Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

06/19/97 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. GERALDINE SMITH

June 19, 1997

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLEE,
v.
GERALDINE SMITH, APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. John W. Crilly, Judge, presiding.

Rehearing Denied September 29, 1997.

The Honorable Justice Nickels delivered the judgment of the court. Chief Justice Freeman, specially concurring. Justice McMORROW joins in this special concurrence. Justice McMORROW, also specially concurring. Chief Justice Freeman joins in this special concurrence. Justice Miller, concurring in part and dissenting in part. Justices Heiple and Bilandic join in this partial concurrence and partial dissent.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nickels

The Honorable Justice NICKELS delivered the judgment of the court:

Defendant, Geraldine Smith, was charged with first degree murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)(1)) and conspiracy to commit murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 8-2(a)) arising from the June 23, 1987, shooting death of Valerie McDonald. Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant was convicted of both counts. The trial court denied defendant's post-trial motion, which sought a new trial to introduce exculpatory testimony of nine new witnesses. Defendant waived her right to be sentenced by the jury and the trial judge determined defendant was eligible for the death penalty because she procured another to commit murder for money. See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 9-1(b)(5). After considering factors in aggravation and in mitigation, the trial judge determined that there were no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude the imposition of the death sentence and, accordingly, sentenced defendant to death. See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 9-1(h). Defendant's death sentence has been stayed pending direct appeal to this court. Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, ยง 4(b); 134 Ill. 2d Rs. 603, 609(a).

Codefendant Eddie Williams was tried separately from defendant and was found guilty of first degree murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)(1)), conspiracy to commit murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 8-2(a)), and armed violence (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 33A-2). On appeal, this court affirmed Williams' convictions but vacated his death sentence. People v. Williams, 161 Ill. 2d 1, 204 Ill. Dec. 72, 641 N.E.2d 296 (1994). On remand, Williams was resentenced to natural life imprisonment. The present appeal involves only Geraldine Smith's convictions and sentence.

BACKGROUND

On June 23, 1987, the victim, Valerie McDonald, was shot at point-blank range in the head. Two days later, she died as a result of the gunshot wound. The victim's husband, Louia McDonald, and two daughters, LaChina and Lakeya, 16 and 8 years old, respectively, witnessed the shooting. The investigation of the shooting culminated in the arrest and indictment of the defendant, Geraldine Smith, who was revealed to be involved in an extramarital affair with the victim's husband, Louia McDonald. Also arrested for their involvement in the shooting were defendant's friend, Marva Golden, and the hired shooter, Eddie Williams. Golden subsequently pleaded guilty to first degree murder.

Testimony at defendant's trial revealed the following. LaChina McDonald testified that on the night of the murder she and her sister, Lakeya, attended a church service with their mother, Valerie McDonald. Louia McDonald, the victim's husband, picked the family up at church about 9:15 p.m. and drove home to their apartment building on North Winthrop Avenue in Chicago. As Louia circled the block looking for a parking space, LaChina noticed a man with a ponytail standing on the corner watching their car. Louia parked the car across the street from their building and the girls exited the vehicle, followed by Louia and their mother. As Louia and the girls entered the vestibule of the building, Valerie trailed behind on the front sidewalk. LaChina saw the man with the ponytail approach her mother and raise his hand towards her mother's head. She then heard a gunshot and saw her mother collapse to the sidewalk. The man fired two shots towards the entrance of the building and then turned and fled south. As LaChina went to her mother, Louia ran after the man.

Daniel Postlethwait testified that at about 10 p.m. on the night of the murder he and his nephew were walking to his car, which was parked across the street from the parking lot of a Dominick's grocery store. At that time, Postlethwait heard gunshots coming from the direction of North Winthrop Avenue. He turned in that direction and saw an African-American man with a ponytail running towards him with another man in pursuit. The man with the ponytail entered the passenger side of a burgundy Buick Regal that was idling in the entrance to the parking lot. The man said something to the driver and the Buick drove through the parking lot and left the area.

Phillip Mannion and Raymond Kamenski, Chicago police detectives, testified that they arrived at the scene of the shooting around 10 p.m. At that time, Valerie McDonald was lying on the ground with blood coming out of her right ear. The detectives testified that they spoke with Louia, who told them that the shooter escaped in a burgundy Buick Regal that looked identical to defendant's car. The detectives further testified that Louia also disclosed that, although he was married to the victim, the defendant was his girlfriend.

The two detectives testified that they went to defendant's house at about 2 a.m. on June 24. There they found defendant at home, but her car was gone. Defendant voluntarily accompanied the detectives to Area 6 police headquarters, where she told them that Marva Golden had borrowed her car the previous evening. Shortly thereafter, another detective drove defendant home and found that Golden had arrived there with defendant's car. Golden and defendant returned to the station with the detective, where defendant gave them permission to search her car and house. The detectives accompanied defendant to her home and evidence technicians processed her car. Although defendant was permitted to stay at her home, Golden remained in custody. Detective Kamenski testified that at about 10 p.m. on June 24, he spoke with Golden and she identified Eddie Williams as the person who shot Valerie McDonald. Subsequently, Williams was taken into custody. LaChina McDonald identified Williams from a lineup as the man who shot her mother.

Marva Golden testified that she had known defendant, Geraldine Smith, for 24 years, having first met when defendant was dating Golden's uncle. Golden testified that in early 1986, she learned that defendant was pregnant and that Louia McDonald was the father of the baby. Golden first met Louia at defendant's house some time in 1986 when Louia was staying with defendant. Although Golden knew Louia had a family, she was unaware at that time that he was married.

Golden testified that while defendant was pregnant, she would often stay with defendant and help her around the house. Golden had her own room in defendant's home and often stayed there on weekends. Near the end of defendant's pregnancy, during the fall of 1986, Golden observed defendant and Louia argue frequently. Golden testified that defendant was tired of Louia going back and forth between his wife's home and defendant's home. Golden further testified that defendant wanted Louia to leave his wife, but Louia responded that he was having financial problems and needed more time. Golden testified that defendant gave birth to a son late in 1986, whom she named Louia McDonald, Jr. Golden further observed that Louia visited defendant less frequently during 1987.

Golden testified that in June 1987, she began working at a restaurant close to defendant's house. In order to reduce her commute to work, Golden often stayed with defendant. On Sunday, June 21, Golden left work at 2:30 p.m. and went to defendant's house. Golden testified that defendant was angry and said that she wanted Valerie McDonald to die. Golden testified that defendant walked through the house repeating that she wanted "the bitch dead."

Golden testified that at approximately 6 p.m. that same day, she and defendant left Louia Jr. with defendant's sister, Louise. Defendant borrowed Louise's car and drove Golden to the north side of Chicago. Golden testified that when they reached North Winthrop Avenue, defendant pointed out the victim's house and again said that she wanted Valerie dead. Defendant circled the block and slowed the car as she passed the victim's building again. At this time, they did not see Louia McDonald's car outside the building. Defendant then drove towards her home on the west side of Chicago. Golden testified that during the trip defendant repeatedly said, "I want the bitch dead."

Golden testified that later that same evening, she and defendant returned to the victim's neighborhood in defendant's car. During this trip, defendant spotted Louia's car parked outside the apartment building. Golden testified that upon seeing Louia's car, defendant hit her own steering wheel in anger and again repeated that she wanted "the bitch dead." Golden further testified that the women returned to defendant's house, where defendant said that she was "tired of this shit." Golden testified that defendant then asked her if she knew anyone who could help her and Golden replied that she did.

Golden testified that the next morning, Monday, June 22, defendant repeated her wish that Valerie McDonald were dead. Golden testified that defendant said she would pay $500 to have the victim murdered and asked Golden if she knew anyone who would do it. Golden again answered affirmatively. That evening, Golden drove defendant and Louia Jr. in defendant's car to the south side of the city in order to find someone to kill the victim. Golden noticed that defendant had brought several cans of soda with her for the trip.

Golden testified that she drove to a tavern at 59th and Honore Streets. Outside the tavern, Golden saw Eddie Williams, whom she knew because Williams had dated her sister. Golden exited the car and approached Williams while defendant remained in the parked car with the baby. Golden testified that she asked Williams if he would kill Valerie McDonald for Geraldine Smith, who was willing to pay $500. Golden testified that Williams responded by saying, "Let's ride." Golden further testified that Williams also agreed to give her $100 of the money. Williams then got into the back seat of defendant's car. Golden noticed that Williams rested his hands on the car's T-top as he entered the car.

Golden testified that she then drove towards her cousin's home. During the drive, Golden noticed that defendant drank from one of the soda cans. After they arrived at the apartment of Golden's cousin, Olivia Norris, Golden went upstairs to the apartment alone while the others waited in the car. Olivia was at home with her two young sons. Golden testified that she asked Olivia if she knew where she could get a gun for defendant. Golden testified that Olivia replied that she had a gun but it was not for sale. Olivia sent her older son, LaKevin, outside to bring defendant up to the apartment. Soon, LaKevin returned with defendant and her baby.

Golden testified that defendant then entered a bedroom with Olivia, while LaKevin, Golden, and the baby remained in the living room. When the two women emerged from the bedroom, Olivia handed Golden a pillowcase which contained a gun. Golden and defendant then returned to the car and Golden handed Williams the gun. Golden drove defendant and the baby home. Golden testified that defendant told her and Williams that she wanted "the bitch dead," to which they both replied that they would take care of it.

Golden testified that she and Williams then traveled to the victim's neighborhood. Upon arriving there, they noticed that the McDonalds' car was gone, so they returned the gun to Olivia Norris. Golden told Olivia that they would be back for the gun the next day. Golden drove Williams to the south side and let him out at a street corner. She then returned to defendant's house late that evening and told defendant that she and Williams would "take care of" Valerie McDonald the next day.

Golden further testified that on Tuesday, June 23, she left defendant's house in defendant's car about 5:30 p.m. and drove to the south side to get Williams. After picking up Williams, Golden returned to Olivia Norris' apartment and retrieved the gun. Golden then drove to the victim's neighborhood and parked the car. Golden and Williams walked towards the McDonalds' apartment building and waited on the corner. Shortly thereafter, Golden saw the McDonalds' car being driven down the street and pointed it out to Williams. Golden then walked back to defendant's car and drove to a nearby grocery store parking lot and waited with the engine running.

Golden testified that Williams soon ran up to the car and opened the passenger door. Golden testified that as Williams entered the car he said, "Let's get the *** out of here." Golden drove directly back to defendant's house. Golden testified that during the ride, Williams said, "I hit the bitch in the head. I think she is going to die." Golden further testified that Williams also told her that the victim had children with her.

Golden testified that upon arriving at defendant's house, Williams went down into the basement while she talked to defendant. Golden testified that defendant asked her if Williams had taken care of it, to which Golden replied, "Pay him the money." Golden testified that defendant responded, "I hope the bitch die." Golden testified that defendant then took her car keys from Golden and left, saying that she was going to get more money. About 15 minutes later, defendant returned home and gave Golden $500. Golden gave Williams the money, who returned $100 to Golden as they had agreed.

Golden testified that she then drove Williams back to the south side in defendant's car. She dropped him off at a street corner and then returned the gun to Olivia Norris. Golden then met her sister at a bar and had some drinks. After leaving the bar, Golden spent some time alone at the lakefront before returning to defendant's house. Finding no one at defendant's home, Golden went to bed. Golden testified that the next morning, Wednesday, June 24, defendant returned home with two police detectives. The detectives asked Golden to return with them to the police station. On the way to the station, Golden and defendant sat in the back seat of the police car. Golden testified that defendant whispered to her that she should not say anything because the police knew nothing.

That evening, Golden was still at the police station when she discovered that the police allowed the defendant to go home. Golden told Detective Kamenski that she was surprised because defendant "was the cause of all this" and the murder was defendant's idea. Golden then directed the police to the neighborhood where she had dropped off Williams and he was eventually apprehended. Subsequently, Golden was driven back to the police station, where she telephoned Olivia Norris. Golden told Olivia to give the gun to the police. Golden then accompanied the police to Olivia's apartment, but the gun was not recovered at that time.

Golden also testified concerning her agreement with the State. In exchange for her testimony against defendant, the State was going to recommend a prison term of 20 years for Golden. On cross-examination, Golden testified she was aware that without the agreement it was possible that she could receive the death penalty. In addition, Golden was aware that with credit for time served and good behavior she could be released within seven years.

On cross-examination, Golden admitted that when she was first questioned by police detectives she denied any involvement in the murder. Golden denied that she spoke to Iris Harrison, another inmate at the Cook County jail, regarding her case. Finally, Golden denied seeing people at defendant's house on June 21, the Sunday before the murder.

On redirect examination, Golden testified that in July 1987, while she was incarcerated in the Cook County jail, defendant visited her. Golden testified that defendant asked her to write Louia McDonald and tell him that defendant had nothing to do with Valerie's murder. Golden testified further that defendant told her that if she wrote the letter, defendant would deposit a "big lump sum of money" into Golden's account at the jail's commissary. Golden testified that she did not respond to this request.

Assistant State's Attorney Joel DeGrazia testified that on June 25, 1987, he was present when Golden made a court-reported statement regarding the shooting of Valerie McDonald. DeGrazia read the statement to the jury, which was largely consistent with Golden's trial testimony. On cross-examination, DeGrazia acknowledged that Golden never told him that defendant entered Olivia Norris' apartment with her to obtain the gun.

LaKevin Norris testified that in the summer of 1987 he was about to enter the fifth grade. At that time, he and his younger brother lived with his mother, Olivia Norris. LaKevin testified that in late June 1987, he saw his cousin, Golden, and defendant pull up in front of his building in a burgundy-colored car. LaKevin accompanied Golden up to his apartment and then returned outside and spoke with defendant. LaKevin testified that he asked defendant what her name was and she replied "Geraldine." LaKevin then went up to the apartment with defendant. He remembered the women staying for about 15 or 20 minutes. The next evening, Golden returned to LaKevin's house with two men. LaKevin identified Eddie Williams as one of the men who was with Golden.

A medical examiner testified that he performed an autopsy on Valerie McDonald. He noted a gunshot entrance wound near the upper portion of her right ear and recovered a small caliber bullet from near her left temple. He determined that the gunshot wound was the cause of death. Detective David Ryan testified that on June 25, 1987, he recovered a gun wrapped in a pillowcase from Olivia Norris. Olivia showed Ryan the abandoned garage where the gun was hidden. A firearms expert testified that ballistics tests showed that the gun fired the bullet that killed Valerie McDonald.

A fingerprint expert testified that Williams' fingerprints were discovered on the T-top and passenger side door glass of defendant's car. Golden's fingerprints were found on the car's rearview mirror and driver's side door glass. In addition, both Williams' and defendant's fingerprints were found on an empty soda can found in the back seat of defendant's car.

Robert Clark, a Chicago police officer, testified regarding an altercation which occurred between the victim and defendant about one year before the murder. On July 4, 1986, Clark responded to a report of an auto theft in progress at 6100 North Winthrop Avenue. When he arrived, defendant was sitting alone in Louia McDonald's car. As Clark approached the car, he saw defendant bend over. After defendant exited the car, Valerie McDonald exited the apartment building and began arguing with defendant. Soon, the argument escalated into a physical altercation in which the two women kicked and punched each other until Clark separated them. Clark testified that he could not tell which of the women started the altercation. After separating the two women, Clark searched Louia's car. On the floor of the front seat he discovered a cosmetic bag which contained a loaded .25-caliber pistol. He found no identification in the bag. In the back seat of the car, Clark also found defendant's purse, which contained a hammer.

Detective Mannion also testified regarding his efforts to locate Louia McDonald in order for him to testify at defendant's trial. On February 28, 1990, Louia did not appear in court. Mannion found Louia at home and made arrangements to bring him and his daughter Lakeya to court the next morning. Nevertheless, the next day Mannion found that Louia was not home. Louia was also not at work and his daughter was absent from school. Mannion was unable to locate Louia or his daughter in time for them to testify at trial.

In her defense, defendant called Olivia Norris, who testified that she was Golden's cousin and had known her most of her life. Olivia also had known defendant most of her life because defendant had been involved in a relationship with Olivia's uncle. Olivia testified that in the evening of June 22, 1987, Golden came to her apartment with a man Olivia did not know. Golden introduced the man only as "Eddie." Olivia testified that Golden asked her to get the "piece," referring to a gun that Golden had brought to Olivia's apartment over a week earlier. Golden took the gun and left with Eddie only to return with it several hours later. Olivia testified further that Golden returned the next evening with Eddie and another man, and again took the gun. A few hours later, Golden returned alone and dropped off the gun. After a few days, the police came and took the gun from Olivia. On cross-examination, Olivia said that she thought defendant had come to her apartment with Golden on one of those occasions because she recalled seeing and talking with defendant at some time that week. Olivia also admitted that on June 25, 1987, she told the police that defendant had been to her apartment with Golden earlier that week.

Iris Harrison testified that she was in custody in the Cook County jail during the summer of 1987. At that time, Harrison became acquainted with both Golden and defendant. In late June or early July 1987, Harrison was in the waiting room of the jail's infirmary when Golden entered the room with another inmate and began talking to Harrison. Harrison testified that during the conversation, Golden described her murder charge in detail.

Harrison testified that Golden told her that she picked up a man because they were going to "knock off a stain," which Harrison understood to mean that they intended to rob somebody. Harrison testified that Golden stated that when she and the man reached their destination they had to wait for the people to arrive. When the people did arrive, the man jumped out of the car and went right after them. Harrison testified that Golden said the man was supposed to shoot another man, but instead shot the man's wife. Harrison further testified that after making this statement, Golden commented that if you want something done right, you should do it yourself. Harrison testified that at this point in the conversation, Golden turned and looked towards defendant, who was sitting in the adjacent room, and said that defendant was "like a fish out of water." Harrison testified that Golden then commented that if she was going "to go down and take that yellow bus ride," then she was going to take defendant with her. Harrison testified that the "yellow bus ride" means going to the penitentiary. Harrison then testified that Golden also said that defendant had nothing to do with the murder. Harrison also testified that she later became friends with defendant and became protective of her.

Defendant then offered evidence of an alibi for Sunday, June 21, 1987, which Golden testified was the day she accompanied defendant on two trips to the McDonalds' neighborhood after defendant revealed her desire to have Valerie McDonald killed. Several of defendant's relatives testified to a large family gathering that was held at defendant's home on that day. Among them, Enis Mabry, defendant's mother, testified that she arrived at defendant's house at approximately 3 p.m. Enis testified that other family members and Marva Golden were also present at defendant's house that day. Enis stayed until well after dark, leaving some time between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. Enis did not see defendant leave the house at all that day. Enis specifically recalled the day because she was visiting Chicago from her home in Mississippi during June 1987. In addition, she remembered the day because it was the Sunday preceding defendant's arrest.

Defendant also offered alibi evidence for Monday, June 22, 1987, which Golden testified was the day the murder plan was conceived and Williams was recruited to perform the shooting. The testimony of defendant's relatives accounted for defendant's activities of that day from 12:30 p.m. until late afternoon. In addition, the boyfriend of defendant's niece testified that defendant was at her home at 10 p.m. that evening when he arrived to give his girlfriend a ride home.

Finally, defendant offered an alibi for Tuesday, June 23, 1987, the day of the murder. Defendant's doctor and several of her relatives accounted for defendant's activities during that day. In addition, two of defendant's relatives testified that they were with defendant at her home the evening of the murder until approximately 11:15 p.m. They testified that at no time that evening did they see Marva Golden or Eddie Williams at defendant's house.

The defense also called two police detectives who testified that they had interviewed Golden during the early stages of the investigation of Valerie McDonald's murder. During these interviews, Golden denied any involvement in the murder and did not mention defendant's involvement. Defendant did not testify on her own behalf.

Closing arguments were held and the jury returned a verdict of guilty. Subsequently, defendant filed a post-trial motion requesting a new trial, grounded on the newly discovered testimony of nine witnesses. The trial court denied defendant's motion. Defendant waived her right to a jury at the death penalty hearing. The trial court found defendant eligible for the death penalty and, after considering evidence in aggravation and mitigation, the trial court sentenced defendant to death.

Additional facts will be presented where required for a thorough discussion of the issues.

ISSUES

Defendant raises 13 issues in her appeal, the first four of which concern trial error. Defendant argues: (1) she was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) she was denied a fair trial because the prosecutor elicited testimony of the police investigation which implied that a nontestifying codefendant implicated her; (3) she was denied a fair trial because during closing arguments the prosecutor improperly used impeachment evidence as substantive proof that she was present when the murder weapon was obtained; and (4) the trial court erred in denying her request for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence.

Defendant's next two issues concern trial counsel's performance. Defendant argues here that: (5) she was denied effective assistance of counsel because her trial attorney failed to cross-examine a witness regarding incentives the prosecution had promised in exchange for his testimony; and (6) she was deprived of conflict-free counsel because her trial attorney had bribed judges and because he faced drug charges and an impending federal indictment.

Defendant also raises five issues concerning sentencing. Defendant argues: (7) defendant's waiver of her right to a jury for capital sentencing was constitutionally invalid under the sixth, eighth, and fourteenth amendments because she was advised that the jurors had to be unanimous in a decision not to impose death; (8) she was deprived of conflict-free counsel because her attorney also represented a State's witness during her capital sentencing proceedings; (9) she was denied effective assistance of counsel because her trial attorneys failed to investigate and present substantial mitigating evidence concerning her behavior after incarceration; (10) her death sentence is excessive given the substantial mitigation evidence presented and lack of aggravation evidence; and (11) her death sentence is unreasonably disparate from the natural life term of imprisonment imposed on Williams, her codefendant.

Finally, defendant raises two arguments concerning the constitutionality of the Illinois death penalty statute. Defendant argues that the statute: (12) places a burden of proof on a defendant which precludes meaningful consideration of mitigation; and (13) does not sufficiently minimize the risk of arbitrarily imposed death sentences.

I. TRIAL ISSUES

A. Sufficiency of Evidence

Defendant first contends that the State failed to prove her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Defendant argues that the prosecution's case was based almost entirely on the inherently suspect and uncorroborated testimony of codefendant Marva Golden, who is not credible because she is a self-confessed murderer and liar who received substantial incentive to testify falsely and implicate defendant. Moreover, defendant contends that Golden's testimony was significantly contradicted by defendant's numerous witnesses who testified to defendant's alibi and good character.

A criminal conviction will not be set aside on review unless the evidence is so unsatisfactory or improbable that there remains a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt. People v. Byron, 164 Ill. 2d 279, 299, 207 Ill. Dec. 453, 647 N.E.2d 946 (1995). When considering a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence of a defendant's guilt, it is not the function of this court to retry the defendant. People v. Steidl, 142 Ill. 2d 204, 226, 154 Ill. Dec. 616, 568 N.E.2d 837 (1991). Rather, determinations of the credibility of witnesses, the weight to be given to their testimony, and the reasonable inferences to be drawn from the evidence are responsibilities of the trier of fact. Steidl, 142 Ill. 2d at 226. The relevant question on review is whether, after viewing all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Byron, 164 Ill. 2d at 299.

A careful review of the record reveals that a rational trier of fact could have readily found defendant guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder beyond a reasonable doubt. Codefendant Marva Golden testified to the gradual breakdown in the relationship between defendant and Louia McDonald. Defendant was angry over Louia's lack of commitment to her and their son and she became increasingly jealous of the relationship Louia continued with his wife, Valerie. Golden testified that defendant's anger and jealousy finally culminated in defendant's decision to have Valerie killed. At defendant's request, Golden helped her recruit a killer and obtain a gun. Defendant provided her car so that Golden could drive Williams to the murder scene and help him escape after the shooting. Golden testified that after the shooting, defendant gave Golden and Williams $500 for murdering Valerie.

We recognize defendant's contention that the testimony of an accomplice witness "has inherent weaknesses" ( People v. Hermens, 5 Ill. 2d 277, 285, 125 N.E.2d 500 (1955)) and should be "accepted only with utmost caution and suspicion" ( People v. Newell, 103 Ill. 2d 465, 470, 83 Ill. Dec. 229, 469 N.E.2d 1375 (1984)). Nevertheless, the testimony of an accomplice witness, whether corroborated or uncorroborated, is sufficient to sustain a criminal conviction if it convinces the jury of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. See People v. Young, 128 Ill. 2d 1, 51, 131 Ill. Dec. 78, 538 N.E.2d 453 (1989). Moreover, a conviction shall not be reversed simply because the defendant claims a witness was not credible. Byron, 164 Ill. 2d at 299. In the present case, Marva Golden provided a complete account of the conspiracy to murder Valerie McDonald, including her own role in the commission of the crimes. Moreover, Golden's trial testimony was corroborated by the court-reported statement she gave shortly after the murder occurred. This statement tended to rebut the inferences, suggested by the defense, that Golden had a motive to testify falsely in this case and that her trial testimony was a recent fabrication. See People v. Shum, 117 Ill. 2d 317, 340-41, 111 Ill. Dec. 546, 512 N.E.2d 1183 (1987). The jury was well aware of Golden's initial denial of involvement in the murder and her subsequent confession. In addition, the jury knew of Golden's plea agreement with the State, and it was instructed that accomplice testimony is subject to suspicion (see Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions, Criminal, No. 3.17 (3d ed. 1992)). The jury chose to believe Golden's testimony.

Contrary to defendant's assertion, the State was able to provide independent corroboration of many important aspects of Golden's testimony. Police officer Clark's testimony confirmed the growing animosity and potential for violence between Valerie and defendant. Defendant's own family members substantiated defendant's romantic relationship with Louia and the resulting birth of their son, Louia Jr. LaChina McDonald testified that she first noticed Eddie Williams, the shooter, on the corner outside her family's apartment, the same spot where Golden testified that she left Williams. Daniel Postlethwait testified that, after hearing gunshots, he observed a man with a ponytail being chased by another man and then escape in a burgundy Buick. In addition, testimony of police detectives revealed that Louia McDonald chased Williams until he entered a burgundy Buick identical to defendant's car. These witnesses' testimony provided corroboration of Golden's account of her and Williams' escape from the murder scene.

Furthermore, Golden's account of how she and defendant acquired a gun was corroborated by both LaKevin Norris and his mother, Olivia Norris. Detectives also testified that they recovered a gun from Olivia Norris and ballistics tests showed that the gun fired the bullet that killed Valerie McDonald. Other expert testimony further supported Golden's account. Golden's fingerprints were found inside defendant's car, while Eddie Williams' fingerprints were found on both the exterior and interior of defendant's car. Finally, both Williams' and defendant's fingerprints were found on a soda can recovered from the back seat of defendant's car.

Defendant argues that the testimony of her own witnesses and her alibi evidence greatly contradict the State's evidence. However, a careful review of defendant's extensive alibi evidence of the three days preceding the murder reveals that the only contradiction of Golden's account are the events of Sunday, June 21, 1987. Golden testified that she and defendant left Louia Jr. with defendant's sister and then twice traveled to Valerie McDonald's neighborhood. In contrast, several of defendant's family members testified that a large family gathering was held at defendant's house that entire day and defendant never left the premises. Nonetheless, the jury was entitled to credit the State's evidence and disregard defendant's alibi evidence, even though the alibi was supported by the greater number of witnesses. See People v. Jimerson, 127 Ill. 2d 12, 46, 129 Ill. Dec. 124, 535 N.E.2d 889 (1989); People v. Berland, 74 Ill. 2d 286, 307, 24 Ill. Dec. 508, 385 N.E.2d 649 (1978). Further, any infirmities in Golden's or the other witnesses' testimony go to the weight of the evidence and their credibility as witnesses. Young, 128 Ill. 2d at 51.

In sum, given the totality of the evidence adduced at trial, and reviewing it in the light most favorable to the prosecution, we conclude that any rational trier of fact could have found defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We therefore reject defendant's claim that the State failed to prove her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

B. Inference That a Nontestifying Codefendant

Implicated Defendant

Defendant next contends that Detective Phillip Mannion's testimony that he arrested defendant immediately after interviewing codefendant Eddie Williams was erroneously admitted, violating her right of confrontation under the sixth amendment. Defendant's contention is that allowing Detective Mannion to testify that defendant's arrest came immediately after speaking with Williams, who did not testify at defendant's trial, led to the inescapable inference that Williams implicated defendant in the murder. We find defendant's contention without merit.

The portion of Detective Mannion's testimony that defendant highlights involved Mannion's description of the police investigation. On direct examination, Mannion testified that after defendant was first questioned regarding the murder she was allowed to go home while Golden remained in custody. Mannion further testified that after speaking with Golden on the night of June 24, 1987, he and several detectives accompanied Golden to the south side of the city, where Eddie Williams was apprehended. Then the prosecutor and Mannion had this exchange:

"Q. Did you talk to Eddy [ sic ] ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.