Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Stephen
Schiller, Judge, presiding.
PRESIDING JUSTICE LINN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Following a bench trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendants, Christopher Moore and Albert Wooden, were convicted of armed violence, voluntary manslaughter, and concealment of a homicidal death. The trial judge imposed respective sentences of 12 and 18 years for armed violence, and seven-year extended terms for concealment of a homicide.
On appeal, defendants assert as reversible error (1) the denial of their motions for severance, (2) the trial court's admonition prohibiting Wooden from discussing specifics of his testimony with counsel during three brief recesses from trial, and (3) the imposition of extended-term sentences for the lesser offense of concealment of a homicidal death.
The State, based on the holding of the Illinois Supreme Court in People v. Alejos (1983), 97 Ill.2d 502, 455 N.E.2d 48, acknowledges that armed violence may not be predicated on voluntary manslaughter and concedes that the armed violence convictions should be vacated.
We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for resentencing.
The facts and events leading up to defendants' convictions were adduced at trial from the following testimony:
The State called as its first witnesses Deborah Brandon, James Banks, and Bryant Ware, all of whom live in the vicinity of Langley and Champlain streets, defendant Wooden's neighborhood, in Chicago. The testimony given by these three witnesses was corroborative.
The witnesses testified that on the night of December 12, 1980, sometime between 11:30 p.m. and midnight, they chanced to be present in the alley that adjoined Langley and Champlain streets, commonly used as a short-cut by neighborhood residents. While in the alley, each observed defendants, whom they knew as Moore and Wooden, attempting to load a large plastic bundle onto the trunk of a car. Banks testified that the plastic in which the bundle was wrapped was thick "like plastic you put in a window." Brandon testified that she had known defendant Wooden all her life and had known defendant Moore for approximately four years. Upon seeing the men in the alley, Brandon greeted Moore, and he returned her greeting.
The witnesses testified further that after defendants attempted to balance the bundle on the closed car trunk, they started to drive away, but the bundle fell to the ground. This scenario was repeated several times until the men finally abandoned their efforts, left the bundle lying in the alley, and drove away. Ware stated that after the car drove off, he saw Wooden walk through a gangway back towards his house.
Each of the witnesses returned to the alley the following morning, after learning that the plastic bundle contained the battered body of a neighborhood child, 14-year-old Gregory Grigsby. Brandon and Ware spoke to investigators present at the scene. Brandon told investigating officer Detective John Doty that she had known the victim since he was a child and that he had lived in the same block as defendant Wooden. She reported what she had witnessed in the alley the previous night and gave the investigator defendants' names.
Witness Ware also told Detective Doty what he had witnessed the night before and provided him with the name of defendant Moore. Ware testified that he had been with the victim earlier the previous evening at Ware's house, but that they had split up upon leaving. Ware stated that the victim had known defendant Wooden and had known where Wooden lived.
Witnesses Ware and Brandon testified that they subsequently and independently viewed several lineups at police headquarters, out of which they separately identified defendants Moore and Wooden as two of the men present in the alley on the night of the crime.
The State also called as its witness Officer Adolph Alessia, who testified that on December 13, 1980, at approximately 7:30 a.m., he and his partner were on patrol when they received a call of a "man down" in the alley of South Langley Street. When the officers arrived at the scene, they observed what appeared to be "a set of legs sticking out from plastic." Officer Alessia described the plastic as clear and thick, like something that would be used to seal a window. Upon closer examination of the plastic bundle, Officer Alessia determined that it contained a body, blood, and brain matter.
Officer Alessia further testified that he observed what appeared to be drag marks or blood leading to 6412 South Langley, defendant Wooden's residence. Officer Alessia and three other police officers followed the trail of drag marks and observed a large blood spot on the walkway leading to the back porch of defendant Wooden's house. The officers observed a piece of brain matter next to the blood spot and bloodstains on the stairs of the porch. The officers knocked on the back door of Wooden's house and, receiving no response, circled around to the front. They observed that all of the first-floor windows in the front of defendant's house were broken out and had been replaced with a thick plastic, plastic similar to that in which the victim's body had been wrapped.
Defendant Wooden opened the front door in response to the officers' knocking. Officer Alessia testified that Wooden consented to the entry. Officer Alessia stated that he observed piles of the same thick, clear plastic, like that in which the body had been found, lying around Wooden's house. After asking if he could look around, Officer Alessia entered the kitchen, saw a door leading into the basement, and went downstairs.
Once inside the basement, the officer noticed that the floor was wet with puddles of standing water. He also noticed what appeared to be blood and brain matter on the side of a washer and on the floor. Wooden was placed under arrest, read his Miranda rights, and taken to police headquarters. Officers James May and James Mykowski, present with Officer Alessia at the scene of the arrest, corroborated Alessia's testimony.
Detective Sidney Rahim Sharif testified that on December 14, 1980, he interviewed Wooden at the Third District police station. Wooden indicated that he had concealed in a bag a knife which the victim had used to try to injure him. Wooden instructed the officers where to go to find the bag, and Sharif signed Wooden out and drove him to the site. En route, Wooden told Sharif that he had not intended to kill anyone but that the victim had a knife. Wooden said he, defendant Moore, and a third man were drinking beer in Wooden's kitchen when Wooden heard a sound in the front of his house. Wooden told his friends to be quiet, because he thought someone was breaking into the house. Wooden and his friends then moved toward the front of the house, a chase ensued, and the victim ran into the basement. Wooden and his friends, picking up objects along the way, pursued the victim into the basement. Wooden picked up a table leg with a nail protruding from its base, and he and the others chased the victim around the basement, striking him with these various objects at every opportunity. Wooden struck the victim repeatedly with the table leg, knocking him to the ground and striking him every time he managed to get up. When the victim finally ceased to get up again, Wooden realized the victim was seriously injured.
Upon realizing the serious condition of the victim, Wooden and the others decided to take the victim's body out of the house. They wrapped the body in thick plastic, carried it outside, and placed it on the closed trunk of a car. After the victim's body repeatedly fell off the top of the trunk, ...