People v. Harris

CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois
Citation2016 IL App (1st) 141744,70 N.E.3d 718
Docket NumberNo. 1-14-1744,1-14-1744
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Darien HARRIS, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date27 December 2016

Michael J. Pelletier, Patricia Mysza, and David M. Berger, of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Chicago, for appellant.

Anita M. Alvarez, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, Joseph Alexander, and Christopher Miller, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.


PRESIDING JUSTICE HYMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

¶ 1 On June 7, 2011, Rondell Moore and Quincy Woulard were each shot several times at a Chicago gas station. Moore died of his wounds

, after fleeing the station on foot. Woulard survived. After a bench trial, the court convicted defendant Darien Harris of first degree murder in Moore's death and attempted first degree murder of Woulard, and sentenced Harris to an aggregate term of 76 years of imprisonment.

¶ 2 On appeal, Harris argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, but we find that a reasonable trier of fact could credit the eyewitnesses who saw Harris shoot Moore and Woulard. He also raises an as-applied challenge to his sentence, contending that it contravenes the Illinois Constitution. Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 11. We agree. Without diminishing the seriousness of Harris's crimes, we believe it shocks the moral sense of the community to impose what amounts to a life sentence on Harris, who turned 18 just a few months before the shooting, thereby eliminating any chance of Harris becoming a contributing member of society. Finally, we direct the clerk of court to correct the mittimus to reflect Harris's conviction for only one count of attempted first degree murder.


¶ 4 Ronald Moore testified that on June 7, 2011, he and his younger brother Rondell Moore drove into a BP gas station at the corner of Stony Island and Marquette on the south side of Chicago. Rondell was having car trouble. He put up the car's hood and a local mechanic, Quincy Woulard, arrived on his bike and was helping Rondell with the car's engine. Ronald stayed in the back seat.

¶ 5 Ronald saw a black Lexus pull into the gas station parking lot from Marquette. Ronald had seen the car on Cottage Grove a few days before, and recognized the driver from the neighborhood of 65th and Minerva (though Ronald did not know the driver's name). The Lexus drove around the station office until Ronald could not see it. Ronald then heard a number of gunshots—more than five. Ronald looked out the back passenger's side window and saw Harris shooting a chrome handgun at Rondell. Ronald recognized Harris from the Minerva neighborhood, but did not know his name. Harris was only a few feet away from Ronald during the shooting.

¶ 6 Rondell ran, hopped over a fence along the gas station's property, and went towards the parking lot of a Chase bank situated next door to the gas station. Harris continued shooting as Rondell fled. Ronald was unable to leave the car through the passenger's side door, so he scooted across the seat towards the driver's side. Harris was still shooting at Woulard, and suddenly pointed the gun at Ronald and pulled the trigger. Ronald heard a click, but the gun did not fire. Harris then ran towards Stony Island.

¶ 7 Ronald got out of the car, chased Harris a few feet, and turned to find his brother. Meanwhile, the Lexus drove through the Chase parking lot and Ronald could only see one person (the driver).

¶ 8 When the police arrived, Ronald heard a message over a police radio that the Lexus had been found at a Walgreens drug store, across the street from the Chase bank. Ronald ran to the Walgreens and recognized the Lexus. He told police the driver killed Rondell, but testified at trial that the driver was not actually the shooter. He did not see Harris in the Lexus at that time.

¶ 9 A couple days after the shooting, a neighborhood acquaintance showed Ronald a YouTube video of a black Lexus. Ronald recognized both the Lexus's driver and the shooter, though he did not know their names. He informed police, and eight days after the shooting, at a lineup, Ronald identified Harris as the shooter.

¶ 10 Dexter Saffold testified that he used his scooter to go to a restaurant in the neighborhood that evening. He was rolling northbound on Stony Island in front of the BP station when he heard gunshots. Saffold froze, and saw the shooter from about 18 feet away. The shooter was holding a dark handgun, and Saffold could see the muzzle flashes and heard more than two gunshots. Saffold could see the shooter aiming the gun at a person near a car with its hood up, and another man on a bicycle in the same area. The shooter ran past Saffold, bumping into him, and almost dropped the gun while trying to put it into his pocket. Saffold saw another person running behind the fence, which had some openings in it. The shooter ran behind the Chase bank, out of Saffold's view. Saffold went to the gas station to call 911 and saw a man lying on the ground by the car and bicycle. Saffold spoke to the police when they arrived, and on June 15, 2011, identified Harris in a lineup as the shooter.

¶ 11 Quincy Woulard testified that he often assisted people with car repairs at the BP station. He saw his friend "Blink" (Rondell Moore) at the station, who asked Woulard to look at his car because it was overheating. While Woulard was looking under the hood, he heard three shots and then fell to the ground. Someone said, "he running down the alley," and Woulard saw someone was running in the alley. Woulard had been shot three times, but did not see who shot him.

¶ 12 Aaron Jones testified that on June 7, 2011, he was driving a black Lexus in the area of Minerva, Stony Island, and 65th, selling marijuana. A man he knew as "Chucky" (Harris) waved at him to stop and asked Jones for a ride to the gas station. Jones drove "Chucky" to the BP station at 66th and Stony Island, and dropped him off in the parking lot. Jones then left and headed home, but then backtracked to buy cigarettes at a drugstore at 67th and Stony Island. Before he could reach the store, Jones was pulled over by police. He later identified Harris to police.

¶ 13 During his testimony, Jones recanted his statement to police, now testifying that Harris had not been in Jones's car and that the police had coerced Jones into making the statement and identification by threatening him with jail. Police officers testified that they had not pressured Jones to identify Harris.

¶ 14 During closing argument, the State noted that it was not required to prove motive, but theorized that there was "some sort of beef" between Harris and the Moore brothers. The trial court found Harris guilty of Rondell Moore's murder, basing its guilty verdict on Saffold's testimony: "among all the witnesses that I heard from, his testimony was unblemished by any of the cross-examination," and he corroborated Ronald Moore's and Jones's testimony. The trial court indicated that some "inconsistencies" in the testimony did not create a reasonable doubt. The court said Jones's recantation might have been motivated by fear due to his own involvement in the crime. The trial court also found Harris guilty of the attempted first degree murder of Woulard.

¶ 15 Before sentencing, Harris's counsel presented evidence of his lack of prior criminal record, supportive family, and educational achievements while in prison. After stating it had considered all the appropriate factors, the trial court commented, "I am sorry that the sentencing parameters are such that my options are somewhat limited. Although, I do feel you should be treated seriously." The trial court sentenced Harris to 45 years of imprisonment on the murder conviction: 20 years for the offense plus 25 years for the mandatory firearm enhancement. The trial court also sentenced Harris on three counts of attempted murder: 26 years for Count 71 (6 years plus 20 years for the mandatory firearm enhancement); 31 years for Count 72 (6 years plus 25 years enhancement); and 31 years for count 73 (6 plus 25). The attempted murder counts were to run concurrently with each other, but consecutively to the murder sentence. Finally, the court sentenced him to 20 years for aggravated battery, concurrent with the attempted murder sentences. Harris's aggregate sentence was 76 years.


¶ 17 Evidence Sufficient to Prove Harris Guilty Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.

¶ 18 The relevant inquiry when challenging the sufficiency of the evidence involves, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, whether any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. People v. Campbell , 146 Ill.2d 363, 374, 166 Ill.Dec. 932, 586 N.E.2d 1261 (1992). As a reviewing court, we will not substitute our judgment for that of the trier of fact on questions concerning the weight of the evidence or the credibility of the witnesses. Id . at 375, 166 Ill.Dec. 932, 586 N.E.2d 1261. And, we will not reverse a criminal conviction unless the evidence is so unreasonable, improbable, or unsatisfactory as to create a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt. Id .

¶ 19 First Degree Murder

¶ 20 Harris argues that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of first degree murder of Rondell. A person commits first degree murder if, in performing the acts that cause a death, he or she either intends to kill or do great bodily harm to the victim or another individual, knows that the acts will cause the victim's or another's death, or knows the acts create a strong probability of death or great bodily harm to the victim or another. 720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 2008).

¶ 21 According to Harris, Rondell was not shot at the gas station, but rather in the Chase bank parking lot, and that this is shown by the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
29 cases
  • People v. Joiner
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • March 30, 2018 inmate's projected 104 N.E.3d 1273life span. Id. (citing People v. Harris , 2016 IL App (1st) 141744, ¶ 52, 410 Ill.Dec. 591, 70 N.E.3d 718 ; People v. Jackson , 2016 IL App (1st) 143025, ¶ 57, 408 Ill.Dec. 388, 65 N.E.3d 864 (recognizing that appellate courts "need a consistent and unif......
  • People v. Ortega
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • June 30, 2021
    ......On appeal, defendant alleges that improper prior consistent statements were admitted against him at trial. He also contends that the imposition of a mandatory natural life sentence is unconstitutional as applied to his case in the absence of an evidentiary hearing pursuant to People v. Harris , 2018 IL 121932, 427 Ill.Dec. 833, 120 N.E.3d 900. ¶ 2 For the following reasons, we affirm defendant's conviction and sentence. 1 ¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND ¶ 4 In December of 2013, Angel Mangual (Mangual), Jessica Chaidez (Chaidez), and their one-year-old son lived in a second floor apartment at ......
  • People v. Horshaw
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • September 30, 2021
    ...Sanders , 2016 IL App (1st) 121732-B, 404 Ill.Dec. 579, 56 N.E.3d 563, and People v. Harris , 2016 IL App (1st) 141744, 410 Ill.Dec. 591, 70 N.E.3d 718, in support of his claim. Defendant alleged that "[l]ike Harris , who just turned (18) years old just a few months before the shooting, [de......
  • People v. Djurdjulov
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • September 12, 2017 second-guess the trial court's exercise of discretion. Cf. People v. Harris, 2016 IL App (1st) 141744, ¶ 86, 410 Ill.Dec. 591, 70 N.E.3d 718 (Mason, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) (" ‘Drawing the line at 18 years of age is subject, of course, to the objections always rais......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT