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03/05/97 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. ALMIGHTY FOUR

March 5, 1997

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
THE ALMIGHTY FOUR HUNDRED, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT, COOK COUNTY. No. 92 CR 8536. THE HONORABLE, DENNIS DERNBACH, JUDGE PRESIDING.

Released for Publication April 24, 1997.

Presiding Justice Cousins delivered the opinion of the court. Cahill and Gordon, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cousins

PRESIDING JUSTICE COUSINS delivered the opinion of the court:

Following a bench trial, defendant, The AlMighty Four Hundred, was found guilty of first-degree murder and concealment of a homicidal death. The trial court sentenced defendant to 70 years' imprisonment. On appeal, defendant argues that: (1) the prosecution failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the trial court erroneously admitted statistical probability testimony; and (3) the defendant's right to confront and examine witnesses against him was violated when the prosecution introduced hearsay by a nontestifying witness involving the statistical probability of a DNA match.

BACKGROUND

On the morning of February 28, 1994, the body of 16-year-old Lakeisha McAllister was found in a garbage dumpster in an alley adjacent to the Grand Ashland Hotel in Chicago. She had been strangled and her throat had been slashed. At trial, the following evidence was elicited.

Salvator Martorina testified that he owns the building located at 466 Ashland. The building contains shops on the first floor and apartments on the upper floors, which are known as the "Grand Ashland Hotel." Martorina had employed defendant for about six months prior to the murder as the building security manager. Defendant lived on the third floor of the building. Martorina testified that he knew the victim and had seen her at the hotel for two to three months previous to the murder.

The hotel office was on the second floor of the building. Adjacent to the office was a kitchen and bathroom. From the street, there was a flight of stairs to the second floor. The door to the second-floor hotel entrance had a security buzzer lock, but the door was often propped open by tenants. The hotel rooms do not have bathrooms but share a common bathroom in the hall. The office was not cleaned regularly. When Martorina saw the office on Sunday, February 27, it was dirty and cluttered with debris. When he returned the next day, the office looked and smelled clean and the furniture was rearranged. Martorina, defendant and a woman who had been employed at the hotel, but who had not been seen in one to two months, possessed keys to the office area.

Other testimony revealed that on the night that she was murdered, the victim called her foster mother, Earnestine Bynum, sometime between 10:30 p.m. and midnight, to tell her that she would be returning to the Bynum household. Bynum did not notice anything unusual about the victim's voice. Forty-five minutes to an hour after the victim's call, defendant called Bynum to see if the victim had arrived there. The victim did not arrive that night.

At 10:50 a.m. on February 28, 1994, police officer William Smith received a call about a body found in a garbage dumpster at 1626 West Ferdinand Street, which is approximately 200 feet south of Grand Avenue and 90 yards away from the hotel. At the scene, the officer observed the victim's body in the dumpster and noted that she had blood on her head, face and upper body clothing.

At 11:20 a.m. on February 28, 1994, John Redmond, a Chicago police department evidence technician, arrived at the alley crime scene. He observed the victim's body in the garbage dumpster and blood in the snow. He and other officers then walked to the hotel. Defendant invited the officers into his apartment after meeting them in the alley. The officers noticed a stain on defendant's pants and took the pants to the police crime lab.

On March 2, 1994, Officer Alfred Perez examined the hotel's office after noting the smell of cleaning solution. Perez noted that the office had a single entrance with two locks on the door. He called the crime lab technicians after he saw what he suspected were bloodstains on the oven in the kitchen area.

On March 2, 1994, Officer Gregory Janicki examined the kitchen area of the hotel and recovered blood samples from various locations in the kitchen.

Cora Pittman testified that she lived in the hotel, in room 212, down the hall from defendant's room. Pittman testified that she knew the victim and knew that the victim lived with defendant in room 210. At about 10 or 10:30 p.m., on February 27, 1994, Pittman walked down the hall to use the common bathroom. As she passed defendant's room, she heard the victim screaming and yelling. She heard the victim scream "get off me" and saw that the door to defendant's apartment was slightly open. Pittman could see inside the apartment and saw the victim on the floor with defendant on top, punching her. Pittman testified that she heard the victim say: "Get off me, I'm going to tell everything." Defendant said, "I'm going to kill you, if you don't shut up bitch." Pittman went back to her room but heard more noise coming from defendant's room. After hearing tumbling and screaming for about 20 to 25 minutes, Pittman looked into the hall and saw the victim run into the hallway towards the door leading to the back stairwell. Defendant chased the victim, grabbed her and dragged her by her hair back to his apartment. Pittman then heard more "tumbling" noises and screaming coming from defendant's room.

Around 4 a.m., defendant knocked on Pittman's door and asked for her eldest son. He had never done this before. Pittman told defendant that her son was asleep. Pittman testified that defendant was wearing black pants and no shirt and had a towel around his neck. His body was soaking wet. Pittman identified the pants she saw defendant wearing that night. Defendant left her door but came back four more times.

Joe Brooks testified that he knew the victim. On February 27, 1994, Brooks received a telephone call from the victim at about 10:30 p.m. or 10:45 p.m. The victim was crying. Although Brooks told the victim that he would pick her up at the hotel at 11:15 p.m., he did not.

Elizabeth Taylor testified that she is a friend of Lakeisha McAllister and her twin sister. She and another woman, Olivia Brown, went to the hotel in the evening on February 27, 1994, at approximately 1 a.m. When they entered the hotel, they saw the defendant in the office. Defendant was standing there wearing black sweat pants, no shirt, and a black jacket, which was open. Taylor and Brown spoke to defendant, who stated that he did not know where the victim was. Taylor and Brown went upstairs but they did not find the victim. Taylor testified that she did not notice anything unusual in the 10 to 15 minutes that she was at the hotel that night.

Ayanna Montgomery testified that she became a friend of the victim because her sister lived in room 204 of the Grand Ashland Hotel. Montgomery would spend weekends at the hotel with her sister. Room 204 was located directly above the hotel office. Room 210, where defendant and the victim resided, was down the hall from room 204. Montgomery testified that she spent the night of February 27, 1994, at the hotel. She was awakened in the middle of the night by screams that sounded nearby. The screams were those of a female shouting, "Stop, leave me alone, get your fucking hands off me." Montgomery did not look at a clock but guessed, by looking at the position of the moon, that the screams occurred at 3 a.m. Montgomery also noted that the kitchen adjacent to the office of the hotel had been filthy the day before the murder, but clean the day after the murder.

The State presented Therese Finn, a forensic biologist for the Chicago Police Department Crime Laboratory. Finn testified that blood taken from defendant's pants matched that of the victim. The likelihood of that blood coming from someone other than the victim is "less than one in a billion." Finn also testified that blood recovered from the jacket defendant was wearing on the night of the murder also matched that of the victim and the likelihood of such a match is "less than one in a billion." Finn also testified that blood taken from the kitchen area of the hotel office matched the victim's blood. The probability of such a match is "less than one in a billion."

Defendant's expert, Sandy Zabell, a professor of mathematics and statistics, testified that, according to his calculations, the frequency of seeing a match between the blood at the crime scene and the victim's blood was 1 in 3 to 4 million, or ...


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