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December 18, 1997


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable BERTINA E. LAMPKIN, Judge Presiding.

The Honorable Justice South delivered the opinion of the court. Hoffman, P.j., and Hourihane, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: South

The Honorable Justice SOUTH delivered the opinion of the court:

Following a jury trial, defendant, Terry Jackson a/k/a Cornell Weathers, was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to 30 years imprisonment. Jackson admitted that he performed the acts which caused the death of the deceased, Milton Collins. However, Jackson claimed that he took those actions in self-defense out of fear of Collins.

On appeal, Jackson argues that the court erred in precluding evidence regarding Collins' past acts of violence and prior convictions and in admitting a 911 tape. Jackson also contends that numerous comments made during the prosecutor's closing argument and the court's denial of his motion for mistrial denied him a fair trial. For the following reasons, we affirm Jackson's conviction of first degree murder.

During trial, Jackson testified that on the morning of March 7, 1994, he was asleep in a friend's apartment at 2616 South King Drive in Chicago when he was awakened by Collins who was hitting him in the face and then collaring him against the wall. Jackson hit Collins and ran, partially clothed, to the lobby downstairs. While in the lobby, Jackson saw the building manager and told him he had been attacked and to call the police. The manager refused, stating that was not his job.

Jackson then went outside to a phone booth, called 911 and told the operator that he had been attacked at 2616 South King Drive. The operator instructed him to wait in the lobby of the building and that a squad car would be there in about five minutes. As he was going back into the building, he picked up a stick lying against the wall of the building, carried it inside the lobby and waited for the police. While in the lobby, he saw Collins walking toward the bus stop on King Drive with a television in his hands. Approximately 15 minutes had passed from the time Jackson ran from the apartment until he saw Collins.

Jackson further testified that after Collins sat down at the bus stop, he walked up to Collins and asked why he was bothering him and why he wanted to take from him. Collins replied "fuck you," "eased up off the bench" and reached out trying to grab him. Jackson then hit Collins between the neck and the shoulder with the stick because he was afraid. After being hit with the stick, Collins sat back down on the bench. He then "eased up" again with his hands up. Jackson reached over his hand and hit him with the stick in the side of the neck, close to the ear. Jackson then saw Collins was dazed and ran back to his friend's apartment to put on some clothes.

Jackson also testified that after he got dressed, he returned to the lobby. He took the stick with him for protection. When the elevator door opened to the lobby, Jackson saw Collins coming through the door of the elevator room. Both men could not pass through the doorway at the same time. Jackson then asked Collins why did he want to bother him. He told Collins, that he ought to "get off that shit bothering people."

Collins replied "fuck you" and moved toward Jackson with a look on his face as though he wanted to grab him. As Jackson tried to get out the door, Collins came a little closer to him. Jackson testified that he then hit Collins in the mouth to get Collins off of him, and again in the head with the stick because he was afraid. After Collins was struck in the head with the stick, he fell to the ground on his face and his tooth came out. Jackson then ran out of the lobby and threw the stick on the side of the building.

The prosecution presented the testimony of three eyewitnesses to the following events. Darryl Love, the building superintendent of the Prairie Courts Apartments at 2616 South King Drive, testified that on March 7, 1994, at approximately 8:30 a.m., he was working on the north side of the building. When he opened the door of the building, he heard a resident, Floyd Metcalfe, yelling to Love from his apartment window above, "We need to stop this, you need to stop this." Love turned and saw Jackson and Collins at the bus stop on King Drive. Collins was sitting on the bench and Jackson was standing next to him holding a stick.

Love testified that Jackson and Collins were saying something to each other, but he could not hear what was being said. He saw Jackson hit Collins in the head with the stick and Collins place his hands over his head in an attempt to cover himself. Jackson swung the stick again and hit Collins in the head a second time. Love further testified that Collins did not have a weapon and never attempted to hit Jackson, get up from the bench or move his hand toward Jackson at all.

Floyd Metcalfe testified that he witnessed a man beating another man with a stick at the bus stop. Although Metcalfe could not identify either man because he could not see their faces, he did identify the stick used to strike Collins. Metcalfe testified that the only man fighting was the one with the stick, the man on the bench never got up from the bench and did not have time to do anything other than to put up his arms to try to block the blows.

Luke Boone, the building manager, did not see what occurred at the bus stop. However, Boone testified that he saw Jackson strike Collins in the head with the stick in the lobby of the 2616 South King Drive building. When Boone came through the south door of the lobby on the morning of March 7, 1994, he saw Collins standing in the lobby. Jackson came through the door into the lobby with a stick in his hand and stopped Collins with the stick, telling him that "he ought to get up off of that shit of jumping on people."

Jackson, while holding the stick on his shoulder with one hand, hit Collins in the mouth with his fist. At that time, Collins leaned over on a plexiglass window groping around with his fingers in his mouth trying to find if a tooth had been loosened. Another man standing in the north door stated that the police were coming. Jackson grabbed the stick a little tighter and hit Collins in the top portion of his head, "baseball style," as if he were swinging a baseball bat. After Collins was struck with the stick, he bounced off the plexiglass window, slid down to the ground and began to cough up blood.

Boone further testified that Collins had nothing in his hands, his feet were stationary and he did not move at all toward Jackson before being hit him in the mouth and the head. Jackson then ran away, and Boone ran to the manager's office to call 911. Boone later went to the police station and identified Jackson in a lineup. Collins subsequently died ...

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