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People v. Balls





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. FRANK W. BARBARO, Judge, presiding. MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE RIZZI DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant, Michael Balls, was found guilty of the murder of Delores Silvestri in a jury trial. He was sentenced to a term of 150 to 300 years' imprisonment. We affirm.

At approximately 10:40 a.m. on November 30, 1976, a Chicago police officer went to the 13th floor of the Pittsfield Building in Chicago, Illinois, and found the body of Delores Silvestri lying in a large pool of blood. He noticed a purse and a metal clasp in a pool of blood in a stairwell which was a few feet away from the body. There was also a large butcher knife on the stairway.

At about the same time, another police officer went to the third-floor washroom of the Pittsfield Building and observed defendant wiping his hands on a towel rack, the back of which was covered with blood. The front of defendant's trench coat was also covered with blood. Defendant appeared very nervous at the time. The officer looked in one of the commodes and saw tissue with blood on it. After making these observations, the officer placed defendant under arrest, and defendant was transported to the police station. A scarf and gloves which had blood on them were subsequently recovered from the third floor washroom.

Another police officer arrived at the Pittsfield Building at approximately 11 a.m. After observing the victim on the 13th floor, he went to the third floor where he saw Al Silvestri, the husband of the victim. The officer then proceeded to the police station, where he spoke to defendant in an interview room. Defendant told him that he was at the Pittsfield Building to see a dentist. He denied having knowledge of the stabbing and said that he did not know how the blood had gotten on his clothing. The officer left the room.

The officer later returned to the interview room and informed defendant of certain statements Al Silvestri had made. Silvestri said that defendant had been extorting money from him and that he had threatened Silvestri's wife on the previous evening. Silvestri also stated that defendant threatened him and his wife while they were walking to the Pittsfield Building that day. At this point, defendant told the officer that he wanted to tell the truth.

According to defendant, he had known Silvestri for a long time because Silvestri owned a tavern in his neighborhood. Two months prior to the murder, Silvestri offered defendant $1500 to kill his wife. Silvestri told defendant that his wife discovered he was having affairs with other women, and she would not give him enough money to continue these affairs. He also mentioned that his wife threatened to have him deported. Defendant agreed to kill Silvestri's wife. Silvestri gave defendant a photograph of his wife and arranged to have defendant see his wife during one of her weekly visits to the Pittsfield Building.

Defendant explained to the officer that on the night before the murder, he and Silvestri had agreed that the killing would take place on the following day. Silvestri gave defendant an appointment card for a dentist in the Pittsfield Building and told defendant to tell any police officer who might stop him that he was going to see a dentist. Silvestri said that he would instruct his wife to meet him on the 13th floor where they would see a man who would sell them a painting at a reduced price. Silvestri said that he would wait in the lobby while defendant was waiting for his wife on the 13th floor.

At approximately 9:30 a.m. on November 30, 1976, defendant met Silvestri at a restaurant, and they proceeded to the Pittsfield Building. Upon arrival, they went to the 14th floor, and Silvestri showed defendant the office of his wife's doctor. Silvestri then showed defendant the stairwell in which he was to wait. Silvestri and defendant returned to the lobby. Shortly thereafter, Silvestri left, and defendant returned to the 14th floor and entered the stairwell.

According to defendant, at approximately 10:30 a.m., the victim entered the stairwell, and defendant stabbed and killed her with a butcher knife. Defendant told the officer that he "stabbed her once, good in the back," but the officer did not recall if defendant said that he stabbed her more than once. After dropping the knife on the landing, defendant ran down the stairwell to the lobby. When he saw police officers in the lobby, he ran to the third floor and entered the washroom. He took off his scarf and gloves and threw them down. He then tried to wash the blood off his clothing with tissue and a towel hanging on the wall. At this time, some police officers entered and arrested him. The officer to whom defendant gave the above statement later obtained a photograph of the victim from defendant's wife.

• 1 Later, defendant gave a written statement to an Assistant State's Attorney. This statement was substantially the same as the statement given to the police officer. In this statement, defendant stated that he stabbed the victim once in the side. He also said he was wearing gloves with buckles.

A pathologist testified that the victim had over 30 external stab wounds. It was his opinion that the cause of death was a stab wound of the face and neck which lacerated the right internal jugular vein and the larynx. A microanalyst from the Chicago Police Department testified that defendant's coat, suit jacket, trousers, shirt, vest and tie contained blood of the victim's type. Blood of the victim's type was also found on the towel, tissue, scarf and gloves removed from the third-floor washroom.

Defendant first argues that he was prevented from developing his theory of the case. Defendant's theory was that he was not responsible for the death of the victim because he only stabbed her once in the side. Defendant maintained that someone else, namely Al Silvestri, inflicted all other wounds, including the fatal wound of the face and neck. Thus, defendant concludes, he could only be guilty of aggravated battery.

In support of his argument that he was prevented from developing his defense, defendant lists several rulings on the State's motions in limine which were adverse to him. These rulings include a ruling preventing a police officer from testifying on cross-examination as to his investigation of Silvestri and as to some statements made by Silvestri during a conversation between the officer and Silvestri; a ruling preventing an Assistant State's Attorney from testifying on cross-examination as to a conversation with or investigation of Silvestri, or as to whether charges were approved against Silvestri; a ruling precluding defendant from introducing testimony to show that he had attempted to serve Silvestri but was unable to locate him; a ruling preventing defendant from presenting testimony of two men whom Silvestri had also approached about killing his wife; a ruling preventing a police officer and an Assistant State's Attorney from testifying on direct examination as to any investigation of Silvestri; and a ruling preventing the receptionist from the victim's doctor's office from answering a question relating to a conversation she had with Silvestri on the day of the murder. Defendant does not make any argument or list any citations as to why any of these rulings were erroneous. Rather, he merely lists the rulings and concludes that these rulings severely limited him in presenting his theory. Much of the testimony which defendant claims should have been admitted was beyond the scope of direct examination or was irrelevant to the case at hand. We conclude that defendant was not denied his right to present his theory of defense.

Defense next contends that instructions relating to battery and aggravated battery should have been given. He argues that there was evidence that he was not responsible for the murder of the victim. He maintains that if the jury had believed his theory of the ...

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