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People v. Thomas

June 01, 2000


Appeal from Circuit Court of Champaign County No. 97CF474 Honorable John G. Townsend, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Steigmann

In September 1998, a jury convicted defendant, Patrick Lamar Thomas, of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 1998)). The trial court later sentenced him to 60 years in prison with credit for 252 days spent in custody while awaiting trial. Defendant appeals, arguing that (1) section 115-10.2 of the Illinois Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Code) (725 ILCS 5/115-10.2 (West 1998)) is unconstitutional on its face and as applied to defendant; (2) Public Act 89-689 (Act) (Pub. Act 89-689, eff. December 31, 1996 (1996 Ill. Laws 3775)), which enacted section 115-10.2 of the Code, violates the single subject rule of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV, §8(d)); (3) the court failed to exercise its discretion when, during jury deliberations, it allowed transcribed testimony to be read to the jury under the belief that it was obligated to do so; (4) his sentence is excessive; and (5) he is entitled to an additional 56 days of credit against his sentence for time he served in a Georgia prison awaiting extradition to Illinois. We affirm and remand with directions.


At defendant's September 1998 jury trial, Stanetta Hughes testified that in April 1997, she was engaged to be married to James Betts, the victim in this case. Hughes and Betts were staying at the Budgetel Inn in Champaign, where Hughes worked as a housekeeper. On the morning of April 5, 1997, she saw defendant and Betts conversing in the hallway. Defendant raised his arm, and Hughes heard a gunshot and saw Betts fall to the floor.

Betts died from a gunshot wound to the head. The gun that was used to kill Betts was found in a tool room at Sullivan Chevrolet (Sullivan), a car dealership immediately to the east of the Budgetel Inn. James Shirley, a service technician at Sullivan, saw a black male walk through the repair shop on the morning of April 5, 1997. John Wakely, also a service technician at Sullivan, observed a black male run from the side of the Sullivan building to a vehicle at a nearby intersection. The man got in the car, and it drove on.

Outside the presence of the jury, the trial court held a hearing to determine whether defendant's aunt, Gladys Bishop, was "unavailable" to testify pursuant to section 115-10.2 of the Code (725 ILCS 5/115-10.2 (West 1998)). After taking the oath, Bishop refused to testify out of fear for her safety. The court ordered her to testify but she continued to refuse.

The State subsequently sought to introduce into evidence a transcript of Bishop's interview with Champaign police detective Donald Shepard. Shepard's interview had been tape-recorded and was later transcribed. After a hearing, the trial court found that the Bishop transcript met the requirements of section 115-10.2 and allowed Shepard to read it during his testimony.

A summary of the Bishop transcript follows. On the morning of April 5, 1997, defendant called Bishop shortly after 7 and told her to pick him up at the Budgetel Inn at about 10 that morning. Bishop arrived at the motel shortly after 10, parked her car in front of the motel, and went inside. She went to the door of defendant's room but then saw defendant coming down the hallway. Defendant got his bag from inside the room, and they headed toward the front entrance. As they were leaving, Betts was coming in. Betts bumped into defendant and continued down the hall. Defendant followed Betts and a confrontation ensued.

Bishop did not hear the entire conversation between defendant and Betts, but she heard Betts say, "I heard you was the one that shot my boy the other Friday." Defendant said, "I don't know what you talking about." Bishop was looking down when she heard the gunshot. When she looked up, she saw Betts fall to the floor and heard the housekeeper screaming. Defendant ran back toward Bishop, past her, and out the front door of the motel. Bishop then left through the front door, got back into her car, and drove straight to her sister's house.

Betts originally told Shepard that she had not seen defendant since he ran out of the motel. Later in the interview, she changed her story by admitting that on her way to her sister's house, she turned by Sullivan and saw defendant running through the parking lot. She stopped for him and took him to an apartment complex where his cousin lived. She had not seen him since she dropped him off there. After the State rested, defendant presented no evidence.

During jury deliberations, the jury sent a note to the trial judge asking for a copy of the Bishop transcript. The court, after conferring with the State and defense counsel, had the transcript reread to the jury but did not send a copy of it to the jury room.

The jury convicted defendant of first degree murder, and the trial court sentenced him as stated. This appeal followed.


A. Confrontation Clause Challenge

Defendant first argues that section 115-10.2 of the Code is unconstitutional both on its face and as applied to him. We disagree.

1. The Constitutionality of Section 115-10.2

Section 115-10.2 of the Code reads as follows:

"Admissibility of prior statements when witness refused to testify despite a court order to testify.

(a) A statement not specifically covered by any other hearsay exception but having equivalent circumstantial guarantees of trustworthiness, is not excluded by the hearsay rule if the declarant is unavailable as defined in subsection (c) and if the court determines that:

(1) the statement is offered as evidence of a material fact; and

(2) the statement is more probative on the point for which it is offered than any other evidence which the proponent can procure through reasonable efforts; and

(3) the general purposes of this [s]section and the interests of justice will best be served by admission of the statement into evidence.

(b) A statement may not be admitted under this exception unless the proponent of it makes known to the adverse party sufficiently in advance of the trial or hearing to provide the adverse party with a fair opportunity to prepare to meet it, the proponent's intention to offer the statement, and the particulars of the statement, including the name and address of the declarant.

(c) Unavailability as a witness is limited to the situation in which the declarant persists in refusing to testify concerning the subject matter of the declarant's statement despite an order of the court to do so.

(d) A declarant is not unavailable as a witness if exemption, refusal, claim or lack of memory, inability[,] or absence is due to the procurement or wrongdoing of the proponent of a statement for purpose of ...

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