Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed May 23, 2013




People v. Henderson, 2013 IL 114040

Appellate citation: 2012 IL App (1st) 101494.


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

      Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Karmeier, and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.


      This Cook County defendant was convicted in a bench trial of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and received an eight-year prison term.

      Chicago officers were on routine patrol in a marked squad car in 2009 when a man flagged them down in the area of Central Park and Adams Street. He did not give his name and was not asked for it, but did say that there was a “possible gun” in a tan, four-door Lincoln with a number of persons inside. Shortly thereafter a tan, four-door Lincoln was seen traveling east on Madison Street. The officers stopped it, and when the driver exited the car, he was placed in handcuffs. No traffic violations supported the stop.

      This defendant was a backseat passenger and was ordered out, at which point he “took off running” and dropped to the ground a .22-caliber handgun that was loaded with four rounds. The gun was found two feet from the Lincoln. Defendant continued to run, but was arrested after he fell.

      The trial court, in its oral ruling, stated that a motion to suppress the gun would not have succeeded, and defense counsel did not make such a motion. On appeal, the defendant argued that the failure to file a motion to suppress the gun demonstrated ineffective assistance on the part of his defense attorney. The appellate court, however, also was of the view that a motion to suppress would not have succeeded and affirmed the conviction. The defendant appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.

      In this decision, the supreme court clarified that, when an ineffectiveness claim is based on counsel’s failure to file a suppression motion, the prejudice which a defendant must establish must be shown by demonstrating that the unargued motion is meritorious and that a reasonable probability exists that the trial outcome would have been different had the evidence been suppressed.

      The supreme court held that the initial stop effected an illegal seizure of the defendant because the citizen’s tip was insufficient to justify the stop. However, the defendant could not prove that the gun itself was the fruit of that illegal seizure. Despite the taint imposed on the evidence by the original illegality of the seizure, it was removed because the chain of causation proceeding from the unlawful conduct was attenuated, or interrupted, by an intervening circumstance, in this case the defendant’s flight. That flight ended the seizure, and the defendant conceded as much. The supreme court said that defendant’s flight interrupted the causal connection between the officers’ initial misconduct and the discovery of the gun. The motion to suppress would not have been granted, and, thus, the defendant cannot satisfy his burden of showing ineffective assistance of counsel by demonstrating a reasonable probability that the outcome of the trial would have been different.

      The results below were affirmed.