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06/06/89 the People of the State of v. Marina Brown

June 6, 1989





540 N.E.2d 500, 184 Ill. App. 3d 569, 132 Ill. Dec. 760 1989.IL.849

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Arthur J. Cieslik, Judge, presiding.


PRESIDING JUSTICE BILANDIC delivered the opinion of the court. SCARIANO and DIVITO, JJ., concur.


Defendant, Marina Brown, was jointly indicted with codefendants Sherman Addison and Annie Robinson for murder, armed robbery, home invasion and residential burglary. Defendant Brown and Addison were tried together before the same jury. Robinson was tried simultaneously before a separate jury. Defendant Brown was found guilty of armed robbery, home invasion and residential burglary and not guilty of murder. She was sentenced to two concurrent extended-term sentences of 50 years. Addison and Robinson were found guilty of all offenses, including murder. Defendant Brown appeals her conviction and sentence.

The evidence presented at trial by the State against defendant Marina Brown was as follows.

On Valentine's Day, February 14, 1985, Della Hamilton and her grandson went to visit her best friend, 69-year-old Helen Smith, at Smith's home at 5235 W. Washington, Chicago, Illinois. Della helped Smith tidy up the house. Nyona Barton, Della's granddaughter, had also been to Smith's home a few days earlier.

Nyona knew defendant Marina Brown for about four years. A few months prior to February 1985, defendant lived with Nyona and Della. During this time, defendant went with Della to Smith's home to help her do things around the house, including rearranging the bedroom and drawers.

During the six days following Valentine's Day, Della tried to reach Smith by telephone but without success. On February 20, 1989, Della and Nyona went to Smith's home, where they found her dead. The home was in shambles.

Detective Richard Schak arrived at Smith's home to investigate her death. His investigation revealed that there were no signs of forced entry. The detective also observed the condition of Smith's body. She was naked from her waist up. Her bra was pulled down around her waist. Her slip was soaked in body fluids and what appeared to be blood. An elastic bandage was used to bind her ankles. A scarf, coiled around her neck, bound her shoulders and continued under her armpits in a full Nelson pattern. The scarf was tied in a knot at the center of her back and then connected to a door knob with another knot. The detective also observed egg shells on the body. A can of red paint had been tipped onto the floor next to the body. A small hunting knife, with traces of blood on it, was found in the front porch area. Also, a 1 1/2-foot-long plumbing pipe, with traces of blood and hair on it, was found about 12 feet from the body.

The medical examiner testified that the body was in a state of post-mortem decomposition. Cause of death was ligature strangulation and blunt head trauma. He also noted a stab wound on the left calf.

The investigation into Smith's death continued with no progress for one month. A significant development occurred when a Larry Minniefield was arrested for shoplifting in March of 1985. Minniefield had a record of prior convictions for robbery, armed robbery, and possession of marijuana. At this time, he told police that he could provide them with some information regarding a murder and that certain items of evidence could be found at his apartment.

At trial, Minniefield's testimony established that in February 1985, co-defendant Annie Robinson was his girlfriend. Shortly after Valentine's Day, Robinson, Addison and defendant went to his apartment. Robinson introduced Addison as "Lewis" and defendant as "Sugar."

Robinson was wearing a radio headset, and defendant and Addison were each carrying a pillowcase filled with items. Robinson was covered with a red, dye-like substance, and Addison had some light red substance on his boots. Robinson had teeth marks on her right hand. Minniefield accompanied Robinson into the bathroom, where she went to wash off the dye. In the other room, defendant and Addison were arguing over who would keep which items of property, which included an answering machine, a portable television, a tiny television, jewelry and a small caliber pistol.

Minniefield stated that the others were drinking liquor and defendant and Addison were saying that they had searched Smith's room but had not found the money. Robinson was trying to tell Minniefield what had happened but defendant told her to shut up. Everyone was taking off their clothes and sorting through the items, which included some ...

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