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12/19/88 the People of the State of v. Dennis Fox

December 19, 1988





532 N.E.2d 472, 177 Ill. App. 3d 602, 126 Ill. Dec. 787 1988.IL.1831

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Earl Strayhorn, Judge, presiding.


PRESIDING JUSTICE CAMPBELL delivered the opinion of the court. BUCKLEY and O'CONNOR, JJ., concur.


Following a jury trial, defendant, Dennis Fox, was convicted of murder and two counts of armed robbery and was sentenced to concurrent terms of natural life and 30 years' imprisonment. Defendant appeals. On appeal, defendant contends (1) the trial court's refusal to ask certain voir dire questions requested by defense counsel constitutes error; (2) the trial court erred in restricting the cross-examination of an accomplice witness as to bias; (3) the State's failure to timely disclose the identity of a rebuttal witness denied defendant a fair trial; (4) the trial court abused its discretion in permitting the State to impeach defendant's testimony by admitting evidence of defendant's prior convictions; (5) the trial court improperly admitted testimony that defendant had violated his probation on a prior burglary conviction, that one of his prior convictions had been reduced from a greater charge, and as to the sentences received by defendant; (6) that he did not receive a fair trial where the trial court held one of his attorneys in contempt in the presence of the jury; (7) the trial court erred by instructing the jury before closing arguments of counsel; and (8) it is necessary to remand this cause for a hearing on whether the State exercised its peremptory challenges in a racially discriminatory manner.

At trial, Hardy Taylor testified that his brother, Elijah Taylor, was the owner and proprietor of the Impala Lounge in Chicago. He worked part time for his brother at the lounge. On the morning of December 18, 1984, he testified that he left the lounge at 2:45 a.m. When he arrived home, his wife and daughter told him that Elijah had been shot. When he reached the hospital, he was informed that his brother was dead.

Ruby Terrell, Elijah Taylor's girlfriend, testified that she was a part-time employee at the Impala Lounge and also worked as a barmaid at the Dynasty Lounge. Terrell stated that Elijah Taylor was also known by the name of Peter. She testified that on December 18, 1984, she finished work at the Dynasty Lounge at about 2 a.m. and went to the Impala Lounge. After dropping two friends off, she waited for Elijah Taylor in his car in front of the lounge. When he came out of the lounge, Taylor was carrying a brown paper bag containing a dozen eggs and sausage and they drove to Taylor's home, where they intended to cook breakfast. She stated that when they reached Taylor's building, she followed Taylor through the building's first door, which did not require a key, into the vestibule. As Taylor unlocked a second door, which led to a stairway, she heard a noise and returned to the first door to close it. Before she could close the door, she saw a man standing in the doorway with a long-barrelled pistol and he shot Elijah Taylor. Terrell identified defendant in court as the gunman. After the defendant shot Taylor, he told Taylor to give him the money and the two struggled first on the stairway and then in the vestibule. Taylor responded that he had no money. The defendant called for someone to help him. A second man appeared and they both wrestled Taylor to the ground. The defendant told the second man to get Taylor's wallet and coat. Before the two men left, the defendant pulled a chain off Terrell's neck and took her coat and purse. Thereafter, the two men fled. Elijah Taylor died later that day of a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Subsequently, Terrell identified defendant in a lineup.

Robert Young, Elijah Taylor's neighbor, testified that after he heard loud talking and a chain hitting the ground across the street, he looked out his window and saw two men running across his lawn. He heard a car door slam and an engine start from the rear of his house. Young stated that one man was tall and was wearing a blue jacket, a red scarf on his neck and white sneakers. The other man was short and had white shoes on.

Kenneth Walls, a codefendant, testified pursuant to a plea agreement with the State under which the murder charge against him would be dropped and the State would recommend concurrent 10-year sentences on the armed robberies in this case and in another case. He testified that on the evening of December 17, 1984, he was drinking and taking narcotics. At about 1:30 a.m. he drove his uncle's car to a restaurant with the defendant, Keith Coleman and Nathan Haley. The restaurant was located across from the Impala Lounge. As the four men ate in the car, Coleman said that the lounge across the street was Pete's lounge and that Pete kept money on him and they should rob him. Coleman was a regular patron of the Impala Lounge and Walls had been there previously with him. Coleman walked over to the lounge, ostensibly to buy cigarettes, and returned and informed the others that the lounge was about to close. As Walls and the others were sitting in the restaurant parking lot, they observed Pete's car drive away and return about 15 minutes later. Walls testified that Elijah Taylor then came out of the lounge carrying a brown paper bag. Coleman identified the man as "Pete" and said there might be money in the bag. Defendant suggested that they follow the car. Defendant asked Haley to go with him to rob Taylor. As defendant and Haley got out of the car, Walls saw the handle of a gun inside defendant's pants.

Walls further testified that defendant and Haley ran between two buildings, stopped for a few seconds, and then ran out of sight. After a few minutes, Walls heard a woman screaming. A minute later defendant and Haley returned to the car and defendant had a gun in his right hand and a beige coat wrapped around his arm. Haley was carrying a woman's purse. Walls drove off quickly at defendant's instruction. Walls testified that while he was driving, defendant and Haley went through the contents of Ruby Terrell's purse and Taylor's wallet but found no money. Walls testified that defendant was wearing a black leather jacket, black pants and white gym shoes. Haley was wearing a light blue down coat, a maroon scarf and a black and white sweater, black pants and white shoes.

On behalf of the defendant, his cousin, Lacquette Ford, testified. She stated that during December 1984, she was staying at defendant's apartment along with Michael Williams. On December 17, 1984, she and defendant had given a birthday party for a friend named Rhonda. The guests began arriving at 8 p.m. and included Kenneth Walls and Keith Coleman. Defendant was wearing dress pants, a sweater and dress shoes. Between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. Ford received a telephone call informing her that her mother was ill. She left the party and returned at 2 a.m. or 2:30 a.m. The party was still in progress and defendant was at the apartment. Coleman and Walls had left. Ford went to bed at 4 a.m., at which time defendant was already asleep on the couch. Ford testified that defendant did not leave the apartment between the time she returned and the time she went to bed.

Michael Williams testified that in December 1984 he was staying at the apartment of defendant, whom he had met through his friend Nathan Haley. On December 17, 1984, they gave a birthday party for Rhonda Gloss. The guests included Lacquette Ford, Kenneth Walls, Nathan Haley, Keith Coleman and others. Williams remained at the party until 1:30 a.m. and left the party to see his mother. Williams returned to the party at 2 a.m., at which time defendant was still at the party. Williams testified that defendant did not leave the apartment before going to sleep at 3:30 a.m. while Williams was still awake and cleaning up from the party.

Defendant testified on his own behalf and stated that he was not involved in the crime. On December 18, 1984, defendant stated that he was not wearing a leather jacket or gym shoes but was wearing gray dress pants which were not dark. He did not remember what Haley was wearing at the ...

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