The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Cerda
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County
Honorable John D. Brady, Judge Presiding.
Following a bench trial, defendant, Ronald Hawkins, was convicted of the first-degree murder (720 ILCS 9--1(a)(1)(West 1994)) of Ernest Green and sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment. On appeal, defendant asserts that (1) he was denied the right to present a defense; and (2) he was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. For the following reasons, we reduce the conviction to second-degree murder and remand for resentencing.
On August 15, 1995, defendant stabbed and killed the victim, Ernest Green. Defendant does not deny killing Green, but contends that he did so in self-defense.
At trial, Sheila Davis testified that she lived on the second floor of 5449 South Morgan Street in Chicago. Lornett Bea lived on the first floor on the 5449 side of the building and defendant lived on the 5447 side. At 1:30 p.m. on August 15, 1995, Davis was returning home when she went up the back stairs of her building. Defendant, Green, and Bea were sitting on Bea's back porch. A half-hour later, Davis went onto her back porch. Shortly after sitting down, she heard two bams coming from Bea's porch. When she yelled, "[W]hat's going on down there," no one responded.
After the second bam, Davis heard a woman screaming from a nearby porch. Davis ran downstairs, looked over the railing, and saw Green running down the back stairs toward the alley. There was blood on Green's neck. When Davis asked defendant, who was standing at the bottom of the first floor stairs, what had happened, he did not respond. Davis called Green's mother, then went through the alley to Green's house. Davis saw Green, covered with blood, lying on the ground in his backyard. After the police arrived, Davis heard defendant tell the police, "I did it." She did not see defendant bleeding, but she did see blood on his hands and shirt.
Davis further testified that she saw defendant and Green together four times during that summer, including a week before the stabbing. Once, Davis saw Green fighting with defendant, but she did not hear Green make any threats against defendant.
Lornett Bea, who was a friend of both defendant and Green, testified that he never saw defendant and Green fighting although they teased and argued with each other. On the afternoon of August 15, 1995, Bea, defendant, and Green were sitting on Bea's back porch. They were drinking and smoking marijuana laced with cocaine. At 2 p.m., Bea went inside his apartment to use the bathroom and to get something to eat. While he was in his kitchen, he heard the glass in his back door breaking. When he went out to the porch, he saw a brick on the porch near the glass. He also saw Green running towards his home and defendant on the 5447 side of the building.
The parties stipulated that Dr. Larry Simms, Cook County Deputy Medical Examiner, would testify that he performed the autopsy on Green, who died of multiple stab and incised wounds. The toxicology report indicated that there was .35 ml. of benzoyledgonine, .51 ml. of ethanol, and .16 ml. of cocaine in Green's body at the time of his death.
Chicago police officer Michael Kolasa investigated the stabbing. While he was on Bea's back porch, defendant came onto a nearby porch and yelled, "I did it. I cut him. I stabbed him." Defendant was handcuffed, advised of his Miranda rights, and transported to the police station by Chicago police officer William Svillar. At the time, defendant's clothes were covered with blood. Later, when Officer Kolasa saw defendant at the police station after other officers had taken defendant's clothes, he did not notice any injuries on defendant.
Officer Svillar testified that defendant initiated a conversation with him on the way to the police station by asking if Green was dead. When Officer Svillar told him that Green had died, defendant responded, "I meant that to happen" and "I love that." Defendant further stated that he had had some problems with Green in the past and that he was no mass murderer, but he "just had to take care of business."
Defendant testified that he had known Green for one and one-half years before the stabbing and had been in his company 20 times. At 1:15 p.m. on August 15, 1995, defendant and Bea were sitting on Bea's back porch when Green arrived. The three men drank and talked until Bea went into his apartment. A couple of seconds later, Green asked defendant for $2. Defendant responded by telling Green that he had a lot of nerve asking for money after Green had earlier pulled a knife on him. Defendant explained that Green had approached him three days earlier when defendant was sitting on his own back porch. After Green pulled the knife on him, defendant went into his house and locked the door.
On the day of the stabbing, defendant told Green that he would not give him the $2, so Green reached into defendant's pockets, then punched defendant on the left side of his head, causing defendant to fall to the floor. After defendant fell, Green threw a brick at defendant just missing defendant's head and hitting the glass in Bea's back ...