APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY. THE HONORABLE RICHARD NEVILLE, JUDGE PRESIDING.
Released for Publication August 5, 1997.
The Honorable Justice South delivered the opinion of the court. Hartman, P.j., and Hoffman, J., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: South
JUSTICE SOUTH delivered the opinion of the court:
Defendant, 18-year-old Gabriel Lara, was charged by indictment with the offense of first degree murder. Following a bench trial, the trial court entered a finding of guilty and sentenced defendant to 22 years in prison. Defendant appeals.
On December 9, 1993, the victim, 22-year-old Hector Ramos, drove several coworkers home from Wauconda. After stopping to drop off a passenger, Hector drove into an alley near Augusta Boulevard around 6 p.m. and encountered a van proceeding toward his station wagon. Hector, unable to drive around this van, reversed and backed to the end of the alley. At that point, two men exited the van. Hector exited his station wagon and told his passengers to get out with him. Hector's passengers, Guadalupe Trujillo, Onesimo Trujillo and Valentine Galvan, complied with his request. An argument ensued between Hector and the driver of the van. Hector and two of his three passengers then picked up bricks from the alley, and the two men returned to the van. The van was backed out of the alley and was driven away.
After the van left the scene, Hector and Valentine Galvan dropped their bricks in the alley and returned to the station wagon. Guadalupe Trujillo placed the bricks he was holding into the station wagon. Hector and his passengers proceeded to Guadalupe Trujillo's residence at 1421 West Augusta Boulevard, where he parked the station wagon and exited the vehicle.
After Hector parked, the van appeared and was parked nearby. Guadalupe and Onesimo Trujillo exited the station wagon, and Valentine Galvan remained inside the vehicle. Several individuals exited the van, and the driver of the van started to whistle. A large group of men appeared, and Hector and the driver of the van began to fight. During this fight, Hector had a brick in his hand. The driver of the van got the best of Hector, and the fight ended. At that time, Hector dropped the brick to the ground.
After Hector dropped the brick to the ground, defendant approached Hector and hit him in the head with a board. Valentine Galvan attempted to assist Hector but Valentine was struck in the head with a beer bottle by the driver of the van. Hector's station wagon was then stolen, presumably by someone from the van. Valentine and Hector went to the Trujillo residence and then to the home they shared with Lydia Ramos.
Lydia Ramos, Hector's sister and the wife of Valentine, testified that when Hector came home from work on December 9, 1993, around 7 p.m., he appeared to be tired, pale, sweaty and in pain. He also had a large bump on the right side of his head. She took Hector to Norwegian American Hospital, and he was later transferred to Cook County Hospital, where he died on December 17, 1993.
Police investigation led to the arrest of defendant at his residence. On December 10, 1993, defendant told detectives that he struck Hector in self-defense because Hector had picked up a brick, turned toward him and raised up his arm as if he were going to throw the brick at him.
The detectives also had a conversation with defendant's brother, Miguel Lara. Miguel stated that he observed the fight between the victim and the man from the van. He thought the fight was over as one of the victim's friends took the bricks away from the victim and threw them down. Miguel told the detectives that a man from the van hit the man from the station wagon in the head with a two by four.
When the detectives told Miguel that defendant had already told them that he had hit the victim in the head with the two by four, Miguel agreed. Miguel also agreed the man who was struck had no bricks in his hand.
After speaking with Miguel, the detectives again spoke to defendant. The detectives informed defendant that his brother, Miguel, stated that the victim did not have bricks in his hand. Defendant then told the detectives that, after the fight, he ...