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People v. Alexander

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

October 1, 2019

ALOYSIUS A. ALEXANDER, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois. Appeal No. 3-17-0168 Circuit No. 14-CF-2407 Honorable Carla Alessio-Policandriotes, Judge, Presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant: James E. Chadd, Peter A. Carusona, and Bryon Kohut, of State Appellate Defender’s Office, of Ottawa, for appellant.

          Attorneys for Appellee: James W. Glasgow, State’s Attorney, of Joliet (Patrick Delfino, Thomas D. Arado, and Jasmine D. Morton, of State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor’s Office, of counsel), for the People.

          PRESIDING JUSTICE SCHMIDT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Carter and McDade concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 Defendant, Aloysius A. Alexander, appeals his convictions and sentences for first degree murder, aggravated battery with a firearm, and unlawful use of a weapon by a felon (UUWF), arguing (1) his UUWF conviction should be reversed because it was predicated on a void prior conviction and he should be resentenced on his other convictions because the court considered the void conviction and (2) the court erred by failing to appoint counsel to represent him on his posttrial claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for resentencing.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 The State charged defendant with two counts of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (2) (West 2014)), one count of aggravated battery with a firearm (id. § 12-3.05(e)(1)), and one count of UUWF (id. § 24-1.1(a)). The indictment for UUWF stated that defendant had previously been convicted of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (AUUW).

         ¶ 4 Prior to trial, defendant filed a pro se motion for substitution of judge naming Judge Daniel Rozak. Since the public defender's office represented defendant, the court struck the motion. However, on the court's own motion it reassigned the case to Judge Sarah Jones. Thereafter, defendant retained private counsel. The record shows that on June 16, 2016, two motions for substitution of judge were filed. The first motion named Judge Jones and Judge Carla Alessio-Policandriotes as prejudiced against defendant. The second motion solely named Judge Jones. The court ultimately assigned the case to Judge Alessio-Policandriotes without any objection, and the case proceeded to a bench trial.

         ¶ 5 The evidence at trial established that on the evening of December 5, 2014, Miya Morris went to an apartment where Johnny Lockhart and his son, Ledontia, lived. Ledontia was in his bedroom when he heard Johnny ask Morris why she had not called or texted Ledontia before coming over so late. Ledontia then exited his room and asked Morris if they could go outside to talk. Ledontia and Morris went to the parking lot, and Morris was upset because she believed that Ledontia had taken money from her. Johnny called the police to have Morris removed from the premises. Officer Robert Anderson responded, told Morris that she needed to leave, and Morris did so.

         ¶ 6 After that, Michael Smith, Morris's boyfriend and Ledontia's friend, began contacting Johnny and Ledontia threatening to fight them. He believed that Johnny had threatened to push Morris. Smith intended to go to the Lockharts' apartment to fight Ledontia. On his way, he picked up Brian Gregory and defendant. Ledontia, Smith, and Gregory all knew defendant by his nickname, "June." At some point, Ledontia heard a car door slam and people running up the stairs toward the apartment. He opened the door, and defendant, Gregory, and Smith were standing in front of the door. Ledontia told them they should go down to the parking lot to fight. They went down to the parking lot, and Smith threw two punches at Ledontia. Ledontia deflected his punches and pushed Smith back. The two of them argued until Johnny came outside. Johnny told Smith, Gregory, and defendant to get off his property.

         ¶ 7 At that point, a gun was discharged two times. Ledontia stated,

"As I was trying to turn [Johnny] to go up the stairs, I look back, I see them all walking towards the car. I'm figuring like they just fittin' to just leave. Then, like, God made me look again. I just saw the fire coming from [defendant's] hand. I just grabbed my pops. Then my father told me I was shot."

         Ledontia said the fire looked "[l]ike when somebody shoots a gun." He also heard "a bang." Smith stated that he could see Johnny, Ledontia, and Gregory and knew the gunshot did not come from them. Smith said there was no doubt in his mind that defendant had shot the gun. Gregory heard the shots coming from behind him. Gregory turned to look and saw defendant holding a gun and fire coming from it. Defendant was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt with the hood up. Smith, Gregory, and defendant ran to Smith's car. Smith asked defendant "why would you do that[?]" Defendant said, "I don't know, shut up and drive." Smith drove for a short period of time, and then defendant asked Smith to stop the car. Defendant exited the car near his apartment and said, "don't say shit."

         ¶ 8 Ledontia blacked out after the first shot had hit him, and when he awoke, he realized that Johnny had also been shot. Johnny told Ledontia to get help. Ledontia crawled up the stairs, and Johnny's girlfriend met him in the apartment. Ledontia told her to call 911; he then went back down the stairs. He left blood on the floor of the apartment. Officer Anderson and Sergeant Scott Cammack arrived at the scene around 12 a.m. on December 6 and saw Ledontia holding his torso in pain. Johnny was covered in blood and was not moving. Cammack asked Ledontia who shot him, and Ledontia said "June." Cammack repeated and spelled "June" back to Ledontia, and Ledontia confirmed. Cammack asked Ledontia for more information about June, but Ledontia was unable to respond as he was holding his chest and having difficulty breathing. Ledontia spent 11 days in the hospital recovering from the gunshot wound. After he was taken to the hospital, he never saw Johnny again. The autopsy revealed that Johnny died of multiple gunshot wounds. Ledontia and Gregory later identified defendant as the shooter in a lineup.

         ¶ 9 Sergeant Chris Delaney testified that on December 6, 2014, he was a crime scene technician and responded to the scene. He observed Johnny dead at the scene. He took photographs, recovered spent projectiles at the scene, and observed blood in the Lockharts' apartment.

         ¶ 10 Detective Jeffrey German testified that, as part of the homicide investigation, he reviewed surveillance videos from an apartment facing 301 North Bluff Street. The video showed a man walking from behind 311 North Bluff Street to the front door of the apartment complex at 301 North Bluff Street at approximately 12:13 a.m. on December 6, 2014. The man approached the door to the apartment complex and appeared to motion toward the window. He then walked toward the parking lot and then back toward the door. At that point, a person inside the complex opened the door, and the man entered the apartment complex. About seven minutes later, a woman and two children exited the door, followed by the man. They entered a vehicle and drove away.

         ¶ 11 The police executed a search warrant at 301 North Bluff Street, Apartment 307. At the apartment, the officers found documents on the kitchen counter with defendant's name on them and the address of 301 North Bluff Street, Apartment 307. The documents were a red light camera violation notice dated October 21, 2014, and a collection agency letter for medical services dated November 10, 2014. Defense counsel objected to the admittance of the letters. After hearing the argument, the court said,

"These are billing statements that are purported to be for [defendant], and each of them consistently indicating his address of 301 North Bluff Street, Apartment 307, Joliet, Illinois. Indicating that with, apparently, Provena St. Joe's Medical Center and the Secretary of State, that is the address in which he expects to receive and hopes to receive mail placed in the U.S. mail. And I'll accept that for what they are."

         ¶ 12 The officers also found a black hooded sweatshirt on the kitchen table and ammunition in a clothes hamper. The ammunition included five .38-caliber bullets: three were Winchester, one was Federal, and one was W-W. The officers recovered a .38-caliber revolver that had been covered in leaves near 311 and 316 North Bluff Road. The revolver had six shell casings inside: four were Federal, one was Winchester, and one was W-W. An expert in forensic science tested the gun and the spent projectiles obtained at the scene and determined that the projectiles came from the gun. A fingerprint expert tested the gun, casings, and projectiles but did not find any usable fingerprints.

         ¶ 13 Officer John Ross was a detective in 2014 and processed defendant at the jail on December 6, 2014. He said, "I can't give you an exact time. It was sometime in the afternoon." Defendant asked "if his girlfriend, who was upstairs being questioned by detectives, was going to be in trouble." Ross had not asked defendant anything about his girlfriend before this. Ross told defendant that he "did not know what was going to happen to his girlfriend." Defendant then asked "why she would be in any trouble." Ross replied, "because she *** helped you try to get away with murder." Defendant said, "she didn't have anything to do with it." Ross said, "that's what you told the detectives upstairs, that you guys didn't have anything to do with it." Defendant then said, "she really didn't have anything to do with it." The conversation then ended. Defense counsel moved to strike Ross's testimony and bar the evidence presented because Ross did not know if the conversation had been recorded. Ross did not read defendant his Miranda rights before answering defendant's questions. The court noted that defense counsel had not filed a pretrial motion to suppress but stated that it would allow counsel to file a written motion. Defense counsel asked for the motion to be heard when the State rested, and the court agreed. Defendant was interviewed at the jail at 2:41 p.m. on December 6, 2014, but the interview ended at 3:14 p.m. when defendant asked for counsel.

         ¶ 14 The State entered into evidence a certified copy of defendant's prior conviction, showing that he had been convicted of AUUW pursuant to section 24-1.6(a)(1) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Code) (720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1) (West 2008)). The State then rested, and defendant moved for a directed verdict. The court stated that before it ruled on the motion for directed verdict, it needed to hear and rule on the motion to suppress the testimony of Ross. Defense counsel stated that he was withdrawing that motion. The court then denied the motion for directed verdict.

         ¶ 15 The defense called Officer Robert Korczak who testified that he was in the back of the ambulance with Ledontia. Ledontia told him that he had a problem with a man at a bar and that man came to his house to fight him. He described the man as a "little guy." However, Korczak specifically asked Ledontia who shot him, and Ledontia said, "June."

         ¶ 16 After taking the matter under advisement, the court found defendant guilty on all counts. At sentencing, the State asked the court to take defendant's criminal history into account. The court stated that it considered all the information presented but did not otherwise explain its decision. The court sentenced defendant to 56 years' imprisonment for first degree murder, 12 years' imprisonment for aggravated battery with a firearm, and 3 years' imprisonment for UUWF. The 12- and 3-year sentences would run concurrent to each other and consecutive to the 56-year sentence.

         ¶ 17 Defendant filed a pro se motion for a new trial, alleging inter alia, that defense counsel was ineffective for failing to file (1) motions in limine to prevent the introduction of the letters, the hooded sweatshirt, and the ammunition found at the apartment; (2) a motion to dismiss after Ross testified that he did not read defendant his Miranda rights when defendant asked the questions about his girlfriend; and (3) a motion to exclude witnesses. Defendant attached three pro se motions in limine, attesting, inter alia, that his mailing address was actually 300 North Bluff Street, Apartment 403, and he had lived there since 2010. Defense counsel also filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that defendant was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable ...

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