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People v. Linscott





Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Adam N. Stillo, Judge, JUSTICE MORAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant, Steven Linscott, was charged with the rape and murder of Karen Anne Phillips, a 24-year-old student who lived near defendant. A Cook County jury found defendant guilty of murder but found him not guilty of rape. He was sentenced to 40 years' imprisonment. A majority of the appellate court reversed, finding that defendant was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. (135 Ill. App.3d 773.) We granted the State's petition for leave to appeal (103 Ill.2d R. 315).

A single question is presented for review: Was defendant proved guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt?

On October 4, 1980, Karen Anne Phillips was found dead in her apartment in Oak Park. Police found Phillips' body face down and naked, except for a nightgown around her neck. Her head was covered with blood, and there were numerous wounds on her body. The index finger and thumb on each of her hands were pressed together to form an "O".

A friend of the victim's, Helen Pallela, identified the "O" hand signals as "ommudras," symbols used in the particular Hindu denomination to which both Pallela and the victim belonged. Pallela, a swami at the Kriya Yoga Temple in Chicago, explained that the "ommudra" signifies the search for peace and the passive acceptance of death.

Mohammad Azadejn, a student who lived in the apartment next to the victim, heard voices and pounding coming from the victim's apartment at about 12:45 to one o'clock on the morning of October 4. Although he could not make out what was being said, he thought it was some sort of argument. He knocked on the victim's door and received no answer. After going back to his apartment he again heard an argument, this time in whispers, and heard more pounding.

On the afternoon of October 4, Oak Park police canvassed the neighborhood, and spoke with defendant, who lived in the building immediately next to that of the victim. The police asked defendant and his wife if they had seen or heard anything strange at about one o'clock that morning. The police mentioned that someone had been murdered.

According to defendant, at this point he remembered a vivid dream from the previous night. The dream, which had occurred at about 1 a.m., involved a brutal beating. However, he did not mention the dream to the police at this time. Thereafter defendant discussed the dream with his wife and two friends, who advised him to tell the police about it and let them decide whether the dream was significant. On October 6, two days after the murder, defendant called the police, and briefly related the dream to Officer Robert Scianna of the Oak Park police department. At Scianna's direction defendant produced a written version of the dream, which Scianna picked up the following day. The next day, October 8, defendant came to the police station and gave the first of two tape-recorded interviews. In the first interview defendant described the dream to Officers Scianna and Ronald Grego, and, following Scianna's and Grego's requests, defendant speculated on the possible characteristics and motivations of the assailant. Two days later, on October 10, defendant gave the second taped interview before Scianna, Grego, and Jim McCarter, an assistant State's Attorney. This second interview was mainly a repetition of defendant's earlier statements. Defendant then accompanied the officers to a hospital where he gave samples of blood, saliva, and hair. After returning from the hospital the officers accused defendant of committing the murder, a charge which defendant vehemently denied. Defendant was not arrested, however, until November 25, more than a month later.

The State's primary evidence at trial was defendant's own statements. In defendant's account his "dream" began with a man taking a few steps toward another person. Defendant could see the man quite well, but could not quite make out the other person. The two people engaged in what appeared to be an amicable conversation. However, defendant could not hear what was being said. After about 20 minutes of this conversation defendant noticed a sinister change come over the man, a change signaled by a "perverse" smile that suddenly appeared on the man's face. The man produced a metal instrument from behind his back and held it up. At this point defendant woke up, and walked around his apartment for a few minutes in an attempt to "shake it off." He thought he looked at his watch and remembered it being some time around 2 a.m. He then went back to sleep, and the dream resumed with the man in the process of beating the other person.

There were a number of parallels between defendant's statements and the actual crime. Officer Scianna testified that in his initial telephone conversations defendant had told him he thought the weapon in the dream had been a tire iron. The police in fact had found a bloodied tire iron in the bushes next to the victim's building, and the blood and hairs on the instrument were found to be consistent with that of the victim. There were also several striking correlations between defendant's tape-recorded accounts of his "dream" and the evidence as to the actual murder. In defendant's dream the victim was beaten repeatedly, which was consistent with the actual victim's multiple wounds and bruises. Also, in defendant's dream the victim was beaten downwards, which was consistent with the position of the actual victim's corpse and the rug burns on her knees and elbows. Further, in defendant's dream blood was splattered all around the victim and attacker; blood was found splattered around the victim at the actual crime scene. In addition, in defendant's dream the victim passively accepted the beating. This fact is consistent with the presence of the "ommudra" hand signals, which are used to signify the passive acceptance of death.

The setting of the dream attack had some correlation to the actual crime scene, although there were also differences. In defendant's account of his dream the attack occurred in what appeared to him to be a "living room setting." Defendant said he thought that there was a couch in the room, and also said that "there might have been a stereo or something like that around. Not that I see that in my dream at all, but there was just that I had the impression that it was a living room and possibly it was something like that which would give me that impression." The actual victim was found in the main room of her studio apartment, which contained a stereo but no couch.

In addition, defendant's description of the dream assailant bore some resemblance to the defendant himself. He described the attacker as having short blond hair and a light complexion, and he thought the attacker had been wearing a short-sleeved terry-cloth shirt with stripes on the chest. At the time of his first tape-recorded statement defendant, who has short blond hair and a light complexion, was wearing a short-sleeved knit shirt with terry cloth and stripes on the sleeves. However, the dream assailant was described as being between 5 feet 5 inches and 5 feet 7 inches, and was in his thirties, while defendant was about 6 feet tall and was 26 years old at the time of the murder.

In response to the police officers' suggestions that perhaps he had "psychic" powers, defendant agreed to speculate as to the attacker's personal life and psychological makeup. However, he repeatedly stated that there was nothing in the dream regarding these areas, and thus the best he could offer were guesses deduced from the visual images, and from his knowledge of psychology. When asked if the attacker was married defendant replied, "Well, it's a possibility * * * if he's not married perhaps he's been married, because he seemed real at ease, you know, with the opposite sex, not like an older single fellow." When asked if the attacker had children he said that he did not know, but that it seemed that the attacker could have been a family man. When asked if the attacker had any remorse for his actions defendant stated "I would hope so, but it's probable that he's somewhat eaten out. He might be seared enough — conscious seared so that he can put it away." Asked if the attacker would "unconsciously want to be caught," defendant replied "I think so. I kind of think so — just my impressions of this guy * * * I used to be a psyche major and I know that some people will do that subconsciously — leave a trace, you know." Later the police officers suggested that perhaps they could use defendant's psychic powers to get a message to the attacker. Officer Sciana asked, "How will we know that we got through to him * * * I mean, is he going to call me up and say, hey, guess who I am?" Defendant responded that "It's a possibility. Stranger things have happened."

Defendant also attempted to describe the victim as best he could, but the description was very sketchy. At first he said that he was not sure of the victim's sex or features, since the dream "focused on [the attacker]." Later in the taped statements, however, he refers to the victim as "she" or "her." He also said that he "had the impression" that the victim might be black, a fact which did not correlate to the actual victim, who was white.

In addition to defendant's statements, the State introduced comparisons between physical evidence found at the crime scene and blood and hair standards taken from both defendant and the victim. Vaginal fluid taken from the victim showed type "O" ABO blood type only. This was consistent with a mixing of fluid from the victim, who had type "O" blood, and defendant, who has type "AB" blood but was a "non-secretor," i.e., his ABO blood typing is not secreted into his other bodily fluids. However, 20% of the population are also nonsecretors, and the evidence was also consistent with the mixing of the victim's fluids with that of a "secretor" with type "O" blood, a category which includes nearly half of the population.

The State's expert also tested the vaginal fluid for two other blood identifiers called "gamma factors." However, because the victim's blood standard tested positive for the presence of both gamma factors, the expert admitted that the vaginal-fluid sample would also test positive for both factors regardless of the identity of the assailant.

Finally, the State's expert concluded that several of the head and pubic hairs found in the apartment were "consistent" with standards taken from defendant. A study referred to in the testimony found that only one in 4,500 people would have consistent head hairs when the hairs were tested for comparison of 40 different characteristics, and only one in 800 people would have consistent pubic hairs. However, the State's expert could not remember which characteristics he had compared, and could remember only that he tested somewhere between eight and 12 different characteristics. In addition, he testified that several head-hair fragments and one pubic hair found in the victim's apartment had originated from a black person, and thus could not have originated from either defendant or the victim.

As this court stated in People v. Collins (1985), 106 Ill.2d 237, 261, cert. denied (1985), 474 U.S. 935, 88 L.Ed.2d 274, 106 S.Ct. 267, "[w]hen presented with a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, it is not the function of this court to retry the defendant." It is the jury's function to assess the credibility of witnesses and to determine the weight of and inferences to be drawn from the evidence. (People v. Bradford (1985), 106 Ill.2d 492, 502; People v. Brisbon (1985), 106 Ill.2d 342, 360, cert. denied (1985), 474 U.S. 908, 88 L.Ed.2d 241, 106 S.Ct. 276.) A reviewing court will only set aside a verdict when the evidence is so unsatisfactory as to raise a reasonable doubt as to the defendant's guilt. (People v. Adams (1985), 109 Ill.2d 102, 115; People v. Bradford (1985), 106 Ill.2d 492, 502; People v. Brisbon (1985), 106 Ill.2d 342, 360.) The verdict will not be disturbed unless the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, is such that no rational trier of fact could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. People v. Collins (1985), 106 Ill.2d 237, 261.

In the present case we do not feel that the evidence is so unsatisfactory that no rational trier of fact could find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Defendant voluntarily came forward with an account of a "dream" that contained many unusual details which correlated with the actual murder. In particular, defendant's account of the beating, his knowledge of the murder weapon, and his knowledge of the victim's passive acceptance of the attack showed knowledge of the crime which would not likely be available to anyone other than the murderer. In addition, the matching of defendant's hairs to those found at the crime scene, while not conclusive in itself, nonetheless provides additional support to the jury's verdict. Given this evidence the jurors need not have believed that defendant merely had a strangely coincidental dream, nor need they have believed that defendant had a genuine psychic experience. The evidence presented supports the conclusion that defendant's account of his "dream" was in fact revealing details of the actual crime from defendant's personal knowledge, and thus ...

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