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People v. Gray





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. DWIGHT McKAY, Judge presiding.


After a jury trial, defendant was convicted of murder, rape, and perjury and given concurrent extended sentences — 50 years for each of two murders, 50 years for rape, and 10 years for perjury. On appeal, she contends that (1) she was not proved accountable for the crimes beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) her sixth amendment right to conflict-free counsel was violated; and (3) the sentences imposed were erroneous.

It appears that on May 11, 1978, Carol Schmal was visiting her fiancee, Larry Lionberg, at the gas station where he was working the after-midnight shift and that two friends (Sharon Maccaro and Pete Wonder) who had stopped by left the station at about 2:15 a.m. At about 6:30 a.m., Clemente Moreless, the station manager, arrived and found it unattended.

Later that morning, a police officer made a determination that there had been an abduction and armed robbery. The next day, the body of Lionberg was found in a field next to Cannon Lane in East Chicago Heights, and that of Schmal was found nude from the waist down (except for knee socks) in an upstairs room in a nearby abandoned building at 1528 Cannon Lane. An autopsy disclosed that two bullets had entered the back of Lionberg's head and one had entered his back, and that two bullets had entered the head of Schmal at short range.

It appears that police investigator Pastirik and other officers, acting on an anonymous call to police headquarters, went to an area outside the 1528 Cannon Lane building to look for a red Toyota; that Pastirik observed two black males (later identified as Dennis Williams and Verneal Jimmerson) walk briskly south of the building; that they seemed to quicken their pace when they saw the officers; that after the two men walked up to a red Toyota, he and his partner stopped them; that he interviewed Williams, and the other officer spoke with Jimmerson; and that both men and the red Toyota were taken into police custody. Later that same day, defendant came to the Homewood police station with several other persons — including her mother and sister.

Investigator Houlihan testified that he and Officer Jackson interviewed defendant that evening at the police station and, after telling her that she had a right not to speak to him, he questioned her for about 10 minutes; that she appeared scared and stated she was afraid of Dennis Williams; that the officers told Mrs. Gray (defendant's mother) of their belief that defendant had information relative to the homicides; and that Mrs. Gray encouraged defendant to cooperate with the police. Defendant then told the officers that Dennis Williams, Kenny Adams, and "Tuna" were present the night of the murders.

Pastirik testified also that Paulette Gray, defendant's sister, informed him that defendant told her she was present during the homicides; that Paulette told defendant that she (Paulette) had informed the investigators about defendant's presence during the murders; that Mrs. Gray then told defendant to tell the truth; and that defendant then gave him the following account of what happened the evening of the homicides.

She and her boyfriend, Kenny Adams, were in his car (a beige Toyota) listening to music. After sitting in the car for quite some time, she went into the house. Hearing noises later, she looked out her living room window and saw men trying to get Dennis Williams' red Toyota out of the mud. She left the house and entered an abandoned building next door, where she hid to watch what was occurring. She saw Dennis Williams, Verneal Jimmerson (Lurch), Kenny Adams, and Willie Rainge (Tuna), in addition to seeing a white man and a white woman who were unknown to her. The two white people were taken out of the car and pushed ahead by Williams who walked over to her, grabbed her by the arm, and told her to come with them. Everyone then went across the courtyard into a building located at 1528 Cannon Lane — where Williams, the white woman, defendant, Adams, and Jimmerson went upstairs to a second floor bedroom while Rainge stayed downstairs with the white man. Williams put the white female down on the floor and removed her clothes, excepting her socks and upper garments. Williams then handed defendant a disposable "Bic type" cigarette lighter and told her to light and hold it, since it was very dark. She did so, and Williams, Jimmerson, and Adams had sexual intercourse with the white woman. When Adams finished, Jimmerson went downstairs and Rainge came upstairs and also had sexual intercourse with the victim. While this was going on, the cigarette lighter on occasions would go out and Williams would yell at defendant to relight it — which she did. Williams and Rainge had sexual intercourse with the victim a second time, but when she pleaded with Adams not to do so again, he did not. Rainge then went downstairs, and Jimmerson came up and raped the white woman a second time — following which Williams took a gun out of his pocket, pulled her over face down, and fired two shots into her head. Williams, Rainge, and defendant then walked the white man across Cannon Lane at gunpoint into a field near Deer Creek, where Williams fired two shots into the victim's head and handed the gun to Rainge, who fired one shot into the man's back. The three then walked along the creek, where Williams threw the gun into the water and then said to her that if she told the police or anyone about the incident he would kill her and her family. The group dispersed, and she went home. The next morning, defendant told her sister Paulette and her mother what happened.

It was the testimony of Officer Houlihan that on the evening of May 13 he, two investigators, and other officers went to the scene of the homicides with defendant, where she attempted to show the officers the location of the victim's boots. They could not be found, but she did point out to the officers where Williams threw the gun away.

Ernest DiBenedetto, an assistant State's Attorney, testified that when he interviewed defendant on May 14, she related the same account she had given to Pastirik and, because both defendant and her mother appeared to be in fear, he told them the State would look into the possibility of relocating them.

It appears that on May 16, defendant appeared before the grand jury and related substantially the same story she told investigator Pastirik and the assistant State's Attorneys concerning the homicides. However, on June 19, when she testified at the preliminary hearing of Williams, Rainge, Adams, and Jimmerson, she said that her grand jury testimony was a lie which she had been coerced by the State to tell and that she knew nothing regarding the crimes committed against Carol Schmal and Larry Lionberg. Thereafter, an indictment charged her with perjury and the crimes committed against Larry Lionberg and Carol Schmal. She was tried simultaneously with Dennis Williams, Willie Rainge, and Kenneth Adams — but by a separate jury. *fn1

At trial, the transcripts of defendant's grand jury testimony and of her recantation at the preliminary hearing were introduced by the State. Michael Podelecki, an Illinois Law Enforcement forensic scientist, then testified that the hair of Carol Schmal was similar in color and characteristics to the hair found in the trunk of Williams' red Toyota; that even at the highest magnification, he could not ascertain any dissimilarities between the hair samples; that the examination of the vaginal swab of Carol Schmal, when compared with saliva and blood samples of Williams, Adams, and Rainge, disclosed that they may have had sexual intercourse with her prior to her death.

Charles McCraney testified that he lived four buildings away from defendant's residence; that on the evening of May 10, 1978, and the early morning hours of May 11, 1978, he was practicing his guitar in his downstairs living room; that periodically he would go upstairs and look out his window to make sure teenagers were not tampering with his Cadillac; that at about 3 a.m. on May 11 he observed a blue Chevy parked next to a beige Toyota in front of defendant's house; that Kenneth Adams and defendant were in the Chevy; that later he saw a red Toyota with the other two cars; that he then saw a yellow Vega, driven by Rainge, stop next to the red Toyota; that the cars were in the same position when he looked again about 15 minutes later but that the red Toyota was then driven under a nearby streetlight where Williams got out, broke the streetlight with a rock, and then backed the red Toyota into a parking area; that he saw Rainge leave the Vega and get into the red Toyota, which was then driven east on Hammond Lane; and that, when he went outside to inspect his car, he saw defendant and an unknown man sitting in the blue Chevy. Later, after returning to his house, when he heard the revving of a motor he again looked out his front window and saw that the red Toyota was struck in the mud; that he went to a back window to check on his car and saw four people — including Adams — get out of the beige Toyota and run toward the building at 1528 Cannon Lane, but he did not see defendant get out of that car; that he returned to a front window and saw a group of six to eight people enter the building located at 1528 Cannon Lane, included among them being Williams, Rainge and Adams; that later he heard a gunshot but, as they were commonplace in that neighborhood, he took no action; that in the late morning of May 11, he saw Dennis Williams drive up in a red Toyota, stop under the light he had broken previously, and proceed to kick the glass from the street; and that Williams then parked his Toyota in front of defendant's home. Finally, McCraney testified that after the bodies of Schmal and Lionberg were discovered, he saw Williams among the crowd that had gathered; and that, on the basis of comments Williams made to a friend at that time about the shootings as well as his earlier observations, he contacted the police.

Defendant testified on her own behalf. In essence, she stated that she had not been present during the commission of the crimes; and that statements made to the police, to the assistant State's ...

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