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04/16/97 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. FRED KOGER

April 16, 1997

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
FRED KOGER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 21st Judicial Circuit, Kankakee County, Illinois. No. 95-CF-696. Honorable Robert Adcock, Judge, Presiding.

Released for Publication May 30, 1997.

Present - Honorable Tom M. Lytton, Presiding Justice, Honorable Michael P. Mccuskey, Justice, Honorable Kent Slater, Justice. Justice Lytton delivered the opinion of the court. McCUSKEY and Slater, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lytton

The Honorable Justice LYTTON delivered the opinion of the court:

The defendant, Fred Koger, Grant Smith and Nicholas Tang, who was known to defendant as Melik, committed an armed robbery of two men. Melik killed the victims while defendant stood nearby with a shotgun. Defendant was subsequently arrested and charged with six counts of first degree murder and one count of armed robbery. A jury convicted defendant of the armed robbery and first degree murder of both victims, and he was sentenced to natural life in prison for the murders. He appeals the murder convictions and sentence. We affirm.

FACTS

On November 7, 1995, defendant, Smith and Melik met at Mario Gray's house. Melik said that he knew two men who he believed had marijuana and suggested that they rob these men at gunpoint. A man named Jamier Allen testified that during this conversation he heard Melik say he was going to kill the victims. Allen stated that defendant and Smith agreed no one would be killed, and the three men decided to commit the crime. Melik left the house to set up a meeting with the victims in an alley near Gray's house at approximately 2:30 p.m. on the pretext of making a drug deal.

The three men were armed when they arrived in the alley; defendant was carrying a shotgun. Melik told the passenger, Stevenson Earl, to get out of the car and turn over his valuables. He then had Earl lie on the ground at the rear of the car. At gunpoint, defendant ordered the driver, Arthur Loud, Jr., to lie on the ground by Earl. Smith put his gun on the passenger seat and searched the car while the other two men guarded the victims.

Melik silently stood behind Earl and shot him in the head, execution-style, from a distance of 6 to 18 inches. He killed Loud in the same manner. The three defendants then ran down the alley, appeared to exchange something, and continued to run. Eventually, they met back at Gray's house. Defendant asked Melik why he had killed the two men; Melik answered that he had "something personal for them."

Two days later, when the police arrested defendant they found a watch belonging to one of the victims. Defendant was questioned for several hours at the police station and gave a written confession. He was subsequently-charged with six counts of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 1994)) and one count of armed robbery (720 ILCS 5/18-2 (West 1994)).

Defendant sought to quash the arrest and suppress his confession, but the trial court denied both motions. Defendant also filed a motion in limine to bar the introduction of his prior conviction for aggravated discharge of a firearm. The trial court denied the motion in a written order, finding that the conviction's probative value outweighed the prejudice to defendant.

After the close of the State's case, defendant moved for a directed verdict, which the trial court denied. Defendant unsuccessfully renewed this motion after the close of all of the evidence. A jury convicted defendant of the armed robbery and first degree murder of both victims. The trial court sentenced defendant to natural life in prison for the murders, and defendant filed a timely notice of appeal. Because the trial court had not sentenced defendant for the armed robbery conviction, a second sentencing hearing was later held. Defendant was sentenced to 30 years for the armed robbery, and he filed a second notice of appeal. This court consolidated the two appeals.

(The discussion of the following issues is not to be published pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 23 (Official Reports Advance Sheet No. 15 (July 20, ...


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