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March 29, 1996


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Thomas P. Durkin, Judge Presiding.

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

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Burke

The Honorable Justice BURKE delivered the opinion of the court:

Following a jury trial, defendant Alfred McKay, a/k/a Howard Beecham,* was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to 50 years' imprisonment. Defendant appeals his conviction and sentence, contending that the trial court (1) erred in admitting evidence of defendant's prior conviction for aggravated battery; (2) erred in admitting into evidence a life photograph of the victim; (3) erred in permitting improper comments by the State during closing argument; and (4) abused its discretion in sentencing defendant to 50 years' imprisonment. For the reasons stated below, we affirm.

At trial, Nick and Jonathan Mason testified that on February 5, 1992, they were standing with the victim, Tywan Murdock, in front of an apartment building at 50 East 50th Street in Chicago where Murdock lived. While standing there, a man, later identified as defendant, exited the apartment building. As he was exiting, defendant asked Murdock, Nick and Jonathan if they knew a man named Kenya. Murdock asked why defendant wanted to know about Kenya because Kenya was Murdock's younger brother. Defendant replied that Kenya was "messing with" defendant's cousin, Crystal, and insisted that someone tell him where to find Kenya. Nick, Jonathan and Murdock told defendant they did not know anything about Kenya. At that time, James Jones, a friend of Nick, Jonathan and Murdock, approached the group. Nick told defendant to "just forget it," to which defendant responded, "you're being tough, step in the hallway." When Nick refused, defendant stepped back into the apartment building, keeping the front door to the building open slightly with his foot. After a few seconds, defendant emerged from the building holding a small black gun. Defendant then grabbed Murdock by his jacket collar and put the gun to Murdock's head. Nick told defendant "it was not worth it" and asked defendant why he was holding a gun to Murdock's head. Defendant then waived the gun at everyone else and defendant again told Nick to go into the hallway. Nick refused again and defendant dragged Murdock inside the apartment building and closed the door. Nick, Jonathan and James then all heard three shots from behind the door. They entered the hallway and saw defendant running up the stairs and Murdock lying on the floor behind the door. Nick sat on the steps, picked up Murdock's head and held it in his arms. According to Nick, Murdock was gasping for air, his eyes flipped back in his head and he stopped breathing.

Claude Dunlap, a Chicago police officer, testified that he and his partner, Officer Larry Stewart, were driving by 50 East 50th Street when two or three black males ran to their car screaming that someone had been shot. They went to the building, entered the hallway and saw Nick on the steps with Murdock's head in his lap. Dunlap checked to see if Murdock had a pulse and felt none. He then observed that Murdock had been shot twice, once in his chest and once in his stomach. There were no weapons in the area. Dunlap further stated that someone at the scene informed him that defendant had run up the stairs to the third floor and that he would probably use the back door exit.

Dunlap and Stewart then went to the third floor apartment, announced themselves and demanded that they be let into the apartment. They waited approximately five to ten minutes before they were admitted. Inside the apartment they questioned Eric McKay and Venita Mason about defendant. Dunlap then returned to where Murdock was and searched the area again. No weapons or money were found near Murdock's body.

Jonathan Mason testified that after the shooting his older brother, Pete Mason, approached the apartment building and asked Jonathan what had happened. Jonathan told Pete that Murdock had been shot and described defendant to him. Pete then said that that "looked like the guy that just ran past [me]" through the alley.

Peter Mason testified that prior to seeing defendant in the alley, he had observed him being helped out of the rear door of the apartment building by another man.

Chicago Detective Stephen Glynn testified that he, along with his partner, Detective George Carey, arrived at the scene of the murder, searched Murdock's body, the stairwell and the alley. Detective Glynn did not find a gun and found only "loose change" in Murdock's pockets. The detectives determined from their investigation that defendant had shot Murdock.

On February 11, 1992, Nick and Jonathan Mason and James Jones were taken to the police station at 51st and Wentworth where they were questioned about Murdock's murder. They were each shown photographs of six different men and each separately identified defendant as the man who had shot Murdock.

On March 1, Officer Darin Macon was instructed to go to 6364 King Drive in Chicago to find and arrest defendant. Officer Macon, along with Officers Peck, Corbin and Anderson went to the apartment located at that address and knocked on the door. A woman answered the door and the officers told her they were looking for Alfred McKay. She told the officers that there was no one there by that name but that they could come inside. There were two black males inside. The officers asked defendant what his name was and he replied, "Howard Beecham." The officers asked him if he was also known as Alfred McKay and he said, "No." The officers then took defendant to the police station where he was fingerprinted.

On March 2, Nick and Jonathan Mason and James Jones were again taken to the police station to view a lineup including defendant. All three men identified defendant as the man who had shot Murdock.

Nancy Jones, M.D., an assistant medical examiner, testified that she performed an autopsy on Murdock. Dr. Jones found three gunshot wounds on Murdock's body--one in his left front chest, one in the left upper abdomen region and the third in the left upper back region. According to Dr. Jones, all three wounds were in a downward direction consistent with the shooter being above Murdock. The State's exhibits 2 through 11, ...

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