murder,
30 years' imprisonment for attempt (first degree murder),
30 years' imprisonment for home invasion, and 20
years' imprisonment for armed robbery, all of which were
imposed consecutively. (The court merged the
aggravated-battery-of-a-child conviction with the attempt
(first degree murder) conviction.) On direct appeal, we
affirmed defendant's convictions and sentences.
People v. Harris, 2015 IL App (4th) 130672-U.
5 In December 2016, defendant filed the instant
postconviction petition claiming, in part, his trial counsel
rendered ineffective assistance by failing to request a
continuance on the last day of his trial to secure testimony
from two witnesses who would have supported his claim of
self-defense. Defendant alleged Nicole and A.H, his and
Nicole's daughter, were scheduled to testify on the last
day of his trial but had "unintentionally" missed
their flight from Florida to Illinois. Defendant alleged the
"testimony was crucial to the defense as both witnesses
[had] firsthand knowledge of [Dill[e]n's] *** threats to
kill everyone in his family," which "did not have
another source to come from during *** trial." To
support these allegations, defendant attached to his petition
(1) a signed and notarized personal evidentiary affidavit,
(2) an unsigned "affidavit" drafted by defendant
for Nicole, and (3) an unsigned "affidavit" drafted
by defendant for A.H. In his personal evidentiary affidavit,
defendant stated he questioned his trial counsel on the last
day of trial regarding why counsel rested without calling
Nicole and A.H., to which counsel stated he did so because
Nicole and A.H. had missed their flights. Defendant averred,
had Nicole been called to testify, she would have testified,
in part, she "had talked with Rick Gee *** only days
before the murders, and that Rick was scared Dill[e]n would
violently act out after Rick had punished Dill[e]n recently
for breaking down Rick[']s bedroom door[ ] and stealing
money from Rick," and "Dill[e]n had 'lashed
out' and said he 'would kill Rick' and said
'your [sic] not my dad.'" Defendant
further averred, had A.H. been called to testify, she would
have testified, in part, she "was there when Dill[e]n
would tell his siblings that he'd kill them."
Defendant noted in his affidavit both Nicole and A.H. were
"willing to sign their affidavits, but due to the harsh
conditions of confinement, I have been unable to secure
6 In March 2017, the trial court entered a written order
summarily dismissing defendant's postconviction petition.
As to defendant's claim suggesting his trial counsel
rendered ineffective assistance by failing to request a
continuance to secure testimony from Nicole and A.H., the
court found defendant failed to attach the necessary
supporting material or sufficiently explain why the same was
not attached. The court also found, even if it considered
defendant's summary of the alleged testimony from Nicole
and A.H., that testimony did not show counsel's failure
to seek a continuance to call those witnesses was arguably
deficient as Nicole's testimony would have been
inadmissible as hearsay and irrelevant and A.H.'s
testimony would have been inadmissible as neither specific
nor associated with a relevant time frame.
7 This appeal followed.
8 II. ANALYSIS
9 On appeal, defendant argues we should reverse the trial
court's judgment summarily dismissing his postconviction
petition because his petition states an arguable claim his
trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to
request a continuance to secure testimony ...