APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. RICHARD
SAMUELS, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE LORENZ DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Following a jury trial, defendant was convicted of murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 9-1) and sentenced to 30 to 60 years in the penitentiary. On appeal, he contends that: (1) the trial court erred in allowing the State to cross-examine him regarding his prior use of alias names; (2) he was denied a fair trial by the State's unfair and prejudicial closing argument; (3) the court erred in admitting irrelevant and prejudicial photographs of the deceased; (4) the errors committed during his trial, individually and cumulatively, were not harmless; and (5) that his sentence is excessive.
The following pertinent facts were adduced at trial.
Ernest Collins, Chicago Heights Police Officer
While on patrol at approximately 12:59 p.m. on December 27, 1975, he received a report of a shooting at 332 Boston, Chicago Heights. He proceeded immediately to that address and, arriving a minute later, observed defendant exiting from the garage. Defendant told Collins that he and his wife had been "clowning," that she had a knife while he had a gun, and that the gun had gone off, accidentally hitting her. He followed defendant into the kitchen where he observed Denise Radford lying on the floor bleeding from a wound in the upper chest. Also present in the kitchen was Sharon Gardner. He placed defendant under arrest and turned him over to two other police officers who had arrived. Defendant insisted that it was cold outside and asked for his coat. Although there was a coat on the freezer in the kitchen, defendant did not take it.
Detective Martinez arrived, talked briefly to defendant outside, and came into the house. Martinez picked up defendant's coat from the freezer and found a Smith and Wesson .357 magnum revolver containing five loaded bullets and an empty .357 magnum cartridge. Examining the gun, Collins observed an empty cartridge under the firing pin, an odor of powder, and smoke on the barrel and around the cylinder. He also found a butcher knife on the floor near the victim's feet.
On cross-examination Collins admitted that defendant did not try to run from him when he arrived. Defendant was very excited and somewhat emotional, but did not appear to have been crying.
She was a friend of Denise Radford and often visited at the Radford home. On December 27, 1975, at approximately 10:10 a.m. she received a phone call from defendant who told her that he did not like her and that he would kill her if she came to his house again. She then called Denise who asked her to come over. Upon arriving at the Radford home she sat at the kitchen table while Denise made coffee. Defendant entered the kitchen from the utility room after being called by Denise. He was wearing a gun on his right side. He told her, "I thought I told you not to come over here." When Denise told defendant to leave her friend alone, an argument ensued. It lasted about 15 or 20 minutes. During the argument defendant pulled the gun out and said to Denise, "I will kill you." She picked up a butcher knife, but defendant knocked it out of her hand. Denise was crying. When defendant again told her, "I will kill you," she told him to go ahead and shoot. He took a step back, "squinched" his eyes and shot her. After shooting her, defendant hollered, "Denise, oh, Denise" and said, "You saw it, it was an accident, Sharon, you saw it."
On cross-examination she admitted that she was close to Denise, but denied that she and Denise had ever been lovers. She admitted that the argument was "violent and heated" and that defendant accused her of having a lesbian relationship with Denise.
She testified that defendant held the gun in his right hand. Although she watched his movements very carefully, she admitted she did not see him cock the gun. She denied that Denise made thrusting motions with the butcher knife. Defendant used his left hand rather than the gun to knock the knife out of Denise's hand. Immediately thereafter the gun discharged. She admitted that she did not have a clear view of defendant when the gun actually discharged because Denise was blocking the view from her. After the shooting defendant said, "Oh, no" and appeared "panic stricken."
Dr. Tae An, a physician and forensic pathologist
He performed an autopsy on the body of Denise Radford. The bullet entered her chest approximately three inches below the neck and travelled backward, slightly to the right on a horizontal plane. Death was caused by the bullet lacerating the right lung.
He had known both defendant and Denise since August 1975. In November 1975 he had a conversation with defendant concerning Denise who had recently left defendant. Defendant told Blackful that he missed Denise and wanted to find her, adding that "I need her with me because she knows too much about my business." Defendant also told him that "I want her. I love her. If she comes home on her own, it will be all right. If she don't come home, man, I'm gonna have to have her knocked." He understood this to mean defendant wanted Denise killed. Defendant then ...