APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIFTH DISTRICT
539 N.E.2d 1383, 184 Ill. App. 3d 90, 132 Ill. Dec. 577 1989.IL.916
Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County; the Hon. William B. Starnes, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE GOLDENHERSH delivered the opinion of the court. RARICK and CHAPMAN, JJ., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE GOLDENHERSH
After a bench trial in the circuit court of St. Clair County, defendant, Jerome Dixon, was found guilty of murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)(1)) and sentenced to 25 years in the Department of Corrections. On appeal, defendant raises the following issues: (1) whether the trial court denied his right to a trial by jury when the court repeatedly denied his motion to sever; and (2) whether he was denied his right to a fair trial when the trial Judge sitting as finder of fact preJudged defendant's case.
On December 5, 1986, an indictment was filed charging defendant as well as Carlos Wilson, Frederick Patterson, Lee West, Edward Washington and Cortez Gregory with the murder of John Weir. The public defender's office was appointed to represent the defendant but later a motion to withdraw was filed, alleging that since defendant and the other co-defendants were all represented by the public defender's office, it would give rise to a conflict of interest. The trial court granted the leave to withdraw and appointed private counsel for defendant.
Defendant's counsel filed a motion to sever on January 12, 1987, with a memorandum of law in support. On January 16, 1987, the court held a hearing on the motion to sever. However, the court granted the motion to sever only Washington from the other co-defendants and ordered that Washington be tried separately.
On February 25, 1987, defendant again presented his motion to sever but the trial court denied the motion. When the joint trial began on March 9, 1987, the trial court addressed defendant's motion in limine to exclude any codefendants' testimony regarding defendant's participation in the offense. The trial court denied the motion and defendant subsequently waived his right to a trial by jury. After jury selection, the court denied defendant's renewed motion to sever. Defendant's bench trial was conducted simultaneously with the jury trials of Wilson, West, Patterson and Gregory.
At the bench trial, the following facts were adduced. Rochelle Quilling, a resident of 43F Roosevelt Homes, saw most of the fight on October 5, 1986, because the fight occurred in the backyard of the home in which she was residing. Between 9:30 and 10 p.m. that night, her niece ran into Rochelle's sister's bedroom where Rochelle was watching television and told her that Freddie Patterson was fighting a young man. (The young man was later discovered to be John Weir, the deceased victim.) Rochelle looked out her sister's bedroom window and did not see anything. She left the window until her nephew came into the bedroom and told her that a fight started again. She then looked again and saw a group of three young men dragging Weir around the side of the building. The young men dragging Weir were Patterson, West and an unknown male.
Rochelle left the window again but came back and saw that Weir was being held up by some of the young men while others were punching and kicking him. There were about 13 young men involved in the beating. They were beating Weir in her backyard. She heard some of them yell "Kill him," and then saw some of them beating Weir with chairs. At this point, the beating had been going on for about 15 minutes. She then saw West pick up a chair and hit Weir across the chest, causing Weir to fall.
Rochelle again left the window to find her brother Randy, but he was not home. When she went back to the window, she saw that they stood Weir up again and began kicking and punching him. At this time, she left the window, going downstairs and outside into the backyard. She saw that they were still beating Weir as others held him up. West again picked up a chair and said "Let him go so I can hit him with this chair." At that point, a young man called "Peanut" (later identified by her sister, Eutha Quilling, as Rufus Lloyd) stopped West and told him not to do it because West had already hit him once.
After Rochelle left and went inside again and called the police, she came back outside. She heard Lloyd tell defendant Dixon to "stop beating the guy and fighting him," and "Quit fighting the boy and beating the boy." She then heard defendant respond that he was going to kill him because he should not be stealing from the "Folks." ("Folks" is a term for members of the Disciples street gang.) Wilson yelled, "Kill the m---- f----," and she heard Patterson say as he stood over Weir, "I don't like St. Louis jimmies no way." Patterson, Gregory, West, defendant and the rest of the group began to beat and kick Weir. During this time she saw "Winkie" (whom she later identified as Edward Washington) stand on top of the garbage can stand and jump off onto Weir's chest. Someone then yelled, "Drag him to the water. Drag him to the water." Gregory and Patterson grabbed Weir by the legs and began to drag him to the water but did not put him in the water because someone yelled "Don't put him in the water. Put him in the trunk of the car." They then dragged him from the water to the trunk of Weir's car.
During that time Benny (later identified as Elliott Johnson by Weir's aunt, Geraldine Brady) asked Wilson to stop the beating, stating, "You don't have to kill him. Just beat his ass." Wilson responded, "We going to kill this m---- f---- because he shouldn't be stealing from the Folks," and then continued to yell, "Kill that m---- f----." They eventually dragged Weir back to the car and threw him on top of the hood. She knew that all four co-defendants and defendant Dixon were members of the Disciples street gang.
Randy Quilling, Rochelle's brother, stated that on that night between 9 and 9:30 p.m., he left his girlfriend's house in Washington Park to go home to 43F Roosevelt Homes. He entered the home through the back door, went upstairs and lay down in his bedroom. Ten minutes later his niece told him that there was a fight outside and that "Freddie Patterson has just busted a dude in the face." He went downstairs and opened the back door but saw that everyone was gone. He looked around the corner of the house and saw people holding a young man up by the shoulder.
Randy went back inside and into the living room. Twenty minutes later he heard a great deal of arguing outside and again went outside through the back door. He saw five or six young men dragging Weir by his feet from the side of the house to the trash can support. Four men picked Weir up and Patterson began to beat Weir in the face. Washington was also involved in beating Weir. Eventually, more of the young men began to beat up Weir. Wilson said, "Kill him. Kill him." At that time they let Weir go and he fell to the ground. Soon thereafter, Washington stood on top of the trash can support and jumped onto Weir's chest. Washington then beat Weir in the chest with a chair. Someone then yelled, "Throw him in the water." As they again began to drag Weir, Johnson said, "Don't throw him in the water." When they dragged Weir back, Patterson kicked Weir in the chest. Randy then called the police. Defendant yelled, "Throw the s--- of a b---- into the trunk." At that time Patterson checked Weir's pulse and stated that he was dead and that they should leave. Randy knew that defendant and his co-defendants were members of the Disciples street gang.
Eutha Quilling, 29 years old, sister of Rochelle and Randy, also lived at 43F Roosevelt Homes. Around 9:30 to 10 p.m. on October 5, she was in her bedroom watching television. At approximately 9:45 p.m. she heard some "cussing and hollering" in her backyard. When she looked out her bedroom window, she saw Patterson and another young man ...