People v. Minnifield, 1-11-3778

Citation2014 IL App (1st) 113778 -U
Decision Date24 November 2014
Docket NumberNo. 1-11-3778,No. 1-12-1521 (cons.),1-11-3778,1-12-1521 (cons.)
PartiesTHE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. MICHAEL MINNIFIELD, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

2014 IL App (1st) 113778-U

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MICHAEL MINNIFIELD, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 1-11-3778
No. 1-12-1521 (cons.)

APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT FIRST DIVISION

November 24, 2014


NOTICE: This order was filed under Supreme Court Rule 23 and may not be cited as precedent by any party except in the limited circumstances allowed under Rule 23(e)(1).

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County.

No. 09 CR 9023 (03)

Honorable Vincent M. Gaughan, Judge Presiding.

JUSTICE CONNORS delivered the judgment of the court.
Justices Cunningham and Harris concurred in the judgment.

ORDER

¶ 1 Held: The trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the State laid a proper foundation for admission of a rap song which was not unduly prejudicial, not improperly referenced during closing arguments, and whose lyrics were properly interpreted by a lay witness; additionally, the evidence was sufficient to find defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt when the jury was aware of and given instructions on the witnesses' infirmities and the witnesses' testimony was consistent in all respects including as to the identification of defendant.

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¶ 2 Defendant Michael Minnifield appeals his convictions for first degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm arguing that the trial court erred in admitting a rap song and that the evidence failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 4 On the night of April 20, 2009 Renault Darling (Darling) was shot and killed as he returned to his house at 63rd and Ellis in Chicago. Darling was accompanied by several other people at the time he was shot, two of whom, Cherelle Bailey (Bailey) and Theodis Cook-Mims (Mims), were also injured in the shooting.

¶ 5 Shortly after the incident, Chicago police were informed that the shots were fired from a blue Dodge Charger. Officers in the area of the shooting saw a blue Dodge Charger, followed it, ran its plates, and pulled it over. At that time, Angelo Straight (Straight) was the driver of that vehicle, Kerry Williams (Williams) was the front-seat passenger, and defendant was the rear-seat passenger. When the three occupants were removed from the car, officers noticed and recovered one shell casing from inside the car and four shell casings from outside the car belonging to .40-and .45-caliber guns. Defendant, Williams, and Straight were charged with multiple counts of first degree murder, attempt murder, and aggravated battery with a firearm. In May 2010, Straight pled guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in exchange for a 15-year day-for-day sentence and his truthful testimony against Williams and defendant.

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¶ 6 Before his trial began, defendant filed a motion in limine to exclude, in relevant part, two rap songs. The trial court denied the motion and stated it would allow wide latitude in defense counsel's cross-examination.1

¶ 7 At defendant's jury trial, Mims testified for the State. He explained that he had been a member in the Gangster Disciples (GD) gang, had several prior convictions on his record, and although he had left the gang life in 2008 and moved to Louisville, Kentucky, he had come back to Chicago to go to a funeral and to visit his very good friend, Darling, when the incident at issue occurred. On that day, April 20, 2009, Mims met up with his girlfriend, Bailey, and they both went to Darling's house. From there, Bailey, Mims, Darling and another friend left to buy liquor. When they returned to Darling's house after a second stop at the liquor store with a few more people, Mims testified that he saw a dark blue Dodge Charger heading in his direction and that he saw a beam on his shirt that was coming from the rear of the car just before the occupants started shooting at his group. Mims further testified that he heard someone yell "[W]ait wait. Stop stop. Stop, stop. Wait, wait" before the shooting started again. Finally, the Charger pulled away slowly. Mims testified he had been shot twice, Bailey had been hit in the face and ankle, and Darling had been shot in his neck.

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¶ 8 Following the shooting, Mims and Bailey drove to a hospital for their gunshot wounds and, at the hospital, Mims told officers that he could describe the shooters. However, he did not tell the police who shot at him because he wanted to "get away and go back to Kentucky." Mims testified that he went to the police station after the hospital and identified the two passengers from the day of the shooting. Mims identified defendant as the rear occupant and testified that he recognized defendant from high school but did not know him personally. Mims testified that he could not definitively identify the driver at that time because the man next to him in the lineup looked similar. Finally, he testified that he told an officer at the hospital that the shooters had lasers on their guns.

¶ 9 On cross-examination, defense counsel elicited that Mims bought some marijuana on the night in question, had just smoked a blunt, and was high before the shooting. Defense counsel also emphasized Mims's grand jury testimony in which he said that he was not paying attention to the front seat passenger and did not know if that passenger had a gun. In contrast, Mims testified at trial that he saw the front-seat passenger with a gun on the night of the shooting.

¶ 10 Straight next testified for the State. At the time of trial, he had known defendant for eleven years, that he had become a member of the Black P Stones gang at age 17, and knew defendant to be in the same gang. He told the jury that defendant was with him when he was shot a few years earlier, and that in 2008, defendant was one of his closest friends in the Black P Stones. He testified that the Black P Stones believed that the GDs, who commanded the area of

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Dro City, were responsible for the deaths of the two Black P Stones members, Sergio Dukes and Tommy Williams.

¶ 11 The State questioned Straight about the rap song called "Fuck Dro City." Straight testified that he recognized defendant's voice as the singer, he previously heard the song while he was in the presence of defendant, and had helped the State prepare a transcript of the song. Straight also testified that "RIP Serge, Tommy" referred to the deceased Black P Stones members Sergio Dukes and Tommy Williams; that certain phrases in the song meant that defendant was making up the lyrics as he went along; that the song mentioned two GDs and several members of the Black P Stones by their nicknames. He also testified to the interpretation of the following phrases: "you better be totting your gun and real recognize real so don't be faking" meant that if you do not have a gun then you should not act like you have one; "get interrogation like a show seat. You fold up quick" meant that you will tell if you're interrogated by the police; "your heart gone to stop, that is a flat line" meant a flat line; and that the letters "GDK" stood for Gangster Disciple Killer. On cross-examination, Straight said that he had been to the recording studio with defendant before, that defendant records all the time, and that the song talks about something that the singer thought about "real quick" without writing anything down beforehand, that defendant sang about the Black P Stones members, and that he did not remember the rest of the lyrics. On re-direct, the State elicited more testimony about the particular lyrics "post up on Kimbark," "I got the chrome," and "fuck carone."

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¶ 12 Straight also recounted the night of the incident, testifying that he first picked up Williams, who was carrying a .40-caliber Glock that he put in the back door panel, and then defendant. In Straight's blue Charger, the three men went to a liquor store, gas station, studio, to the house of Williams' relative for an hour or two, and back to a liquor store. Straight testified that defendant took the .40 Glock from the back door panel and they travelled to Dro City to see if they could "catch" GDs who were not paying attention and shoot at them. Straight testified that, when they were not able to find anyone between 65th and Cottage Grove and 65th and Kimbark, defendant suggested that they drive to an area called the Quads to shoot at the man who shot Serge, a deceased Black P Stone member. Straight further testified that defendant collected a .45-caliber gun from a nearby house before they drove to the Quads. Straight recounted that, after waiting 30 minutes without seeing Serge's shooter in the Quads, the three of them returned to Dro City.

¶ 13 While there, Straight explained that the three of them were traveling north on Ellis toward 63rd street when they saw approximately seven individuals on the right side of the street. When Straight pulled the car parallel to the group, Williams and defendant started shooting at the group out the windows of the car. Straight explained that he slammed on the brakes and stopped the car to "make sure people got shot" and then hit the gas, at which time defendant immediately told him to stop, and both defendant and Williams continued to shoot. Straight testified that they then drove away, dropped off the two guns with a man called "Fuzzy," and as they were headed to get something to eat, they were pulled over by police officers.

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¶ 14 Straight testified that he told officers the following...

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