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People v. Peters





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. William D. Block, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied July 18, 1986.

Defendant, Warren Peters, Jr., was charged by indictment with murder and aggravated kidnaping (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, pars. 9-1(a)(3), 10-2(a)(3)). At a jury trial defendant was found guilty of both charges and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 80 years for murder and a concurrent term of 60 years for aggravated kidnaping. Defendant filed a post-trial motion which was denied. This appeal ensued.

In this court defendant contends that he was denied a fair trial due to: (1) the State's alleged discovery violation; (2) the State's failure to grant immunity to a prospective witness; and (3) the State's systematic exclusion of blacks as jurors. Additionally, defendant contends the evidence at the trial was neither sufficient to prove him guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt under an accountability theory nor sufficient to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of felony murder. Further, defendant argues newly discovered evidence warranted a new trial.

Because the record in the instant case is extensive we have attempted to relate, as briefly as possible, the trial testimony relevant to a resolution of the issues defendant has raised. Additional evidence will be discussed in conjunction with the issues when appropriate.

At trial the State's leading witness, Rene Valentine, testified that on February 4, 1984, at about 1 a.m. he and Michele Thompson were sitting in the front seat of his car in the parking lot of D. Laney's Tavern. Hector Reuben Sanchez approached the car, opened the driver's door, held a gun to Valentine's head, and tried to get into the car. At the same time a black male (later identified as the defendant, Warren Peters) opened the passenger door, grabbed Thompson, and pushed his way into the car.

When Thompson saw Sanchez' gun, she became hysterical, screaming for help and trying to escape. Valentine related that defendant was trying to hold Thompson and control her. The passenger door of the car opened and Thompson fell to the ground. Defendant picked her up, put both arms around her body, and carried her, as she struggled and screamed, to the defendant's car. Sanchez and the defendant pushed and pulled Thompson into the car. Sanchez then directed Valentine at gunpoint to an alley behind D. Laney's Tavern, where Sanchez shot Valentine twice. Valentine, however, managed to escape. Valentine related that during this entire occurrence, he never heard Sanchez give any order or directions to defendant.

Defendant's trial testimony regarding the events in the tavern parking lot differed substantially from Valentine's. In general, defendant's testimony was that he was unaware of Sanchez' plan to shoot or abduct anyone, that when defendant saw the gun he tried to calm Thompson, that Thompson was receptive to defendant's promises to protect her, and that defendant did not drag or carry her to his car but rather led her by the hand. Additionally, defendant stated that Sanchez threatened to kill the defendant if he did not keep Thompson in the car while Sanchez took Valentine into the alley.

The defendant related that when Sanchez returned and reentered defendant's car, he handcuffed Thompson and ordered defendant to hold her while Sanchez drove her to his house. At the house, defendant watched Sanchez rape Thompson. According to defendant, he kept telling Sanchez that what he was doing was wrong, but Sanchez would not listen. It was defendant's testimony that he did not sexually assault Thompson and that he remained at the house both because he wanted to try to protect Thompson and because he could not escape from Sanchez.

Defendant related that Sanchez bound Thompson after raping her, and then defendant and Sanchez went outside to move their cars into the garage. When they returned to the house, Thompson was gone. According to defendant, Sanchez ran to find the girl, but defendant did not assist in the search. Sanchez returned to the house after dragging Thompson across a neighbor's yard. Sanchez then left the girl in the house with defendant while Sanchez returned to the neighbor's house to explain the disturbance.

The testimony of the neighbor, Gene Gonyo, indicated he had been awakened by someone pounding on his back door and by his dog's barking. As he looked outside, Gonyo saw Sanchez and a girl struggling. Gonyo was about to phone the police when his front doorbell rang. Gonyo opened the door, finding Sanchez, standing alone, outside. Sanchez apologized for the disturbance, explaining that the girl's behavior was due to alcohol or drugs. Gonyo testified that in the short time period between Gonyo's observance of Sanchez' struggle with the girl and Sanchez' subsequent appearance alone at Gonyo's front door, Sanchez could not have gone into his house and returned to Gonyo's.

Defendant testified that upon Sanchez' return from his explanation to the neighbor, Sanchez dragged Thompson down into the basement to kill her. According to defendant, Sanchez ordered him to follow. Defendant stated he closed his eyes while Sanchez killed Thompson. Afterwards, Sanchez ordered defendant to help him carry the girl's body upstairs and put it into the car. Sanchez and defendant then drove to Wisconsin where defendant tossed the body out of the car. According to defendant, Sanchez threatened to kill the defendant if he told anyone about the murder.

Defendant testified that a few days later he told Sam Siler, a friend, that he might need an alibi for the night Thompson was murdered. Siler's testimony revealed that defendant had specifically asked Siler to provide an alibi.

George Spinelli, an F.B.I. agent, related that when he spoke with defendant on February 8, 1984, defendant stated that on the evening of the murder he was drinking with his friend, Sam Siler. According to Spinelli, defendant provided F.B.I. agents with a different statement on February 9, 1984. Most noticeable in that 26-page typewritten statement, which was read into evidence, was the lack of any claim by defendant that his conduct on the night of the murder resulted from orders, directions, or threats by Sanchez.

The jury found defendant guilty of murder and aggravated kidnaping.

• 1 In his first contention, defendant theorizes that the contents of the handwritten notes taken by an F.B.I. agent during an interview with Rene Valentine, the State's leading witness, were material and favorable to defendant's theory of defense and should have been made available prior to trial to aid defendant in the preparation of his defense. According to defendant, the State's failure to tender the F.B.I.'s handwritten notes, used in preparing the agency's typewritten 302 reports, denied him a fair trial under Brady v. Maryland (1963), 373 U.S. 83, ...

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