People v. Castillo

Citation123 N.E.3d 100,428 Ill.Dec. 636,2018 IL App (1st) 153147
Decision Date18 December 2018
Docket NumberNo. 1-15-3147,1-15-3147
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Johnny CASTILLO, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

James E. Chadd, Patricia Mysza, and Bryon M. Reina, of State Appellate Defender’s Office, of Chicago, for appellant.

Kimberly M. Foxx, State’s Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, Annette Collins, and Brenda K. Gibbs, Assistant State’s Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

JUSTICE MASON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

¶ 1 This first degree murder case arose from defendant Jonny Castillo's and codefendant Christopher Rodriguez's1 brutal beating of William Jimenez, who sustained severe brain injuries

. After the June 26, 1998 beating, Jimenez lived for almost 13 years in a semicomatose state until his death on March 26, 2011. After Jimenez died, Castillo and Rodriguez were charged with first degree murder and felony murder predicated on robbery. Following a separate but simultaneous bench trial, Castillo was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment. He was acquitted of the felony murder charge. Castillo appeals, claiming that his first degree murder conviction should be reduced to involuntary manslaughter because the State failed to prove that he kicked and punched Jimenez knowing his conduct created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm. Castillo also claims that the trial court improperly considered against him Rodriguez's incriminating statement that they "stomped" Jimenez in finding that Castillo had the requisite knowing mental state. We affirm Castillo's first degree murder conviction because (i) there was sufficient evidence establishing Castillo's knowing conduct when he severely beat Jimenez and (ii) the trial court only considered admissible evidence.

¶ 2 I. Background

¶ 3 Jacqueline and Jimenez were married in 1984 and lived on Claremont Street in Chicago. Jimenez was also known by his nickname, "Rico." In June 1998, Jimenez was 34 years old, was a member of the Latin Kings gang, and had a drinking problem. Castillo was 19 years old, and Rodriguez was 17 years old. Castillo was a member of the Gangster Disciples gang, and Rodriguez was a member of the Spanish Cobras gang. The Spanish Cobras and Gangster Disciples were rival gangs to the Latin Kings.

¶ 4 Around noon on June 26, 1998, Jacqueline left home to go to work, and Jimenez left at the same time to visit his mother, who lived near 24th Street and Spaulding Avenue in Chicago.

¶ 5 In the evening hours of June 26, 1998, Victor Denis was near the corner of Claremont Avenue and Taylor Street hanging out with Rodriguez, Castillo, and Castillo's father. Denis saw Castillo earlier in the day, and Castillo had been drinking. Eventually Jimenez approached the group. Jimenez exchanged words with Rodriguez and Castillo about gangs, and the argument got heated. Jimenez ran off. Rodriguez and Castillo chased Jimenez and caught up to him about two houses down the street. Rodriguez then threw Jimenez to the ground, and Rodriguez and Castillo started kicking him. Jimenez was lying on the ground not fighting back. Castillo was kicking Jimenez in the abdomen. At some point, Rodriguez and Castillo stopped kicking Jimenez, and they ran away. Denis did not see Rodriguez or Castillo go through Jimenez's pockets, try to take anything from him, or put anything in their pockets as they ran away. Denis saw Jimenez lying on the ground, not moving, not speaking, and not making any noises; he did not cry out for help. Denis did not see Rodriguez, Castillo, or Jimenez with any weapons, such as guns, knives, or bats. Denis was unsure if the beating lasted over a minute.

¶ 6 Later that evening, James Crejan saw Rodriguez, his nephew, come around the corner of Taylor and Claremont moving pretty fast, but not necessarily running. Crejan noticed a little bit of blood on Rodriguez's pants and shoes. Concerned that his nephew might be injured, Crejan caught up to Rodriguez and asked if everything was okay. Rodriguez responded, "we f*** him up." Crejan asked, "who" and Rodriguez responded, "just the flake." Crejan understood "the flake" to mean a rival gang member, and Rico was the only rival gang member in the neighborhood. Like Rodriguez, Crejan was a member of the Spanish Cobras. Crejan told Rodriguez to "go home and wash up." Rodriguez left, and Crejan went back to the corner.

¶ 7 Within the next day or two, Crejan asked Rodriguez what had happened on June 26. Rodriguez said that he and Castillo were walking down Claremont minding their own business when Rico started harassing and intimidating them, throwing up gang signs. Rodriguez and Castillo started walking away, but Rico came off the porch and kept following them until he got dangerously close, and then a serious fight broke out. Rico ran away, and Rodriguez and Castillo caught up to Rico and beat him mostly with their hands, elbows, knees, and feet. Rodriguez said they "stomped" Rico, which Crejan interpreted to mean "that he beat him down."

¶ 8 Louie Coletta lived at 918 South Claremont with his family. In the later evening hours of June 26, 1998, Coletta parked his car and started walking toward his home when he saw a person lying on the sidewalk, about 10 feet from his front gate. The individual was not moving. Coletta went inside and told his aunt what he saw. Coletta and his aunt shone a light from their porch and saw the individual lying on the sidewalk was a man. He was not moving but was making a faint noise, a gurgling sound. Coletta's aunt called 911.

¶ 9 At about 11:30 p.m., Officer David Striegel of the Chicago Police Department responded to the call. When he arrived at the scene, he saw a man lying on the sidewalk who had blood on his head, face, and body. He could not communicate with the man, who was not speaking, making any noise, or moving. The man's pants pockets were pulled inside out. Officer Striegel could not determine the man's identity. He called for an ambulance, and the man was transported to Mount Sinai Hospital.

¶ 10 Some time after midnight, Detective Robert Fujara of the Chicago Police Department went to Mount Sinai to investigate an unidentified male who was found on the street at 918 South Claremont. Detective Fujara could not determine the man's identity because he was in a coma.

¶ 11 Even though Jimenez did not come home that night and Jacqueline determined that her husband was not at his mother's house, Jacqueline did not fill out a missing persons report because Jimenez on occasion would not come home. After a couple of days, in an attempt to locate him, Jacqueline called the police to find out whether Jimenez had been arrested. On June 30, Jacqueline received a telephone call instructing her to go to Mount Sinai. When Jacqueline got to the hospital, she saw Jimenez in a room on a ventilator. Jacqueline contacted Detective Fujara and identified her husband as the man found at 918 South Claremont. Detective Fujara then attempted to locate the offenders. A few weeks later on July 22, 1998, Jacqueline again contacted Detective Fujara and provided names of individuals who had information relating to the attack on her husband.

¶ 12 The next day, based on the information Jacqueline gave him, Detective Fujara spoke to Michelle Crejan, who was Rodriguez's legal guardian and Crejan's sister. Michelle told Detective Fujara that Rodriguez committed the battery, and she also gave him Castillo's name. The same day, Detective Fujara questioned Rodriguez and Castillo. Based on his questioning, Detective Fujara arrested Castillo at 12:45 p.m. Castillo gave a statement to Assistant State's Attorney Stan Gonsalves at 11:10 p.m. ASA Gonsalves prepared a written summary of Castillo's statement, which Castillo read and signed. Castillo's summarized statement states in relevant part:

"This statement taken regarding the aggravated battery of William Jimenez which occurred on June 26, 1998, at 918 South Claremont at approximately 10:00 p.m.* * *
John states that on June 26th, 1998, at around 10:00 o'clock at night, he was hanging out on the corner of Taylor and Claremont with his friend Christopher Rodriguez. John states that he * * * has known Christopher since they were little kids. John states that his father was standing on the corner with them but that he left with his friends. John states that he—that his friend Christopher is a member of the Cobra street gang.
John states that while he and Christopher were hanging out, some Hispanic guy came over and started talking to Christopher. John states that the Hispanic guy started arguing and he had heard the Hispanic guy say that he is a Latin King. John states that the Latin Kings and Cobras are rival gangs. John states that Christopher continued to argue with the guy about gangs and that the Hispanic guy started to run away northbound on Claremont. John states that Christopher chased the guy and he followed Christopher. John states that Christopher caught up with the Hispanic guy, grabbed him and threw him to the ground. John states that this Hispanic guy was lying face down on the ground on the sidewalk.
John states that Christopher started kicking the Hispanic guy on the head numerous times. John states that as Christopher was kicking the guy, he came over and punched the guy in the sides. John states he also kicked the guy as he was [lying] on the ground.
John states that he saw that the Hispanic guy was not moving so he stopped kicking him. John states that Christopher continuing kicking the guy in the head. John states that as Christopher was kicking the guy, he walked away.
John states that the Hispanic guy that he and Christopher kicked and punched never had a gun or a knife or any type of weapon on him at any time."

¶ 13 Rodriguez also gave a statement, which incriminated Castillo. Rodriguez stated that he and Castillo got into an argument with Jimenez over...

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