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November 27, 1996


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 92-CR-237. Honorable Joseph J. Urso, Judge Presiding.

As Modified on Denial of Rehearing February 26, 1997. Released for Publication February 28, 1997.

The Honorable Justice Cahill delivered the opinion of the court. Theis and S.m. O'brien, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cahill

JUSTICE CAHILL delivered the opinion of the court:

A jury found Willie Wright guilty of first degree murder and attempted armed robbery. The trial court sentenced him to 60 years in prison for first degree murder and 8 years for attempted armed robbery, the sentences to run consecutively. Wright appeals. We affirm the murder conviction but vacate the conviction for attempted armed robbery.

On November 20, 1991, Kahil Cuyler was beaten and shot to death near 658 E. 81st Street in Chicago, Illinois. At Wright's trial an eyewitness, Michella Henderson, testified that on November 20, 1996, she and her sister, while driving down 81st Street, saw three men fighting in the street. Two men were on either side of the third man, punching him. One of the assailants displayed a gun. Henderson then heard a shot. The beaten man fell to the ground. The assailants then got into a car on 81st and left the scene. Henderson telephoned 911, told the police what had happened, and gave the license plate number the car. Henderson testified that she later identified Tanzell Eaton in a line-up as a man who strongly resembled the shooter. The line-up was held on November 22, 1996, and included the defendant, Willie Wright. Henderson did not identify Wright.

Officer Carlassare testified that while investigating the shooting he learned that the car identified by Henderson was registered to a Tanzell Eaton. Eaton was taken into custody approximately 22 hours after the shooting and questioned.

Officer Malkowski testified at the hearing on Wright's motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence that Eaton told police that "two co-companions, one Mr. Willie Wright and Mr. Hampton, set out to rob Kahil Cuyler and a struggle ensued between Mr. Wright and Mr. Cuyler and Mr. Wright shot Mr. Cuyler in the head."

Several police officers then went to 17 West 103rd Street to arrest Wright. Officers knocked on the door and Wright opened it. The officers announced they were the police and asked Wright his name. Wright then slammed the door. Police Sergeant Wolf knocked on the door again. Wright's mother, Velma Wright, answered the door. Sergeant Wolf testified that he told Mrs. Wright the police were investigating a shooting. Officer Easter testified they told her the police were there to talk to and arrest her son. They said they knew Wright was there and asked if they could come in. Mrs. Wright stepped back to let Sergeant Wolf and other officers enter. Six officers entered the kitchen. They had no warrant. While the other officers searched the house, Sergeant Wolf asked Mrs. Wright if she would sign a consent to search form. Wolf did not bring consent forms with him. He wrote one out on a piece of paper Mrs. Wright gave him. Mrs. Wright retrieved her glasses so she could read the form. She then pointed out that Sergeant Wolf had misspelled her name. After that was corrected she read and signed the form.

Officer Phil Paluch was one of the officers who searched the house. He found Wright crouched in a corner of the basement crawl space. Wright was removed at gunpoint from the basement, handcuffed, and taken into custody.

During the pretrial suppression hearing Mrs. Wright testified to a different version of events. She testified that at 6:30 p.m. on November 21st she was asleep because she works nights. She heard a lot of banging on the side door. She went downstairs and asked who was at the door. A voice said "police." She opened a security door and a plain clothed police officer showed her a badge. One of the several police officers said they wanted to speak with Wright. He did not say they wanted to arrest him or search for a gun. She said she did not know if he was home because she had been asleep. She told the police she would go downstairs to see if her son was home but they pushed her back and came in. She did not give the police permission to enter and they had no warrant. They searched the home. When she asked the police for a warrant they said they did not need one. Two officers went downstairs and came back with Wright in handcuffs. She testified that at one point she went downstairs and saw one of the officers with a knee in Wright's back and a gun at his head. She said she never had her glasses so she never read the consent form. She was told it was a paper stating that the police did not damage the house. She said she did initial a correction to the spelling of her name.

The trial judge found the police officers more credible than Mrs. Wright and denied Wright's motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence.

At trial, Detective Karl testified that he spoke to Wright when he was in police custody. Wright told him that Eaton told Wright and Hampton that they were going to rob Cuyler. When the three saw Cuyler, Wright went up to him with a gun and fired it once into the air. Wright and Cuyler then fought. Eaton joined the fight and hit Cuyler in the face, then took the gun from Wright and fired three times at Cuyler. The assailants then left the scene.

Wright first contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to quash arrest and suppress ...

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