People v. Harris, 60857

Citation544 N.E.2d 357,135 Ill. Dec. 861,129 Ill.2d 123
Decision Date19 June 1989
Docket NumberNo. 60857,60857
Parties, 135 Ill.Dec. 861 The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee, v. James HARRIS, Appellant.
CourtSupreme Court of Illinois

Charles M. Schiedel, Deputy Defender, Robert E. Davison, First Asst. Appellate Defender, and James E. Chadd, Asst. Defender, Office of the State Appellate Defender, Springfield, for appellant.

Neil F. Hartigan, Atty. Gen., Springfield, and Richard M. Daley, State's Atty., Chicago (Mark L. Rotert, Asst. Atty. Gen., Chicago, and Joan S. Cherry, Timothy W. Heath, Thomas V. Gainer, Jr., Inge Fryklund and Kevin Sweeney, Asst. State's Attys., of counsel), for people.

Justice CLARK delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant, James Harris, was charged by indictment in the circuit court of Cook County with four counts of murder (Ill.Rev.Stat.1981, ch. 38, pars. 9-1(a)(1) through (a)(3)), two counts of armed robbery (Ill.Rev.Stat.1981, ch. 38, par. 18-2(a)), four counts of aggravated kidnapping (Ill.Rev.Stat.1981, ch. 38, pars. 10-2(a)(3), (a)(5)), one count of unlawful use of weapons (Ill.Rev.Stat.1981, ch. 38, pars. 24-1(a)(4), (b)), one count of attempted murder (Ill.Rev.Stat.1981, ch. 38, par. 8-4), two counts of aggravated battery (Ill.Rev.Stat.1981, ch. 38, par. 12-4(a)), and four counts of armed violence (Ill.Rev.Stat.1981, ch. 38, par. 33A-2). All of these charges stemmed from his alleged involvement in an incident during which Theresa Woods was wounded and Jesse James, Sr., killed. Prior to trial, all of the kidnapping, armed violence, and weapons counts were dismissed. Before the case was submitted to the jury, the State withdrew, without objection, the armed robbery counts and substituted three counts of attempted armed robbery (Ill.Rev.Stat.1981, ch. 38, par. 8-4). The jury found defendant guilty of the murder of Jesse James, Sr. (Ill.Rev.Stat.1981, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)(1)), the attempted murder of Theresa Woods (Ill.Rev.Stat.1981, ch. 38, par. 8-4), the aggravated battery of Theresa Woods (Ill.Rev.Stat.1981, ch. 38, par. 12-4(a)), and the attempted armed robbery of Theresa Woods and Jesse James, Sr. (Ill.Rev.Stat.1981, ch. 38, par. 8-4).

Defendant waived a jury for the death sentencing hearing. The trial court found defendant eligible for the death penalty based on the presence of the statutory aggravating factor that the murder had been committed during the course of an attempted armed robbery (Ill.Rev.Stat.1983, ch. 38, par. 9-1(b)(6)). The trial court also found no mitigating circumstances sufficient to preclude the imposition of the death penalty. It sentenced defendant to die by lethal injection for the murder of Jesse James, Sr. Defendant was also sentenced to terms of 15 years for each of the attempted armed Defendant challenged his convictions on various grounds, which can be grouped under four headings. He claimed that he was denied a fair trial because of (1) the prosecutor's use of peremptory challenges to exclude blacks from the jury; (2) the prosecution's alleged failure to disclose exculpatory material to the defense; (3) the ineffective assistance of counsel; and (4) the prosecutor's allegedly prejudicial remarks in summation. Defendant's various challenges to his sentence can be grouped under two headings. Defendant claimed that his sentence must be reversed because of (1) various errors claimed in connection with the trial court's consideration of evidence, presented at the aggravation-mitigation stage of the death penalty hearing, that the defendant killed a person in 1969, a charge that had been dismissed upon the State's motion of nolle prosequi, and (2) the alleged unconstitutionality of the Illinois death penalty act.

[135 Ill.Dec. 866] robbery convictions, the terms to run concurrently, and 30 years on the attempted murder conviction, the term to run consecutively to the terms for the attempted armed robbery convictions. Because the death penalty had been imposed, defendant appealed directly to this court pursuant to Rule 603 (107 Ill.2d R. 603).

While defendant's appeal was pending, the United States Supreme Court held in Batson v. Kentucky (1986), 476 U.S. 79, 96, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 1722-23, 90 L.Ed.2d 69, 87, "that a defendant may establish a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination in selection of the petit jury solely on evidence concerning the prosecutor's exercise of peremptory challenges at the defendant's trial." The Court subsequently held that the rule announced in Batson applied retroactively to all cases that had been pending on direct review at the time Batson was decided. (Griffith v. Kentucky (1987), 479 U.S. 314, 328, 107 S.Ct. 708, 716, 93 L.Ed.2d 649, 661.) We therefore issued a supervisory order retaining jurisdiction of this case but remanding it to the trial court for a hearing to determine whether the State used peremptory challenges to unconstitutionally exclude blacks from the jury. At the hearing, the trial court determined that defendant established a prima facie case of discrimination. However, the court concluded that the State presented neutral, nonracial reasons for its use of peremptory challenges, thereby rebutting defendant's prima facie case. Upon return of the case to this court, defendant renews his earlier arguments and further claims that the trial court's finding at the Batson hearing was incorrect.


Defendant's convictions stem from events occurring in the early morning hours of February 10, 1983. The State's chief witness to these events was Theresa Woods, a waitress at the tavern owned by Jesse James, Sr. According to her testimony, she and James began closing the tavern at 2 a.m. After closing, she checked out the cash registers, leaving $30 in each. Sometime between 3:30 and 4 a.m., Woods and James finished and left the tavern, stopping to lock the door and set the alarm. As Woods and James were leaving, a man whom Woods had never seen before approached them and asked what time the buses stopped running. Woods replied that she did not know and continued to walk away with James.

James and Woods walked across 69th Street to James' car. James stopped to put jumper cables into the trunk. Suddenly, the man who had approached the pair and asked for the time came towards them again, this time grabbing Woods by her coat and pointing a gun at her head. Woods' legs slipped out from under her, and as the man pulled her back up she saw his face.

The assailant ordered Woods and James to get into James' car. Woods went into the rear seat, and following the assailant's command, sat behind James, who was sitting in the driver's seat. Woods testified that from her position in the back seat, and with the aid of streetlights in the area, she was again able to view the assailant's face. Her assailant remained in this position during the time the three spent driving around the streets in the area.

The assailant ordered James to drive to the next corner. When they arrived at the corner, the assailant then ordered James to turn into an alley, drive to the end of it, and stop the car. James complied. The assailant threatened to kill James and Woods if they did not give him $300. He also told them that he did not "care about" killing the two of them because if he was caught he would be "up for good." James replied that he had some money at his tavern. The assailant then told James to drive back to the tavern. James did so, stopping the car in an alley perpendicular to 68th Street, just behind the tavern.

The assailant then ordered Woods to go into the tavern and retrieve the money. He told her that if she did not return in three minutes, with the money, he would kill James. Woods then ran to the tavern, opened the door, and jumped over the counter to the cash register. She took all the paper money from both cash registers and, without stopping to count it, ran back outside.

When she returned, she noticed that the car had been moved from its original position and was now at the intersection of the alley and 69th Street. When she reached the car, the assailant ordered her to get in. James protested, saying that there was no need for Woods to reenter the car. The assailant then told James to "shut up," and that he, the assailant, was "running this." Woods testified that she then saw the assailant pull James toward himself, and shoot James in the head.

Woods turned and ran, tripping and falling a short distance from the car. She landed on her left side and turned over on her back. The assailant came towards her, stood over her, and pointed his gun at her face. He said: "You bitch." She began pleading: "[P]lease do not do this to me," and raised her hands in the air to protect her face. She rolled to her left as the assailant fired. She then remained lying face down, not realizing at that point that a bullet had entered her right shoulder.

She continued to remain in this position for several minutes, pretending to be dead. After a few seconds she heard the footsteps of a person running away, first on the pavement and then through weeds growing in an empty lot on the north side of the street. After several seconds had passed she stood up and saw James lying on the ground. She also noticed that the car had now collided with the glass window of a building adjacent to the alley. She then ran back into the bar and called the police.

Chicago police officer Abraham Wilson testified that he arrived at the scene a few minutes after 4:18 a.m. He met Theresa Woods, who said that she and a man had been shot. Officer Wilson then saw James lying on the ground and went over to him. Officer Wilson testified that James told Wilson that an assailant had reached over and shot James and that "he didn't have to do that." Officer Wilson then called for an ambulance, which took Woods and James to a hospital. James later died of a bullet wound to the head.

In order to impeach Theresa Woods' testimony, the defense called Chicago police...

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