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December 29, 1995


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable James Zafiratos, Judge Presiding.

The Honorable Justice Cerda delivered the opinion of the court: Greiman, P.j., And Rizzi, J., Concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cerda

The Honorable Justice CERDA delivered the opinion of the court:

Following a bench trial, defendant, Brenda Thomas, was convicted of reckless homicide (720 ILCS 5/9-3(a) (West 1992)) and failure to report an accident (625 ILCS 5/11-401(b) (West 1992)). She was sentenced to concurrent extended terms of eight years' imprisonment for reckless homicide and five years' imprisonment for failure to report an accident. On appeal, defendant asserts that (1) she was substantially prejudiced by the admission of improper evidence and argument about her purported, but uncharged, theft of the victim's wallet; (2) she was substantially prejudiced by the inaccurate certified copy of a prior conviction; (3) she was deprived of due process by the trial court's misapprehension of the proper grounds for a new trial; and (4) her extended-term sentence was excessive.

At trial, Maria Marquez, the victim's wife, testified that she and her husband spent the afternoon of February 18, 1993, paying bills. When he brought her home at 6 p.m., he had $460 to $480 in his wallet in his back pocket. Ms. Marquez acknowledged that her husband always carried a knife and identified the knife found at the scene as resembling his knife.

Defendant testified that the victim, Enrique Marquez, approached her in his vehicle around 6 p.m. as she was walking near South 47th Avenue and Roosevelt Road in Cicero, Illinois. Defendant recognized him from two previous sexual dates. After she got into his car, Marquez asked for oral sex and they agreed on a price of $20. In a nearby factory parking lot, Marquez pulled down his pants, but complained that defendant insisted on using a condom. After the oral sex, Marquez pulled up his pants and drove to a nearby alley to drop off defendant.

When Marquez stopped the car, he told defendant to give back $10 because she had used a condom. Defendant got out of the car and Marquez followed, leaving the car running. He went around to the passenger side where he grabbed defendant's coat collar. While holding an open knife blade in his hand, he ordered her to give him the $10.

According to defendant, she said, "We don't have to go through this" and got back into the car. She locked the doors as Marquez came around to the driver's side and started beating on the window. He was yelling, "Open the doors, why are you doing this?" Defendant shifted the car into drive and drove off. As she did so, Marquez jumped on the car's hood with the knife still in his hand. Even though Marquez blocked most of her view through the windshield, defendant pressed on the accelerator, but did not turn the steering wheel.

A second later, the car hit something, went up in the air, and turned over. Defendant unlocked the door and ran down the alley without looking to see where Marquez was. She stated that she was scared that he still had the knife and would come after her.

Defendant denied taking Marquez's wallet. She admitted that she had prior convictions and a certified copy of an armed robbery conviction was admitted into evidence.

Much of defendant's statement to the police was similar to her trial testimony. Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Panarese admitted that he summarized defendant's oral statement and added information to the facts she related. The only significant difference between her testimony and the statement was that her statement indicates that she swerved back and forth with Marquez on the hood in an effort to get him off the car.

Lawrence Kooy, an auto mechanic, testified that he observed part of the incident from across the street 75 feet away. He saw a red car stopped in the alley. A white man was standing by the driver's side and a black woman was on the passenger's side. They were arguing, but Kooy could not hear what they were saying. The man slammed the door and went around to the passenger's side. After he heard the man say, "Baby, don't do me this way," the woman got in the car. Kooy heard what he thought was the car's power lock. The man tried unsuccessfully to open the passenger's side door and then went around to the other side as the woman moved to the driver's seat. The man tried to open the driver's side door, then jumped on the car's hood with his face in the windshield.

Seconds later, Kooy saw the car moving straight down the alley. After 30 to 40 feet, Kooy lost sight of the car, but heard a crash within seconds. He ran to the alley and saw the car upside down on its roof on the snow-covered ground. No one was near the car or running away. Five minutes later, he called the police. He then returned to the scene and saw a man under the car.

Cicero police officer, David Ciancio, testified that he arrived at the alley at 6 p.m. on February 18, 1993, where he saw an overturned car with a man pinned underneath. The man was not moving or breathing. After personnel from the Fire Department removed the body from under the car, Ciancio and another police officer searched Marquez's clothing while evidence technicians searched the car. Police officer Hilger and two other officers spent 15 to 20 minutes cordoning off and searching a 500-square-foot area, which was covered with at least one and one-half inches of fresh snow. No wallet or identification was found in Marquez's clothes, car, ...

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