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March 30, 1994


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Ralph Reyna, Judge Presiding.

Greiman, Rizzi, Cerda

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Greiman

JUSTICE GREIMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

Following a bench trial, defendant Julius "Maurice" Waters was convicted of two counts of first degree murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 9-1-A(1)) and sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment with credit for 460 days previously served. On appeal defendant alleges that the prosecution committed reversible error by introducing irrelevant evidence of his gang affiliation at trial, and failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

We affirm the trial court.

On April 7, 1990, defendant was charged with two counts of first degree murder for the killing of Howard Lane (victim). Defendant filed a motion to quash arrest and suppress statements on December 11, 1990 which was denied after a hearing, and then waived his right to a jury trial. At the bench trial on June 14, 1991 the State presented the evidence that follows.

Tommy Langston testified that on April 7, 1990, his brother (victim) asked for an ounce of cocaine which he needed to give to defendant, their mutual friend. At 1 p.m., the victim left Langston's company to deliver the cocaine to defendant in an abandoned garage which served as a meeting place to deal drugs. Later that afternoon, Langston learned that defendant had shot an unidentified person in the garage and spoke with defendant about his alibi; defendant responded, "I got it together, I was on 74th and Ashland at that restaurant." Langston also testified that he saw defendant with a .38 caliber handgun a few days before the victim was shot, and denied ever seeing the victim carry a gun.

Howard Lane, Sr., the victim's father, testified that on the morning of April 7, 1990, he and the victim discussed the condition of the brakes on his van. Later that morning, Lane heard the victim talking on the phone with defendant. While working on the van which was parked approximately half a block from the abandoned garage, Lane saw defendant walk toward him, exchange greetings and then continue towards the abandoned garage. When the victim came out of the house and asked Lane if he had seen defendant, Lane responded that defendant had walked towards the garage; the victim then headed towards the garage. Shortly thereafter, Lane heard a noise that sounded like a "pop" come from the direction of the garage; however, Lane did not see anyone leave the garage since he stood away from the entrance. After Lane finished working on the van he picked up his wife and returned home where the police and an ambulance were waiting.

Pearson Haynes testified that on the day in question at approximately 1:30 p.m. he went to the abandoned garage to find the victim lying motionless on the floor and then called the police.

It was stipulated that the victim died from one gunshot wound to the head, and that the bullet recovered from the victim's brain was a .38 special bullet.

The State next called Calvin Snipe, a 12-year-old boy who with his brother had been living with the victim's family for five months before the trial. Calvin testified that on the day in question he was playing basketball with three friends in an alley behind his friend Cory Robinson's house which is located near the abandoned garage. While the boys played and Calvin's brother Bryant watched the game, defendant approached and asked to take a shot at the basket, which he did before leaving in the direction of the garage.

Bryant Snipe, Calvin's nine-year-old brother, was found competent by the Judge and testified to the events described by Calvin except to add that he saw the victim standing in the doorway of the garage, that he saw both the victim and defendant go into the garage and that about one minute later he heard a gunshot sounding from the garage. Bryant also testified that he did not see the victim leave the garage but saw defendant leave the garage and run towards 74th Street.

Chicago Police Detective Michael Kill testified that on the day in question he inspected the scene of the shooting before proceeding to the hospital where the victim was taken and then to the home of the victim's parents to inform them of their son's critical condition. With the information received from the victim's parents, Detective Kill then went to defendant's house and placed defendant under arrest. When questioned about the shooting, defendant told Detective Kill that he knew nothing about the shooting, was never near or even walked past the garage earlier in the day and did not have a gun nor any gang affiliations. Detective Kill informed defendant that people had seem him in the vicinity of the garage that day, to which defendant stated that no one would have seen him shoot the victim in the garage since he was at home all day helping his grandfather.

Detective Kill also testified to a second and third conversation with defendant regarding the shooting during which defendant altered his earlier statement. During the second conversation, defendant stated on the day in question he received a phone call from the victim asking him to accompany the victim while delivering some cocaine and that later in the day someone named "Arvin" came to his house and told him that the victim wanted to see him. Defendant told Detective Kill that he went behind the abandoned garage to an empty lot, did not find the victim, walked down the alley to shoot some baskets with Calvin and Bryant Snipe and then went to a restaurant. Defendant also stated that he was a member of the Black Gangster Disciples street gang. When Detective Kill confronted defendant with the ...

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