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People v. Green





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. George Marovich, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied October 1, 1985.

Defendant Sylvester Green was charged with four counts of murder and one count each of burglary, home invasion, theft, and armed violence. After the State dropped the theft and armed violence counts, defendant was tried before Judge Lawrence Genesen, who declared a mistrial after the jury could not reach a verdict. After a second trial before Judge George Marovich, a jury returned guilty verdicts for murder and burglary. It declined to impose the death penalty. All the murder counts were merged, and defendant was sentenced to an extended term of 80 years for murder and 14 years for burglary, the sentences to run concurrently.

This cause arose on November 13, 1981, when Chicago police officer Donald Fuqua was called to check on the well-being of the victim, 62-year-old Dorothy MacDonald, who lived in a brick bungalow on the south side. When Mrs. MacDonald did not answer the door, Officer Fuqua checked the residence and noticed that a basement window was broken. Fuqua asked a neighbor boy to crawl in through the window, and minutes later the boy came to the door and announced that Mrs. MacDonald was dead.

Fuqua then called other officers and lab technicians to the scene, and after they arrived, they went in through the window. They saw the victim lying on the floor between the living and dining rooms. The police also noted that the telephone lines had been disconnected. An autopsy revealed that Mrs. MacDonald died from several blows to the head with a blunt object. No identifiable fingerprints were discovered.

About six weeks later, on December 28, 1981, at about 8:30 or 9 p.m., Sylvester Green was arrested. A neighbor and long-time acquaintance, Sonjia Marshall, identified him for the police. The police wanted to question him about a recent murder of the wife and child of a police officer named Wilson. After taking him into custody, Detectives Basile and Paladino checked the computer, which revealed that Sylvester Green was also wanted on two other warrants. When the defendant was arrested, he allegedly said, "I didn't kill anybody," even though he had not been told why he was being arrested. Defendant denied that he ever made the statement. Regardless, he was brought to Area 2 Headquarters, taken into an interrogation room, and handcuffed to the wall.

What happened next is disputed. According to defendant, the police beat and threatened him to obtain a confession. After a sleepless night in which he remained handcuffed to the wall, Lieutenant John Burge allegedly put a plastic bag over defendant's head, choking him, and hit him in the stomach. The police then forced defendant to return to the MacDonald residence, where a series of incriminating pictures were taken. After the police returned defendant to police headquarters, defendant signed a confession because he was afraid for his safety.

The police deny that defendant was coerced, beaten, or threatened in any way. After defendant was transferred to the 111th Street Police Station, he requested medical attention and was taken to the emergency room at South Chicago Hospital. Defendant was examined by Dr. Joseph Hendrick, whose records showed only that defendant had a cut on his left knee.

According to the police, defendant was not questioned until the morning after his arrest, at about 8 a.m. on December 29, 1981. The police at first began to question defendant about the Wilson family murders. After about 35 minutes, Lieutenant Burge asked defendant if he knew anything about the MacDonald murder, to which the defendant allegedly replied, "Oh, you know about that one." Lieutenant Burge and Detective McNally asked Detectives Grunhard and Bennett, who were investigating the MacDonald murder, to question defendant, and defendant confessed some time later.

Detective Bennett testified that defendant told him the following: Defendant entered the MacDonald residence through the basement window. Defendant thought that the home was vacant, and he carried no weapon. He went upstairs and was surprised by Mrs. MacDonald, who had just come home from work. She started yelling, "What are you doing in my house?" and defendant, who panicked, picked up a statue that was within reach and hit MacDonald in the head several times. Defendant then took the victim's stereo and a handgun, put them inside a garbage bag, and left the home through the window.

The police continued to question defendant until about 2 p.m., when Detectives Grunhard and Bennett took defendant to the MacDonald home, where they took pictures of defendant reenacting the crime. Detective Bennett admitted under cross-examination that defendant told him that he thought Mrs. MacDonald was carrying a gun in her hand when he struck her and that an empty gun box had been found on her bedroom dresser. Defendant told Bennett that he had sold the gun to someone in the neighborhood after the crime.

Prior to the first trial, the defendant moved to suppress his confession based upon an alleged coercion by the police. After a hearing, Judge Genesen denied the motion because he found that the physical evidence did not support the defendant's allegations. The court said:

"[I]t is awful difficult for me to see how anybody could hit [defendant] in the eye with enough force to cause him pain without leaving a little tenderness or discoloration * * * or hit him with a stick hard enough on any portion of his body without leaving some at least tenderness or discoloration * * *.

In other words, the physical examination does not indicate the slightest corroboration of the Defendant's story; or at very least draws me to the conclusion [that] if the Defendant [were] struck or abused in any fashion, it was of such a slight manner that it could not be adequately demonstrated by a physical examination."

Before the second trial, defendant again moved to suppress. At issue was an admission that defendant had made to a deputy sheriff while in custody. The court denied the motion because there was no evidence that defendant was being questioned when he made the admission.

After hearing the evidence, the jury found the defendant guilty of murder and burglary. The State asked the jury to impose the death penalty. During the hearing, the State showed that defendant was a petty thief with five prior convictions and one prior felony arrest for burglary. The defense showed that defendant had no prior history of violence, had been honorably discharged from the service, and had assumed that the MacDonald home was empty when he burglarized it. The jury declined to impose the penalty.

In sentencing defendant, the court found that although defendant had not carried a weapon and had been surprised by the victim, the circumstances of the crime — the age of the victim and the fact that she had been beaten to death in her own home — were sufficient to impose an extended sentence. The court sentenced defendant to an 80-year term for murder and a 14-year term for burglary, the sentences to run concurrently.

On appeal, defendant argues the following, that: (1) defendant was denied a fair trial because the State introduced evidence that he was arrested for an unrelated double murder; (2) the sentences were excessive; (3) the trial court erred in imposing an extended-term sentence for both convictions; (4) the State's exclusion of black jurors by its use of peremptory challenge deprived defendant of a fair trial; and (5) the State's exclusion of ...

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