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People v. Hill

February 17, 1998

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
LOUIS HILL, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT COOK COUNTY No. 95 CR 1656201 THE HONORABLE MICHAEL P. TOOMIN JUDGE PRESIDING.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cousins

After a bench trial, defendant Louis Hill was found guilty of first degree murder, home invasion, armed robbery, residential burglary, robbery and armed violence. The trial court sentenced defendant to consecutive sentences of natural life imprisonment for murder, an extended-term of 60 years for home invasion and 30 years for armed robbery.

On appeal defendant argues that: (1) the trial court erred in imposing an extended term for home invasion where the trial court had already imposed an "extended term" for first degree murder, the most serious offense for which he was convicted; (2) the trial court exceeded the statutorily permissible maximum sentence for an extended term for first degree murder where the trial court sentenced defendant to natural life and the maximum allowable extended-term sentence for murder is 100 years; (3) he was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of armed robbery because the evidence established that he did not use a weapon in the taking of any property and any force that he did use was not to further the goal of taking the victim's property; (4) he was not proven guilty of armed robbery beyond a reasonable doubt where there was no evidence corroborating the offense apart from defendant's statement; (5) he was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of home invasion because he was voluntarily admitted to the victim's home and the evidence established that he did not have a prior intent to commit a crime; (6) the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing him to natural life imprisonment; and (7) he is entitled to an additional 882 days of sentence credit under People v. Robinson, 172 Ill. 2d 452, 667 N.E.2d 1305 (1996), because he was sentenced to three consecutive terms of imprisonment and had been in custody on all three offenses for a total of 441 days.

BACKGROUND

On May 7, 1995, Wardell Jackson, age 70, was found murdered in her home located at 8038 South Wabash. Jackson lived alone in a rear coach house at that location while defendant and his wife lived in the front house. After the body was discovered, defendant was interviewed by police and ultimately confessed to the circumstances surrounding Jackson's death. At trial, defendant's confession was introduced into evidence via a stipulation.

In his statement, defendant explained that he had known Jackson for five years and that he and his wife had a set of keys to Jackson's home. On May 5, 1995, defendant called Jackson on the phone and asked if he could borrow some money. Jackson agreed and defendant went to her house. Jackson met defendant at her front door and gave him $10. When he was standing at the door, defendant saw a black man and woman inside Jackson's home, but he did not know who they were. Defendant used the money to buy cigarettes and a bottle of liquor.

Around 10:30 p.m., defendant called Jackson a second time and asked to borrow more money. Jackson agreed and defendant went to her front door again. He saw the same man and woman at Jackson's house that he had seen before. Jackson told defendant that she was going to tell his wife that he was getting money from her. In response, defendant told Jackson that he did not want her to tell his wife because he and his wife would get into fights and arguments if his wife found out. Defendant left and used the $10 to buy crack cocaine.

In his statement, defendant explained that he returned to Jackson's house around 1:30 a.m. to tell Jackson not to tell his wife that she had given him money. He rang the doorbell and Jackson let him in. Jackson locked the front door and the two went into the kitchen. Defendant told Jackson not to tell his wife about the money. He then grabbed her and began "shaking her like a rag doll." While he was shaking her, he pushed her and Jackson stumbled backwards and fell. As she fell, she hit her head on something. Defendant saw blood by her head and went to see if she was breathing. He then started to leave the house but stopped to take $10 to $13 that he saw on a table. He then took some papers and clothes from the bedroom to make it look as if someone had broken into Jackson's home. Since the front door was locked, defendant went to the back door of the house, kicked the door open, and went home.

Around 5 a.m., defendant returned to Jackson's home and entered through the back door. He saw that Jackson was lying where he left her and he did not think that she was breathing. Defendant decided to cause more damage to make it look as if someone had broken into the house. He had brought a chisel with him from his house and used the chisel to make pry marks and scratches on the outside back door. He then found a box cutter in Jackson's home and used it to cut Jackson's throat. Defendant then left Jackson's home, drove around in his car and threw the box cutter out of the window while driving on the Dan Ryan expressway.

Flora Johnson, defendant's wife, testified at trial and stated that she had known Jackson her whole life. On May 7, 1995, Johnson called Jackson to go to church with her and defendant, as they usually did. When Jackson did not answer her phone or door, Johnson asked a neighbor to call the police. The police arrived and discovered Jackson's body. Johnson and defendant went to the police station to provide information. It was in the course of this visit that defendant confessed.

Rebecca Jones and James Williams, the two people who had been present in Jackson's home when defendant came to borrow money from Jackson, both testified at trial. They corroborated defendant's version of events that defendant called and visited Jackson twice while they were there. Jones and Williams left Jackson's home at 1:15 a.m., and Williams spoke to Jackson on the phone around 2:15 or 2:30 a.m. for a couple of minutes.

Detective Ted Przepiora, who investigated Jackson's home following the discovery of her body, testified that, in examining the rear of Jackson's residence, he noticed that the outside storm door had damage and pry marks to the boltlock area and that the frame or strike plate of the door was damaged. The inner wooden door had a shattered glass plate and tool marks around the lock area. It was the detective's that the force exerted on the door had come from the inside and not the outside.

Detective Przepiora then entered the home and walked into the rear bedroom of the house, where he found Jackson lying along her bed against the south wall of her bedroom. Her right arm was across the bed and a bloody telephone was lying beside her. A telephone wire was around her head area. There was a gaping wound to her throat and trauma about her face. The bed was soaked with blood and there were several blood spatterings about the west and north walls. A screwdriver was discovered in the doorway to the bedroom. On the dresser was an open purse, but there was no money inside.

The pathologist's findings were entered into evidence via a stipulation. The pathologist would testify that it was his opinion that Jackson died of massive bleeding due to an incised wound of the neck involving the left carotid artery, the left jugular vein and the left superior thyroid artery and vein. The pathologist could not reach an opinion as to whether the victim was conscious or unconscious at the time of that injury, but it was his opinion that she was alive when the fatal injury was inflicted.

The trial court found defendant guilty on all counts and the case proceeded to sentencing where the trial court found defendant eligible for the death penalty. After hearing aggravating and mitigating evidence, defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment for his murder conviction, an extended term of 60 years for his home invasion conviction and 30 years for his armed robbery conviction.

We affirm in part and vacate in part.

ANALYSIS

I

Defendant first contends that the trial court erred in imposing an extended term for home invasion where the trial court had already imposed an "extended term" for first degree murder, which was the most serious offense for which he was convicted. Defendant has waived review of this issue because he failed to object during the sentencing hearing and failed to file a timely post sentencing motion. People v. Reed, 177 Ill. 2d 389, 393, 686 N.E.2d 584(1997). However, we believe the issue warrants review under the doctrine of plain error. 134 Ill. 2d R. 615(a); People v. Askew, 273 Ill. App. ...


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