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People v. Johnson

April 16, 1998

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLEE, V. MARK JOHNSON, APPELLANT.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Bilandic

Agenda 2

November 1997.

delivered the opinion of the court:

Following a bench trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant, Mark Johnson, was convicted of two counts of first degree murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, pars. 9-1(a)(1), (a)(2)) and one count of armed violence (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 33A-2). Defendant waived a jury for sentencing. The trial court found that defendant was eligible for the death penalty because of a prior conviction for murder. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 38, par. 9-1(b)(3). After a hearing in aggravation and mitigation, the trial court further determined that there were no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude imposition of a death sentence. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 38, par. 9-1(h). Accordingly, the trial court sentenced defendant to death. Defendant's death sentence has been stayed pending direct review by this court. Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, §4(b); 134 Ill. 2d Rs. 603, 609(a). For the reasons that follow, we affirm defendant's convictions and sentence.

FACTS

The following pertinent evidence was presented at defendant's bench trial. The State presented evidence that fingerprints matching those of defendant were found in the apartment where the naked, bloody body of Cherry Wilson was discovered on May 8, 1984. The victim's body was found with her hands tied behind her back and her legs bound together at the ankles. Wilson's body had sustained numerous stab and cut wounds. The State also presented evidence regarding defendant's confession to the murder of Cherry Wilson. Prior to trial, defendant's motion to suppress his confession was denied. Assistant State's Attorney Peter Vilkelis testified as to the written statement given by defendant on December 6, 1985. Prior to questioning defendant, Assistant State's Attorney Vilkelis advised defendant of his Miranda rights, which defendant indicated he understood. Defendant then gave a written statement and signed it. In that statement, defendant related meeting the victim and going to her house, where they drank and had sex. While in the bathroom, after having had sex with the victim, defendant decided to kill her. He found a butcher knife in the kitchen and, after tying her hands and feet, cut the victim's throat, breast, legs and stomach.

The State also presented the stipulated testimony of Dr. Robert Kirschner, an assistant medical examiner for Cook County. Dr. Kirschner would testify he performed an autopsy on the body of Cherry Wilson. Dr. Kirschner determined that the cause of death was "multiple slashing and incise wounds of the body."

The only evidence presented by the defense was the stipulated testimony of a records keeper of the Chicago public schools that she located and turned over to defense counsel defendant's grammar and high school records. Those records were admitted into evidence. The defense presented no other evidence after defendant chose not to testify and defendant indicated to the trial court that there were no additional witnesses that he wanted his attorney to call.

After considering the evidence, the trial court found defendant guilty of murder and armed violence. The State then requested a death penalty hearing. Defendant waived his right to a jury at sentencing for both the eligibility and aggravation/mitigation phases. At the request of defense counsel, the trial court ordered a behavioral clinical examination of defendant to determine his capacity to waive a jury. The parties later stipulated that defendant had been examined by Dr. Stipes, a certified psychiatrist, who found defendant to be fit and competent. Defendant again expressed his desire to waive a jury at sentencing and executed a written jury waiver.

At the eligibility hearing, the State presented evidence of defendant's prior conviction for the murder of Willie Robinson and the conviction for murder in the instant case. The defense did not present any evidence. The trial court found defendant eligible for the death penalty on the ground that he had been convicted of two murders. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 38, par. 9-1(b)(3).

At the second phase of the sentencing hearing, the State presented evidence regarding defendant's brutal murder of Willie Robinson and sexual assault of Cynthia Love in 1985. The State also presented evidence regarding defendant's sexual assault and beating of Shirley Randolph in 1985. Finally, the State presented defendant's conviction for a 1979 rape, for which he received a sentence of seven years' imprisonment.

In mitigation, the defense presented evidence of defendant's good behavior in jail. The defense also presented testimony from defendant's sister regarding abuse and lack of affection on the part of their mother toward defendant and his sister, and a stipulation that defendant's father was not present in the family home and provided no guidance or emotional support while defendant was a child. It was also stipulated that, while in the Department of Corrections, defendant had been examined by a psychiatrist who had recommended neurological consultations.

In rebuttal, the State presented a stipulation that Dr. Reifman, a certified psychiatrist with the Psychiatric Institute of Cook County, had diagnosed defendant as suffering from an antisocial personality disorder. Dr. Reifman would also testify that defendant did not suffer from any mental disease or defect or extreme emotional disturbance at the time of the murder of Cherry Wilson.

After considering the evidence, the trial court found that there were no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude the imposition of the death sentence. The trial court therefore sentenced defendant to death.

Additional facts are discussed within the relevant portions ...


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