People v. Hardimon

Decision Date22 July 2021
Docket NumberAppeal No. 3-18-0578
Citation2021 IL App (3d) 180578,191 N.E.3d 568,455 Ill.Dec. 261
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Darrin C. HARDIMON, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

Melissa A. Matuzak, of Chicago, for appellant.

Jodi Hoos, State's Attorney, of Peoria (Patrick Delfino, Thomas D. Arado, and Nick A. Atwood, of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

JUSTICE O'BRIEN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

¶ 1 Defendant Darrin C. Hardimon was convicted of four counts of first degree murder and one count of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon following a jury trial and sentenced to consecutive terms of imprisonment of 80 years and 14 years, respectively. He appealed. We vacate his conviction for unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon and affirm his conviction for first degree murder.

¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 3 The defendant, Darrin C. Hardimon, was charged with four counts of first degree murder ( 720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (2) (West 2010)) and one count of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon (id. § 24-1.1(a)) for a February 2011 shooting death outside Club Apollo, a Peoria nightclub. A jury trial took place. The jury found the defendant guilty of first degree murder and unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon. The trial court sentenced him to 80 years’ imprisonment for murder and 14 years’ imprisonment for unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon with the terms to be served consecutively. This court reversed the defendant's convictions and remanded the case, finding defense counsel provided ineffective assistance. People v. Hardimon , 2017 IL App (3d) 120772, ¶ 39, 413 Ill.Dec. 377, 77 N.E.3d 1184.

¶ 4 On remand, the defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing he was arrested without a warrant and his subsequent statements should be suppressed. A hearing on the motion took place. The parties stipulated that Peoria police officers arrested the defendant on February 8, 2011, without either arrest or search warrants; the defendant was arrested at the home of his girlfriend, Whitney Evans; Evans would testify she did not consent to a search of her home; and Peoria detective Chad Batterham would testify that based on a "49" message, which is a law enforcement probable cause alert, he went to Evans's house to arrest the defendant, and Evans consented to a search of the premises.

¶ 5 An evidentiary hearing took place on the defendant's motion to suppress. Timothy Moore, an investigator for the Peoria County State's Attorney's Office, testified. In February 2011, he was a police detective with the City of Peoria Police Department in the criminal investigation division, violent crimes. Moore testified that he reviewed the police reports of the investigation from which he learned the following. There was an anonymous tip that the shooter entered a 1999 black Mitsubishi Eclipse with a certain license plate number. The car belonged to Anthony Carter, who said he loaned the car to T.C. Driver. When Driver picked up the car from Carter, Driver's friend named "Scoob" or "Scooby" was with him. Driver was interviewed on February 7, 2011. Moore did not participate in the interview. Driver said he borrowed Carter's car and picked up Scoob, whom he identified with a photograph as the defendant. Driver and the defendant went to Club Apollo around 11:30 p.m. or midnight the night of the shooting. The defendant argued with the victim. When Driver and the defendant were leaving the club, the defendant again exchanged words with the victim, pulled out a pistol, pointed it at the victim, and fired two rounds. As Driver walked to the car, which he had backed into the parking stall, he heard more gunshots. He then entered the car, the defendant thereafter also entered the car, and they drove out of the parking lot. After interviewing Driver, the police issued a "49" probable cause message for the defendant. Moore further testified that Early Johnson, a security guard at Club Apollo, told officers that he broke up a fight in the men's bathroom between two individuals, one of whom was the victim, and escorted them out of the club.

¶ 6 On cross-examination, Moore explained that a "49" message was "an internal numeric code that law enforcement has to send a message to other law enforcement that somebody is wanted for questioning." A "49" message does not always mean there is probable cause. The messages issue from the police department, not from the state's attorney's office or from a magistrate. Moore further testified that Johnson said at the time he escorted the men out of the club that he did not know the individuals, describing them only as black men. No one at the nightclub or in the group standing outside the club identified the defendant as either the participant in the bathroom altercation or as the shooter.

¶ 7 The club's surveillance camera captured the shooting. Moore watched the video recording after the defendant was arrested and prior to a second interview of Driver, which Moore conducted. During the interview, Driver offered specific facts, named the defendant as Scoob, and identified him from a photograph. Moore agreed the video showed an individual exiting a parked car, walking up to the front of the club, and shooting the victim. The video version of events stood in contrast to Driver's version of the events. According to Driver, the defendant shot the victim as he and Driver left the club. At that point, there was no forensic evidence to connect the defendant to the shooting. On redirect examination, Moore said the video showed the taller man entering the driver's seat of a vehicle. He described Driver as taller than the defendant and identified the vehicle as a Mitsubishi Eclipse.

¶ 8 The parties agreed that the video of the first interview with Driver should be admitted and that the court should review it. The probable cause hearing was continued to and concluded on April 11, 2018. The trial court found that Driver was an occurrence witness who was known to the police, meaning that he provided information face-to-face, not anonymously, and who recounted what he witnessed. The court further found that there was probable cause for the "49" message and the defendant's arrest. The trial court denied the motion to suppress.

¶ 9 The defendant moved to sever the murder and weapon charges. The trial court denied his request for two separate trials but agreed to bifurcate the charges. The defendant also requested that the court order the Peoria Police Department to have retired detective Steven Garner served or provide an address for him. According to the defendant, he had served Garner's subpoena at the Peoria Police Department, but Garner failed to appear as ordered. On the court's request, counsel for the City of Peoria appeared and explained that the subpoena for Garner that was served on the police department "fell between the cracks." Defense counsel was provided an address for Garner at his sister's house; apparently, he had left the state with no further forwarding address. Defense counsel served a subpoena at that address via certified mail, the sheriff's department, and a private process server.

¶ 10 The jury trial began on July 24, 2018. Because counts III and IV were dismissed at the first trial, the State proceeded only on counts I, II (first degree murder), and V (unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon). Several law enforcement officers testified for the State that large crowds often gathered outside Club Apollo at closing time. Because there were often fights, the police patrolled the area in order to disperse the crowds. At approximately 3:50 a.m. on February 6, 2011, officers heard multiple gunshots, with reports indicating 7 to 10 gunshots followed by 7 to 10 additional gunshots. Officers responded to the nightclub where they found Jerrell Hartwell lying on the ground unresponsive in front of the club, a victim of multiple gunshot wounds. There were approximately 30 people in front of the club and another 70 or so gathered in the parking lot; the scene was chaotic. Club patrons were running around the lot and leaving in vehicles. The club's clientele was predominately black with equal number of men and women between the ages of 21 and 35. No one identified the shooter. No one identified the defendant as being present.

¶ 11 An officer at the scene was approached by Demetrius Easley, a security guard at Club Apollo, who handed him a piece of an envelope and said the paper came from a patron who had left the club. Written on the envelope was the following: "Black Eclipse. L, as in Lincoln, 101306" and "Guy had on a Black hat, Black shirt." The officer added "B/M", meaning black male. Easley told the officer that the person who gave him the note said the "shooter had gotten into a car parked on Jefferson Street." Seventeen shell casings and bullet fragments were located near the nightclub entrance and in the parking lot, and bullet strikes were found on the building. The evidence was submitted to the state crime lab. There were no usable fingerprints discovered on the casings. Three bullets were removed from the victim's body at the autopsy. No firearms evidence was discovered after the Mitsubishi Eclipse was examined. Photographs of the passenger side door did not indicate whether the door handle was broken but the area around it was dented.

¶ 12 Telekia Lyles testified. She had been at Club Apollo on the night in question with friends to celebrate her sister's birthday. She was the designated driver. She left the club before closing to warm up her car in the parking lot. Lyles heard gunshots, and she and her friends in the car ducked. There was a pause, she looked up and saw the victim in a fetal position. The shooter had his back to her and kept shooting until he ran out of bullets. She did not see the shooter's face. He turned...

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