People v. Cavazos, 2–12–0444.

CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois
Citation40 N.E.3d 118
Docket NumberNo. 2–12–0444.,2–12–0444.
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. Justin CAVAZOS, Defendant–Appellant.
Decision Date31 March 2015

40 N.E.3d 118

The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff–Appellee
Justin CAVAZOS, Defendant–Appellant.

No. 2–12–0444.

Appellate Court of Illinois, Second District.

March 31, 2015.

40 N.E.3d 120

Thomas A. Lilien and Christopher McCoy, both of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Elgin, for appellant.

Joseph H. McMahon, State's Attorney, of St. Charles (Lawrence M. Bauer and Scott Jacobson, both of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.


Justice JORGENSEN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

¶ 1 On January 20, 2007, 15–year–old Oscar Rodriguez and his girlfriend, Claudia Lozano, were walking along High Street near Grove Street in Aurora. Gunshots were fired from a passing sport utility vehicle (SUV), killing Rodriguez and injuring Lozano. Defendant, Justin Cavazos (age 16 when the shooting occurred),

40 N.E.3d 121

and his brother, Joshua Cavazos (age 17 when the shooting occurred), were charged in connection with the incident.

¶ 2 In 2011, the brothers were tried simultaneously (in adult court) by separate juries. Justin's jury convicted him of two counts of first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9–1(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 2006)), attempted first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/8–4(a), 9–1(a)(1) (West 2006)), unlawful possession of a stolen motor vehicle (625 ILCS 5/4–103(a)(1) (West 2006)), and aggravated discharge of a firearm (720 ILCS 5/24–1.2(a)(2) (West 2006)).1 Further, as to the first-degree-murder and attempted-murder convictions, the jury found that Justin, or one for whose conduct he was responsible, committed the crimes while armed with a firearm, thus subjecting him to mandatory sentencing enhancements (730 ILCS 5/5–8–1(a)(1)(d) (West 2006)). The trial court denied Justin's posttrial motion and sentenced him to an aggregate of 60 years' imprisonment.

¶ 3 On appeal, Justin argues that he was denied a fair trial where the State introduced evidence: (1) of a subsequent bad act, which evidence he argues was relevant only for propensity purposes; and (2) from a gang expert, which he argues was purely cumulative and served only to characterize him as a bad person. In addition, through supplemental briefing, Justin argues that Illinois law is unconstitutional where, together, the provisions for the mandatory transfer of juveniles to adult court (705 ILCS 405/5–130 (West 2006) ), the application to juveniles of mandatory firearm enhancements (see 730 ILCS 5/5–8–1(a)(1)(d) (West 2006)), mandatory consecutive sentencing (see 730 ILCS 5/5–8–4(d) (West 2006)), and “truth in sentencing” (730 ILCS 5/3–6–3(a)(2)(i), (ii) (West 2006) (requiring that Justin serve 100% of the murder sentence and 85% of the attempted-murder sentence)) do not permit consideration of youthfulness at the time of the offense. For the following reasons, we affirm.


¶ 5 In its opening statement, the State argued that Justin's motive for the shooting of Rodriguez and Lozano was to “hunt” and hurt rival gang members and that the evidence for that motive was supported by what Justin did later that same night. Specifically, the State argued, after the shooting, Justin got into another car with Insane Deuces gang members, found an alleged rival gang member, and, at the urging of his fellow passengers, got out of the car and fired shots at someone.

“And what does that show? That shows his motive, his intent. That as an Insane Deuce street gang member, what he does is he goes out and he looks for rival gang members and he looks to hurt them. And you can use that when evaluating this defendant's intentions when he was in the car with his brother and two other * * * gang members, just before Oscar Rodriguez was shot.”

¶ 6 A. State's Case–In–Chief

¶ 7 Lozano testified that, on January 20, 2007, she and Rodriguez were in the ninth grade. At around 2 p.m., they were walking down the sidewalk on High Street in Aurora. Rodriguez was closer to the street. Lozano testified that she is nearsighted, which affects her ability to clearly see things at a distance, and was not wearing her glasses that day. A dark, navy blue, four-door SUV drove by, with the

40 N.E.3d 122

driver's side of the SUV closer to the sidewalk. According to Lozano, the passengers on the driver's side started “throwing” gang signs and yelling gang slogans at Lozano and Rodriguez. Lozano testified that, initially, the passengers were throwing signs associated with the Insane Deuces street gang and were saying something similar to, “Deuce love” and “[Latin] King killer.” She did not recall anyone in the SUV yelling anything indicating a loyalty to the Latin Kings street gang. Rodriguez responded, “King love.” Rodriguez might have known members of the Latin Kings, and his brothers used to wear Latin King colors, but Lozano did not know if they were gang members.

¶ 8 The SUV passed Rodriguez and Lozano, but it did a quick U-turn and, when it returned, the SUV's passenger side was closer to the sidewalk. Lozano heard four or five gunshots come from the SUV. She and Rodriguez fell to the ground. Lozano was hit by a bullet on her left thigh. She stood up, looked at Rodriguez, and saw that he had been shot and his head was bleeding. Rodriguez could not stand up or talk and (as testified to by the medical examiner) died from multiple gunshot wounds. The SUV drove south and made a left turn onto Grove Street.

¶ 9 Lozano testified that she could not identify the people who were inside the SUV, because they were all wearing “hoodies” and her vision was blurry. She did, however, observe that there were two people in the front seat, and she knew that there was at least one person in the backseat, because, when the SUV returned, someone was hanging out of the backseat passenger-side window. Lozano recalled that this person had the gun. Lozano told police that she thought that the men in the SUV (she did not hear any female voices shouting from the SUV) were Hispanic, that the driver had a beard or goatee, and that he appeared to be around 17 years old.

¶ 10 Felipe Rojo testified that, for 18 years, he had lived near the intersection of High and Grove Streets in Aurora and he could see the intersection from his house. Around 2 p.m. on January 20, 2007, Rojo was inside his house when he heard a sound “kind of like some gunshots.” Rojo went to the front window and saw a car, similar to a Ford Explorer or Chevrolet TrailBlazer, drive up High Street and turn east onto Grove Street. The SUV was driving “almost as if it had been sliding, very fast.” Rojo could not recall the SUV's color, but he remembered that it had a yellow permit on its rear license plate.

¶ 11 Officer Ted Hunt responded to the scene. Dispatch informed him that the suspect vehicle, a black Chevrolet TrailBlazer with a temporary license plate, was last seen going east near Grove Street and High Street. Hunt proceeded in that direction and located, parked along the curb at 1223 Grove Street, i.e., seven blocks from the scene of the shooting, a black Chevrolet TrailBlazer with a yellow temporary license plate. Hunt ran the vehicle's information through his computer system and learned that it was stolen.

¶ 12 Jorge Briesca testified that the recovered SUV was his and that he had reported it stolen. When the SUV was processed for DNA, gunshot residue, and fingerprints, one of the items tested was a cigar found in the cup holder on the front passenger-side of the vehicle. Briesca testified that the cigar was not his, nor was the cigar in his SUV when it was stolen.

¶ 13 Katharine Mayland, a forensic scientist and latent fingerprint examiner, testified that Joshua's fingerprint was found on the cigar's clear plastic cellophane wrapper.

40 N.E.3d 123

¶ 14 Four shell casings were found at the scene. Jeff Parise, a forensic scientist specializing in the fields of firearms and firearms identification, studied the casings and opined that they were fired from the same .40–caliber automatic or semiautomatic firearm.

¶ 15 1. Gang Member Testimony

¶ 16 David Hernandez testified that he previously lived in Aurora. Hernandez joined the Insane Deuces when he was 15 years old, because he was “bored.” In 2007, both Justin and Joshua were members of that gang, as was Jaime Barragan (and Ignacio Rios, Trino Osario, Eddie Montanez, and Wesley Grant). The gang members would often stay at Manny Caranza's apartment in Aurora. Caranza, also an Insane Deuces member, kept firearms, including .40–caliber weapons, in his apartment. The guns, known as “nation guns,” belonged to the gang and were available for any gang member to use when “hunting” (i.e., looking for rival gang members to shoot). At the time of the shooting, the Insane Deuces and the Latin Kings were rivals, and the area of High and Grove Streets in Aurora was known Latin King territory. Generally, “hunting” would be the only purpose for Insane Deuce members to enter that area.

¶ 17 On January 19, 2007, Hernandez, Barragan, and both Cavazos brothers were at Caranza's apartment. Late in the evening, Hernandez and Barragan left the apartment to steal a car. While Hernandez stood as lookout, Barragan stole a black...

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12 cases
  • People v. Cavazos, 2–12–0171.
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • March 31, 2015
    ...of a stolen motor vehicle. Moreover, while the aggregate number of years is indeed significant, it must be remembered that Joshua was 40 N.E.3d 118 convicted of murdering one 15–year–old and attempting to murder a second one.¶ 101 The fact that consistent with our sister courts we reject Jo......
  • People v. Buffer, 1-14-2931
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • March 29, 2017
    ...2016 IL App (1st) 141500, ¶ 30, 407 Ill.Dec. 84, 62 N.E.3d 329 ; People v. Cavazos , 2015 IL App (2d) 120444, ¶¶ 87-88, 396 Ill.Dec. 465, 40 N.E.3d 118 ; People v. Banks , 2015 IL App (1st) 130985, ¶¶ 20-24, 394 Ill.Dec. 499, 36 N.E.3d 432 ).¶ 53 After the parties filed their briefs in this......
  • People v. Davis, 1-16-0408
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • September 23, 2019
    ...other crimes to be inadmissible to prove intent. The State counters with People v. Cavazos , 2015 IL App (2d) 120444, 396 Ill.Dec. 465, 40 N.E.3d 118, where the court rejected a similar argument because "regardless of [the] defense, the State had to prove [the defendant]'s intent beyond a r......
  • People v. Horta, 2–14–0714.
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • December 5, 2016
    ...120171, 396 Ill.Dec. 439, 40 N.E.3d 92 (Joshua Cavazos ); 67 N.E.3d 1011People v. Cavazos, 2015 IL App (2d) 120444, 396 Ill.Dec. 465, 40 N.E.3d 118 (Justin Cavazos ). The State argues more generally that, notwithstanding the mandatory add-on of 15 years, the trial court still retained, and ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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