People v. Reese, Docket No. 120011

CourtSupreme Court of Illinois
Writing for the CourtJUSTICE KILBRIDE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Citation2017 IL 120011,102 N.E.3d 126
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellant and Cross–Appellee, v. Willis REESE, Appellee and Cross–Appellant.
Docket NumberDocket No. 120011
Decision Date19 October 2017

2017 IL 120011
102 N.E.3d 126

The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellant and Cross–Appellee,
Willis REESE, Appellee and Cross–Appellant.

Docket No. 120011

Supreme Court of Illinois.

Opinion filed October 19, 2017
Rehearing denied November 20, 2017

102 N.E.3d 130

Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, of Springfield, and Kimberly M. Foxx, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, Annette Collins, Eric Leafblad, and Michelle Katz, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

Michael J. Pelletier, State Appellate Defender, Patricia Mysza, Deputy Defender, and David T. Harris, Assistant Appellate Defender, of the Office of the State Appellate Defender, of Chicago, for appellee.

JUSTICE KILBRIDE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

102 N.E.3d 131

¶ 1 The primary issue in this appeal is whether the offense of aggravated vehicular hijacking ( 720 ILCS 5/18–4(a)(3) (West 2006) ) requires proof that the defendant took actual physical possession of a vehicle from the driver. We hold that the offense encompasses taking actual physical possession of a vehicle but may also be committed when a defendant exercises control of the vehicle by use of force or threat of force with the victim still present. Accordingly, we affirm in part and reverse in part the appellate court's judgment.


¶ 3 Defendant Willis Reese was charged with several offenses, including aggravated vehicular hijacking ( 720 ILCS 5/18–4(a)(3) (West 2006) ), vehicular invasion ( 720 ILCS 5/12–11.1 (West 2006) ), attempted armed robbery ( 720 ILCS 5/8–4, 18–2 (West 2006)), and escape ( 720 ILCS 5/31–6 (West 2006) ). The public defender was appointed to represent defendant, but defendant subsequently informed the trial court that he wished to proceed pro se .

¶ 4 The Cook County trial court admonished defendant about his right to appointed counsel and the potential of nonextended and extended-term sentences for the charged offenses. The trial court also informed defendant that some of his sentences could run consecutively and that two of the charges alone carried a potential maximum term of 160 years. The court summarized, "Basically, you are looking at massive time if you are convicted." The trial court did not admonish defendant that any potential sentences would also be served consecutively to his natural-life sentence for his unrelated first degree murder conviction. When asked if he understood the potential penalties, defendant stated, "Perfectly, Your Honor, perfectly." After completing the admonishments, the trial court permitted appointed counsel to withdraw and defendant to represent himself.

¶ 5 Prior to jury selection, defendant asked to have his leg shackles removed before potential jurors entered the courtroom. The trial court told defendant that his hands would be free and both counsel tables would be covered with drapes to block any view of his leg shackles. Defendant expressed concern that the jurors would be able to hear the shackles if he moved. He also asserted that he was there "to do a thorough job" and he "[could] not work under these conditions." The trial court told defendant the decision on removing the shackles was within the discretion of the Department of Corrections. When defendant continued to express concern, the trial court stated, "You are preaching to the choir. All you have to do is talk to the men in charge. If you can convince those three men that you don't need leg shackles, you don't have to have them on."

¶ 6 Following a recess, defendant asked if he would be shackled "when trial officially starts." The trial court responded, "That's up to the Illinois Department of Corrections." Defendant stated, "The only way they are going to come off is by court order" and reiterated that he "cannot work under these conditions." The court asserted it would take the matter under advisement and make a decision the next day.

102 N.E.3d 132

¶ 7 During jury selection, defendant asked the court to consider an issue without the jurors present. After the trial court removed the prospective jurors from the courtroom, defendant stated he believed two of them saw his leg shackles through an area of the counsel table left uncovered by the drapes. The trial court brought those potential jurors into the courtroom separately. The first one stated she could not see behind the drapes. Defendant, nevertheless, removed her with a peremptory challenge. The second potential juror stated he saw "a little belt on [defendant's] strap between his feet," but assured the court that what he saw would not affect his ability to be fair. After questioning the prospective juror, defendant decided not to challenge him for cause or exercise a peremptory challenge.

¶ 8 When the three remaining members of the panel were brought back into the courtroom, the court asked if anything about defendant's appearance "with this drapery in front of him" would affect their ability to be fair. One of the potential jurors responded, "No I guess" and asked if there was "something we should know that we don't know because now I am confused." The trial court stated there was nothing the jurors should know. The other two potential jurors did not respond to the court's inquiry. The parties then accepted the four-member panel.

¶ 9 After concluding voir dire , the trial court addressed the State's motion to introduce defendant's prior murder conviction as evidence of his motive to escape and for impeachment if defendant chose to testify. The State sought to present a certified copy of the charging instrument from defendant's prior murder case to prove that he was found guilty three days before trying to escape and "to introduce evidence of the potential sentence he was facing insofar as it relates to motive." The trial court ruled that evidence could not be presented in the State's case-in-chief but a certified copy of defendant's prior murder conviction could be used for impeachment if he chose to testify.

¶ 10 The next day, the trial court ordered removal of defendant's shackles during trial. The State called Cook County sheriff's Deputy Vito Zaccaro, who testified that he was working in the external operations unit at John H. Stroger, Jr., Hospital of Cook County (Stroger Hospital) when he met defendant at the front of the hospital to accompany him to an appointment. Defendant was wearing a Department of Corrections inmate uniform and was restrained with handcuffs and leg shackles. Zaccaro transported defendant to the dermatology clinic on the second floor. Defendant repeatedly asked to use the restroom during the appointment. After the appointment, Zaccaro took defendant to a single-occupancy restroom and allowed him to enter with his hands uncuffed but his legs still shackled. Zaccaro waited in the hallway outside with the restroom door "open about a crack."

¶ 11 When defendant came out after about 10 minutes, Officer Zaccaro asked him to put his hands out, but defendant instead "jumped toward the one side with a silver metal weapon, placed it to [Zaccaro's] neck and said 'move or I'll cut you.' " Zaccaro felt defendant's hand going toward his handgun, and he threw up his arms to prevent defendant from taking the gun. Defendant responded by stabbing Zaccaro in the neck. Zaccaro struggled to detain defendant, but he tripped over defendant's shackles, and they both fell to the floor. When defendant got up and began running, Zaccaro hit the "panic button" on his radio and chased defendant through the hallways and down an emergency stairwell, exiting at the front of Stroger Hospital.

102 N.E.3d 133

¶ 12 Zaccaro followed defendant out of the hospital and saw him run onto a shuttle bus nearby. Zaccaro tried to enter the bus, but the door slammed on him and the bus began to travel around the circular driveway before it "just kind of stopped and went into a wall." Defendant ran out of the bus, and hospital police officers tackled him. On cross-examination, Zaccaro acknowledged that defendant never made a verbal demand for Zaccaro's handgun and he also had keys to the handcuffs and leg shackles on his belt.

¶ 13 James Rimmer testified that he was the driver of the shuttle bus and was making runs between the Cook County juvenile court parking lot and Stroger Hospital. The shuttle bus was parked near one of the main entrances to the hospital with the doors open when defendant, wearing a jail inmate uniform, ran through the front door. Rimmer testified that defendant "stood over me, left hand, I guess, behind my seat, and right hand in front of my face. I seen an object in his hand, and he ordered me to drive. He said, '* * * [D]rive. If you stop, I'm gonna stab you in the neck.' " Rimmer closed the door to the bus and began driving. After driving a short distance, Rimmer opened the door, causing the bus to stop suddenly. When defendant stumbled forward, Rimmer grabbed his arm and tried to hold him until police arrived. As they wrestled, defendant stabbed Rimmer twice in the face and once in the chest with a downward motion. Defendant then broke free, ran through the front door of the bus, and was tackled by police officers. On cross-examination, Rimmer testified that defendant never got behind the wheel of the bus or gave directions on where to drive. Rimmer...

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