Appeal from Circuit Court of Vermilion County. No. 94CF11. Honorable Richard E. Scott, Judge Presiding.
Honorable Robert W. Cook, J., Honorable Frederick S. Green, J. - Concur, Honorable Robert J. Steigmann, J. - Concur. Justice Cook delivered the opinion of the court.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cook
The Honorable Justice COOK delivered the opinion of the court:
After pleading guilty to one count of first degree murder, defendant was sentenced to 70 years in prison. 720 ILCS 5/9-1 (West 1994). Defendant appeals the sentence imposed pursuant to his guilty plea. We affirm.
On December 15, 1993, 18-year-old defendant Randy Payne and Robert Dieu together travelled to Williams Street in Danville to purchase crack cocaine. Defendant brought the money to buy the crack. When they arrived at Williams Street, Steven Butler approached their vehicle and asked them what they needed. After defendant and Dieu told Butler they wanted crack, Butler said he could get it for them, took the money from defendant, and ran away without giving them the drugs.
Defendant and Dieu drove around looking for Butler, but eventually returned to defendant's house when they did not find him. At the house, they smoked what crack they had. The two drove back to Williams Street intending to obtain either the return of their money or the crack Butler owed them. Defendant brought a handgun from his house, which he gave to Dieu, who slid it beneath the front passenger seat of the car.
Defendant and Dieu found Butler at Williams Street. After telling him they had more money, Butler got into the back-seat of the car. Dieu then displayed the gun defendant brought and confronted Butler about the missing money and crack. Butler said that he could get the crack but that they would have to go to a different location. Defendant drove toward Lake Vermilion, outside Danville, not following Butler's directions to the place he said the drugs were located, while Dieu continued to show the gun and tell Butler that they either wanted their money back or the drugs. Butler became scared and began to strip off his clothes, tossing them in the front seat, stating he did not have the money or the drugs. Dieu threw back Butler's clothes saying they wanted the money or the drugs, while Butler repeated he had neither.
During the drive, Dieu had the gun when a shot discharged through the seat, striking Butler in the thigh. Butler began crying and begging that he not be killed. Defendant stopped the car between two cornfields. Dieu then put the gun on the seat between himself and the defendant. Defendant told Butler to get out of the car. Butler exited the car and attempted to run away, though he had difficulty since he had been shot. Defendant picked up the gun from the seat, exited the car, and fired a shot at Butler from approximately 20 to 25 feet away, hitting him in the back. Butler fell down and, as he was trying to crawl away, defendant stood over him and fired a final shot into his head from three to four feet away. Dieu watched the shootings from the car.
Dieu and defendant went back to defendant's home where they cleaned gunpowder residue from Dieu's arm and cleaned the backseat of defendant's car, which was later disposed of. They found Butler's shoes on the back floorboard, sold them for $40 in order to buy crack, then later got the shoes back and burned them.
On December 16, 1993, Butler's body was found lying face down in a ditch in a rural area north of Danville. The pathologist determined he died from multiple gunshot wounds to the thigh, the back, and the head, shortly after receiving them.
On January 5, 1994, defendant was arrested and charged with five counts of first degree murder and one count of armed robbery. On July 18, 1995, defendant entered a partially negotiated guilty plea to one count of first degree murder, and the State nol-prossed the remaining four counts of first degree murder and the armed robbery charge and was foreclosed from seeking either the death penalty or life imprisonment. Defendant was subject to a sentence of between 20 and 60 years or, if the court found extended-term sentencing applicable, to a sentence of between 60 and 100 years.
During defendant's sentencing hearings, several people testified about defendant's drug abuse. Dieu testified that he and defendant had used substantial amounts of crack for one to two years prior to Butler's murder and that they were high on crack most of the time. Defendant's mother stated that defendant stole and cashed checks from her in order to buy crack. Two counselors from Bridgeway Recovery Center concluded defendant suffered from the late middle stages of polysubstance drug abuse. Two counselors from Fairbanks Hospital also testified that they found defendant to be polysubstance dependent from using alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine. One counselor described crack cocaine psychosis, where addicts are often delusional and paranoid, and said that, considering the extent of defendant's condition, she would expect him to be suffering from crack cocaine psychosis at times. The other Fairbanks counselor testified that at the time of Butler's shooting, defendant was obsessed with getting and using crack and that his preoccupation with crack would supersede any rational thought. Defendant's friends and family members noted that in the one to two years prior to the shooting, defendant's appearance and behavior began to deteriorate. He had withdrawn from normal activities, was not outgoing, and was physically unkempt. In exercising his right of allocution, defendant admitted that he abused alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine. He also apologized to the Butler family for the murder.
Defendant had only one prior offense at the time of the murder. He had been given six months' supervision as a juvenile for criminal damage to property.
After considering the evidence, the trial court found that because the killing was "exceptionally brutal or heinous" defendant was subject to extended-term sentencing and sentenced him to 70 years' imprisonment. On September 1, 1995, defendant filed a motion to reconsider sentence. The trial court denied the motion, and this appeal followed. On appeal, defendant contends that (1) the trial court's imposition ...