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February 28, 1995


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. The Honorable Daniel J. Kelly, Judge Presiding.

The Honorable Justice DiVITO delivered the opinion of the court: Scariano, P.j., and Hartman, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Divito

The Honorable Justice DiVITO delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant Michael Cooks, 14 years old, was charged with the murders of Rayford Taylor and Vincent Zaworski and transferred from the juvenile court, indicted, and prosecuted as an adult. Following a bench trial, defendant was found guilty of both murders and given the mandatory sentence of imprisonment for natural life. He challenges his transfer from juvenile court and the constitutionality of the mandatory life imprisonment statute. For reasons that follow, we affirm.

The juvenile transfer proceedings were held on December 27 and 31, 1990. The following evidence was adduced.

Chicago police sergeant Kwilos was assigned to investigate the shooting death of the victims on September 6, 1990. The homicides occurred at 5728 South Justine at approximately 12:30 a.m. Kwilos arrived on the scene between 12:30 and 12:45 a.m. Taylor's body was located on the landing, and Zaworski's body was located at the bottom of the staircase.

At approximately 6 a.m. Kwilos spoke with Margaret Byrd. She and the other occupants of the first-floor apartment heard gunshots. When they looked out the window, they saw two or three young men across the street. Byrd had seen them before on numerous occasions. After she heard the gunfire, Byrd saw a car backing down the street, and one of the young men was pointing a handgun at a window of an abandoned building. The young men had been "standing around" during the night of the murders, and Byrd thought they had been selling drugs.

When Byrd thought it was safe to go outside, she and Taylor went to a liquor store at 57th and Ashland. While they were at the liquor store, Zaworski, who was Byrd's boyfriend, arrived and engaged in an argument with her. The three left the liquor store, and Byrd and Zaworski continued their argument. The argument persisted on the walk back to the apartment and continued in front of the building. At that point, defendant came across the street and told them to be quiet, since if they continued arguing the police would come. Byrd then turned and walked toward the residence. As she did so, she heard gunshots. She turned around and saw Taylor on the landing and Zaworski at the bottom of the stairs. Both men had been shot.

Sadie Baker informed Kwilos that she was the owner of the building and the principal occupant of the first-floor apartment. On September 6, 1990, Byrd and Taylor had gone to the liquor store at 57th and Ashland. When Zaworski arrived at the apartment, Baker told him where they had gone. Zaworski then left to find them.

Approximately 10 to 15 minutes later, the three returned and were in front of the residence. Baker was inside the house when she heard the argument. She then looked out the window and witnessed the remainder of the argument as well as defendant crossing the street. Defendant told them to be quiet or they would attract the police. Taylor told defendant the argument was none of his business because it was a family matter. Baker then turned back toward the interior of the apartment.

After turning from the window, Baker heard two gunshots. She ran outside to the front landing, where she observed Taylor staggering up the stairs. She then saw defendant shoot Zaworski. Defendant was standing at the curb in front of the residence. Both Taylor and Zaworski had been shot in the chest. After defendant shot Zaworski, he ran across the street and into a gangway. Baker had previously seen defendant standing across the street selling drugs.

Kwilos also spoke with William Baker, Sadie Baker's 14-year-old son. Shortly after midnight on September 6, William was in the second-floor bedroom of the residence. The bedroom has a window which overlooks both the front of the residence and the sidewalk. At 12:02 a.m. William saw defendant cross the street and become involved in an argument with Taylor. William then saw defendant shoot Taylor in the chest while the two were standing at the curb. After being shot, Taylor attempted to go back inside. Defendant then shot Zaworski in the chest. Zaworski had been standing at the bottom of the steps. Defendant then ran into a gangway across the street.

Kwilos also interviewed Andrew Grant. On the night of the murders, Grant was visiting a friend who lived several houses south of the shooting scene. At that time, Grant heard a couple of gunshots and observed defendant, also known as "Pokoe," shooting Zaworski.

Grant led Kwilos to Ronnie Davis' house. Davis told Kwilos substantially the same facts: that he heard gunshots, and then turned and saw a person known as "Pokoe" shooting the white man. Davis also stated that "Pokoe" was a student at Hope Grammar School and that he lived near 57th Street and Halsted.

Acting upon Davis' information, Kwilos went to Area 3, searched the nicknames file, and identified "Pokoe" as defendant. The file also indicated where he lived. Kwilos subsequently arrested defendant and brought him to Area 3.

After being given his Miranda rights, defendant stated that he shot both of the victims, that he was a member of the Gangster Disciples street gang, that he sold narcotics in front of 5727 South Justine, and that he was working the night shift on September 6. Defendant stated that the reason he shot the victims was because they were "older and bigger" than he was. Defendant also indicated that he would be willing to make a statement to a court reporter. The statement given to the court reporter was then introduced into evidence.

The State then introduced the autopsy reports into evidence. The reports stated that the cause of death for both victims was multiple gunshot wounds.

Probation Officer Brice testified that at the time of the hearing, defendant was 14 years old. He had five previous station adjustments and two prior referrals to juvenile court.

While in the Early Offender's Program, defendant did not attend the counseling programs to which he was referred. Defendant was also referred to a specialized school (Montefiore School). He never attended the school, however, and his grandmother did not attend the preplacement interviews at the school. At the time of the hearing, defendant had not attended school for over a year.

When Brice met with defendant on September 12, defendant told him that he had been a member of the Gangster Disciples for approximately one year. While in the gang, defendant was involved in the sale of drugs.

Brice recommended that defendant be transferred to the adult system. He based his recommendation on the seriousness of the offense, defendant's past history with the juvenile court, defendant's attitude, and his opinion that defendant should be incarcerated beyond his twenty-first birthday.

Defendant's probation officer told Brice that defendant had been cooperative up to a point. The probation officer rated defendant as satisfactory and gave his opinion that defendant was in need of counseling. A referral was made for defendant to receive counseling, but defendant did not cooperate. Defendant was also referred to the Mental Health "EKCO" program, but Brice had not spoken with the people there. Defendant did not tell Brice what role he played in the drug deals in which he participated, and Brice did not know what kind of drugs were sold.

Upon the completion of Brice's testimony, the State rested.

Gladys Cooks testified for the defense that she was defendant's grandmother. At the time of the hearing, Cooks was 54 years old and had been defendant's legal guardian since 1984 due to a conflict between his parents. Defendant had lived with Cooks since he was born, and at one point the entire family lived together. During that time, Cooks had to call the police frequently due to defendant's father's "problem," and defendant subsequently was placed in the custody of Cooks. Defendant's father is Cooks' son, and Cooks does not have a good relationship with him. In the past, Cooks had had her son arrested for abusing defendant.

Cooks described her relationship with defendant as "the best any grandmother can have with her grandson." When Cooks asked defendant to do things, he complied. Cooks had taken defendant to counseling at EKCO once a week, and it was her fault that he stopped attending the sessions.

Cooks was aware that defendant had been referred to the Montefiore School. She was told that he was referred there because he was not doing well at school. Defendant never attended Montefiore because Cooks would not let him. Her son had attended the school.

On cross-examination, Cooks testified that she was not aware that defendant had a gun at home or that defendant was a member of a street gang. Cooks was aware that he had been suspended from the John Hope School at least twice. One of the suspensions was the result of defendant and his friends breaking into the school. Cooks did not refuse to let defendant attend John Hope; defendant went there voluntarily.

On redirect examination, Cooks testified that prior to attending John Hope School, defendant did not have any problems at school. Defendant left his previous school because the curriculum went only through the fourth grade.

Patricia Berg testified that at the time of the hearing she was the executive director of the Teen Living Program, which assists "street kids" and delinquents. After establishing Berg's qualifications, the court accepted her as an expert witness in adolescent care and treatment. Berg had never previously testified in court concerning her recommendation on a transfer case.

Berg met with defendant on November 23, 1990, for approximately 2 1/2 hours. The interview took place at the juvenile detention center, and Berg conducted it at the request of defendant's attorney. The attorney wanted a second opinion as to whether defendant had any potential for treatment and rehabilitation.

As a result of the interview, Berg reached several conclusions. First, it was her opinion that not enough attention was given to the fact that defendant was "severely abused" as a youth. Berg was of the opinion that defendant required an organic analysis. In response to whether defendant felt any remorse for his actions, Berg was of the opinion that he ...

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