Madison - St. Clair Record

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Fifth District Appellate Court upholds Baldwin murder conviction but reverses ruling for consecutive sentences

By Pam Wright | May 18, 2017

Marcus Baldwin

MT. VERNON — The Fifth District Appellate Court has upheld the murder conviction of Marcus Baldwin.

The court found that Baldwin, 24, who was convicted of shooting and killing 19-year-old Dantavier (Dan) Thompson during a heated exchange, failed to prove his claim that assistant public defender Kerri Davis failed to provide effective assistance during his trial. 

According to the decision written on May 3 by Justice Melissa Chapman, Baldwin, who was also convicted of two counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm and was sentenced to serve the three counts consecutively, argued that his attorney failed to object to "testimony that a police officer believed one of the witnesses was not being honest with him during an interview at the police station where there was no evidence concerning what that witness said that the officer did not believe." 

Baldwin also claimed "hearsay testimony by one officer concerning the contents of another officer’s police report where the facts described could be inferred from other evidence should not have been permissible."

Finally, Baldwin argued that improper comments made during the prosecutor’s closing argument were prejudicial enough to warrant reversal had counsel objected.

The case stems from the July 28, 2012, murder of Thompson. According to court documents, two cars drove erratically down Tremont Street in Alton. Thompson was the driver of one of the cars. According to two of the witnesses, the driver of the second car yelled insults out the window at a group of young men hanging out on the sidewalk in front of a house in Alton. Shots were fired at the passing vehicles, one of which struck Dan Thompson in the back of the head, causing his death. After a lengthy investigation, Baldwin was named as the shooter by witnesses.

Baldwin was sentenced to 20 years for first-degree murder with an additional 25 years attached to the sentence because a gun was used in the murder. The trial court said Baldwin would serve a minimum six years for each of the counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm. He would be required to serve 100 percent of the murder charge and 85 percent of the sentence related to the firearm charges. 

During the Madison County trial by jury, Davis argued that witnesses who identified Baldwin as the shooter were intimidated by police by telling them they could be charged if they did not tell the truth.

She further argued that the witnesses were afraid of going to prison if they did not tell the story the police wanted to hear. She also said the two witnesses who testified that Baldwin was the shooter received deals in unrelated criminal cases in exchange for their testimony.

In the 3-0 decision, the appellate justices upheld Baldwin's conviction but reversed a decision that his three sentences be served consecutively. They noted that "we do not believe that counsel’s failure to object prejudiced the defendant.”

"In the face of all of the evidence, we do not believe the minimal prejudice from the asserted errors was sufficient to sway a jury that was otherwise likely to acquit the defendant,” Chapman wrote. "Because the defendant cannot show that a different result was reasonably likely, he cannot satisfy the prejudice prong of the Strickland test. Therefore, his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel must fail."

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Illinois Fifth District Appellate Court Madison County Circuit Court