Madison - St. Clair Record

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Appellate court dismisses postconviction petition challenging drug conviction but offers defendant credit toward fine

By Chandra Lye | Apr 18, 2017

The Fifth District Appellate Court has upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss a post-conviction petition appealing a drug conviction but decided that the defendant was entitled to $5 per day for each day he was held before sentencing.

The court's decision dealt with the case of Gilbert Evans, who had been convicted of unlawful delivery of drugs. Evans was sentenced to five years in jail and a fine of $1,040. 

Evans appealed the decision, claiming St. Clair County Circuit Court judge John Baricevic had erred by allowing a police officer to offer inadmissible hearsay in his testimony. Evans further claimed that testimony that he referred to an undercover officer and an informant as "those white mother***" was racially charged and prejudicial and, therefore should have been excluded and that he should get $5 credit towards his fine for every day he spent in jail before his sentencing.

The case came after Evans was caught selling crack cocaine when he attempted to sell to Master Sergeant Joe Beliveau, director of the Metropolitan Enforcement Group of Southern Illinois (MEGSI). 

Beliveau testified that during undercover operations where he was attempting to purchase drugs, there was a white Cadillac at the scene. 

Beliveau identified the driver's shoe as a "unique 'old school' blue Adidas sneaker," while noting he also had on gray sweat pants. He was later identified as Evans.

The defendant objected to sections of Beliveau’s testimony to the court, alleging it was hearsay regarding what was said and done at the scene. 

However, the appellate court panel comprised of Justices Melissa Chapman, Judy Cates and John Barberis, sided with Baricevic.

“We find that two of the statements were properly admitted under the hearsay exception for the statements of co-conspirators, and admission of the third statement was harmless error,” wrote Chapman for the panel.

The court acknowledged that some statements that Beliveau made that claim a person named “Gil” was expected at the scene to sell drugs were admitted in error. 

However, the panel found the testimony harmless. 

“We recognize that the use of the defendant's name provided the jury with strong evidence that the defendant was in fact the driver of the white Cadillac," wrote Chapman. "However, because we will conclude that the remaining statement was properly admitted under the co-conspirator exception, the use of his name was merely cumulative, and neither statement contained any additional information that could harm the defendant.”

The panel also acknowledged the state's concession that defendants in Evans’ position are entitled to $5 a day against fines, as stated in statutes. It held that Evans was due a credit of $765.

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Illinois Fifth District Appellate Court St. Clair County Circuit Court