APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon.
WILLIAM L. BEATTY, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE KASSERMAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Madison County, defendant, Hubert David Richmond, was found guilty of murder, arson and burglary. He was sentenced to terms of imprisonment of 6 2/3 to 20 years for burglary, 6 2/3 to 20 years for arson and 50 to 100 years for murder. The sentences for arson and murder were imposed to run concurrently and consecutively to the sentence for burglary. On appeal, defendant asserts that he was denied a fair trial because of the jury's exposure to a certain exhibit and because of certain allegedly prejudicial remarks made by the prosecutor during his closing argument. Defendant also contends that the sentences imposed by the trial court were excessive and constituted an abuse of discretion.
The charges herein stem from the August 28, 1976, burglary and arson of the home of Teresa Kichler which resulted in her death. At trial, Detective Harris of the Granite City Police Department described the home of the decedent as he had observed it on the morning in question after responding to a call concerning a fire in the residence. Harris identified several photographs which had been taken of the interior of the home that morning, including photographs of a hole burned in the living room floor, of a burned mattress in the bedroom and of clipped telephone wires. He also demonstrated, by means of a drawing, the location of the items pictured as found inside the house. Granite City firemen, Tom Carmody and George Smolich, also related the facts surrounding the fire call. Carmody testified that after other firemen had kicked open the locked back door of the residence, he entered the house and observed it to be full of smoke. He described finding the body of the decedent lying on the floor and his determination that she no longer was alive. Smolich testified that the fire was not particularly difficult to extinguish and that it had burned a hole in the living room floor exposing a floor joist. He related that a mattress in a bedroom of the residence was also on fire and that the circumstances of the fire caused him to suspect foul play. He also testified that the decedent had smudges and blood on her forehead.
Four youths who knew the defendant testified that defendant had related his involvement in the offense to them. Brian Kelley, age 16, testified that on August 28, 1976, defendant had told him he had robbed a house the evening before where he was confronted by an elderly woman with a knife who had stabbed at him and cut him. Defendant related to Kelley that he hit the woman in the head with a vase and an end table, cut the telephone wires and started a fire in the living room. Kelley also testified that defendant had said he was alone during the offense. On cross-examination, Kelley stated that he first gave this information to the police when they picked him up for questioning the day following defendant's arrest by the Granite City Police.
Rick Nelson, age 15, testified that defendant had stated to him on August 28, 1976, that he had "killed some old lady on Grand" after breaking into her home to steal some money. Defendant told Nelson that when the lady would not stop yelling, he threw a vase at her and beat her up. Nelson also admitted that he was questioned about the incident by the police.
Bobby Womack, age 18, testified that defendant had told him that he had hit the elderly woman after she came at him with a knife and that he subsequently hit her with a coffee table. Womack revealed that he too had been picked up by the police as a suspect in the case.
Susan Lance, age 18, also testified that defendant had admitted his involvement in the incident to her on the evening of August 28, 1976. She related that defendant had told her he had broken into the Kichler house with another person whose first name was Mark, and that she had supplied defendant the last name Carrico after defendant pointed out his accomplice to her. Lance further stated that defendant had told her Mark and he had broken into the house, clipped the telephone wires and entered the bedroom. When the elderly occupant screamed, Mark Carrico struck her in the head with a hammer. Defendant related to Lance that he ran away from the house after Carrico pulled a knife and told him to back off.
Testimony of other incriminating statements made by the defendant was elicted from Granite City police officers. When first questioned about the incident by Granite City Police Officers Eck and Knight, defendant denied any participation in the offense until he was confronted with the information supplied to the police by Lance. Defendant then admitted his involvement, stating that he and Carrico had entered the house through the back door where defendant clipped the telephone wires while Carrico asked the elderly woman for money. When Carrico continued to strike the woman over defendant's objections, defendant left the house through the rear door. Detective Eck also testified that defendant had told the officers he was wearing the same clothing at the time of the offense that he had on while being questioned. The officers thereupon took the defendant's clothing, including a pair of brown engineering boots. Following his initial interrogation, defendant consented to giving a video-tape statement in the presence of Eck, Knight, Captain Condis and Detective Harris. In his statement, defendant described the house where the offense occurred and its contents. His account of the incident was substantially the same as his earlier statement; however, defendant denied having worn his brown engineering boots at the time of the offense. Defendant also stated that after leaving the house he looked back from several yards away and observed a dim light which could have been flames. During neither interrogation did defendant admit to striking the woman or starting any fires.
The following day, September 7, 1976, defendant gave a statement to Officer Harris after first being given Miranda warnings in his mother's presence. At that time defendant related to Harris that he went to the Kichler home on the day in question with Brian Kelley, who stayed outside while defendant entered the house alone. Defendant stated that he was immediately confronted by the decedent, who shined a flashlight at him and told him to leave. Defendant admitted that he took the flashlight from the woman, after a struggle, and hit her on the head with it, and that when the decedent fell to the floor, defendant lit a fire on a corner of the mattress in the bedroom and at another spot in the living room.
Detective Eck testified that defendant made another statement concerning his involvement in the incident on the afternoon of September 8, 1976. At that time defendant stated that he had lied about Mark Carrico and Brian Kelley's participation in the offense, but that he had told the truth to Susan Lance.
On the evening of September 8, 1976, defendant consented to participating in a video-tape re-enactment of the offense in the presence of Detectives Eck and Knight. During the re-enactment, defendant stated that he and Gary Catterson had decided to break into the decedent's home and that he gained entry by standing on a chair and climbing through a back window, whereupon he let Catterson into the house through the back door. After checking the refrigerator for something to eat, defendant approached the bedroom door, Catterson already having entered the room. On his way to the bedroom, defendant clipped the telephone wires, rifled through a table drawer in the living room and picked up a flashlight from the top of a table. Defendant stated that his purpose for entering the house was to look for money. At that point, Catterson left the bedroom, followed by the decedent, who shined a flashlight in the defendant's eyes. Defendant then grabbed her hand and hit her in the head after which Catterson punched her in the jaw, causing her to fall. Defendant denied hitting the deceased after he struck her with the flashlight, but he admitted starting a fire in the bedroom by lighting a sheet while Catterson started a fire in the living room. According to defendant, the fire had been Catterson's idea of a method of disposing of the evidence. Defendant and Catterson then fled from the house leaving behind Mrs. Kichler, who was moaning. As a result of the trial court granting defendant's motion in limine, only the audio portion of the video tape re-enactment was played for the jury.
Officer Harris and Detective Knight identified photographs they had taken of the decedent's residence showing a chair located under the rear window, the furnishings of the house and the outside of the residence. Harris also identified a vial of blood taken from the defendant and given to the crime lab for testing.
Dr. Kun T. Liao, the pathologist who performed the autopsy on the decedent, testified that he found five lacerations on the head, a fracture of the skull bone and burns over 75 percent of her body. He stated that the immediate cause of death was smoke inhalation, with other injuries being contributing factors. Dr. Liao also identified a saliva sample and blood sample taken from the decedent.
Dennis Aubushon, a serologist with the State Bureau of Identification, testified that the saliva sample taken from the decedent indicated Type-A human blood as did the liquid blood sample taken from her. Aubushon related that his test of defendant's blood sample revealed that it was Type-O, while the test results of defendant's tan boot, which had been identified earlier by Detective Eck, indicated the presence of Type-A human blood. On cross-examination, Aubushon admitted he could not determine that the blood ...