The first of three defendants charged in the murder of off-duty Chicago Police Officer John Rivera is set to go to trial next week.
Jovan Battle shuffled into court Tuesday with his jail-issued uniform pants sagging well below his waist, his arms hugging a few overstuffed folders and a jumbled stack of papers that included his final pre-trial motions.
Cook County Judge Dennis Porter denied each of the motions with a brief explanation of the law Battle seemed to have misunderstood. Jury selection is scheduled Monday.
Battle, who has a history of mental illness and homelessness, is acting as his own attorney, having spurned a court-appointed assistant public defender after passing a mental fitness exam and demanding a speedy trial. No trial date has been set for either of his co-defendants, Jaquan Washington and the alleged gunman, Menelik Jackson.
Assistant State’s Attorney Nina Ricci said Battle will face charges of first-degree murder, aggravated battery and aggravated discharge of a firearm. The state is dropping attempted murder charges.
“Attempted murder is a capital offense,” Battle said cordially to Ricci, apparently unaware that Illinois abolished capital punishment in 2011. “I appreciate that.”
Battle’s trial would begin just over four months after the 32-year-old was arrested a few blocks from the scene of the March 23 shooting, still wearing the distinctive Pelle Pelle jacket he had on when he, Jackson and Washington allegedly approached a car in which Rivera sat parked with his girlfriend and two friends.
Prosecutors have said Battle had pointed out Rivera and his friends to Jackson and Washington as members of a group that had gotten in a fight with Jackson and Washington outside the nearby McDonald’s flagship location on North Clark Street. Jackson and Washington had scuffled with a group of Latino men who left the McDonald’s aboard a party bus around 2:20 a.m., prosecutors said. The pair encountered Battle on the street, when they returned to the McDonald’s about an hour later. Police surveillance video shows Battle walking toward Rivera’s car and pointing at it with an empty bottle.
Arguing an “oral motion” that Porter dismiss some of the charges against him, Battle acted out what happened next, pantomiming Jackson firing into the car.
“Three, three to five shots,” Battle said, holding out his fingers like a gun, when the judge asked how many times Jackson fired. Police said they recovered eight shell casings at the scene that matched a gun they found during a search of Jackson’s home.