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People v. Hill





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. John J. Moran, Judge, presiding. MR. CHIEF JUSTICE GOLDENHERSH DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

In a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant, William Roderick Hill, was found guilty of two counts of murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. At the request of the People, pursuant to section 9-1(d) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 9-1(d)), a separate sentencing proceeding was conducted before the jury which had found defendant guilty. The jury returned a verdict recommending that defendant be sentenced to death, and the circuit court imposed sentence in accordance with the jury's recommendation. The circuit court also sentenced defendant to a term of imprisonment of not less than 6 years and 8 months nor more than 20 years for conspiracy. Defendant appeals directly to this court. Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, sec. 4(b); Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 9-1(i); 73 Ill.2d R. 606.

Defendant, together with Dr. Max Murphy Kaye, was indicted for the murders of Allen Zipperstein on August 23, 1974, and Robert Fields on January 18, 1975. Dr. Kaye died prior to the trial. The People's witness, Vernice Geary, a dental assistant employed by Dr. Kaye, testified that Kaye had become angry with Robert Fields and said he would pay someone to kill him. Ms. Geary related the offer to defendant, who said he would do it. Approximately two weeks later she saw defendant and Dr. Kaye talking together. Later, she was asked to deliver to defendant a street diagram, a description of a car, and a picture of Robert Fields. When Dr. Kaye learned of the death of Allen Zipperstein, he told Ms. Geary that defendant had killed the wrong man. Nevertheless, Dr. Kaye paid defendant one-half of the agreed sum in cash, which Ms. Geary delivered. Thereafter defendant told her that as a matter of pride he would "finish the job." On the day Robert Fields was killed, defendant called Ms. Geary, told her he "took care of that job," and demanded more money.

Thyra Hart testified that she had met defendant at his place of employment. Shortly after meeting Ms. Hart, defendant told her that he had killed Allen Zipperstein for $10,000. A week later he showed her a checked sports jacket, identified at trial by other witnesses as the one worn by Allen Zipperstein's killer, and told her that he was wearing it at the time of the killing. Ms. Hart also testified that defendant described to her his preparations to kill Robert Fields. He had visited the Fields home "dressed as a gas man," knew Fields' habits well, and knew what kind of car he drove. After Robert Fields was killed, Ms. Hart was contacted by the police. She testified that shortly thereafter defendant demanded to see her, saying he knew she had talked to the police. She went to his place of employment and defendant would not permit her to leave until he ascertained from the newspaper that the police had no new leads.

The People adduced the testimony of a number of other witnesses and introduced into evidence many exhibits which we find it unnecessary to summarize or describe; it suffices to say that the evidence supports the jury's verdict finding defendant guilty.

We consider first defendant's contention that the circuit court erred in admitting into evidence testimony concerning certain admissions made by defendant in the course of plea bargaining and that the error was so prejudicial as to require reversal. During the presentation of the People's case defendant moved orally for an order in limine to exclude all testimony concerning an offer by defendant to plead guilty to the two murders. The statements were made by defendant in the course of a conversation with Joseph Urso, an assistant State's Attorney who at the time of defendant's arrest was chief of the Cook County State's Attorney Felony Review Unit. The motion did not seek to exclude any other portion of the conversation. Following argument the circuit court denied the motion. Urso testified that after being confronted with the taped statement of A.J. Thomas, an alleged accomplice, defendant stated that "You have me on Fields, but not on Zipperstein." Defendant then asked to speak to Investigator Dvorak of the Chicago Police Department. Urso left the room while defendant talked with Dvorak, and upon returning to the room was told by defendant that he had killed Fields. Urso testified to additional statements made by defendant that he had studied Fields' habits and knew when he arrived at and what time he left work, and the kind of car he drove. He also stated that he had gone to Fields' house and, in order to be admitted, pretended to be a gas meter reader. He was then asked if he would give a statement to a court reporter. He stated that he wanted to see "the honcho." He repeated that he wanted to see "the honcho, the head man." Urso replied that he "guessed I was the honcho because I determined what he was going to be charged with." The following ensued:

"Q. What did he say when you said that to him?

A. He said, `I want to talk a deal.'

Q. He said, `I want to talk a deal?'

A. Yes. And he asked me if I could talk a deal with him.

Q. What did you say?

A. `Deal? I guess I could talk a deal with you, but the only person who could approve a deal would be the State's Attorney himself, Bernard Carey, but I can talk to you.'

Q. After you told him that the only one who could approve a deal, quote, unquote, would be Mr. Carey himself, did Mr. Hill say anything else to you?

A. Yes.

Q. What did he ...

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