People v. Knapp

Citation142 N.E.3d 815,436 Ill.Dec. 414,2019 IL App (2d) 160162
Decision Date13 June 2019
Docket NumberNo. 2-16-0162,2-16-0162
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Justin KNAPP, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

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

¶ 1 Defendant Justin Knapp was convicted of attempted first degree murder ( 720 ILCS 5/8-4(a), 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 2008)), two counts of aggravated battery ( 720 ILCS 5/12-4(b)(1), (b)(8) (West 2008)) and mob action ( 720 ILCS 5/25-1(a)(1) (West 2008)). The trial court sentenced defendant to 16 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections on the attempted first degree murder. This court affirmed defendant's conviction in People v. Knapp , 404 Ill.App.3d 1177, 374 Ill.Dec. 1081, 996 N.E.2d 776 (2010) (unpublished summary order under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 23(c) ). On November 9, 2015, defendant filed a pro se petition pursuant to the Post Conviction Hearing Act (Act) (725 ILCS 5/122 et seq. (West 2014)). The trial court summarily dismissed defendant's petition. Defendant appeals from the summary dismissal. Because the record positively rebuts defendant's claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel we affirm the summary dismissal and assess statutory State's Attorney fees.


¶ 3 Our decision in Knapp I was a summary order. A more detailed background is necessary to dispose of this appeal. On July 3, 2008, defendant and his co-defendant, Luis Rodriguez, were indicted for attempt first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated battery and mob action in connection with the June 10, 2008, stabbing of Jorge Avitia. The State's theory was that the defendants were members of the Nortenos 14 street gang and that the victim, Jorge Avitia, was affiliated with a rival gang, the Latin Kings. Prior to trial the State filed a motion in limine to introduce gang evidence on the issue of motive for the stabbing. The trial court deferred ruling on the motion. The State requested that two of its witnesses, Jorge Avitia and Andres Pedroza, be granted immunity regarding underage drinking. Defense counsel filed a motion to suppress a video-recorded statement defendant gave following his June 10, 2008, arrest. The State agreed to the suppression of the statement because defendant "asked for an attorney right off the bat." Defense counsel acknowledged that the recording was accurate in the event it was coming "in for another matter."

¶ 4 A. The Trial

¶ 5 Timothy Schroeder, a firefighter/paramedic with the Woodstock Fire Department, testified that at 5:24 a.m. on June 10, 2008, he responded to the scene of a stabbing outside an Aldi store in Woodstock. Police officers were already at the scene when Schroeder arrived. The male victim, Jorge Avitia, was on the ground and another male was standing over him. Avitia's pupils did not respond to any kind of stimuli, an early sign that his brain was beginning to shut down. Avitia's clothes were removed, revealing that he had multiple stab wounds

to his body. After the wounds were dressed, Avitia was provided advanced life support and transported to the hospital.

¶ 6 Nineteen-year-old Andres Pedroza testified that he had been friends with the defendant and Jorge Avitia since the third grade. On June 10, 2008, at 2:00 a.m. Pedroza was at his house in Crystal Lake along with defendant. Avitia came over to Pedroza's house. A short time later Christian Saenz, along with Luis Rodriguez, came over to Pedroza's house to pick the others up and drive to Woodstock. Pedroza did not know Luis Rodriguez, who sat in the passenger seat. On the way to Woodstock the group stopped at apartments in Crystal Lake. When the group arrived in Woodstock they went to a home behind the Aldi store. The group entered the home and sat in the living room. Christian Saenz left. Rodriguez and Avitia began to argue. Defendant was seated on a couch next to Pedroza. Pedroza heard Rodriguez say "F*** you, George" to Avitia. Rodriguez also called Avitia a "King killer." Pedroza testified that he guessed this was a reference to a gang, the Latin Kings. He did not know whether defendant was in a gang, but he knew defendant had tattoos on his arm and face. Some of his tattoos had four dots, which could be associated with the Nortenos, also known as the Nortenos 14 street gang.

¶ 7 Pedroza testified that after hearing the argument he said, "[l]et's go" to Avitia. The two left the house and headed toward the train station. Pedroza noticed that defendant and Rodriguez were following them. Pedroza heard Rodriguez say, "fourteen something" and also heard defendant say something. As defendant and Rodriguez closed in, they began hitting Avitia. Both men were punching Avitia in the body. Pedroza grabbed defendant and asked him and Rodriguez what they were doing. Pedroza believed Rodriguez hit Avitia one more time. Defendant and Rodriguez then left. Avitia passed out and Pedroza called 911. The police drove Pedroza back to the house where the group had gathered. He identified defendant as one of the attackers. Pedroza recalled that either Rodriguez or defendant was holding "something shiny" before or after the attack.

¶ 8 On cross-examination Pedroza admitted he had been drinking before going to the house in Woodstock but he said that he stopped drinking before arriving there. The last act between Rodriguez and Avitia was when Rodriguez kicked him and Avitia went down.

¶ 9 Officer Jeremy Mortimer of the Woodstock police department testified that Avitia was covered in blood and unconscious when he arrived on the scene. Pedroza was trying to revive Avitia. Mortimer drove Pedroza to the house on Brick street where Pedroza identified defendant.

¶ 10 James Kelly testified that he lived at 672 Brick Street in Woodstock. Rodriguez was a friend of Kelly's and it was not unusual for him to bring people to Kelly's house to party. When Kelly arrived at home the night of June 9, 2008, Rodriguez and one of his friends were at his house. Kelly went to bed at about 12:30 a.m. on June 10, 2008. He recalled being awakened in the early morning and finding defendant inside his home. Defendant was pacing in front of the door and he asked Kelly to not open the door. Kelly told defendant to sit down and opened the door to allow the police to enter. Defendant sat on the couch "freaking out" and yelling at the police. Defendant threatened the police and Kelly because Kelly would not let him smoke. Kelly recalled defendant saying "some kind of gang thing about Nortenos." He characterized defendant as being "very aggressive."

¶ 11 Katrina Cardella testified that she was James Kelly's girlfriend and lived at his house on Brick Street. The morning of June 10, 2008, Cardella was awakened by the police banging on the house. She had never seen defendant before defendant told her to not open the door. Kelly told defendant to calm down and sit down. Defendant told Cardella and Kelly that he was going to kill them. Defendant told the police officer that "he was going to rape and murder their wives." He was yelling "gang slogans about Fourteens and how he was a gang banger and they never die." Defendant asked the police if they knew where their children were. Cardella noticed that there was a knife missing from a set of knives in the kitchen. She identified State's exhibit 16, a knife recovered by the police outside the home, as the knife that was missing from the kitchen.

¶ 12 Woodstock police officer Daniel Henry was dispatched to the scene of the stabbing. Upon getting a description of the suspects he went to Brick Street. He saw defendant in front of the home at 672 Brick Street. Defendant was holding two gas cans. After seeing Henry, defendant ran inside the home. Henry knocked on the door and James Kelly allowed him inside.

¶ 13 Woodstock police officer Litner1 was Daniel Henry's partner and assisted in defendant's arrest. Litner said defendant was very angry and kept repeating "Nortenos Fourteens." Defendant was screaming and shouting.

¶ 14 Officer Matt Harmon testified that while trying to make contact with the people inside 672 Brick Street he noticed a knife, identified as State's exhibit 16, outside another entrance at the back of the house. The knife had grass on it but did not have any blood on it. No fingerprints were recovered from the knife.

¶ 15 Jorge Avitia testified that he lived in Crystal Lake and he has been friends with defendant since the fourth grade. On June 16, 2008, at about 2:45 a.m., Avitia was at Pedroza's house when his friend Christian Saenz and another friend picked them up. Luis Rodriguez was with them. They drove to a house in Woodstock near the Aldi store. An argument broke out about "Nortenos and Kings." Avitia heard Rodriguez say "King killer" and "Nortenos love," which means "you get love for that gang, the street gang." Avitia knew that defendant was a member of the Nortenos street gang. After he and Pedroza left the house to head for the train station he was attacked by defendant and Rodriguez. Before the attack he heard them say "f*** you" and "Nortenos." Avitia yelled "f*** you" back at them. During the attack defendant was on his left and Rodriguez was on his right side. Both men were punching him. His next memory was waking up in the hospital. He suffered a puncture wound

to his heart and two stab wounds to his stomach.

¶ 16 On cross-examination Avitia denied being a gang member. He did not know whether it was defendant or Rodriguez who stabbed him. On re-direct Avitia acknowledged that he is friends with some Latin King members and he admitted that he wears black and gold clothing, the King colors. Avitia said he had been friends with Latin King members for five years.

¶ 17 Office Paul Olazak from the Crystal Lake police department testified that defendant told him that he was a member of the Nortenos Fourteen street gang. The Nortenos Fourteen street gang is a rival of the Latin Kings.

¶ 18 Office Dimitri...

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2 cases
  • People v. Munz
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • October 14, 2021
  • People v. Knapp
    • United States
    • Illinois Supreme Court
    • December 3, 2020
    ...Knapp did not voluntarily relinquish his right to testify at his trial. The appellate court affirmed. 2019 IL App (2d) 160162, ¶ 68, 436 Ill.Dec. 414, 142 N.E.3d 815.¶ 2 In this court, petitioner argues that the appellate court erred in affirming summary dismissal of his postconviction peti......

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