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03/21/95 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. DECARLOS MORROW

March 21, 1995

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
DECARLOS MORROW, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County. No. 90-CF-1365. Honorable Michael J. O'Malley, Judge, presiding.

Petition for Leave to Appeal Denied December 6, 1995.

Presiding Justice Maag delivered the opinion of the court: Chapman, J., and Hopkins, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Maag

PRESIDING JUSTICE MAAG delivered the opinion of the court:

After a jury trial in the circuit court of St. Clair County, defendant, DeCarlos Morrow, was convicted of the murder of Lynne Thomas. The court found that there existed statutory aggravating factors, in that the murder was committed in the course of a robbery and in the course of an attempted or completed aggravated criminal sexual assault. The court sentenced the defendant to a term of natural life in prison. Defendant appeals his conviction and sentence. We affirm.

On December 16, 1990, Lynne Thomas was found dead in the storeroom of the Everything's A Dollar store at St. Clair Square in Fairview Heights, Illinois. The cause of death was ligature by strangulation as a result of plastic bags being tied around the victim's throat and her head and face being encased in a plastic bag secured with an adhesive noose. The victim also showed signs of having been sexually assaulted.

An investigation by Fairview Heights police led to an all-points bulletin being issued for defendant, who was an employee of the store. Defendant was arrested in the early morning hours on December 18, 1990, in St. Louis, Missouri. During an interview with police detectives from St. Louis and Fairview Heights, he confessed to the crime. He later agreed to allow the police to videotape his confession. He was then charged with first-degree murder.

On November 19, 1991, defendant filed a motion to suppress his confession. A hearing on the motion was held, written arguments were submitted, and on January 7, 1992, the trial court denied defendant's suppression motion. Subsequently, the State showed the videotape of defendant's confession to the jury.

On August 12, 1992, during voir dire, defendant made a motion to strike the jury panel, claiming that the State was using its peremptory challenges in a racially discriminatory manner. The court denied this motion, finding that defendant had not made a prima facie case.

The court instructed the jury on first- and second-degree murder, and defendant was found guilty of first-degree murder on August 18, 1992. The jury found defendant eligible for, but did not impose, the death penalty. On October 8, 1992, the court sentenced defendant to a term of natural life in prison. Defendant's posttrial motions for a new trial and to reconsider sentence were denied.

Defendant raises four issues on appeal:

(1) The trial court erred in denying defendant's motion to suppress his confession, because police did not scrupulously honor defendant's exercised right to remain silent;

(2) The trial court erred in finding that defendant failed to present a prima facie case of racial discrimination based upon the State's use of its peremptory challenges;

(3) The second-degree murder statute (720 ILCS 5/9-2 (West 1992)) violates defendant's rights to due process under the Illinois Constitution as it places the burden on the accused to prove that he is guilty of a lesser offense and not guilty of the greater offense; and

(4) The trial court abused its discretion in sentencing defendant to a term of natural life in prison thereby rejecting defendant's potential for rehabilitation.

At approximately 1:25 a.m. on December 18, 1990, St. Louis police officer Joseph Dudley stopped and arrested defendant in St. Louis, Missouri. Dudley testified that he advised defendant that he was under arrest for a homicide occurring in Illinois. Dudley read defendant his Miranda rights, and defendant indicated that he understood his rights and did not want to make any statements or talk at that time. Dudley then delivered defendant to the ...


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