APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY. HONORABLE MICHAEL TOOMIN, JUDGE PRESIDING.
Released for Publication August 29, 1996.
Presiding Justice Campbell delivered the opinion of the court: Buckley, J., and Wolfson, J., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Campbell
PRESIDING JUSTICE CAMPBELL delivered the opinion of the court:
Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant Freddie Falconer was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to a term of 50 years in prison. Defendant now appeals his conviction.
The following facts were adduced at trial. Chicago Police Detective James O'Leary testified that at approximately 5:30 p.m., on September 20, 1993, he and his partner, Detective Paladino, were assigned to investigate the murder of Issac McKenzie. Detective O'Leary then proceeded to 3945 South Ellis, arriving at approximately 6:30 p.m. In the alley between Ellis and Lake Park, Detective O'Leary observed a man lying on his back, with a pool of blood under his head. There was also a green hat under his head which also contained what appeared to be blood and brain matter. Detective O'Leary observed three deep gashes over the victim's right eye and another on the side of his head. The man was dead.
Detective O'Leary testified that the man was lying next to a white Buick Electra automobile and that his hands appeared to have grease on them, like a car mechanic. There were tools around the Buick Electra. A red and white Buick Regal was parked just north of the white Buick Electra. The trunk of the Buick Regal was open; there were several tools in the trunk.
Detective O'Leary spoke with Chicago Police Officers May and Tolliver, who were the beat officers initially assigned to the scene. Detective O'Leary also spoke with several civilians, including Johnny Jones, Craig Holland, Emmett Hubbard and Curtis Jackson. After speaking with these people, Detective O'Leary went to 3950 South Ellis, a nine-story Chicago Housing Authority housing project building, looking for Freddie Shawn Falconer. Detective O'Leary visited an apartment there. Although defendant was not at the apartment, Detective O'Leary spoke with defendant's sister.
At approximately 8:45 p.m., defendant and his mother came into the police station. After advising defendant of his Miranda rights, Detective O'Leary interviewed defendant in the presence of his mother. According to Detective O'Leary, defendant stated that he and two friends, Jasmine McClellan and Allen Brown, were all carrying golf clubs when they came upon Issac McKenzie. Defendant claimed that McKenzie owed defendant's mother some money. McKenzie made a derogatory comment about defendant's mother, whereupon defendant, McClellan and Brown all struck McKenzie with their golf clubs, then left the scene.
Detective O'Leary then testified regarding the initial police efforts to locate McClellan and Brown. Although McClellan and Brown were not at the addresses provided by defendant, Detective O'Leary spoke with Brown's aunt, who gave the detective three golf clubs. According to Detective O'Leary, at approximately 11 p.m., McClellan and Brown arrived at the police station. McClellan, who was ten years old, was accompanied by his aunt; Allen, who was fifteen years old, was accompanied by his mother. These adults were present at the interviews Detective O'Leary conducted with McClellan and Brown.
Detectives O'Leary and Paladino then reinterviewed defendant in the presence of his mother during the early morning hours of September 21, 1993. Detective O'Leary informed defendant that McClellan and Brown provided a different version of the incident. According to O'Leary, defendant then stated that Brown did not have a golf club at the time of the incident and stated that defendant was the only one who struck Issac McKenzie, about five or six times. Detective O'Leary testified that he asked whether McKenzie had a weapon; defendant responded that McKenzie did not and that defendant had been mad that McKenzie had taken money from defendant's mother.
On cross-examination, Detective O'Leary testified that defendant did not appear to be ill, but that defendant's mother mentioned that defendant had the flu and that she had some prescription medicine for him. Detective O'Leary also stated that McKenzie had a tire iron under one of his hands at the scene. Detective O'Leary testified that he did not specifically ask defendant about the tire iron, adding that defendant never mentioned it.
Dr. Joseph Cogan, a forensic pathologist and Deputy Medical Examiner for the Cook Count Medical Examiner's office, testified that McKenzie died from multiple head injuries. Dr. Cogan also noted that McKenzie had contusions on the right side of his neck, shoulder and chest; the latter was accompanied by rib fractures. Dr. Cogan stated that there was a total of seven blows to McKenzie consistent with being struck by a golf iron.
Assistant State's Attorney (ASA) David Studenroth testified regarding a written statement he took from defendant in the presence of defendant's mother early on September 21, 1993. ASA Studenroth then published the statement to the jury. The statement is similar to Detective O'Leary's description of defendant's prior oral statements. In the written statement, McClellan and Brown visited defendant at his home to tell him where "Ike" (McKenzie) was. Defendant was mad at McKenzie because he believed that McKenzie had taken $160 dollars that his mother had dropped at home; McKenzie and his girlfriend once lived with defendant's mother. Defendant got a golf club from Brown; McClellan also had a golf club.
Defendant and his two friends found McKenzie at 3945 South Ellis, working under the hood of a car. Other people were present, including "Emmett," "Minnie," and "Johnny Jones." Defendant asked about the money, McKenzie responded with a derogatory comment about defendant's mother. Defendant became angry. Defendant then struck McKenzie with the golf club while his back was turned. McKenzie had nothing in his hands. McKenzie fell to the ground. Defendant then "wound up" and hit McKenzie in the head as he lay on the ground, trying to get up. McClellan and Brown did not strike McKenzie.
Defendant testified on his own behalf. Defendant's testimony was similar to his prior statements, except that defendant added that after McKenzie made a derogatory comment about defendant's mother, he came at defendant with a tire iron. Defendant testified that he struck McKenzie the first time because he thought his life was in danger. Defendant also testified that he struck ...