Supreme Court Summaries
Opinions filed March 20, 2014
People v. Fernandez, 2014 IL 115527
Appellate citation: 2011 IL App (1st) 101913-U.
JUSTICE THOMAS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Chief Justice Garman and Justices Freeman, Kilbride, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.
In 2008, in a church parking lot under the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago, an armed but off-duty police officer heard the sound of breaking glass and found a man reaching into a parked car through a broken window. That man was the companion of this defendant, Javier Fernandez, who was seated in a SUV which was parked nearby. The companion ran to the defendant’s vehicle, fired three shots at the approaching officer, and was then driven away by the defendant. Both men were subsequently arrested.
In bench proceedings in the circuit court of Cook County, Fernandez was found guilty on an accountability theory of one count of burglary and two counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm in the direction of a peace officer. The trial court merged the convictions into a single count of aggravated discharge of a firearm in the direction of a peace officer and imposed a 12-year prison term. The appellate court affirmed and the defendant appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.
Fernandez had given to police a signed written statement indicating that he and his companion had been driving around looking for a car to break into in order to get money. He did not contest his guilt of burglary or that an accountability theory could be used to establish it. He did, however, argue that he did not know that his companion was armed and, thus, that he could not be found guilty on an accountability theory for shooting at the officer. He also argued that there was no evidence that he knew his companion had a gun.
In this decision, the supreme court rejected this claim, noting that the statute on accountability incorporates the common law “common-design” rule, under which one can be held accountable for a crime other than the one that was planned or intended, provided it was committed in furtherance of the crime which was planned or intended. The challenged conviction was upheld.