Supreme Court STOPs Sentence in Gangland Gun Appeal
A convicted killer will see a reduction in jail time after the state Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors must do more than simply identify street gangs by name when drawing associations at trial. In a split decision, justices ruled in favor of a claim by an admitted member of the Latin Kings that the state failed to abide by the STOP Act when it tried him on weapons charges that added a decade to his 50-year sentence for the first-degree murder of a rival gangbanger at a Belvedere gas station. The state’s 1993 Streetgang Terrorism Omnibus Prevention Act calls for stiffer penalties for gang-related offenses.
Testimony of an expert witness was enough to convince the jury that convicted Devontae Murray that the Latin Kings constituted a gang, a verdict upheld on appeal even as the Belvidere cop offered no evidence at trial of the organization’s illegal activities. However, the four-member majority concurred with Murray that the lack of direct association failed STOP’s clearly expressed requirements. Three dissenters cited Illinois Rules of Evidence statutes that permit experts to introduce opinions based on facts not at trial and argued that Murray’s failure to challenge during court proceedings in 2015 rendered the appeal groundless. They also warned of the opinion’s potential to prejudice outcomes in future STOP cases.