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Lawyer: Jury Should Hear Of Victim's Gang Ties In B-N Murder Case

Hammet Brown
Bloomington Police Department

Evidence that one of two victims of a June 2018 homicide was a gang member should be presented to the McLean County jury that will consider murder charges against the alleged assailant, according to arguments made in court Wednesday by the defendant’s lawyer.

Hammet Brown, 29, is accused of fatally wounding Taneshiea Brown and Steven Alexander Jr. during a party at an apartment complex on Orchard Road in Bloomington. Brown, who is not related to the victim with the same last name, lived in the complex.

Defense lawyer Mark Zalcman argued Alexander’s membership in the hybrid street gang known as The 200s is relevant to Brown’s claim of self-defense. Details of an incident about two weeks before the shooting in which Brown was allegedly targeted by Alexander and others may be part of the defense case, said Zalcman.

Prosecutor Mary Lawson argued the defense has shown no connection between the shooting in June and the May incident in which Brown alleges Alexander and others chased him in their vehicles. Shots were fired, according to Brown.

Judge Casey Costigan noted that most requests for inclusion of gang affiliations at a trial are made by the state. In Brown’s case, the judge said he must weigh Brown’s right to introduce evidence related to self-defense with the state’s concerns of “dirtying up the victim.”

Costigan said he will rule on the gang issue on Feb. 4, the date of Brown’s final pre-trial hearing before a Feb. 8 jury trial.

The judge also reserved a ruling on Zalcman’s request to allow a Normal police office to testify about the traffic stop involving Brown made after the alleged car chase. A squad car video captures Brown telling an officer, “I was just shot at,” according to Zalcman.

The state opposed the officer’s testimony, saying Brown did not offer police any identification of those who may have fired the shots.

Other statements sought by Zalcman as evidence will require offers of proof before a jury hears them, said the judge. Brown’s alleged statements to a witness about his fears of Alexander before the June 2018 shooting will be vetted ahead of their presentation to a jury.  

Costigan also said he wants to hear from a woman who allegedly heard a person say, “Get the gun, get the gun,” shortly after the shooting. The woman’s comment was “a command she heard someone say to someone else,” said Zalcman. The statement allegedly heard by a resident of the complex not present at the party could suggest another person was armed during the incident, said the defense lawyer.

Prosecutor Mary Koll countered that no guns were recovered by police and the eight shell casings found at the scene all matched the same stolen gun authorities believe was used in the shooting.

After the homicides, a woman was convicted of aggravated possession of a stolen weapon for selling a handgun to Brown--a weapon he later used in the Orchard Street slaying, according to police.

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Edith began her career as a reporter with The DeWitt County Observer, a weekly newspaper in Clinton. From 2007 to June 2019, Edith covered crime and legal issues for The Pantagraph, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois. She previously worked as a correspondent for The Pantagraph covering courts and local government issues in central Illinois.
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