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July 15, 1994


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. The Honorable Thomas F. Durkin, Judge Presiding.

Released for Publication August 25, 1994.

Egan, McNAMARA, Rakowski

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Egan

PRESIDING JUSTICE EGAN delivered the opinion of the court:

The defendant, Louis White, was convicted by a jury of the first-degree murder of Maurice Polk in a White Castle restaurant parking lot in Chicago on May 25, 1988. He was sentenced to 60 years' imprisonment. No issue is made of the sufficiency of the evidence.

Elijah Rice was at the White Castle parking lot in the car of his brother James at 1:30 a.m. Also in the car were James, Tracey Danforth and Maurice Polk. Friends of Elijah's, Ray Allen and Glenn Polk, the decedent's brother, were in another car parked near the drive-thru in the parking lot.

At the White Castle, James ordered food in two separate orders at the drive-thru window. Due to some confusion with the food orders, the employee told him to proceed to the window to order. After James' car pulled to the window, Glenn Polk came to James' car "trying to get some money for some food." Ray Allen remained in his car in the lot. Maurice Polk and Tracey Danforth went inside to pick up the food order.

Glen Polk called Elijah's attention to a person standing by a window displaying a "pitchfork" gang sign. James "threw up a gang sign" from the car in which he was sitting. The person inside the White Castle walked toward James' car door. James went to the trunk of his car and retrieved a tire jack. He went to the entrance of the White Castle, but Maurice Polk, who was on his way back to the car, told James not to start anything and to leave it alone. James returned to the car and threw the jack in the trunk.

James entered the car through the driver's side door. Maurice Polk, Tracey Danforth and Elijah proceeded to the passenger's side. Maurice and Tracey were carrying bags of food. They were standing in the car doorway when three men came around the corner of the building on the Jeffrey Street side. They stood about seven feet from James. At that point, a man identified by Elijah as the defendant, "pulled out a gun and pointed it at the car and shot." The man was about three to four feet away from the car and was to the left of the car. He stood on the sidewalk when he fired. James, Elijah and Tracey Danforth all testified that before the first shot was fired Maurice Polk was standing by the passenger side of the front seat. The door on that side was open. Danforth testified that Polk was telling her to get into the car. After the shot was fired, James drove off and travelled around the corner, and as he pulled away, Elijah heard three more shots. Elijah saw the defendant "running in the back of the White Castle." When James drove away Elijah and Tracey started running away. When the car pulled away Elijah saw that Maurice Polk had fallen onto the pavement. Elijah saw the men run up to the railroad tracks and down the tracks.

Aristides Vera was working at the White Castle. He worked at the first drive-thru window; a car pulled up and placed an order; the order got mixed up; and the car pulled forward facing the 95th Street end of the building. Someone left the car to pay for the order. Before the order was completed, he heard arguing from inside the White Castle; the arguing continued outside the building.

He looked outside and saw the trunk of the car being opened. The driver of the car pulled out a jack "or something." The group inside the White Castle stepped toward the 95th Street exit and then ran back inside through the Jeffrey Street exit. He heard one of the group say, "Don't worry, don't worry, you got it, you got it." The group left through the Jeffrey Street exit. He saw the passenger, who was later identified by other witnesses as Maurice Polk, getting ready to "jump in" the car when he heard gunshots from the drive-thru area near 95th Street. He did not identify anyone.

Detective Gerald McGovern, who was assigned to investigate the killing of Maurice Polk, learned that "Nooky" was the defendant's nickname. He had known about the defendant in 1988, and made many attempts to locate the defendant at several addresses. He told the defendant's mother that the police were looking for him in connection with the shooting at the White Castle, but the defendant never came to the station. He recalled that he saw a tire jack without the handle near the 95th Street exit at the scene. He examined James Rice's car and trunk, which contained a spare tire, tire jack and tire iron. The tire jack found in the White Castle was processed and no fingerprints were found on it.

Officer John Franklin arrested the defendant on June 5, 1989. On that date, he received a description of a black male wearing a blue baseball jacket with the letters "G" and "D" cut into his hair. The arrest Franklin made was on a charge unrelated to the killing of Polk; the charge was not disclosed to the jury.

Nancy Jones, the medical examiner, testified that Polk died as a result of a gunshot wound to the head. The bullet entered slightly above and slightly behind the victim's right ear. The bullet travelled nearly completely across the head in a fairly straight path to the mid-portion of the left side of the head. She said that the bullet, which was recovered from Polk's head, was a "non-deformed or a non-ricochet bullet."

The defendant testified that he was 18 years old on May 25, 1988, and had been a gang member for about eight years. Before 1 a.m., he left his girlfriend's house and walked to the White Castle. On the way he met Marvin McFerrin and Rodney Brazelton. They gave him a ride to White Castle.

When they arrived at the White Castle around 1 a.m., Marvin parked the car, and the defendant went into the restaurant with Rodney to order food. Marvin went to use a nearby pay telephone. After the defendant ordered, he stepped over to the window and waited for his order. He was "just looking out the window" when he noticed a "young man" walking toward him. The young man wore a baseball cap, which he had turned "to the left-hand side of his head." ...

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