People v. Wilson

Decision Date21 September 2020
Docket NumberNo. 1-17-0443,1-17-0443
Citation445 Ill.Dec. 505,2020 IL App (1st) 170443,167 N.E.3d 182
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Tahari WILSON, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

James E. Chadd, Patricia Mysza, and David T. Harris, of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Chicago, for appellant.

Kimberly M. Foxx, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, Mari R. Hatzenbuehler, and Erika Gilliam-Booker, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

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

¶ 1 Tahari Wilson was arrested after running from police officers with a gun in his hand. Wilson's appointed counsel filed a motion to suppress evidence challenging his arrest on fourth amendment grounds. Later-retained counsel, however, without litigating the motion, proceeded to a bench trial. The trial court found Wilson guilty of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon and possession of a controlled substance (methylone). Wilson argues the State failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt because the officers' testimony was "inconsistent and improbable." He also argues retained counsel was ineffective for failing to adopt and litigate appointed counsel's motion to suppress evidence. We disagree with both arguments and affirm, though we correct Wilson's mittimus to reflect only the counts on which he was convicted.

¶ 2 Background

¶ 3 Chicago police officers Martin McDonnell, Kevin Omara, and Matthew Kennedy were on patrol in an unmarked car near the intersection of 83rd Street and Loomis Boulevard. McDonnell drove, Kennedy sat in the front passenger seat, and Omara sat in the rear passenger side. At about 11 a.m., McDonnell saw Tahari Wilson walking south on the west side of Loomis from about 75 feet away. He had on a blue jacket and blue jeans.

¶ 4 Wilson "looked in [the officers'] direction" and immediately "turned [and] walked up to the front door" of the single-family home at 8250 S. Loomis. McDonnell watched as Wilson "quickly approached the door, knocked on the door, knocked on the window, attempted to open the front door, which was locked, [and] knocked on the door again." The time Wilson spent trying to get into the house was "[j]ust a couple seconds." McDonnell admitted Wilson was doing nothing illegal. Omara said Wilson did not run when he saw the officers, but they drove toward him anyway.

¶ 5 To get close to 8250 S. Loomis, McDonnell "pulled across the southbound lane of traffic [and] pull[ed] in front of the house." Wilson came down the stairs of the house while grabbing his right side. He ran north to the side of the house and then west down the gangway. McDonnell saw a gun in Wilson's right hand from about 20 feet away. Nothing was blocking his view. Though he viewed the gun for "seconds," he described it as a "silver and black semi-automatic * * * handgun." McDonnell could see the "magazine and the front part of the frame as [Wilson] was running, and then as [Wilson] jumped the fence he used one hand to brace himself on the fence and the gun was in his right hand." McDonnell blocked Omara's view, and Omara did not see the gun. After Kennedy got out of the car to chase Wilson, McDonnell drove Omara to the alley.

¶ 6 Omara entered the alley on foot and heard the sound of chain-link fences being hopped. He followed the sound to the unfenced yard of 8230 S. Loomis. He found Wilson there wearing a white shirt and blue jean shorts and arrested him. The time between Wilson's flight down the gangway and his arrest took two minutes "at the most." Omara patted Wilson down, finding "one small knotted baggie containing a round pill," which he sent to the crime lab for analysis. The parties stipulated that the contents of the Baggie contained 0.2 grams of methylone, an illegal substance.

¶ 7 Wilson did not have any weapons on him, but the officers went back to where the chase started and searched. In the yard of 8250 S. Loomis officers saw a gas grill with a vinyl cover "obviously askew" and "tampered with." Omara looked under the cover and found a loaded black and silver .45-caliber handgun. McDonnell identified it as the gun he had seen Wilson holding.

¶ 8 The State introduced a certified copy of Wilson's conviction for delivery of a controlled substance.

¶ 9 The Cook County public defender who originally represented Wilson filed a motion to suppress evidence arguing that Wilson's arrest was unlawful. The trial court continued the motion four times at the State's request because of the officers' absence from court. Then, before the motion was argued, Wilson hired private counsel. The State told Wilson's new counsel "[t]here was a motion on file." Retained counsel never argued the motion to suppress, and on the last status date before trial elected "to stand on [his] answer at this time without any other pretrial motions."

¶ 10 The trial court found Wilson guilty of one count of armed violence, one count each of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon (UUWF) for Wilson's possession of the gun and ammunition, and one count of possession of a controlled substance. After Wilson's counsel filed a motion to reconsider, the court vacated the armed violence conviction but denied the motion as to the UUWF and possession of a controlled substance counts. The court sentenced Wilson to 10 years on each of the UUWF counts and 3 years on the controlled substance count, to run concurrently.

¶ 11 Analysis

¶ 12 Wilson argues the evidence is insufficient to convict him, claiming the officers' testimony was "inconsistent and improbable." He attacks the sufficiency of the evidence of both his identity and his possession of a firearm. He focuses on four details: (i) Officer McDonnell's radio transmission about Wilson did not include information about a gun, (ii) Wilson was arrested without a gun on him and in different clothes than when officers first saw him, (iii) it is unlikely that Wilson would have ditched the gun under the grill cover but not the methylone pill, and (iv) McDonnell testified inconsistently about the distance from which he saw Wilson. These variations in testimony, viewed in the context of the entire record and in a light most favorable to the State, do not warrant reversal.

¶ 13 Wilson's challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence requires us to consider whether, viewed in a light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. People v. Smith , 185 Ill. 2d 532, 541, 236 Ill.Dec. 779, 708 N.E.2d 365 (1999). This standard gives "due consideration to the fact that the court * * * saw and heard the witnesses." Id. At the same time, we give every case the effort, thought, and commitment necessary to assure a fair, informed, unbiased, and impartial decision. See People v. Hernandez , 312 Ill. App. 3d 1032, 1037, 246 Ill.Dec. 65, 729 N.E.2d 65 (2000) (appellate court not "mindless rubber stamp on every bench trial guilty verdict"). We must consider the record evidence carefully and reverse when it is insufficient. Smith , 185 Ill. 2d at 541, 236 Ill.Dec. 779, 708 N.E.2d 365 ; Hernandez , 312 Ill. App. 3d at 1037, 246 Ill.Dec. 65, 729 N.E.2d 65. Our careful review of the evidence shows it suffices.

¶ 14 Sufficiency of the Evidence: Wilson's Identity

¶ 15 Wilson argues the officers' testimony was insufficient to establish his identity as the man they chased and arrested. Citing People v. Cox , 71 Ill. App. 3d 850, 27 Ill.Dec. 830, 389 N.E.2d 1238 (1979), he argues for a factor test that we should apply because the eyewitnesses were police officers: (i) the continual and close pursuit of the suspect; (ii) consistent clothing worn by the suspect and person apprehended at the end of the chase; (iii) the location, timing, and foot traffic at or near the scene; and (iv) the proximity of the arrest to the scene of the crime or origin of the chase.

¶ 16 We find Cox inapplicable. In Cox , essentially, there was no identification at all. See id. at 855-56, 27 Ill.Dec. 830, 389 N.E.2d 1238. The officer "could not distinguish [the suspect]'s facial characteristics," it was dark, there was scarce artificial lighting, and before the chase began, the officer's view of the suspects was obscured. Id. at 855, 27 Ill.Dec. 830, 389 N.E.2d 1238. As a result, the court could not "say [the officer] made a positive identification." Id. The "factors" listed in Cox recite other circumstantial evidence that supported an otherwise nonexistent identification. Here, it was broad daylight, and before Wilson ran down the gangway, McDonnell had a direct view of his face from the front and side. Omara also had a direct view of Wilson's face, and his view was similarly unobstructed until Wilson ran down the gangway. We need not rely on the additional circumstantial evidence present in Cox because both McDonnell and Omara had direct views of Wilson.

¶ 17 Wilson also argues that the officers' testimony about their ability to see Wilson was unreliable. He claims McDonnell's radio transmission describing Wilson wearing a blue jacket renders his identification unreliable because they found Wilson wearing a white T-shirt and "a white t-shirt and blue jeans are a common manner of dress." But the case Wilson cites in support involved an identification based on the defendant's clothing. See People v. Moore , 6 Ill. App. 3d 932, 936, 287 N.E.2d 130 (1972) ("no witness for the State, including the [victim], furnished any evidence concerning any physical feature of the defendant from which they could have identified him"). The description of Wilson's clothing was ancillary to his identification. Moore also applied the long-since rejected heightened standard of review this court used to apply to sexual assault cases, which made the State's burden much higher on appeal. Id. at 935, 287 N.E.2d 130 (noting "duty to examine the evidence in rape cases with great care"). This antiquated...

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