People v. Utley

Decision Date29 August 2019
Docket NumberNo. 1-15-2112,1-15-2112
Citation436 Ill.Dec. 249,142 N.E.3d 352,2019 IL App (1st) 152112
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. James UTLEY, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

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

¶ 1 Following a jury trial, defendant James Utley was convicted of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, being an armed habitual criminal, and unlawful use of a weapon by a felon. He was sentenced as a habitual criminal to respective concurrent terms of mandatory natural life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, 20 years' imprisonment, and 5 years' imprisonment.

¶ 2 In this appeal, defendant claims, first, that section 5-4.5-95(a) of the Unified Code of Corrections (commonly known as the Habitual Criminal Act) ( 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-95(a) (West 2014)), as applied to him, violates the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution ( Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 11 ) and the eighth amendment of the United States Constitution ( U.S. Const., amend. VIII ). Second, defendant claims that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel.

¶ 3 The record shows that Jack Tweedle, a senior parole agent with the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), testified at trial that on February 28, 2014, at 6:30 a.m., he arrived with other officers at a home in Streamwood, Illinois, to serve a parole violation arrest warrant and perform a parole compliance check on defendant. After Tweedle knocked on the door for approximately five minutes, defendant answered the door in a T-shirt and boxer underwear. After Tweedle identified himself as an Illinois parole agent, defendant invited him in. Tweedle's partner, Lou Hopkins, entered behind Tweedle. Tweedle explained to defendant that he was there to serve a parole violation warrant and that he had "information that [defendant] was lying about where he lived." Defendant responded "[s]omething to the effect that the parole violation warrant couldn't be an issue because here I am" and stated that he lived at that address. On cross-examination, Tweedle testified initially that he put in his report the fact that defendant had stated that he lived at the Streamwood address. Upon reviewing the report, however, Tweedle conceded that the report did not contain this information.

¶ 4 Michael Ziegler, the commander of the special operations unit of the Streamwood Police Department, testified that, after speaking with defendant's wife, Turquoise Brown, he went to the master bedroom to conduct a search. The north closet in the bedroom contained "a large amount of men's clothing," as well as men's deodorant, men's cologne, and prescription bottles with defendant's name on them. While looking in the closet, Ziegler noticed the strong odor of cannabis. He discovered a small plastic cooler "at the bottom of the closet right by a bunch of men's shoes." Upon opening the cooler, Ziegler observed that it contained "two scales, a white chunky substance which in [his] training and experience appeared to be cocaine, * * * packing materials and scissors." The cooler also contained a box that "appeared to be like for [sic ] brake pads for a car," and inside the box were "three or four Baggies with a white powdery substance" that Ziegler believed, based on his experience, to be cocaine. The cooler also contained "a box of Baggies" and "the remnants of corners of Baggies." One of the two scales was a small scale "used to measure in grams and other increments," and it "appeared to have a white powdery substance on top" of it. Based on his decades of experience of having made hundreds of narcotics arrests, Ziegler believed that these items were "indicative of [the] sale of narcotics." Continuing his search of the closet, Ziegler also found a plastic container with a plastic bag containing a green leafy substance that emitted a strong odor of cannabis.

¶ 5 Ziegler testified that, after discovering what he believed to be narcotics, he asked defendant's wife "if there was anything else in the house, possible narcotics or contraband that we needed to know about," and she directed him to the south closet in the master bedroom and specifically to a "blue and yellow hat bag." The bag contained a small, black 9-millimeter semiautomatic Beretta pistol, a black .38-caliber revolver with a wooden handle, and various types of ammunition including both 9-millimeter and .38-caliber ammunition.

¶ 6 On cross-examination, Ziegler testified that defendant was wearing a T-shirt and black athletic shorts. Ziegler also testified that he did not take a photo of the prescription bottle and did not know whether the bottle was taken for evidentiary purposes. He stated that he did not know the size of the men's clothing in the north closet and that the south closet contained what "appeared to be ladies['] clothing." Ziegler further testified that the guns were unloaded and that defendant remained in the living room during the search.

¶ 7 Kenya Clark, a senior parole agent with IDOC, testified that she searched the dresser in the master bedroom and found $1000 in cash and a wallet in a drawer containing men's underwear. Clark testified that the wallet "had the parolee's ID in it and had some other cash." However, Clark was not asked what she meant by "the parolee's ID." On top of the dresser, Clark also recovered a checkbook. Clark also observed a bank statement, for January 9, 2014, to February 18, 2014, on a computer table in the living room. Clark testified that the checks and the bank statement bore the names of defendant and his wife, as well as the Streamwood address. Clark further testified that she found defendant's Social Security card in a wooden container with a checkbook; however, she did not specify where she found the wooden container.

¶ 8 Claudio Mercado, a detective with the Streamwood Police Department, testified that he photographed the items that were recovered from the Streamwood residence, most of which had been moved prior to his photographing them, and "collect[ed] the evidence as an evidence technician." When defendant was taken into custody, the officers discussed with defendant what medications he needed, and two prescription bottles were kept by his wife, and one bottle the officers "kept for him to take into County." At the police station, Mercado and Sergeant Darryl Syre spoke with defendant in an interview room, at 10:40 a.m. on February 28, 2014. At that time, defendant told them that he did not want to speak with them, and they left. At 11:50 a.m., they returned to bring him lunch, and he stated then that he wanted to speak with them. Mercado and Syre returned a half-hour later and advised him of his Miranda rights, which he indicated he understood. See Miranda v. Arizona , 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). Defendant was not handcuffed. Mercado testified as follows about defendant's oral statement:

"Q. And what did the defendant tell you in this conversation?
A. Well, he stated that his wife, you know, wasn't aware of the guns or the drugs but he admitted that the drugs were his, the guns were his. He said he, you know, the money that we found was not part of the drugs. He said his wife wasn't aware of any, you know, of that and he also said the cannabis that we found was—it was just for personal use.
Q. Did he indicate what he did with the other drugs?
A. The other drugs he said that he sold them in ounce units and he sold them to other people so that they could go on and sell them for him."

¶ 9 After defendant made this oral statement, Mercado offered to memorialize it in writing, and defendant agreed. Mercado exited the room to type it and returned to show defendant the typed statement. Mercado informed defendant that he could make any changes, additions, or deletions and handed the statement to defendant. After Mercado read it out loud, defendant confirmed that the statement was true and correct, and he signed it at 1:49 p.m., as did Mercado and Syre. After defendant signed the statement, Mercado showed him photos of the guns, ammunition, drugs, and money that were seized, and defendant signed each photo. In addition, defendant made a notation stating: "Money not part of drugs."

¶ 10 In the typed statement, which was admitted into evidence, defendant stated that he lived at the Streamwood home with his wife and family, that his wife did not know anything about the drugs or guns in the home, and that he kept the guns only "for safety reasons," because "he is an ex-gang member and dangerous people are after him." Defendant stated that the cocaine and heroin in the home were his and that he dealt drugs to help support his family. The marijuana was also his, but only for personal use.

¶ 11 On cross-examination, Mercado testified that, after evidence had already been found during the search, Ziegler asked Mercado for a consent to search form, which Mercado gave him. Ziegler then asked defendant's wife to sign it, and she did. Mercado testified that he did not photograph the bank statement as it was lying on the computer table and did not photograph any prescription bottles with defendant's name on them. Mercado also never observed a wallet. Mercado testified that the hat box, which contained the guns and ammunition, also contained women's hats. When Mercado photographed the small wooden box containing defendant's Social Security card and a checkbook, the box was already on the bed in the master bedroom. Mercado opened the lid of the box to photograph its contents.

¶ 12 Mercado testified that, about a half-hour after the police arrived, defendant was already out of the Streamwood home. Defendant's wife contacted a neighbor or family member to take care of the children, and defendant's wife was then transported to the police station. At some point, defendant's personal property, including a...

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  • People v. Franklin
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • September 30, 2020
    ...parole is similar to a death sentence in that it ‘alters the offender's life by a forfeiture that is irrevocable.’ " People v. Utley , 2019 IL App (1st) 152112, ¶ 108, 436 Ill.Dec. 249, 142 N.E.3d 352 (Gordon, J., dissenting) (quoting Graham , 560 U.S. at 69, 130 S.Ct. 2011 ). A life senten......
  • People v. Wilson
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • September 21, 2020
    ...under the familiar standard set out in Strickland v. Washington , 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). See People v. Utley , 2019 IL App (1st) 152112, ¶ 36, 436 Ill.Dec. 249, 142 N.E.3d 352. To demonstrate ineffective assistance, a defendant must show (i) counsel's performan......
  • People v. Hayes
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • December 6, 2021
    ...analysis from Strickland v. Washington , 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984), governs Hayes's claim. See People v. Utley , 2019 IL App (1st) 152112, ¶ 36, 436 Ill.Dec. 249, 142 N.E.3d 352. To demonstrate ineffective assistance, defendants must show (i) their counsel's perfor......
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    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • March 22, 2021
    ...counsel under the familiar standard in Strickland v. Washington , 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). See People v. Utley , 2019 IL App (1st) 152112, ¶ 36, 436 Ill.Dec. 249, 142 N.E.3d 352. To demonstrate ineffective assistance, a defendant must show (i) his or her counsel'......
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