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People v. Gibons





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Leonard R. Grazian, Judge, presiding.


Following a joint jury trial defendants, Jacqueline Gibons, Barry Wilson and Robert St. Pierre, were found guilty of the murders of Benjamin and Sybil Gibons, defendant Gibons' adoptive parents, two counts of conspiracy to commit murder, two counts of armed robbery and two counts of concealment of a homicidal death. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, pars. 9-1(a)(1), (a)(2), (a)(3), 8-2(a), 18-2(a), 9-3.1(a).) Gibons and Wilson were sentenced to natural-life imprisonment for the murders, two extended terms of 60 years, to be served consecutively, for the armed robberies of the victims, two concurrent terms of 7 years for conspiracy to commit murder and two concurrent terms of 5 years for concealment of the homicidal deaths of the victims. St. Pierre was sentenced to death; the court entered judgments but no sentences on the other counts. St. Pierre is not a party to this appeal.

On appeal, Gibons contends that: (1) the trial court erred in denying her petition for severance in violation of her rights to a fair trial, to confront witnesses against her, and to present evidence in her defense; (2) the State failed to prove her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the armed robbery of Sybil Gibons; (3) the "death qualification" of prospective jurors during voir dire resulted in a biased jury favoring the prosecution in violation of her right to an impartial jury representing a fair cross-section of the community; and (4) the court erred in imposing extended terms of 60 years for armed robbery. Wilson contends that: (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion for severance in violation of his right to a fair trial; (2) the court improperly permitted the State to introduce evidence concerning a burglary of the Gibons' residence; (3) the State failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the armed robberies of both victims; and (4) his sentences were excessive. Both defendants also contend that the court erred in sentencing them for the inchoate offense of conspiracy to commit murder. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse Gibons' and Wilson's convictions and remand their cases for new, and separate, trials.

The record reveals that on July 29, 1982, Benjamin and Sybil Gibons, both approximately 62 years of age, were murdered in their home in Skokie, Illinois. On August 10, 1982, their bodies were found in a remote area of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Both had been beaten to death and the tip of one of Mrs. Gibons' fingers appeared to have been cut off.

Testimony at trial disclosed that on July 27, 1982, Detective Greg McLaughlin of the Skokie police department was assigned to investigate a burglary of the Gibons' residence. During his conversation with the Gibons, McLaughlin learned that defendant Gibons had told her parents that Wilson telephoned her earlier that day, told her he had fallen through a window of the house and that Gibons should "clean up the mess" before her parents discovered it. When Mr. Gibons later failed to appear before a judge the next day concerning the complaint he had signed, McLaughlin placed a call to the Gibons' residence on July 29, defendant Gibons answered and she told him her father was not at home. McLaughlin called again, on July 31, and received the same response from Gibons.

On August 2, Harriet Metrick, Mrs. Gibons' sister, called the police because she had been told by the senior Gibons' employers that they had not shown up for work. Police officers and Ms. Metrick went to the Gibons' home and entered the house when no one answered the doorbell. Detective McLaughlin arrived shortly thereafter. He found holes cut in the living room carpet and sofa, cleaning fluids and blood-soaked rags and towels scattered about, blood splattered throughout the kitchen, living room and master bedroom, and a large hole broken through the wall between the bedroom closet and the garage. Mr. Gibons' wallet was discovered in the kitchen with a traffic ticket in it describing a 1982 Buick automobile. A belt was found in the bedroom with St. Pierre's name and prison number on it. Further inspection of the garage revealed garbage bags containing bloodstained carpeting, gloves, clothing, and a hammer covered with masonry dust. The automobile was not in the garage, nor were the Gibons on the premises.

McLaughlin further testified he went to the police station to make out a report, then unsuccessfully tried to locate Wilson and Craig Rawlins, a friend of Wilson's. On August 3, McLaughlin met with Gibons; she had been brought to the police station at her own request. At that time, Gibons told McLaughlin how her parents had been killed, implicated Wilson and St. Pierre, *fn1 told McLaughlin that Wilson was in Los Angeles, California, with Craig Rawlins, and gave him St. Pierre's address.

Gibons further related, in a formal written statement, that six months prior to the murders Wilson "started hinting" that he was "really thinking of killing her parents" and that he later told her he had bought sleeping pills and a gun with a silencer. During that time, Gibons stated there was never any discussion about her paying Wilson to kill her parents and that she did not think he was serious "until it really happened." On July 28, Wilson called Gibons, she told him her parents were considering pressing charges against him, and he told her he needed some money because her parents were "going down" that evening. The conversation ended when Gibons told Wilson she did not have any money and that she would have to get it the next day. On July 29, Wilson came to Gibons' office, they met with St. Pierre in an alley, and Wilson told her St. Pierre would kill her parents for $300. Although she stated she was in shock and thought that "it was just a game," she agreed to pay St. Pierre. Wilson then told Gibons to open the door of her home later that evening and St. Pierre "would come and do it," and he would "come a little later." At approximately 6 p.m., St. Pierre arrived at the Gibons' home, Gibons and her father admitted him, she went into the living room, and St. Pierre, having picked up a hammer which was lying on a chair in the hallway, followed Mr. Gibons into the kitchen where he killed him by beating him to death with the hammer. Gibons stated that after she heard the "hammering," she opened the front door and Wilson came in. He and St. Pierre wrapped Mr. Gibons' body in a blanket and placed it in the master bedroom. Prior to placing the body in the bedroom, Wilson came into the bedroom and gave Gibons her father's wallet from which she took all of his credit cards.

Thereafter, at approximately 7 p.m., Detective McLaughlin called to speak to Gibons' parents and she told him they were not at home. Mrs. Gibons called 10 minutes later and asked defendant Gibons to pick her up from the train station. Instead of doing so immediately, the defendants drove to a hardware store where Wilson purchased some plastic bags, a roll of tape and sheets of plastic which he said were for tying up Mrs. Gibons' body. When they returned to the Gibons' house, Mrs. Gibons again called to ask defendant Gibons to pick her up. Gibons then left to pick up her mother from the train station. After meeting her, defendant Gibons suggested they go for a drive before going home, her mother declined and Gibons drove home. When Mrs. Gibons entered the house, St. Pierre attacked her with the hammer and beat her to death. Wilson and St. Pierre then wrapped her body in a blanket and plastic and placed it in the bedroom. After they cleaned up the house, Wilson drove Gibons and St. Pierre to a hotel, left them there and drove away. During the drive, St. Pierre stated that "he did it [the murders] for them" and "they should thank him." Gibons responded that she agreed with him.

The next day defendants returned to the house, Wilson and St. Pierre knocked a hole through the wall of the bedroom to the garage, Gibons helped them push the victims' bodies through the hole, and Wilson and St. Pierre placed them in the trunk of the victims' car. Defendants then drove off in the car. After dropping St. Pierre off at his home, Wilson and Gibons drove around for awhile and discussed "how crazy St. Pierre was" and the fact that Mrs. Gibons' finger had been sliced "because of the ring and who did it." At one point, Wilson stopped at a hotel and showed the bodies to some "black dude." He dropped Gibons off downtown around midnight and told her he was going to take the bodies to Arkansas to be buried by his cousin.

On August 3, Assistant State's Attorney James Lieberman took a statement from St. Pierre. St. Pierre stated that he met Wilson in mid-July 1982. Toward the end of July Wilson told him he had a job for him, that Gibons wanted her parents killed and that St. Pierre would get $1,000 to $10,000 if he killed them. After this conversation, they went to the Gibons' home and Wilson broke in through a window. They were "suppose to get money," but Wilson only came out of the house with some food. On July 29, he met with Wilson and Gibons in an alley. Wilson told Gibons that St. Pierre wanted her to tell him that she wanted her parents killed, and Gibons nodded and said "Yes." They then planned "how they would do it." Wilson and Gibons doing most of the talking and deciding they would use a hammer. After getting $35 from Gibons, Wilson and St. Pierre had lunch and then drank a 12-pack of beer. Later, they went to a bar and had another drink before taking a train out to Skokie. At approximately 5 p.m. they went to a restaurant, Wilson gave St. Pierre the restaurant's telephone number, and St. Pierre left him there and went to the Gibons' home.

St. Pierre further stated that when he arrived at the Gibons' home, defendant Gibons gave him a hammer and asked him to put some gloves on. Refusing to put the gloves on, he followed Mr. Gibons into the kitchen and killed him with the hammer. He then gave Gibons the restaurant's telephone number and she called Wilson who arrived shortly thereafter. After wrapping up Mr. Gibons' body, they cleaned up the kitchen and had a drink. Gibons then left to pick up her mother. Subsequently, while waiting for Mrs. Gibons to arrive, St. Pierre stated that he and Wilson were drinking in the basement, he took a $20 bill from Mr. Gibons' wallet, which he had taken from the victim, and Wilson took the rest. Later, Wilson gave him another $20 bill. St. Pierre also stated that when passing Mrs. Gibons' body through the hole in the closet wall he noticed that someone had cut her finger off apparently for the purpose of removing a diamond ring from her finger which he earlier had unsuccessfully tried to remove after killing her. St. Pierre's further account of the events following the murders until the time Wilson left Illinois were similar to those of his co-defendants.

McLaughlin also testified that the police learned that instead of going to Arkansas, Wilson drove to Los Angeles to see Craig Rawlins. When Wilson arrived at Rawlins' home, he called Gibons and asked her to send him some money so he could return to Chicago, which she did. Thereafter, the police traced Wilson and Rawlins to Rawlins' father's home in Phoenix, Arizona. On August 5, McLaughlin and Sergeant Phillip O'Keefe flew to Phoenix to speak with Rawlins who was in police custody. Rawlins told McLaughlin that, while he and Wilson were in Phoenix, Wilson told him that "he and St. Pierre had killed the Gibons — St. Pierre killed the Gibons with a hammer," that defendant Gibons called Wilson to come over after Mr. Gibons was killed, that she later picked up Mrs. Gibons from the train station and St. Pierre killed her after she entered the house, that he helped clean up the house, that he helped knock a hole in the closet wall and push the victims' bodies through it, and that he helped put the bodies in the trunk of the victims' car. Wilson also told Rawlins he had wanted to bring the bodies to Los Angeles to show him, but instead had "dropped" them off near Albuquerque, New Mexico. Wilson further told Rawlins that "Jackie would get the insurance money, but didn't say he [Wilson] would."

McLaughlin also interviewed Wilson who had been taken into custody along with Rawlins. Wilson told McLaughlin he would help them find the victims' bodies and said they were in Missouri. When McLaughlin stated the police knew Wilson had not been in Missouri, Wilson said he could not remember where he had dropped them off because he had been drunk during his drive to Los Angeles. Subsequently, the officers returned to Chicago with Wilson. During the flight, Wilson made an oral statement to Sergeant O'Keefe, telling him he was not present when St. Pierre killed Mr. Gibons, he went to the house after defendant Gibons called him at a restaurant, he saw Mr. Gibons lying on the floor of the kitchen, he helped St. Pierre wrap up the body and carry it to the bedroom, and he helped clean up the kitchen. He further told O'Keefe he was not present when St. Pierre killed Mrs. Gibons, but when told his co-defendants stated he was present, he told O'Keefe he was in the hallway when she was killed. Wilson also stated he helped wrap up Mrs. Gibons' body, knock a hole in the garage wall and put the victims' bodies in the car. After dropping off defendants Gibons and St. Pierre, he drove to California.

Additionally, Wilson stated he and St. Pierre had gone to the Gibons' home looking for defendant Gibons prior to the murders, had fallen through a window and had taken some food from the refrigerator. He denied, however, that he had told Rawlins he left the bodies in New Mexico, stating he did not remember where he left them. On cross-examination, O'Keefe stated that Wilson never said he conspired with his co-defendants to kill the Gibons and he never asked Wilson about such a conspiracy. When O'Keefe did ask Wilson why he did not leave the house when he arrived and saw Mr. Gibons' body lying on the ...

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