Authorities charged 16-year-old Landon Allen with first-degree murder and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon after he and another young man allegedly shot and killed a person in Washington Park; the state’s attorney said that Mr. Allen would be charged as an adult.
Prosecutors claim that Mr. Allen and his friend approached 23-year-old Jermaine Brown and confronted him about a Facebook post that Mr. Allen considered derogatory. According to witnesses, the trio argued for a time before a fourth person intervened and de-escalated the situation. After the three parted ways, Mr. Allen allegedly pulled a handgun from his hoodie and fired several shots. He then implored his friend to “blow the 40” (finish him off), and the unnamed accomplice thereupon fired several shots from another gun. Mr. Brown sustained five gunshot wounds and was declared dead at the scene. An unnamed witness, who may be the same person as the accomplice, identified Mr. Allen as the shooter, and cell phone tower data confirmed that he was near the scene.
Two months later, officers spotted Mr. Allen, who attempted to flee after discarding a backpack which contained a .38 handgun and over eighty rounds of ammunition. Ballistic test results are pending.
It is quite common for accomplices to testify for the state against their co-conspirator(s). Typically, the prosecutor tries to “pull the pin” on the obvious reliability issue by questioning the accomplice witnesses about their deals with prosecutors. While this tactic robs the defense attorney of a made-for-TV cross examination that features a witness protesting that s/he is not a “rat,” the approach does nothing to change the fact that accomplice testimony is a significant question mark.
Pattern Jury Instruction 3.17 states that accomplice testimony “is subject to suspicion” and should be not be seriously considered unless there is “other evidence in the case” which indicates that the testimony is reliable. In the above case, that evidence could be the cell phone tower data, but as this information only places Mr. Allen in the same general area as the crime scene, the accomplice testimony is arguably still subject to strict scrutiny.
Children Tried as Adults
Words have power, so it is important to refer to the defendant as a “child” at every opportunity, especially in front of the jury.
In 2015, lawmakers raised the age limit for enhancement (trying a juvenile as an adult) from 15 to 16, and also narrowed the list of offenses to just three crimes. Clearly, there is a presumption in place that only older juveniles who commit the worst crimes belong in adult jail. 16-year-old Landon Allen barely qualifies as an “older” juvenile, so the best chance for a reduced sentence may be to question the severity of his crime, or more precisely, how much he understood about his crime.
Prosecutors will no doubt use Mr. Allen’s plea to “blow the 40” as evidence that he is a cold blooded murderer, but kids do say outlandish things, often without really meaning them.
Contact Aggressive Attorneys
A case against a youthful defendant that relies on accomplice testimony is not easy to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. For a confidential consultation with an experienced criminal law attorney in Schaumburg, contact Glasgow & Olsson.
(image courtesy of Sawyer Bengtson)