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People v. Morrow

March 01, 1999


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Gallagher

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable John Morrissey, Judge Presiding.

On November 22, 1994, defendant Mitchell Morrow, along with co-defendants Birandi Paschal and Alanda McComb, was charged by indictment with the August 28, 1994 murder and armed robbery of Kazmierz Kosinski. Following a four-day jury trial in April 1996 before the Honorable John E. Morrissey, defendant was convicted of both murder and armed robbery and thereafter sentenced to concurrent terms of 60 years for the murder and 20 years for the armed robbery. Co-defendant Birandi Paschal was found guilty of murder and armed robbery by a different jury. The two juries sat jointly for some of the testimony, but each jury was excluded for certain other portions of the testimony. Co-defendant Alanda McComb was acquitted following a bench trial before Judge Morrissey. Defendant now appeals.

The record before us reveals that during the evening of August 27, 1994, and the early morning of August 28, 1994, Kazmierz Kosinski and his friend, Chester Szwajnus, drank together at a couple of bars. Thereafter, Kosinski dropped Szwajnus off at another tavern and that was the last time Szwajnus saw Kosinski alive. Kosinski then went to the area of Cicero and Dickens, where he solicited and hired two prostitutes to perform sex for $25 each. Those prostitutes were co-defendant Birandi Paschal and another woman, Ramona Siler. Kosinski had hired Siler as a prostitute on previous occasions.

Paschal and Siler got into Kosinski's car and he eventually drove to an area near Blackhawk Park. Unbeknownst to Kosinski, his car was followed by another car. In that car was defendant, who was Siler's pimp, and co-defendant Alanda McComb, who was Paschal's pimp. Once Kosinski parked his car, Siler placed a condom on his penis and began performing oral sex. Paschal got on top of Kosinski's lap and pulled her shirt up to allow him to suck her breasts.

While this was transpiring, Siler saw Paschal try to take Kosinski's wallet from his pocket. When Kosinski realized this, he grabbed Paschal by the hair, called her a "black bitch" and the two began to struggle. Siler called for help and defendant and McComb ran to the car. McComb punched Kosinski. Siler ran to defendant's car, where Paschal had already gone. Siler saw defendant shoot Kosinski, who later died of the gunshot wounds.

Defendant and McComb returned to the car. McComb told Paschal to split up, between the four, the $160 contained in Kosinski's wallet. As they drove, they tossed the wallet out the window. The wallet was later recovered a few blocks away from the scene of the crime by an individual who placed it in a mailbox.

At one point, the car stopped and defendant got out and hid the gun up under the hood of the car. Defendant said to Siler, "Did I get any blood on me, Bay?" "Bay" was a nickname, short for "Baby," which defendant called Siler, who was also his girlfriend.

On September 5, 1994, after initially telling the police she did not know anything, Siler gave a statement to detectives and an assistant State's Attorney and subsequently testified before the grand jury. The substance of both her statement and her grand jury testimony was essentially an account of the foregoing described events. At trial, however, Siler denied knowing the victim and also denied being with him on the night of the murder. She did not, however, deny that she gave the pretrial statement and grand jury testimony.

Defendant now raises several arguments on appeal, but primarily contends that he was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt because his conviction was based solely upon the inherently untrustworthy testimony of Siler. Defendant gives several arguments as to why Siler's testimony was insufficient. We shall examine each argument separately.

The standard of review for challenging the sufficiency of the evidence is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. People v. Collins, 106 Ill. 2d 237, 261, 478 N.E.2d 267 (1985).

To support his contention that Siler's pretrial statements were unreliable, defendant places much emphasis on the fact that Siler recanted her testimony at trial. Section 115-10.1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (725 ILCS 5/115-10.1 (West 1992)) provides, in pertinent part:

"In all criminal cases, evidence of a statement made by a witness is not made inadmissible by the hearsay rule if

(a)the statement is inconsistent with his testimony at the ...

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