People v. White

Citation353 Ill.Dec. 517,2011 IL 109689,956 N.E.2d 379
Decision Date26 September 2011
Docket NumberNo. 109689.,109689.
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee,v.Kenyatta WHITE, Appellant.
CourtSupreme Court of Illinois

2011 IL 109,689
956 N.E.2d 379
353 Ill.Dec.

The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee,
Kenyatta WHITE, Appellant.

No. 109689.

Supreme Court of Illinois.

Aug. 4, 2011.Rehearing Denied Sept. 26, 2011.

[956 N.E.2d 380]

Richard M. Goldwasser, Schoenberg, Finkel, Newman & Rosenberg, LLC, Chicago, for Kenyatta White.Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, Springfield, and Anita Alvarez, State's Attorney, Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, Annette Collins, Veronica Calderon-Malavia and Michelle Katz, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for People.
[353 Ill.Dec. 518] OPINION
Justice KARMEIER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

¶ 1 Following a bench trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant, Kenyatta White, was convicted of first degree murder for the shooting death of Aramein Brown. Defendant was subsequently sentenced to 55 years' imprisonment. Defendant appealed, arguing, inter alia, that he was denied his sixth amendment right to counsel where the police barred his attorney from observing witnesses when they identified the defendant in a lineup. Defendant had not raised that argument in the circuit court. After its review of the record the appellate court found, as a threshold matter, that the evidence was closely balanced; thus, the appellate court proceeded to examine the issue via the closely-balanced-evidence prong of plain-error analysis. Ultimately, the appellate court affirmed, finding, first, that a total prohibition of defense counsel from observing the moment of identification was a violation of the accused's sixth amendment right to effective assistance of counsel, but concluding thereafter that defendant's sixth amendment right to counsel had not attached at the time the lineup was conducted.

[956 N.E.2d 381]

[353 Ill.Dec. 519] 395 Ill.App.3d 797, 334 Ill.Dec. 943, 917 N.E.2d 1018.

¶ 2 Defendant filed a petition for leave to appeal to this court, arguing that (1) the appellate court erred when it held that defendant's sixth amendment right to counsel had not attached “even though defendant had been formally charged, his arraignment had been prompted and restrictions had been imposed on his liberty”; and (2) the appellate court erred when it ruled that defendant's sixth amendment right to counsel had not attached “at the time he ought to have been presented in court for his initial appearance.”

¶ 3 We granted leave to appeal pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 315(a) ( Ill.S.Ct. R. 315(a) (eff.Feb.26, 2010)). Having now thoroughly examined the record, and having considered all bases for relief pursuant to plain-error review, we affirm the judgment of the appellate court insofar as it upheld defendant's conviction; however, we find that the appellate court's pronouncements on the substantive issues are dicta, as the facts of this case do not bring it within the purview of plain-error review: the evidence was not closely balanced—contrary to defendant's argument and the appellate court's finding. We note that a determination as to whether evidence is closely balanced is not strictly a quantitative assessment. No argument was made that the alleged error was of such a magnitude that it would have affected the fairness of defendant's bench trial and challenged the integrity of the judicial process. In order to demonstrate the error in the appellate court's assessment, and the relative insignificance of the claimed sixth amendment violation in the outcome of defendant's bench trial, we will set forth an extensive recitation of the evidence, testimony, and arguments presented below.


¶ 5 Aramein Brown was shot and killed at approximately 10:30 p.m. on January 6, 2003, at a gas station located at 79th and Yates in Chicago. Preliminary investigation of the matter led to the filing of a “Complaint for Preliminary Examination” on February 20, 2003, in which “complainant,” Detective Alejandro Almazan, stated that defendant had committed the murder. On the basis of those allegations, an arrest warrant was issued setting bond at $1 million.

¶ 6 Defendant was arrested that same day—February 20, 2003—in East St. Louis, Illinois, and was held in the St. Clair County jail until he was transported back to Chicago on February 25, 2003. On the following day, February 26, 2003, defendant was placed in a lineup. Defendant's attorney was present with defendant in the room where the lineup participants were displayed, but counsel was not present in the adjoining room where and when the witnesses viewed the individuals in the lineup.

¶ 7 Grand jury proceedings were conducted on February 27, 2003. Martina Brewer testified that she and her boyfriend, Aramein Brown, were at a gas station on January 6, 2003, at approximately 10:30 p.m. Aramein was at the gas pump talking to two other individuals on the other side of the pump—one of whom was his cousin—when someone came from behind the van in which she was seated and shot Aramein several times. Brewer testified that Aramein tried to run, and more shots were fired. She said she knew the shooter by the name of “Yatta.” 1 After [353 Ill.Dec. 520]

[956 N.E.2d 382]

Yatta shot Aramein, Yatta ran away. Brewer said she began to chase him, but soon turned around and went back to where Aramein was lying on the ground. Then she called the police. Assistant State's Attorney Nicholas Pappas showed her People's Exhibit No. 1, which she identified as a photo of Yatta, the person she saw shoot Aramein that night.

¶ 8 Keith Slaughter also testified before the grand jury. On January 6, 2003, between 10 and 10:30 p.m., Slaughter was driving down 79th westbound toward Yates. While stopped at a red light, he heard a gunshot, and then noticed two individuals at a nearby gas station: “One had just seemed as though he just fell over, just hit the ground. And another individual was standing there also. He had just started * * * running off.” The person he saw ran off about 10 feet after the shooting, “then he doubled back to the individual” and “shot him four to six more times.” Thereafter, the shooter “casually trotted off” southbound on Yates and jumped into a vehicle. Slaughter was shown People's Exhibit No. 1, the photo of Kenyatta White, and he remarked, “It looks to be the person who was the shooter.” The assistant State's Attorney asked:

“Q. The person you just testified to?

A. Yes.

Q. The one you indicated started to run away and then came back and fired several times, four or five times, at the victim?

A. Correct.

Q. The same one that ran down Yates?

A. Exactly.”

¶ 9 Slaughter affirmed that he never saw the person falling in possession of a weapon, nor did the victim make any threatening gesture toward the shooter. Slaughter testified that the man he identified in People's Exhibit No. 1 got in a car after the shooting and drove off. When he later looked back at the victim, he saw a female “hovered over him on the ground.” Slaughter acknowledged that on February 13, 2003, he was shown a series of photographs and he identified the person in People's Exhibit No. 1 as the shooter. Further, Slaughter confirmed that he was present for a lineup on February 26, 2003, at which he identified the same individual he had recognized in the photo. Slaughter was then asked:

“Q. Okay. At any time on February 19th or February 26th, did anyone force you, threaten you, or coerce you to identify the individual here in People's Exhibit No. 1?

A. No.

Q. And how about on February 26th, did anyone force you, threaten you, or coerce you to make that identification?

A. No.”

With respect to conditions at the crime scene, Slaughter noted that the lights were “very bright.”

¶ 10 The day after grand jury proceedings were concluded, a second “Complaint for Preliminary Examination” was filed on February 28, 2003, with Detective John Fassl as the listed complainant. That same day, defendant made his initial court appearance.

¶ 11 Based on the grand jury testimony, an indictment was filed on April 2, 2003, charging defendant with six counts of first degree murder for the shooting death of Aramein Brown.

¶ 12 On December 5, 2005, a bond hearing was conducted for material witness Martina Brewer. At that hearing, the State alleged that Brewer had made “numerous statements” that she had no intention of coming to court to testify in this matter. Bond was set at $25,000 to ensure [353 Ill.Dec. 521]

[956 N.E.2d 383]

her appearance at defendant's trial. Her attorney stated: “I don't know what kind of case this is because I was just appointed a few minutes ago but she is I guess in fear for her safety.” Brewer, speaking to the judge, then confirmed: “Ma'am, please, I swear I'm afraid. You can ask them. They know.” Brewer's appointed counsel suggested that the State should “try to help her as opposed to putting her in the Cook County Jail.”

¶ 13 Assistant State's Attorney Brian Sexton responded: “Judge, we've offered this witness witness relocation. She is afraid and that's just like a lot of other witnesses out there and she's already indicated she's not coming to court because she's afraid.”

¶ 14 Appointed counsel opined: “Judge, they're willing to risk her safety in the Cook County Jail to get her appearance for trial.” Brewer, obviously distraught, pleaded: “Can you all please help me? I swear I'm going to come to court * * *. I just don't want to go in there because I'm afraid * * *. They know where my mother live. That's why she moved.”

¶ 15 Judge Diane Gordon Cannon, the judge who would preside at defendant's bench trial, stated: “We will see you on January 24th, Ma'am.”

¶ 16 Defendant's bench trial commenced on January 24, 2006. The State called Martina Brewer as its first witness.

¶ 17 Brewer testified that the victim, Aramein Brown, was her boyfriend in January of 2003. She identified defendant in open court, stating that she knew him by the nickname “Yatta.” Brewer testified that she and Aramein were in Chicago on January 6, 2003, and at one point, around 10 p.m., they went to a gas...

To continue reading

Request your trial
79 cases
  • People v. Ortega
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • 30 Junio 2021
    ...claim of ineffective assistance of counsel must fail as a matter of law. See People v. White , 2011 IL 109689, ¶ 133, 353 Ill.Dec. 517, 956 N.E.2d 379. ¶ 81 We make one final observation. Chaidez's and Mangual's accounts of what they said to each other the following day was also not hearsay......
  • People v. Ammons
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • 16 Septiembre 2021
    ...; see also People v. Adams , 2012 IL 111168, ¶ 22, 356 Ill.Dec. 725, 962 N.E.2d 410 ; People v. White , 2011 IL 109689, ¶ 139, 353 Ill.Dec. 517, 956 N.E.2d 379 (where defendant claimed the evidence was so closely balanced that it necessitated review of an error, the court held that a qualit......
  • Boyar v. Dixon (In re Estate of Boyar)
    • United States
    • Illinois Supreme Court
    • 4 Abril 2013
    ...J., specially concurring, joined by Freeman and Theis, JJ.); People v. White, 2011 IL 109689, ¶¶ 156–82, 353 Ill.Dec. 517, 956 N.E.2d 379 (Burke, J., dissenting, joined by Freeman, J.). Underlying these dissents is my concern that this court, on occasion, loses sight of its role in the judi......
  • People v. Robinson
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • 2 Diciembre 2013
    ...the evidence was closely balanced, we need not first look at whether an error occurred. People v. White, 2011 IL 109689, ¶ 148, 353 Ill.Dec. 517, 956 N.E.2d 379. “Where the only basis proffered for plain-error review is a claim that the evidence is closely balanced, an assessment of the imp......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
    • United States
    • Journal of Appellate Practice and Process Vol. 22 No. 2, June 2022
    • 22 Junio 2022
    ...1750, 1754 (2010). Additionally, some courts reject Frost's proposition and vacate sua sponte made decisions. See, e.g., People v. White, 956 N.E.2d 379, 417 (1ll. 2011) (rejecting the Illinois court of appeals decision to reach a constitutional question sua (98.) Frost, supra note 1, at 47......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT