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People v. Hall





Appeal from the Circuit Court of McLean County, the Hon. William T. Caisley, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied December 1, 1986.

The defendant, Anthony Hall, while an inmate at the Pontiac correctional institution, was charged by indictment in the circuit court of Livingston County with the murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 9-1) of Frieda King. Following a change of venue to McLean County, the defendant was found guilty of murder in a bench trial in the circuit court. A hearing was held on the State's motion to determine if the defendant was subject to the death penalty. The court found a statutory aggravating factor to exist, in that the victim was an employee of an institution of the Department of Corrections killed in the course of performing official duties (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 9-1(b)(2)), and the court determined there were no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude imposition of the death sentence. The defendant was sentenced to death, but the sentence was stayed pending a direct appeal to this court under section 4(b) of article VI of the Constitution of Illinois (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, sec. 4(b)) and Supreme Court Rule 603 (87 Ill.2d R. 603).

At approximately 6:30 p.m. on February 8, 1983, the body of Frieda King, who worked as a civilian supervisor in the inmate kitchen at the Pontiac Correctional Center, was found in a locked closet near the cold-storage area of the kitchen facilities. The autopsy performed by Dr. Edward Shalgos revealed that King died from severe blood loss resulting from stab wounds in the upper portion of her back and chest. The victim's lungs, aorta and liver were lacerated, and at least one of the wounds was inflicted by a left-handed assailant. There was evidence of hemorrhage within the muscle tissue of her neck, suggesting to Dr. Shalgos that King had been manually strangled. There also were cuts on her hands.

The focus of the investigation into King's death turned to the defendant, who worked as a clerk in the inmate kitchen on February 8. On February 14, 1983, Livingston County State's Attorney Donald D. Bernardi filed a criminal information in the circuit court charging Hall with the murder. (The criminal information was later superseded by an indictment.) At his arraignment on February 23, the defendant requested a preliminary hearing and informed the court that he did not wish to be represented by the public defender.

At two subsequent hearings the defendant told the court that he had been unable to engage a lawyer. On March 8, the court appointed Livingston County Public Defender David Ahlemeyer. The next day, Ahlemeyer filed a jury demand and the defendant's affidavit to his indigency.

Then followed correspondence between the defendant and Judge William T. Caisley in which the defendant expressed, without explanation, his dissatisfaction with Ahlemeyer and requested that the court appoint counsel other than the public defender. Generally, the defendant complained that he was unable to establish a "rapport" with Ahlemeyer, apparently out of fear that the public defender's ties to the community and "political concerns" would weaken his representation of the defendant. The court, in a letter responding to each of the defendant's letters, explained that the right to representation included the right to counsel of choice if the defendant was able to afford private counsel, the right to have the public defender appointed in the event he could not retain private counsel, and the right also to represent himself. The court instructed Hall that it would appoint counsel other than the public defender only upon a showing that a conflict of interest would prevent the public defender from representing him. The court also cautioned Hall as to the seriousness of the charges against him and encouraged him to cooperate with Ahlemeyer in preparing a defense.

On May 5, the court allowed the defendant's motion for a change of venue, and the case was assigned to the circuit court of McLean County.

In a letter postmarked June 20, the defendant again complained to Judge Caisley about Ahlemeyer's representation. He wrote that the court "had the factors in front of you, conflict of interest [would be an] understatement, etc [sic]." He also supplied the names of two attorneys with whom he claimed to have been in contact and asked the court to appoint one as his counsel. The court replied that, if there was a factual basis to the defendant's contention of a conflict of interest, he should make a motion to have Ahlemeyer withdraw and the court would conduct a hearing on the motion. The prosecution was given notice of this correspondence between the court and the defendant.

On August 17, the defendant filed a "motion to discharge" the public defender. Ahlemeyer, in turn, filed a motion to withdraw. At the hearing on both motions, Ahlemeyer told the court that the defendant refused to cooperate with him and recounted an incident in June when he was at the Pontiac institution when the defendant refused to leave his cell and meet Ahlemeyer. The defendant was allowed to address the court. He stated that he personally did not dislike Ahlemeyer, but that he did not believe the public defender would act in his best interest because Ahlemeyer "was in reliance" with the State's Attorney. Ahlemeyer assured the court that he had no animosity toward the defendant and that there was not a conflict of interest which would affect his representation. The court denied the defendant's motion to discharge the public defender, and denied Ahlemeyer's motion to withdraw.

At the same hearing, the court allowed defense counsel's request that a psychiatric examination be given Hall to determine his fitness to stand trial.

On October 4, the court conducted a hearing on the defendant's fitness to stand trial. Ahlemeyer was allowed to testify as to his representation of the defendant, stating that Hall again refused to see him and that it would be necessary for Hall to revise his behavior of non-cooperation. The defendant testified that his refusal to cooperate with Ahlemeyer was not a reflection of any unfitness to stand trial, but was a "deliberate * * * rational act." He then told the court: "I am not going to cooperate with him and if he comes within an arm's length of me I will spare you the particulars. If that is what I have to do to get him off this case, I will rise to that occasion. I can only get an assault charge." The court found the defendant fit to stand trial and continued the matter until November 1.

On that day, Ahlemeyer asked that the defendant be shackled while he was in the courtroom. The court, after reading a letter addressed to the court in which the defendant substantially repeated the threat made earlier, ordered the defendant shackled. The court then heard argument on the defendant's renewed motion to discharge Ahlemeyer. The public defender again stated that he felt able to represent the defendant. The court again found that no grounds existed to release Ahlemeyer from Hall's representation, but he offered to appoint the McLean County public defender to assist Ahlemeyer at trial. The defendant refused the offer, informing the court that attorney Shelly Bannister had corresponded with him and agreed to represent him if the court would order her appointment. The court declined to appoint private counsel.

On December 5, the defendant asked the court to appoint McLean County Public Defender Steven Skelton to assist Ahlemeyer. The court granted the request. On February 21, 1984, at a hearing on the defendant's motion to suppress statements made by inmate Juan McGee, the court ordered the defendant unshackled.

Following three days of jury selection, a dispute between the defendant and his attorneys was brought to the attention of the court. The defendant wanted certain witnesses to testify at trial, but both counsel believed that their testimony would be extremely detrimental to his defense. Hall told the court that he wanted to proceed pro se. The court urged the defendant to consider the matter overnight and held the proceedings until the next day.

The following day the defendant again stated that he wished to proceed pro se and asked for a continuance to prepare his defense. The court brought the defendant, defense counsel and a court reporter into a conference room adjoining the courtroom to discuss the defendant's representation. The court advised the defendant of the unwisdom of proceeding unrepresented in a capital case. The defendant suggested that defense counsel be present and available to make objections on his behalf, but that the defendant be allowed to examine the witnesses. Ahlemeyer objected to the proposal, pointing out that Hall's dissatisfaction with defense counsel at that point was not with their ability to examine witnesses, but rather with the decision not to call certain witnesses. Ahlemeyer contended that it would constitute incompetence to stand by and allow the defendant to introduce highly prejudicial testimony. The court asked Hall who the witnesses were that he wished to call, but before Hall could answer Ahlemeyer objected because he believed it possible that a jury trial might still be waived and that the court would then be the trier of fact. There followed an interruption in the record, after which the court stated:

"Let the record show that the defendant has now been removed and that the prosecution is now present in chambers and that we are outside the presence of the jury and the persons assembled in the courtroom, and let the record further show that defense counsel, Steven Skelton has just been struck on the head by the defendant with a chair and that the court has also been struck by the defendant on the head with his fist and at this point, bearing in mind the previous threats that were made by the defendant at the pretrial stage against defense counsel, the court is going to order from this stage on the defendant shall be shackled at all times whether in the presence of the jury or not because it is essential for the security of the court and the officers of the court. This decision has been made only with most reluctance, but I think that with this overt act and the fact that one defense counsel and the court itself has been attacked by this defendant indicates the necessity of this step which is most reluctantly taken."

Upon returning to the courtroom, but still outside the presence of the jury, the court asked whether the defendant wished to proceed with or without counsel. The defendant refused to speak, and the judge interpreted, he said, the defendant's silence as a withdrawal of his motion to proceed pro se. Skelton and Ahlemeyer requested that the court grant their withdrawal motion, arguing that the attorney-client relationship was irretrievably lost and pointing out that the occasion may arise when they might be called to testify against the defendant in a separate proceeding arising from the battery. The court stated:

"I appreciate the fact that defense counsel have had more than their share of difficulty in the representation of this defendant. However, under the circumstances just minutes before the trial is to begin I don't think at this point I can in all fairness allow defense counsel to withdraw."

During the prosecution's opening statement, the defendant interrupted to inform the court that he wanted to waive a jury. The court replied that it would consider the waiver after opening statements. After the prosecution concluded and defense counsel reserved an opening statement, the jury was excused and counsel repeated the defendant's request to waive a trial by jury. The court admonished the defendant as to the charges against him, that the court would determine his guilt or innocence and the range of possible sentences if judgment were entered against him. Hall said that he understood, and the court accepted his jury waiver for the guilt phase of the trial. The defendant stated that he wanted to waive a jury throughout the proceeding, but the court explained that a waiver for the sentencing procedure was premature and, if necessary, would be considered later. The court then summoned the jury and instructed its members that a trial by jury had been waived, but that they should not listen to or read media coverage of the trial because there was "the possibility that you may be required to determine the matter of punishment."

The State's first witness was Randall Mundschenk, the dietary manager at the prison, who stated that Frieda King's job was to supervise inmates in the preparation and serving of prison meals. He said that it was prison procedure for all inmates to be escorted out of the cold-storage area at the end of the supervisor's work shift, and that on the day of King's death the shift of the defendant's supervisor, Richard Friedman, ended at 3 p.m. Mundschenk testified that he left the institution around 4:30 in the afternoon, but that he returned around 6:20 after receiving a phone call informing him of a problem at the institution. He proceeded to the cold-storage area and was told that King was missing. Mundschenk asked that the key to the storage closet be brought to him because that room had not yet been searched. After the keys were produced Mundschenk identified the key which opened the closet door, and King's body was found in the closet.

Richard Friedman testified that he worked as a food supervisor in the cold-storage area at Pontiac from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on February 8, 1983. Upon conclusion of his shift, he checked the doors to the cold-storage area, hallway, bathroom and coolers to ensure that they were locked, and then handed his keys to King. He said the procedure was for a supervisor to turn over his keys to the supervisor who was to relieve him. Friedman testified that the defendant had left the area before the 3 o'clock changeover, and that he therefore did not escort Hall from the cold-storage area.

An inmate at the institution, Michael Hughes, testified that he was assigned to the scullery area of the kitchen, where he washed dishes, and that he reported to his assignment around 5:15 that day. However, instead of washing dishes, he and another inmate, Ronald Louis, began making bacon sandwiches in the kitchen area. While making the sandwiches, the witness saw the defendant emerge from the alleyway which leads to the cold-storage area. Hall had blood on the front of his shirt and blood on his left hand. The witness estimated the time to have been around 5:30. Hughes testified that the defendant picked up the kitchen phone, which prison procedure prohibited him to use and, in response to Hughes' question, Hall said that he was trying to call Lieutenant Mundschenk. The defendant also told Hughes that the blood on his shirt came from moving ground beef in the cold-storage area. Subsequent testimony established that there was no ground beef in the storage area that day.

Derrick McGee, an inmate working as an assistant cook on February 8, testified that at approximately 5:30 on that day he first saw the defendant and the victim King talking in an office in the kitchen area and then saw them walk toward the alleyway leading to the cold-storage area. He stated that he saw no other inmates with King in that area on that day. He said that a supervisor in the upper dining room, Odette Koch, called and asked to speak to King. McGee answered that he did not know her whereabouts, despite having just seen her walk to the alleyway with Hall. On cross-examination, he could not recall whether he saw inmates Edward Stokes and Felton Chase, who were assigned to take out the garbage in the kitchen, walk to the garbage area by way of a door near the entrance of the alleyway. He also admitted that he did not tell the investigators until January 3, 1984, that he had seen Hall and King walking toward the alleyway.

Ronald Louis, an inmate who worked as an assistant head cook, stated that he was making bacon sandwiches when he saw Hall and another inmate in the office with King. He testified that he saw the defendant and King walk toward the cold-storage area between 5:30 and 5:35. He said that he did not see anyone else go back there. The witness stated that he gave inmate Eugene Davis two bacon sandwiches because Davis was complaining about the extra dishes he had to wash after the sandwiches were made. Louis testified that he saw Davis eating the sandwiches in a sitting area near the special-diet kitchen moments after he saw Hall and King walk toward the storage area. Louis returned to the area where he was making the sandwiches and picked up a phone that was ringing. Just then Odette Koch walked in and the witness handed her the phone. Koch asked where King was, and Louis pointed toward the cold-storage area, but he did not say that Hall was with her. On cross-examination, the witness said that he saw Hall return from the cold-storage area and have a conversation with Michael Hughes. Hall then used the phone.

Odette Koch was a food supervisor assigned to the 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. shift in the upper dining room on the day King was murdered. She testified that she telephoned the kitchen area around 5:45 p.m. because she needed some peaches, and that inmate Derrick McGee answered the phone. She stated that McGee was unable to tell her the whereabouts of King, but McGee did tell her that there was in the kitchen a case of peaches which she could have for the upper dining room. She walked to the kitchen and encountered the defendant. The defendant, who appeared to the witness to be nervous and upset, told her that he had been cut and that he had tried unsuccessfully to get the assistance of a corrections officer. Koch and the defendant went to the door of the alleyway where Koch noticed that the door was unlocked. She became apprehensive because it was unusual for the door to be unlocked. Koch and Hall stopped at the door, and Hall showed Koch his hand, which was cut and dripping blood. At one point, the defendant ran into a bathroom adjacent to the kitchen. Koch became concerned about King, and she told a nearby inmate, whose name she could not recall, to summon a corrections officer. An officer arrived soon after. On cross-examination, the witness said that while they were standing at the door of the alleyway, she asked the defendant where King was and he indicated towards the closet door in the alley. Hall told the witness that somebody on the other side of the door was holding King.

Lieutenant David Matsko was assigned to the lower dining room on February 8, 1983. He went to the kitchen area after Officer Tim Lovell requested his assistance. He saw the defendant near the door to the cold-storage area. The defendant told him that he was looking through the window on the door when an inmate jumped out and cut him with a knife. There was, the witness stated, "blood all over" the defendant's left hand and T-shirt. The witness did not see any other inmates in the area. The defendant twice ran into the bathroom and, while he was in there, Matsko heard water running.

Matsko stated that Koch told him that King was missing and, after ascertaining King was not in the upper dining room, Matsko used his radio to call for keys to search the storage area. He then escorted Hall to the prison hospital. On cross-examination, the witness said that he observed blood on "probably [a] quarter" of the front of Hall's shirt and blood on his pants near the pocket. He also related that while in the kitchen area he opened a locked wall safe where knives, screwdrivers, hammers and other tools were stored, and he noticed that a "scraper" was missing. The utensil was later established as the one found near King's body. He also identified a butcher knife that was discovered missing from a wall safe near the defendant's assigned desk outside Lieutenant Mundschenk's office.

David Metzger, a Department of Law Enforcement forensic scientist specializing in forensic serology, testified that he analyzed blood samples of the defendant and victim, and compared the results with his analyses of samples of blood found on the clothing each wore on February 8, and samples taken from certain areas of the inmates' kitchen. He concluded that bloodstains found on the defendant's hairnet were consistent with the victim's blood type and inconsistent with the defendant's. The same was true of bloodstains found on the defendant's lower left pants leg. Further, the witness was able to determine that the bloodstains were on the hairnet and pants "in the form of discrete droplets of flying blood and not the result of contact with an object that is already bloody as we might find in a smear or a swipe."

Blood of the type similar to that of the defendant's was found on the door handle of the bathroom, the floor of the bathroom, on the dividing wall near the west end of the kitchen, and on the floor of the cold-storage room. The defendant's blood was also found on the front of his shirt. However, Metzger testified that he was unable to determine if the victim's blood was also on Hall's shirt because the configuration of the two blood types was such that, when mixed, the defendant's blood type could be identified but not that of the victim. The witness examined the clothing of Eugene Davis, Edward Stokes and Felton Chase, but did not find bloodstains on any of their clothing. The clothing of Henry Dancy, also examined, contained some blood, but it was determined to be not of the defendant's or victim's type.

Investigating officers testified to statements made by the defendant after King's body was found. Michael Frazier, the security chief for the Pontiac institution, said that he talked to the defendant at 7 p.m. on the night of the murder. The defendant told Frazier that he had been looking for King when he was slashed by another inmate as he was opening a door to the cold-storage area. He identified a photograph of Eugene Davis as the inmate who slashed him. Hall told Frazier that, after cutting him, Davis said that he had mistaken Hall for a food supervisor.

The next morning the defendant told Frazier that he saw King lying in a closet after Davis cut him, but before he could do anything Davis told him to run. The witness asked Hall if he knew the location of a set of missing keys, and Hall replied that, as he and Davis ran past a grease pan, the defendant heard a sound "like metal hitting metal." Frazier relayed this information to the watch commander present at the inmate kitchen and, 10 minutes later, Frazier was informed that the keys had been found in a grease pan.

Terrance Delaney, an agent with the Department of Law Enforcement, also interviewed the defendant on the day of King's death. In that interview, the defendant repeated that he had been cut by Davis when he was looking for King. The next day Delaney again talked to the defendant, and this time the witness asked Hall what his response would be if Delaney told him that his blood had been found in the oven room. Hall answered that after he had been cut and had tried unsuccessfully to get help from a corrections officer, he ran to the oven room to hide from the other inmates. Delaney testified that he asked the defendant in a later conversation to explain why the blood on his clothing matched that of the victim, and Hall replied that it only could have come from the knife that Davis used to cut him. Delaney asked his explanation of the defendant's fingerprints found in the ...

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