Judge weighing new trial for man convicted in Campustown shooting

Judge weighing new trial for man convicted in Campustown shooting

URBANA — It will be a couple of weeks before a Champaign County judge decides if a police detective's interview with a witness in convicted murderer Robbie Patton's case that came to light after Patton's conviction is sufficient to order a new trial for him.

Judge Roger Webber told Assistant Public Defender Tony Allegretti and Assistant State's Attorney Scott Larson on Tuesday that he needed more time to consider their arguments and the case law each offered. He's expected to rule Dec. 8.

Patton, 20, of Champaign, was convicted in late September of first-degree murder and three counts of aggravated battery with a firearm for each of the four people he shot while firing wildly into a crowd in the 300 block of East Green Street on Sept. 25, 2016.

George Korchev, 22, of Mundelein, was killed. Erik Lasaine, Robert Shepard and Moses Lopez, were all wounded.

At the heart of Allegretti's motion for a new trial is an interview that veteran Champaign Police Detective Robb Morris conducted Sept. 21, 2017, after serving Rolan Jones with a subpoena to testify against Patton.

During the interview, Morris said he would speak to the state's attorney's office about Jones' pending criminal cases if Jones agreed to testify truthfully at trial. While making him no promises, Morris said he would relay Jones' cooperation to the state's attorney after he testified.

Jones did testify and was the only one of the occurrence witnesses who identified Patton as the shooter. Others described a person about Patton's size and wearing the kind of sweatshirt that Patton had on that night but stopped short of identifying him in court as the shooter.

Jones also testified at trial that no promises had been made to him by the state's attorney regarding his unresolved cases in return for his testimony.

Only after the trial was over, when a relative of Jones called the state's attorney's office asking that Jones be protected and informing the office of Morris' promise to help him, did the Sept. 21 recorded interview between Jones and Morris come to the prosecutor's attention.

Larson then contacted Morris, who wrote a report about his conversation with Jones and handed over the recorded interview, which was then shared with Allegretti.

"Had defense counsel been aware of the Sept. 21 interview (at the time of trial), Jones' testimony would have been impeached by the agreement struck between Jones and Detective Morris and would have impeached the credibility of Jones," Allegretti said in his motion.

Allegretti argued that by not being able to confront Jones with the purported promise of a benefit for his testimony, Patton's due-process rights to a fair trial were violated and "ultimately undermined the confidence of the outcome."

Larson countered that there was "overwhelming" evidence, even without Jones, to convict Patton of murder.

"Rolan Jones was part of an overwhelming case. He was not the case," he argued.

Larson said after Morris promised to put in a good word for Jones, another detective interviewed Jones about an unrelated case and he was still charged with home invasion, a fact that was revealed to the jury.

"The jury can infer he has a motive to cooperate," Larson said.

The information that Jones might have hoped to get a deal in return for his testimony should not have "obliterated" his entire testimony, Larson argued.

"We're talking about a vague promise with no details associated with it," he said of what Morris told Jones.

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