People v. Bannister, 100983.

Citation902 N.E.2d 571,232 Ill.2d 52
Decision Date17 October 2008
Docket NumberNo. 100983.,100983.
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee, v. Joseph BANNISTER, Appellant.
CourtSupreme Court of Illinois

Charles M. Schiedel, Deputy Defender, Springfield, Lawrence Bapst, Assistant Defender, Office of State Appellate Defender, Springfield, for appellant.

Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, Springfield, Richard A. Devine, State's Attorney, Chicago (James E. Fitzgerald, Alan J. Spellberg and Carol L. Gaines, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.


Justice FREEMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion:

Following a bench trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant, Joseph Bannister, was convicted of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a) (West 2000)), attempted first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/8-4, 9-1(a) (West 2000)), and home invasion (720 ILCS 5/12-11(a) (West 2000)). At a separate sentencing hearing, a jury found defendant eligible for the death penalty. After considering evidence in aggravation and mitigation, the jury concluded that death was the appropriate sentence. 720 ILCS 5/9-1(g) (West 2006).

The trial court sentenced defendant to death on the murder conviction. The trial court also sentenced defendant to concurrent prison terms of 45 years on the attempted murder conviction and 30 years on the home invasion conviction. The death sentence has been stayed pending direct review by this court. Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, § 4(b); 134 Ill.2d Rs. 603, 609(a). We affirm.


Because defendant does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence, we need not set forth a detailed recitation of the facts. Defendant was charged in a multicount indictment with, inter alia, the first degree murder of Henrietta Banks; the attempted murder of Henrietta's sister, Sharon Banks; and home invasion. Following admonishments from the trial court, defendant waived a jury for the guilt-innocence phase of the proceedings, and the court conducted a bench trial.

The State's evidence at trial was essentially as follows. Defendant and Sharon met in September 1992. They were living together when their daughter, Britnee Bannister, was born in 1993. Sometime in 1997, Sharon moved to 1904 N. Kedzie Avenue in Chicago, where she lived with Britnee and her three other children. Also living with Sharon and her children were Sharon's mother, Arritta Banks; Sharon's sister, Henrietta; and Henrietta's two children. Defendant did not initially move into the Kedzie Avenue residence with Sharon, but sometime in 1998, defendant lived there for six or seven months as he and Sharon attempted to nurture their relationship. Defendant contributed to Britnee's support. However, defendant did not pay any rent and his name was not on the lease.

A few months prior to his crimes, defendant had threatened Sharon during several altercations. On August 21, 2000, Sharon was driving east on Jackson Boulevard, with Henrietta in the front passenger seat, when she encountered defendant driving westbound. Defendant saw Sharon, turned his car around and followed her. Defendant then rear-ended Sharon's car twice, causing her bumper to fall off. They stopped their cars. Defendant exited his car, approached the driver's side of Sharon's car, banged on her window, and ordered her to get out of her car. Sharon refused and called the police. Sharon then moved her car out of the way of traffic. Defendant returned to Sharon's car and ordered her to get out of the car, saying that he was going to kill Sharon. The next day, Sharon went to the circuit court, where she received an emergency order of protection and a court date of September 12, 2000.

On September 12, 2000, Sharon, accompanied by Henrietta and Arritta, went to court. Outside of the courtroom, in front of Henrietta and a court advocate, defendant threatened Sharon, saying: "Bitch, I'm going to kill you." On September 16, 2000, Sharon and Henrietta were with their children at a playground on West Harrison Street. Defendant arrived and wanted to speak with Sharon, who told defendant to leave them alone. Defendant warned Sharon that he was going to "fuck her up," which Sharon interpreted as defendant was going to take her life. Sharon called out for someone to gather her children and, as she telephoned police, defendant left the area.

On September 23, 2000, defendant committed the acts giving rise to this prosecution. At approximately noon, Sharon, Henrietta, their children, and Arritta were all at their Kedzie Avenue residence. It was a duplex apartment with bedrooms on the second floor and the kitchen and living room on the first floor. In addition to the front door, their apartment had another door connecting to an outside stairway on the side of the building. Defendant broke open this side door, damaging the door and locks thereto. Defendant entered the residence, wearing all black and holding a handgun. Sharon's children ran to her, but she ordered them to move away from her. Sharon was looking into defendant's eyes when he raised the gun and shot her. The first bullet grazed Sharon's face, entered her left shoulder, and exited her back. Sharon collapsed on the floor.

Defendant stepped over Sharon and approached Henrietta, who was sitting on a couch. Defendant shot Henrietta three times: in the forehead, in the right side of the head over the ear, and in the right upper back. Defendant returned to Sharon, stood over her, and shot her again, saying, "Die bitch." This bullet entered Sharon's rib cage and was still lodged there when she testified at trial. Defendant then turned to Arritta, with his gun pointing at her. Britnee jumped into Arritta's arms and asked defendant whether he was going to kill all of them. Defendant then ran out of the apartment. Emergency personnel were summoned.

Sharon; Arritta; and Sharon's children, Latoria Moore and Torie Moore, each testified in court as to defendant's acts in the apartment that day. By stipulation, the trial court admitted into evidence the depositions of Britnee and Cedric Hunter, another of Sharon's children. In their depositions, Britnee and Cedric each related defendant's acts in the apartment in accord with each other and with the in-court witnesses.

Anibal Alvarado's father lived next to the Banks residence at 1906 N. Kedzie Avenue. At approximately noon on September 23, 2000, Alvarado was working on a car in the backyard of his father's residence. Alvarado saw defendant, who was wearing all black, walk toward 1904 N. Kedzie Avenue, but did not see him enter the building. Alvarado visited his father every day, and had seen defendant in the past "with the kids and throwing out trash and all of that." Alvarado heard gunshots and children screaming; he then saw defendant retrace his steps through the alley, get into a car parked on Cortland Street near the alley, and drive away. Alvarado walked up the outside stairway of the 1904 building into the apartment. He saw Henrietta slumped over on a couch and Sharon lying on the floor. Alvarado checked Henrietta for a pulse, could not find one, and observed that she was not breathing. Alvarado assisted Sharon until paramedics arrived.

Chicago Police Detective James DeLaFont was assigned to investigate the shootings and arrived at the scene early that afternoon. After interviewing witnesses, Detective DeLaFont learned that he was looking for defendant, and received a photograph of defendant. On the afternoon of February 11, 2001, Chicago Police Officer Robert Walker and his partner, Officer Robert Burrell, responded to a report of a wanted person. They proceeded to the alley behind 11594 S. State Street, where Officer Walker saw defendant standing. Officers Walker and Burrell exited their squad car, approached defendant, and asked him for his name. Defendant identified himself as Robert Wallace. During this time, additional officers arrived. The officers arrested defendant as Joseph Bannister, transported him to the local police station, and notified detectives. Defendant was subsequently transported to Area Five police headquarters.

Defendant eventually gave the following statement. On September 23, 2000, defendant responded to a page from Sharon. He told her that he was coming to the apartment to take a television and some furniture and clothing. Defendant also wanted to see his daughter Britnee. Sharon replied that defendant could not have those items because they were for the family and not for him. Sharon also informed defendant that he could not see Britnee without a court order. Defendant told Sharon that he would wait until Britnee was old enough to decide for herself if she wanted to see him. Defendant told Detective DeLaFont and his partner that defendant was exasperated with Sharon and the way she treated him. Defendant stated that he went to Sharon's apartment, used the outside stairs, let himself in with his key, shot Sharon, and then immediately left the apartment. Defendant noticed that Sharon's mother, sister, and several children were there, but nothing else happened.

Upon further questioning, defendant stated that he had said enough and that he would say no more unless he received certain guaranties. The detectives rejected defendant's attempt to bargain with them.

Defendant did not present evidence and, after receiving admonishments from the trial court, elected not to testify. The defense case was that the State failed to prove defendant guilty of the charged offenses beyond a reasonable doubt. In closing argument, defense counsel attacked the credibility of the State's witnesses and described purported discrepancies in their testimony. The trial court found defendant guilty of the murder of Henrietta, the attempted murder of Sharon, and home invasion.1

Following admonishments from the trial court, and against the advice of defense counsel, defendant chose to have the death sentencing hearing conducted before a jury. At the...

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