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03/16/88 the People of the State of v. Samuel E. Carter Et Al.

March 16, 1988





522 N.E.2d 653, 168 Ill. App. 3d 237, 118 Ill. Dec. 983 1988.IL.362

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. James M. Bailey, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE McNAMARA delivered the opinion of the court. RIZZI and FREEMAN, JJ., concur.


After a jury trial, defendants Samuel Carter and Ray C. Fergerson were convicted of the murder of Maurice Coleman and sentenced to 20 and 25 years in prison, respectively. On appeal, defendants contend the State failed to prove them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; that the State failed to prove that the beating administered to Coleman caused his death; that the trial court should have dismissed the murder indictment because Coleman did not die until 21 months after the alleged beating; that the trial court erred in denying defendants' motion for discharge based on preindictment delay; that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on the offense of involuntary manslaughter; that defendant Fergerson was denied effective assistance of counsel; that defendants' rights were violated by the admission into evidence of allegedly incriminating statements by codefendants; and that statements made by the prosecutor during his closing argument denied defendants a fair trial.

Patricia McKinley testified for the State that on July 25, 1983, she was talking with Coleman outside her apartment building. The building was owned by the El Rukn street gang, which provided 24-hour security for the building. Coleman entered the building before McKinley. When McKinley entered the building, she screamed because her apartment door was open and Coleman was carrying her record player out of her apartment. Although McKinley told Coleman to leave to avoid problems with El Rukn management, building security had already arrived. They directed McKinley to go into her bedroom. From that point on McKinley could not see what was happening in the living room.

Lewis Sims lived in an apartment two floors directly above McKinley's apartment. On the evening of July 25, 1983, Sims heard a scream and came out of his apartment to see what was happening. Sims saw five men enter McKinley's apartment. Sims descended the stairs so he could see into the apartment through a partially opened door.

Sims identified defendants as two of the men in the apartment. Sims had seen Fergerson working as a security guard at the front of the building on previous occasions. Sims saw Coleman in the apartment, on his knees and handcuffed. Sims also saw defendants hitting Coleman with black sticks. Coleman was also kicked by this group of men. Sims viewed this activity for 2 1/2 minutes before one of the men came to the door and told Sims to go back to his apartment.

Sims returned to his apartment and watched through his window. Sims saw four men, including defendants, carry Coleman out of the building into a building across the street. Approximately 20 to 25 minutes later, a van pulled up in front of the building and three men threw Coleman inside.

Mary Brown, who lived with Sims on July 25, 1983, testified that she stood with Sims looking out their apartment window, and saw the men dragging a person to the building across the street. Brown identified two of the men as defendants. Brown did not give the police this information during their initial investigation because she was afraid, since she still lived in the same apartment building.

Sims did not go to the police until November 1983, when he heard through Coleman's sister that Coleman was still in a coma. At this time, Sims identified photos of Carter and another man as two of the men involved in the beating. Sims was contacted by the police in May 1985 and asked to view some additional pictures. Carter's picture was in the group of pictures. Sims also identified Fergerson at this time while looking through books of pictures. Sims later identified both defendants in separate lineups.

The State also presented the testimony of Anthony Sumner, a former El Rukn member who knew both defendants. Sumner worked as a security guard at another El Rukn building and knew that defendants worked security at the building where this incident occurred. Sumner testified that he learned of the beating a few days after it took place in a conversation at the building with both defendants present. In this conversation, Fergerson stated they put Coleman "under arrest" and Carter said Fergerson "hit Coleman with an uppercut and then wore him out," meaning they beat him. Sumner stated that he testified at this trial in exchange for being allowed to plead guilty to conspiracy to deal drugs instead of being charged with murder.

Coleman was admitted to Jackson Park Hospital on the day of the beating and lapsed into a coma on the following day. Coleman remained in a coma until he died on April 27, 1985. Dr. Edmond Donoghue, a forensic pathologist, testified as to the post-mortem examination he conducted on Coleman. The medical records revealed that Coleman suffered from blunt trauma as the result of being hit with a blunt object. Dr. Donoghue's opinion was that Coleman died of bronchopneumonia due to a subdural hematoma due to the beating.

On appeal defendants first contend that the State failed to prove them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Sims was admittedly the only person to witness defendants beating the victim. Defendants claim that Sims' testimony was not worthy of belief because Sims was previously convicted of a felony, admittedly violated parole, and conceded instances of drug abuse. These facts were brought out during cross-examination of Sims, and it is the duty of the trier of fact to determine the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to be given their testimony. (People v. Manion (1977), 67 Ill. 2d 564, 367 N.E.2d 1313, cert. denied (1978), 435 U.S. 937, 55 L. Ed. 2d 533, 98 S. Ct. ...

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