People v. Alexander, 2017 IL App (1st) 142170 (June). Episode 370 (Duration 6:43)
Illogical verdicts in this trial won’t require reversal.
The defendant-appellant was found guilty by a jury of first degree murder.
However, in a special interrogatory, the jury found that the allegation was not proven that during the commission of the offense of first degree murder, defendant personally discharged a firearm that proximately caused death of the victim.
The victim was sitting in his car when a man was seen in the back seat. The victim had two gunshot wounds to the left side of his head. The first bullet entered the skull and traveled through the brainstem causing death. The second gunshot entered the scalp; it traveled around the head between the scalp and the skull before exiting the back of the head.
The shooting started and the victim’s mother saw the man get out the car and run away.
Police just happened to be in the area when they heard the shots. They turned off their lights and approached slowly. That’s when they find defendant in black clothing wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt running away. Police retraced his steps and found a black hooded sweatshirt and two gloves in the general area where he saw the person running. In the rear of that residence, he found a black semiautomatic Hi-Point .40-caliber handgun laying in the yard. This was the murder weapon. GSR was found on the gloves.
Defendant was arrested near the scene.
The trial court sentenced defendant to 40 years in prison on the first degree murder conviction.
In his first issue, defendant claims his first degree murder conviction must be vacated because the jury found the State failed to prove defendant personally discharged a firearm during the commission of the offense of first degree murder.
These findings were inconsistent.
Defendant argues that committing murder by personally discharging a firearm is an aggravated form of murder that the State must prove in total.
To see other cases of what can go wrong in a trial check out the trial reference page.
He says it would be nonsensical and unfair to allow him to be convicted as the principal shooter in a murder but found not to have personally discharged said firearm. He thus concludes that the State’s failure to prove the personal discharge element requires reversal of his murder conviction.
The reviewing court held that while it may seem nonsensical to allow the above situation to occur, both the Illinois Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court have stated that such an occurrence does not offend the constitution and such convictions can stand.
In our supreme court’s decision of People v. Jones, 207 Ill. 2d 122 (2003), it adopted the rule that convictions cannot be challenged because they are inconsistent with acquittals on other charges. In Jones, our supreme court adopted the rule enunciated by United States Supreme Court in United States v. Powell, 469 U.S. 57 (1984), that the United States Constitution does not require consistency in criminal verdicts.
Defendants in Illinois can no longer challenge convictions on the sole basis that they are legally inconsistent with acquittals on other charges.
In the end, despite inconsistent verdicts a court may not guess as to why a jury did what it did.
Additionally, Illinois courts have previously stated that even when a victim is killed via a gunshot, proving the defendant used a firearm is not required to sustain a murder conviction.
This murder conviction was affirmed.
Even when the victim is killed via a gunshot, the crime of first degree murder and the firearm enhancement contain separate elements.
Contrary to the defendant’s claim, these are separate crimes. More accurately, the defendant’s use of the firearm was not a crime in and of itself. The crime was the extinction of a human life….The gun was simply the method selected by the defendant to accomplish the crime, and the particular method selected subjects him to an additional penalty.
The State is not required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant used a firearm even when the victim dies from a gunshot. Liability for murder rises when there is a killing however it may have occurred.
As stated in the jury instructions and explained by the court’s, personal discharge of a firearm is not an element of first degree murder even when the victim dies from a gunshot.