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February 8, 1995


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Michael B. Bolan, Judge Presiding.

As Corrected February 9, 1995. Released for Publication March 21, 1995.

The Honorable Justice Tully delivered the opinion of the court: Rizzi, J., and Greiman, P.j., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tully

JUSTICE TULLY delivered the opinion of the court:

After a bench trial, defendant, M. C. Ellis, was convicted of the first degree murder of James Terrell (hereinafter James) in violation of section 9-1(a)(1) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)(1) (now 720 ILCS 5/9-(a)(1) (West 1992))) and sentenced to a prison term of 30 years for that crime. It is from the judgment of conviction that defendant now appeals to this court pursuant to section 6 of article VI of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, ยง 6) and Supreme Court Rule 603 (134 Ill. 2d R. 603).

For the reasons which follow, we affirm.


Ortario Terrell (hereinafter Ortario) testified at trial to the following. On July 16, 1991, at about 11:30 p.m., he was at the intersection of Frontage Road and 130th Street in Chicago, where his cousin Clifton Johnson (hereinafter Clifton) was involved in a drag race with Tom Davis. Ortario had wagered $85 with defendant that Clifton would win a drag race with Davis. Clifton won the race and Ortario was paid the $85.

After the race, Ortario and his cousin James drove to their house located at 218 West 110th Street in Chicago. At the house Ortario had a verbal altercation with defendant and codefendant Robert DeBerry. Ortario then left the residence but later returned at about 2:30 a.m. the next day. At this point, Ortario had assembled at the house his cousins James, Jackie Terrell (hereinafter Jackie), and Ronnie Terrell (hereinafter Ronnie).

While Ortario was speaking with James, defendant drove to the house in a white Buick Park Avenue, jumped out of the car with DeBerry and told Ortario he wanted the money back. Moments later, codefendant Cedric Parks arrived in his white Cadillac. Parks stood off to the side while defendant struck his automobile, again stating that he wanted his money back. Defendant then told DeBerry to get his gun. Ortario started walking towards his grandmother's home to call the police and turned and saw Parks with a revolver in his hand. When Ortario made it to the top of the stairs at his grandmother's home he heard gunshots and called the Chicago police.

Clifton testified at trial as following. He admitted that on July 16, 1991, he engaged in a drag race against a man named Tom. After the race, Clifton and his cousins went to the house at 218 West 110th Street. Clifton then left to go buy beer and en route to a liquor store a white car began tailgating his car. Clifton eventually eluded the white car and decided not to get the beer but rather proceed to his mother's home located at 84th Street and Cregier Avenue. Clifton recounted that at approximately 2:30 a.m., he left his mother's residence and went to his grandmother's house at 218 West 110th Street. James, Ortario, Ronnie, Willie Terrell (hereinafter Willie), Walter Flowers and Bernard Johnson (hereinafter Bernard) were all present.

As the group sat around and talked, Clifton saw defendant and DeBerry pull up in a white Park Avenue, the same white car that had chased him earlier. Defendant and DeBerry got out of the car with defendant screaming at Ortario that he wanted his money back. Shortly thereafter, Parks pulled up in his Cadillac, got out of the car carrying a revolver and began menacing people with it. Clifton recalled Willie and Ronnie saying that the situation was not so serious as to need involving a gun. Whereupon, Parks put the gun to Ronnie's head and said "it ain't that serious." Parks then walked up to Willie, put the gun to his head and said "I'm going to show you how serious it is."

Clifton started to move away and heard a gunshot. He then saw Parks, Willie and James scuffling. Clifton heard defendant tell DeBerry to get his gun. The tussle continued. Clifton saw Parks throw Willie off of himself and James holding onto Parks. DeBerry was kicking James during this time. Defendant then went to his car and returned to the scene with a gun. Clifton stated that defendant then shot twice towards the ground where James was lying on his stomach while saying, "Now motherfucker." During this time Parks was returning to his car. Defendant and DeBerry then returned to their car and as they drove off, Clifton heard more shots.

As defendant and DeBerry fled the scene, Willie shot at their car with a gun he had taken from Parks during the fight. Prior to that point in time, no one other ...

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