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June 3, 1994



Petition for Leave to Appeal Denied October 6, 1994.

Gordon, Murray, McNULTY*

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gordon

JUSTICE GORDON delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant, Ronald West, was found guilty of first degree murder after a bench trial and was sentenced to 40 years' imprisonment. On appeal, defendant contends that he was denied a fair trial when the trial court excluded a prior consistent statement that he made to police. Defendant also argues that the trial court committed reversible error when it refused to allow cross-examination of a police officer on the issue of the voluntariness of his confession at trial because it had already heard evidence on that issue during a motion to suppress. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Defendant was arrested and charged with first degree murder in connection with the death of Howard Powers who was shot four times in the head. Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion to quash his arrest and a motion to suppress statements that he made to police. At the hearing on the motion to suppress, Detectives Kato and Sommerville, who arrested and interviewed defendant, testified that they did not threaten, coerce or strike defendant during the interview. They testified that defendant gave a statement in which he admitted shooting the victim accidently. Detective Sommerville testified that defendant then recanted that statement when he was confronted with a body count diagram showing four bullet holes at the rear of the victim's head. According to Sommerville, upon seeing the diagram defendant stated, "that looks like an execution. I did not fire the gun. I was in the back seat." The testimony of the two police witnesses was corroborated by assistant State's Attorney Barbaro who stated that he was present with Detective Sommerville when he was interrogating defendant. The trial court subsequently denied both of defendant's motions.

A bench trial was held at which the following facts and evidence were revealed. On February 14, 1988, at approximately 4:15 p.m. police officers arrived at 650 N. Kedzie Ave in response to an accident call. They found the victim's 1983 gray Lincoln Town car on the sidewalk wedged between a building and a tree. The victim, Howard Powers, was in the driver's seat and was bleeding from his head. There was blood on the driver's headrest, the glove compartment, the back seat behind the driver, the rear passenger door and in the snow outside that door. Only the rear passenger door was operable after the accident.

Dr. Kirschner, deputy chief medical examiner, testified that his autopsy revealed that the victim died from four gunshot wounds to the head. The first entered directly above the left ear passed through the brain and exited from the right side of the victim's scalp. The second entered behind the victim's right ear and exited from his left cheek. The third entered right below the second, passed through the neck and then lodged in the rear aspect of the mouth. The fourth bullet entered the rear of the head just to the right of the midline and lodged in the left side of the brain. There was no evidence of close range firing, but Dr. Kirschner stated that it would be difficult to determine whether the shots were fired from closer than 12 inches without having the weapon in question.

Ivory Brown, the victim's father, testified that defendant sold drugs for the victim. Brown said that at 7 p.m. on February 12, 1988, the victim, Tina Fairman, Richard West, "Newbaby" and "Grayhound" were at his home. According to Brown, the victim was also there the next night with defendant and they left together. Ramon Rollins, Newbaby and possibly Grayhound were also there at that time.

Tina Fairman stated that at approximately 2:45 p.m. on the date of the incident she was on a bus which was stopped at the intersection of Roosevelt Road and Kedzie Ave. She noticed two cars parked in a gas station located on that corner. One of the cars was the victim's car. The victim and an individual Fairman knew as "Newbaby" were standing next to the car and two other people were sitting inside the car. Fairman stated that Richard West, another individual she knew as "Grayhound," Ramon Rollins, and Willie Lauren were standing near the second car. She testified that the victim got into the driver's seat of his car and that Newbaby got into the back passenger seat of that car. Fairman refused to identify the person sitting directly behind the victim in his car, but admitted that she told police earlier that she thought that person was the defendant who was known to her as "Rudy V." Grayhound, Rollins and Richard West got into the second vehicle. The bus on which Fairman was riding pulled out and both vehicles followed the bus along Kedzie Ave. until they turned off onto Lake St.

Patrick Simms testified that at approximately 4 p.m. on the date of the occurrence he was near the intersection of Huron and Kedzie when he heard a crash in the alley. Simms saw two men whose faces he could not see running north from a car which had crashed between a building and a tree. Simms also saw a third man coming out of the rear passenger side door of the disabled vehicle. This person ran south at first, but then turned north and followed the other two men. The third man, who was covering his face with his hands at the time, knocked Simms down as he ran by him. Simms described this man as being a tall, thin 19 or 20-year-old African-American who was light skinned with red spots on his face. Simms was unable to identify this man from a photograph line-up arranged by police.

Detective Kristan Kato testified that he arrested defendant at approximately 6 a.m. on February 24, 1989. Kato advised defendant of his Miranda rights and defendant indicated that he understood his rights. Detective Kato stated that he and his partner, Detective Sommerville, talked to defendant for about 15 minutes at approximately 6:30 a.m. After again advising defendant of his rights, they spoke with defendant at 11 a.m. Kato said that during that meeting, the detectives informed defendant that Tina Fairman had told them that she had seen defendant with the victim at the gas station about 20 minutes before the victim was shot. Kato testified that at this point, they asked defendant to take a polygraph test and defendant refused, telling them that he would tell them the truth.

According to Kato, defendant proceeded to give the following statement. Defendant said that on February 14, 1988, the victim called him to purchase drugs. The victim drove by with Newbaby and Rollins and picked him up. Defendant got in the victim's car and sat in the rear driver's side seat. Newbaby was in the front passenger seat and Rollins was in the rear passenger seat. The victim drove the car north on Kedzie Ave. in order to purchase drugs while others in another car followed. Defendant stated that Rollins handed him a .25 caliber pistol. While defendant was inspecting the gun it discharged and the bullet struck the victim in the head. Defendant, startled by the first gunshot, then accidently fired the gun a second time and the second bullet also struck the victim in the head. According to defendant, the victim lost control of the car at that point and the car struck a tree. The impact ...

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