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October 19, 1995


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Richard E. Neville, Judge, presiding.

Chief Justice Bilandic delivered the opinion of the court:

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bilandic

CHIEF JUSTICE BILANDIC delivered the opinion of the court:

Following a bench trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant, Maurice McDonald, was convicted of two counts of murder and one count of armed robbery. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, pars. 9-1(a), 18-2(a).) The jury found defendant eligible for the death penalty based upon the statutory aggravating factor of murder of two or more individuals. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 9-1(b)(3).) The same jury then found that there were no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude imposition of the death sentence. Accordingly, the trial judge sentenceddefendant to death for the murders and to 60 years' imprisonment on the armed robbery count.

Defendant's death sentence has been stayed pending direct review by this court. (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, ยง 4(b); 134 Ill. 2d Rules 603, 609(a).) For the reasons that follow, we affirm defendant's convictions and sentences.


On the evening of February 27, 1983, Lester Coats was at his home located at 530 East 86th Place in Chicago. Also at Lester's home that evening were the following individuals: Barbara Coats Terrell (Lester's daughter), Althea (Barbara's daughter), Deneen Coats (Lester's granddaughter), Clarence Coats (Lester's son), and defendant. Lester was a drug dealer and defendant was employed as his "bodyguard/gofer." That evening, Lester and his daughter Barbara counted the proceeds from drug sales, which totaled $13,000. Lester subsequently placed the money in a little metal box which he locked and stored in the hall closet. According to Barbara, this was an unusual place for Lester to store anything because he generally kept his money in the bedroom closet. In addition to money, Lester also kept other items in the bedroom closet, including jewelry, guns, and food stamps, all of which were received in exchange for drugs.

Barbara further testified that Lester's girlfriend, Brenda Robertson, arrived at the house around 11:30 p.m. By 1:30 a.m., everyone had departed, leaving Lester and Brenda alone in the house.

At approximately 4:40 a.m. on February 28, 1983, Officer William Tuck responded to a call of a "man down" at 530 East 86th Place. When he arrived, he found Lester bleeding on the sidewalk in front of his house. At the time, Lester appeared to be alive. Officer Tuck followed a trail of blood to the house and went inside. The front door was unlocked and there were no signs of forced entry.

Sergeant Peter Dignan next arrived on the scene to find paramedics working on Lester. After noticing a large amount of blood on the sidewalk, he proceeded inside the house. Sergeant Dignan testified that there was blood on the walls and floor. He also noticed that the house had been ransacked. In the kitchen, Sergeant Dignan discovered that the wires to the alarm were severed. He also recovered a bloodstained knife from the kitchen sink. Sergeant Dignan then followed the trail of blood to the basement. In the basement, Sergeant Dignan found the lifeless body of Brenda Robertson. Brenda had an electrical cord wrapped around her ankles and wrist, and multiple stab wounds to her body. Sergeant Dignan also noticed that there was a fur coat on the floor with five food stamps lying on it.

Doctor Mitra Kalelkar of the Cook County medical examiner's office performed the autopsies on Lester and Brenda. The autopsy on Lester revealed that he had died because of multiple stab wounds, including a stab wound that perforated his heart. Dr. Kalelkar testified that this wound was so serious that a person so injured would collapse in approximately five minutes from the time that the injury was inflicted. Brenda also had multiple stab wounds, including an incised wound around the left nipple of her breast. Brenda's heart had been perforated as a result of the injuries inflicted on her. She too died as a result of multiple stab wounds. According to Dr. Kalelkar, both Lester's and Brenda's wounds were consistent with a theory of one instrument, such as a knife, having been used on both victims.

Rosemary Small, defendant's girlfriend, testified that defendant arrived at her home in the early morning hours of February 28, 1983. Small was uncertain of the exact time that defendant arrived. She could only place it at sometime between 2 and 4 a.m. Defendant awoke Small and told her that they had to get out ofthe house because someone had shot at him. Before leaving, Small noticed some jewelry, food stamps, and two guns on the kitchen table. These items had not been there earlier. Defendant instructed her to put the jewelry and food stamps in her purse. Defendant then drove Small and her son to his cousin Janice Thomas' house.

Thomas testified that defendant arrived at her home on February 28, 1983, at approximately 5 a.m. Defendant brought his clothes wrapped in a sheet, and a rifle. Defendant left those items with Thomas. After unwrapping the sheet, Thomas found clothing, a telephone and two guns. A few days later, the police went to Thomas' house after receiving a call about the weapons. Thomas voluntarily turned the two guns and the rifle over to the police. The items recovered included a Winchester rifle, a .38-caliber Llama revolver, and a .44-caliber Smith and Wesson revolver.

On March 3, 1983, Sergeant Dignan and Detective John Yucaitis located Small at her mother's apartment and took her to police headquarters. After being questioned, Small told the police that defendant gave her food stamps and jewelry the morning of the murders. The food stamps and jewelry were recovered from her purse. The serial number on some of the food stamps recovered from Small's purse corresponded to the serial number on a food stamp recovered from Lester's basement. Officer Fred Harris, a latent fingerprint examiner, established that defendant's palmprint was found on the food stamp recovered from Lester's basement.

The weapons recovered from Thomas' house and the jewelry recovered from Small's purse were subsequently identified by various members of the Coats family as having been Lester's property. Barbara Coats Terrell testified that when she went to Lester's house a few days after the murder she did not find any of his jewelry, food stamps, or money in the house.

The State then rested its case, and defendant, acting pro se, presented his case in chief.

Defendant testified in his own behalf. In 1982, Lester hired him as a bodyguard. Lester paid defendant $100 a day in cash and $25 a day in food stamps, which he gave to his family.

On February 28, 1983, Lester gave defendant $600 and $200 in food stamps. Lester also instructed defendant to take $2,000 to $3,000 in food stamps to a grocery store for a cash redemption. Consequently, defendant insisted that there were no food stamps in Lester's house that day. Later that evening, between 8 and 9 p.m., Lester asked defendant to purchase some cocaine for Lester's personal use. Upon returning to Lester's home, Brenda Robertson was there. Defendant left Lester's home around 10 p.m. Before leaving, defendant warned Lester not to open the door for anybody since there was money in the house. Defendant admitted being aware of the $13,000 in the house that night. However, he claimed that $13,000 was a small amount of money.

After leaving Lester's house, defendant stated that he went to his apartment on 68th Street to gather his belongings to move them to his new apartment at 79th and State. An unknown person started shooting at him. Defendant shot back with his .38 Llama revolver. Following this incident, defendant went to his uncle's house about 12:30 a.m.

After leaving his uncle's house, defendant went to Small's house about 2 a.m. Defendant then took Small to Thomas' house along with all of the things that he was going to take to the 79th and State apartment. Defendant denied giving Small any jewelry or food stamps on the morning of February 28, 1983. According to defendant, the jewelry recovered from Small belonged to Small. Moreover, defendant stated that the weapons recovered from Thomas' house belonged to defendant.

Defendant next went to Lester's house between 6 and 7 a.m., but left when he saw the police. Defendant believed that Lester was arrested for narcotics. Later he found out that Lester was dead and that the police were looking for him.

As a final matter, defendant presented his theory regarding the murder. First, he pointed out that he and Lester were friends. Defendant claimed to love Lester and that he had no reason to harm him. Instead, defendant contended that Lester opened the door for Arlene Williams, Lester's common law wife. A fight arose in which Brenda stabbed Lester and ran into the basement where Lester subsequently murdered her. Some unknown person then came into the house and stabbed Lester and searched his house for the money.

In addition to his own testimony, defendant presented the testimony of his family members and a fingerprint expert. Defendant's family members stated that the jewelry belonged to Small and the weapons belonged to defendant. Doctor Mark Boese, a fingerprint expert, reexamined the physical evidence. He testified that there were unidentifiable prints found at the murder scene. However, he acknowledged that the food stamp found at the scene contained defendant's palmprint.

At the close of the evidence and arguments the court found defendant guilty of the murders of Lester Coats and Brenda Robertson, and the armed robbery of Lester Coats. At sentencing, defendant elected to proceed with a jury. The jury found defendant eligible for the death penalty under the statutory aggravating factor of murder of two or more individuals. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 9-1(b)(3).) After hearing the testimony of several witnesses at the sentencing phase of the trial and being instructed on the evidence, the jury found no mitigating factors sufficient to precludethe imposition of a death sentence. Accordingly, the judge sentenced defendant to death for the murders of the two victims. The court also sentenced defendant to 60 years of incarceration on the armed robbery conviction.

We will discuss additional relevant facts in the context of the issues raised on appeal.


Initially, we address the State's motion to strike defendant's pro se brief. This motion was taken with the case. The State contends that, since the State Appellate Defender's office was appointed to represent defendant on appeal, defendant's pro se brief is inappropriately before this court. In support of this argument, the State maintains that defendant does not have a right to be represented by counsel and to conduct portions of the proceedings on his own. We agree with the State that a defendant has no right to both self-representation and the assistance of counsel. ( People v. Williams (1983), 97 Ill. 2d 252, 267, 73 Ill. Dec. 360, 454 N.E.2d 220, quoting People v. Ephraim (1952), 411 Ill. 118, 122, 103 N.E.2d 363.) Here, defendant is represented by counsel on appeal. Defense counsel has submitted a brief on behalf of defendant. Consequently, defendant in this case has no right to present a pro se brief in addition to his counsel's brief. Nevertheless, given that defendant's life is at stake, we will consider the arguments addressed in defendant's pro se brief. (See People v. Gacy (1988), 125 Ill. 2d 117, 133-34, 125 Ill. Dec. 770, 530 N.E.2d 1340.) Accordingly, the State's motion is denied.


In both his pro se brief and the brief submitted by defense counsel, defendant challenges the validity of his prosecution under the interstate agreement on detainers act (act) (730 ILCS 5/3-8-9 (West 1992)). Defense counsel's brief argues that the delay between defendant'sarrival in Illinois and the date of his trial violated the 120-day rule under article IV of the act. Defendant's pro se brief also makes that argument, and additionally contends that the delay between defendant's Nevada conviction and his subsequent trial in Illinois violated the 180-day rule under article III of the act.

We first address the argument based on article III of the act. Article III provides in pertinent part:

"(a) Whenever a person has entered upon a term of imprisonment in *** a party state, and whenever during the continuance of the term of imprisonment there is pending in any other party state any untried indictment *** on the basis of which a detainer has been lodged against the prisoner, he shall be brought to trial within 180 days after he shall have caused to be delivered to the prosecuting officer and the appropriate court *** written notice of the place of his imprisonment and his request for a final disposition to be made of the indictment ***. The request of the prisoner shall be accompanied by a certificate of the appropriate official having custody of the prisoner, stating the term of commitment under which the prisoner is being held, the time already served, the time remaining to be served on the sentence, the amount of good time earned, the time of parole eligibility of the prisoner, and any decisions of the state parole agency relating to the prisoner.

(b) The written notice and request for final disposition referred to in paragraph (a) hereof shall be given or sent by the prisoner to the warden, commissioner of corrections or other official having custody of him, who shall promptly forward it together with the certificate to the appropriate prosecuting official and court by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested." (Emphasis added.) 730 ILCS 5/3-8-9 (West 1992).

It is evident from the language of article III that the 180-day period during which a defendant-prisoner must be brought to trial does not commence to run until after certain procedural requirements have been satisfied. Once a detainer has been lodged against a defendant-prisoner, he is required to give or send a written notice of the place of his imprisonment and a request for final disposition to the warden, who then forwards that information with the requisite certificate to the appropriate prosecutor and court. (730 ILCS 5/3-8-9 (West 1992).) Consequently, article III requires a defendant-prisoner to initiate the procedures before the 180-day requirement will apply. People v. Uplinger (1977), 69 Ill. 2d 181, 187, 13 Ill. Dec. 27, 370 N.E.2d 1054.

In this case, an arrest warrant had been issued in Illinois against defendant on July 3, 1986. Defendant was subsequently convicted of an unrelated murder in Nevada on March 13, 1990, and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. On November 15, 1991, defendant was taken into custody in Nevada by two Chicago police officers, who transported him to Illinois. The record is silent as to what transpired between March 13, 1990, and November 15, 1991. The record does not suggest that defendant sent a written notice and request for final disposition of this case. In view of the foregoing, we find that defendant has failed to show that he substantially complied with the statutory requirements of article III. We therefore conclude that the 180-day rule was not activated because defendant failed to substantially comply with the provisions of article III. ...

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