The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bilandic
CHIEF JUSTICE BILANDIC delivered the opinion of the court:
Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County, the defendant, Brian Beals, was convicted of first degree murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)(1)) and aggravated battery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 12-4(b)(1)). The defendant was sentenced to an 80-year extended term of imprisonment for the murder conviction, and a concurrent five-year term for aggravated battery. The appellate court reversed the defendant's convictions and remanded the cause for a new trial, finding that the defendant was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel at trial. (248 Ill. App. 3d 19.) We allowed the State's petition for leave to appeal. (134 Ill. 2d R. 315.) For the following reasons, we reverse the judgment of the appellate court.
The evidence at trial established that the six-year-old victim, Demetrius Campbell, received a fatal gunshot wound to his neck as he crossed 60th Street in Chicago on the afternoon of November 16, 1988. The victim's mother, Valerie Campbell, received a gunshot wound toher thigh at the same time, but survived the attack. Shortly before the shooting, the victim was walking with his mother, his two brothers, and his mother's boyfriend, Derrick Lewis, near 60th Street and Normal Avenue in Chicago. The group encountered the defendant and Steven Johnson arguing on the sidewalk in front of the defendant's building. Apparently, the two men were involved in a territorial dispute over who should be allowed to sell illegal drugs in the neighborhood. Lewis remained with the two men, in an attempt to intervene in the argument. Lewis and Johnson then entered Johnson's blue IROC sports car and drove away.
The defendant returned briefly to his apartment and then got into his red car and drove west on 60th Street towards Valerie and her children. As Valerie and her sons crossed 60th Street, Valerie saw that the defendant was pointing a gun at them out of the driver's side window of his car. Valerie instructed her sons to run. As they ran away, the victim was shot in the neck and Valerie was shot in the thigh. Valerie picked up the victim and hid underneath the porch of a nearby house with her other sons. The defendant got out of his car and looked around for approximately two minutes, and then drove away.
Lewis and Johnson heard the gunshots and returned to the scene. Valerie described the shooter to them as the "fat, light-skinned guy" with whom Johnson had been arguing earlier. Lewis informed the investigating officers that the man with whom Johnson had argued earlier was named Brian Beals. Both Valerie and Antonio, one of her sons, told the investigating officers that the shooter was a very heavy, light-skinned man, between 5 feet 9 inches and 6 feet tall. They also told the officers that the shooter wore a red and white jacket and drove a red car.
The investigating officers went to the defendant'shome and discovered the defendant hiding in the basement under a sheet. Antonio, who accompanied the investigating officers to the defendant's home, identified the defendant at that time as the shooter. At trial, both Antonio and Valerie identified the defendant as the person who shot the victim and Valerie.
The defendant's theory at trial was that the victim and Valerie were shot by an unidentified gunman, who was attempting to shoot the defendant. In support of this theory, the defendant testified that, as he walked toward his car, he saw two men run toward him. The defendant could not describe the men, but noticed that one of them had a gun. The defendant entered his car and quickly drove away. He noticed, through his rear-view mirror, that one of the unidentified men was shooting at his car. The defendant claimed that he saw Valerie and her children walking as he drove west on 60th Street. The defendant drove to his friend's house and told the friend that someone had shot at him. The defendant then drove to his mother's home, where he was taken into custody.
In support of his theory that a third party was responsible for the shooting, the defendant offered the testimony of two friends, Sidney Cobb and Norman Yancy. Cobb testified that he was in the defendant's apartment shortly before the shooting. He testified that the defendant left the apartment to speak to Johnson and then returned for his red and white Adidas jacket. Cobb testified that the defendant then left again, but did not have a weapon. Cobb left the apartment five seconds later and saw the defendant drive off in a westerly direction. Cobb also saw an individual fire shots at the defendant's moving car, and then run into an alley. Cobb testified that the shooter was 18 or 19 years old, approximately 6 feet 1 inch tall, and wore a blue jogging suit.
Yancy testified that he saw two men arguing across the street from his house. He later saw a man shooting a gun in a westerly direction. Yancy then saw a dark-blue or black sports car, possibly an IROC, back into the alley, pick up the shooter, and then drive west on 60th Street. He described the shooter as a light-skinned man, wearing a blue and black outfit. On cross-examination, Yancy denied that he had previously described the shooter as a 20- to 30-year-old man, 6 feet 5 inches tall and light-skinned. Both Cobb and Yancy testified that they told defendant's attorney what they saw, but did not notify the police or State's Attorney's office about the incident they observed until trial. In rebuttal, the State introduced two stipulations that it had entered with defense counsel. The parties first stipulated that Yancy told defense counsel during a meeting in defense counsel's office in April 1989, at which defendant's sister was present, that the driver of the car that picked up the shooter was light-skinned, thin, 20 to 30 years old and approximately 6 feet 5 inches tall. The State and defense counsel also stipulated that Cobb told defense counsel that the defendant wore his red and white Adidas jacket during his argument with Johnson. In surrebuttal, defendant testified that he did not wear the jacket during his argument with Johnson.
The appellate court held that the defendant was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel because defense counsel entered into the above-delineated stipulations relating to the prior inconsistent statements of Cobb and Yancy. (248 Ill. App. 3d at 24.) The appellate court found that defense counsel's stipulations impeached and destroyed the credibility of the only witnesses to corroborate the defendant's version of events, and therefore, were not a matter of trial strategy. (248 Ill. App. 3d at 24-25.) Accordingly, the appellate court reversed the defendant's convictions and remanded the cause for a new trial.
I. Ineffective Assistance ...