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People v. Nathaniel





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JAMES M. BAILEY, Judge, presiding.


After a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant Cathy Nathaniel was found guilty of murder and burglary. She was sentenced to a term of 35 years for the murder conviction and a concurrent term of 7 years for the burglary conviction.

On appeal, defendant presents three issues: (1) she was not proven guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) reversible error was committed by the trial court when defendant was permitted only 12 peremptory challenges; and (3) the trial court abused its discretion when a 9-year-old misdemeanor conviction for deceptive practices was allowed for impeachment purposes and when a police photograph was submitted to the jury.

The charges against defendant arose out of the shooting death of Steven Ticho in the early hours of May 4, 1978. At trial, there were many witnesses for the State. However, the key State witness was Bernice Albright, defendant's companion on the night Ticho was killed. Her testimony at trial was as follows: During the evening hours of May 3, 1978, Ms. Albright accompanied defendant to a lounge on the near north side of Chicago. There, the women met two men, the victim and his friend, Klaus Krutzikowski. When the bar was closing, these four people left together and went to the victim's apartment in Krutzikowski's van.

Upon arriving at the apartment, the victim toured his three companions through the apartment. Albright and Krutzikowski then sat on the couch in the living room. Defendant was with the victim in the bedroom. After approximately half an hour, Albright requested to leave. After checking with defendant if it was all right to leave, Albright left with Krutzikowski, who was to take her home. Upon Krutzikowski's inquiring about breakfast, Albright suggested a restaurant called the Hasty Tasty. After going there, she was driven to her apartment building by Krutzikowski.

Sometime later defendant appeared at the apartment she shared with Albright and several other people. Defendant had two shopping bags with her and requested to speak with Albright in the bathroom. Defendant then told Albright that she shot the victim. Defendant also showed Albright the keys to the apartment and made her smell the fired gun.

At defendant's urging, the two women went back to the victim's apartment, where they were let into the lobby by the doorman. Defendant showed Albright how she shot the victim in the head. They then proceeded to pack several shopping bags with the victim's personal items of value.

At one of the elevator stops, the women met a maintenance man who helped them with a torn bag. Upon exiting the lobby, the women returned to their own apartment in defendant's car.

The following day Albright accompanied defendant on a shopping trip. Defendant first purchased several items of clothing without Albright's presence in the store. At a jewelry store, defendant purchased a gold watch with the victim's credit card. Defendant next unsuccessfully attempted to purchase several pairs of shoes. Albright did not go into this store with defendant.

Albright moved to a new address with her boyfriend to avoid being associated with defendant. However, on May 6, 1978, she was arrested and taken to the police station. At that time she learned defendant was also in police custody and had implicated her in the victim's death. Albright was questioned first by several police officers. She then related her account of the events on May 3 and 4 to an assistant State's Attorney. After this, she was told she would not be prosecuted for anything related to these events.

Defendant testified in her own defense. Her testimony conflicted sharply with that of her companion. She denied shooting the victim, and implicated Albright as the one who did the shooting. Defendant testified that she had engaged in prostitution for 10 years and that she and Albright, on the evening of May 3, 1978, went to a lounge to "hustle." After meeting the victim and Krutzikowski, they went to the victim's apartment. She admitted going to the bedroom alone with the victim, while Albright and Krutzikowski remained in the living room.

Defendant testified that Albright was going to try to "turn a trick" with Krutzikowski when they left the apartment. She then received a phone call from Albright, who was at a restaurant, that she was going home. After this call, defendant testified, the victim suggested that they could have an "orgy" if defendant got Albright to return.

Defendant said she then took a cab to her apartment in order to persuade Albright to come back with her. Upon their return, she said, Albright's boyfriend Curtis Spearman was with them. She and Albright went up to the victim's apartment, leaving Spearman on the street.

Later, defendant testified, she was in the bathroom when she saw Albright and Spearman walk by towards the victim's bedroom. She then heard a shot, following which she observed Albright leaving the bedroom with a gun. She then ransacked the apartment with Albright and Spearman. Defendant said she left with Albright, leaving shopping bags full of the victim's items on the 44th floor of the apartment building. They then took a cab back to the lounge and picked up her car, which ...

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