People v. Walker, 1-21-0508

CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois
Writing for the CourtFITZGERALD SMITH, JUSTICE.
Citation2022 IL App (1st) 210508 U
PartiesPEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Respondent-Appellee, v. JUSTIN WALKER, Petitioner-Appellant.
Docket Number1-21-0508
Decision Date22 November 2022

2022 IL App (1st) 210508-U

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Respondent-Appellee,
v.

JUSTIN WALKER, Petitioner-Appellant.

No. 1-21-0508

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District

November 22, 2022


This order was filed under Supreme Court Rule 23 and is not precedent except in the limited circumstances allowed under Rule 23(e)(1).

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 08 CR 15946 01 The Honorable Thomas J. Byrne, Judge Presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE FITZGERALD SMITH delivered the judgment of the court. Justices Howse and Cobbs concurred in the judgment.

ORDER

FITZGERALD SMITH, JUSTICE.

¶ 1 Held: Summary dismissal of postconviction petition asserting claim that petitioner's state constitutional rights were violated by his arrest pursuant to investigative alert is reversed and remanded for second-stage postconviction proceedings.

¶ 2 Petitioner Justin Walker appeals from the trial court's summary dismissal of his pro se postconviction petition. On appeal, he contends that his petition presented arguable claims that his state constitutional rights were violated by (1) his arrest pursuant to an investigative alert instead of a warrant and (2) the prohibition under truth-in-sentencing laws on his ability to earn good-conduct credit to reduce his 30-year sentence for an offense committed at age 17. For the reasons

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that follow, we reverse this summary dismissal and remand for second-stage proceedings.

¶ 3 BACKGROUND

¶ 4 Petitioner was convicted in a jury trial of first-degree murder for the death of Clarence "Red" Harrington in 2008. The evidence adduced at petitioner's trial is set forth in detail in this court's order on direct appeal. People v. Walker, 2015 IL App (1st) 123369-U. We summarize here only that evidence necessary to an understanding of the case and the issues involved in this appeal.

¶ 5 Prior to trial, petitioner moved to quash his arrest and suppress evidence on the grounds that, inter alia, there was no probable cause for his arrest. He asserted that the only information leading to his arrest had been given to police by Lakesha Royal after she was arrested on an unrelated narcotics search warrant on April 4, 2008. He alleged that, on April 21, 2008, the Chicago Police Department had issued an "Investigative Alert" for petitioner but never obtained a warrant for his arrest. Petitioner was arrested the following day. He subsequently made statements to police and was identified in a lineup as having been present when Harrington was robbed and beaten.

¶ 6 At the suppression hearing, two detectives from the Chicago Police Department testified about their respective interviews of Royal. Detective John Valkner testified that Royal recounted that in January 2008, the janitor at her apartment building knocked on her door and told her that four people were on the second floor beating a man. Royal went there and saw four young black males, whom she did not know but recognized as a group that sometimes loitered in her apartment building, run down the stairs out of the building. Royal did not see any of them touch or take anything from the victim and only saw them running. Detective Reuben Weber testified that Royal told him she had seen the four men beating Harrington and identified petitioner in a photo array as one of the offenders she saw fleeing the scene.

¶ 7 Also testifying at the suppression hearing was Detective Michael Landando, who testified

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that after receiving the above information he went to the apartment building and spoke to James "JB" Williams, who recounted witnessing a group of four young black males that regularly loitered in the apartment building standing over a person laying on the floor, beating and punching him. Williams knocked on Royal's door to get help in breaking up the fight, whereupon the four offenders ran away. Williams showed Detective Landando and his partner the location where this had occurred, and the detectives observed blood splatter on the carpets and baseboards. Detective Landando testified that, after attempting for 10 days to locate petitioner near his home, he issued an "investigative alert with probable cause" for petitioner's arrest. He did this based on the identification by Royal, the corroborating interview with Williams, and the evidence recovered. Petitioner was arrested the following day, based solely on the investigative alert. Upon his arrest, petitioner made statements to police and was identified in lineups by both Royal and Williams. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court found that probable cause had existed at the time petitioner's arrest and denied his motion to quash and suppress evidence.

¶ 8 The case proceeded to trial. The evidence showed that on January 6, 2008, Harrington was found unconscious in the hallway of an apartment building on South Mason Street in Chicago. He was transported to the hospital with injuries consistent with having been beaten and kicked. He died as a result of these injuries on March 9, 2008.

¶ 9 Royal and Williams both testified. Williams testified that he was the building's janitor and was working when he heard a noise from the second-floor hallway. He knocked on Royal's door to find help. Royal testified that she went to the second floor and saw "someone standing there and someone lying there," although all she could see "was his feet." She identified the man standing as petitioner, whom she had seen several times in the lobby of the building. She then ran back to her apartment and did not report the incident until she was arrested on narcotics charges in April

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2008. Williams testified that he went out the back of the building and came around to the front, where he saw petitioner coming out the front door. He accompanied emergency responders to the victim, who was laying on his back and bleeding, with his pockets inside out. Both Royal and Williams testified to identifying petitioner in a lineup as the man they had seen that day.

¶ 10 William Howard testified that he was also charged with first-degree murder involving the same incident and was testifying pursuant to a plea agreement. He lived in the same apartment building with petitioner, and the two were friends. On the day at issue, Howard was in the lobby of the apartment building on South Mason Street when petitioner arrived with Nathan Clark. They began to talk, and petitioner asked Howard if he wanted "to hit this thing with us?" or do a "stain," which Howard explained meant getting some money in some way. Howard declined but agreed to be a lookout for petitioner and Clark. He then saw them go upstairs and return 30 to 45 minutes later, running down the stairs and out the door. Howard followed them, and when they stopped, he saw that petitioner's knuckles were red, "like he just punched someone."

¶ 11 Detective Robert Cordero of the Chicago Police Department testified, corroborating much of Detective Landando's testimony from the motion to suppress. Briefly, they received the case following the victim's death, interviewed Royal and Williams, and went to the apartment building where they saw blood splatter in the second-floor hallway. After unsuccessfully searching for petitioner for several days, they issued an investigative alert, and he was arrested the next day. He was brought to the police station where he was questioned and gave a statement. A video showing a portion of the conversation between petitioner and the detectives was then allowed into evidence and played for the jury. Before this occurred, Detective Cordero testified that petitioner had provided three different versions of events. First, he said that a man named Shannon Carr had approached him about accompanying him to the second floor of the apartment building, where

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they came upon the victim. Carr then started to "steal on him," that is, punch him and knock him to the ground. Petitioner stated he became alarmed, stopped Carr, and ran away. In the second version of events, petitioner agreed only to be a lookout while Carr performed a "stain," which he confirmed meant a robbery, and he did not strike or take any money from the victim. In the third version of events, petitioner stated that he was the lookout for Carr and Clark, that he saw money in the victim's hands once they started beating him, that he grabbed the money totaling $23, and that all three of them fled the building. On cross-examination, Detective Cordero affirmed that petitioner consistently maintained that he had never touched the victim and that he had tried to pull Carr off the victim after Carr started beating him.

¶ 12 In the defense case-in-chief, petitioner presented Howard's plea agreement for impeachment purposes and then rested. The jury then returned a verdict finding petitioner guilty of first-degree murder. At the sentencing hearing, the trial court set forth the sentencing range and stated that whatever sentence was imposed had to be served at 100% under truth-in-sentencing provisions. It then stated that it was considering petitioner's "extreme youth" as relevant to his potential for rehabilitation. It concluded by stating that a sentence at the statutory minimum of 20 years "would not be sufficient" and that a 30-year sentence was appropriate "based upon his youth."

¶ 13 On direct appeal, petitioner argued among other things that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress based on a lack of probable cause. As part of that argument, he asserted that the investigative alert, which formed the sole basis of his arrest, was not comprised of sufficient evidence to justify the belief that a law had been broken and that he was the one who broke it. This court rejected that argument, holding that the "clear and consistent evidence from multiple sources"...

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