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People v. Sims

June 15, 2000


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McMORROW

September 8, 1999.

Following a jury trial in the circuit court of St. Clair County, the defendant, Paris D. Sims, was convicted of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder and armed robbery. At a separate sentencing hearing, the same jury found defendant eligible for the death penalty. The jury also found that there were no mitigating circumstances sufficient to preclude imposition of that sentence. Defendant was sentenced to death for the murder and to consecutive 30-year terms of imprisonment for the remaining offenses. 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 sentences.


Testimony at trial established the following facts. On the morning of October 24, 1994, at approximately 4 a.m., police officers in Belleville, Illinois, received a call stating that a man had been seen, covered in blood, running down the street in a Belleville trailer park. When the officers responding to the call reached the trailer park, they discovered this man, lying in a fetal position on the ground near the trailers. The man was bleeding from the head and face and was incoherent. Officers also discovered, in the bedroom of one of the trailers, the dead body of 17-year-old JoAna Bollinger. *fn1 The man found injured on the ground, police later learned, was JoAna Bollinger's 17-year-old husband, Jacob Bollinger.

At trial, Jacob testified about the events which took place during the evening hours of October 23 and early morning hours of October 24. Jacob told the jury that on the evening of October 23, at about 9:30 or 10 p.m., he and some friends left Belleville and drove to the nearby town of Waterloo to pick up a pet snake. Jacob explained that he had an interest in reptiles and that the snake was a present from his wife, JoAna, for his upcoming birthday. Jacob acknowledged that, while he was in Waterloo, he smoked marijuana. He stated, however, that despite smoking the marijuana, he remained aware of what was going on around him. Jacob returned home from Waterloo, alone, at about 11:30 p.m.

Jacob testified that when he arrived home, he began cleaning the aquarium in which the pet snake was kept. JoAna was awake and sitting on the couch in the front portion of the Bollingers' trailer, which consisted of a combination living room and kitchen area. The Bollingers' infant daughter was asleep in her bedroom, just to the rear of the living room. After Jacob finished cleaning the aquarium, he and JoAna went to their bedroom at the back end of the trailer and began to engage in sexual intercourse. Shortly thereafter, they heard someone knocking on their front door. The Bollingers tried to ignore the knocking, but after it had continued for about 10 minutes, Jacob decided to answer the door. He put on some sweatpants and returned to the living room.

Jacob testified that when he opened the front door, he saw an African-American male, approximately 5 feet 11 inches or 6 feet tall. The man had a much wider build than Jacob's own build of 120 pounds. At the time, Jacob believed that the man at the door was "Ice," an individual whom he had met on two or three prior occasions. In court, however, Jacob identified defendant as the man who had knocked on the door. Jacob stated that defendant asked if he could come in out of the rain and wait for a ride that he had coming. Jacob let defendant in. Defendant did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Jacob estimated that defendant entered the trailer at about 12:30 a.m.

After defendant entered the trailer, Jacob went back to JoAna and told her that someone else was in the trailer and that she should not leave the bedroom without her clothes on. When Jacob came out of the bedroom, defendant confronted him, put a knife to his throat and forced him back into the bedroom. According to Jacob, defendant threatened to kill the Bollingers if they screamed or tried to get away. Jacob stated that defendant pressed the knife against his throat and forced him to open some jewelry boxes and pick through the belongings on top of the bedroom dresser. Defendant then asked the Bollingers where their money was. When JoAna told defendant that their money was in her purse in the living room, defendant switched the knife to her throat and forced both JoAna and Jacob into the living room. After Jacob gave defendant about $80 from JoAna's purse, they all returned to the bedroom.

Once in the bedroom, defendant pushed Jacob to the floor and JoAna onto the bed. Defendant continued to search for money and again threatened to kill the Bollingers. He then returned to the bed, lowered his pants and forced JoAna to perform oral sex upon him, as Jacob sat next to the bed watching. According to Jacob, defendant then raped JoAna vaginally and anally. Jacob stated that, during these acts, defendant slashed JoAna's back with the knife and that, in reaction, Jacob moved. Defendant then grabbed JoAna's hair, cut off a large piece, threw it at Jacob, and told Jacob not to move, or he would cut JoAna's throat.

After defendant threw the hair at Jacob, he told Jacob to lie down on the floor next to the bed. Jacob did so. Defendant continued to rape JoAna. Defendant then got up, pulled Jacob up from the floor, pushed him against the bed with a knee in his back and tied a pair of long-johns around his throat. Jacob looked up and saw that JoAna was lying on the bed, "white and real pale" and that "she was alive, but she didn't look alive." Jacob then began to fight back. Jacob grabbed the long-johns and started pulling on them, trying to get air. Defendant then hit Jacob in the back of the head.

Jacob stated that the next thing he could remember was coming out of the hallway and running for the front door. When he got to the door, he discovered that it was locked. Defendant caught up with Jacob and, as the two fought in the living room and kitchen area, defendant hit Jacob several times in the head with a heavy object. Jacob testified that he kept slipping on blood as defendant continued to strike him, but that, eventually, he was able to get to the front door, open it, and escape. Jacob then ran to the trailer of his neighbor, Ricky Harvey, and banged on the door. Jacob did not wait for anyone to answer, however, but instead, continued to run, jumped over a fence, and collapsed in some weeds. He awoke to find a police officer standing over him. Jacob was taken to the hospital where he was treated for cuts and large gashes to his head and eye.

In court, Jacob identified rings which were found in defendant's pocket at the time of his arrest as ones which belonged to JoAna and which were taken by defendant during the attack. Jacob also identified an adjustable wrench which was recovered from a wooded area outside the trailer as one which he had kept in a tool box in his bedroom. Jacob stated that the wrench was consistent with the object defendant used to strike him in the head. Jacob also identified a knife which was recovered outside the trailer as the one which was used by defendant. Jacob stated that this knife did not belong to the Bollingers.

On cross-examination, Jacob explained how in the weeks following the attack he gave several statements to the police, and how, in each statement, he provided additional information to the police as it returned to his memory. Jacob acknowledged that he may have left both major and minor details out of his statements.

Jacob also acknowledged that he had smoked marijuana with his neighbor, Kathy Kunkle, on two or three occasions prior to the attack. He denied using drugs with his neighbor Ricky Harvey or with another neighbor with whom he was familiar, Anthony Graham. Jacob stated that he had continued to smoke marijuana since the time of the attack.

Jacob was also cross-examined regarding his identification of defendant as the assailant, in light of his initial belief that it was "Ice," known to Jacob at the time of trial as Willie Sims, who appeared at his door on the night of the attack. Jacob testified that, about six weeks before the attack, he gave a ride to a man he met on the street, in the trailer park. Jacob spent about an hour with the man, taking him to two stores. The man told Jacob that he was called "Ice." Jacob stated that he might have seen "Ice" previously at Rickey Harvey's trailer but that he was not certain that this was the person he had seen. Jacob also stated that he did not know if the person he took to the stores was "Ice, " i.e., Willie Sims, or defendant.

On redirect, Jacob stated that he had heard that "Ice" might have been defendant's cousin. Jacob also said that he was certain that defendant was the man who attacked him and murdered JoAna. Referring to defendant, Jacob told the jury, "I know he did it. I can look at him and know that's the face I saw. That's a face I will never forget."

Vickie Jamison, a resident of the trailer park, also testified for the State. Jamison stated that, at about 3:30 a.m. on October 24, 1994, a man knocked on her door and told her to "hurry up and let him in." In court, Jamison identified defendant, whom she had known for about one month, as this man. According to Jamison, once defendant was in the trailer, he kept looking out the window and told Jamison, "If anybody comes to the door, don't let them in." He then fell asleep. Jamison told the jury that she had seen defendant earlier, at approximately 8 or 9 p.m., drinking with friends. She also stated that on both occasions when she saw defendant, he was wearing black boots, tan pants, a green and blue shirt, and a cap. Jamison testified that defendant left her trailer at about 8:30 or 9 a.m. on the morning of October 24. Before he left, defendant asked Jamison for a change of shirt. Jamison complied, and defendant left behind his blue and green shirt, and his cap. Jamison threw the shirt and cap into her closet with her dirty clothes. She later gave these items to the police when they came to her trailer and told her defendant "had killed somebody." In court, Jamison identified the boots recovered from defendant at the time of his arrest as the ones he wore on the night of October 23 and the early morning of October 24. Jamison also stated that, on October 24, she "went to the public aid office and found out that [defendant] had killed somebody."

On cross-examination Jamison acknowledged that she had been convicted of perjury and theft. Jamison stated that she knew her neighbors Ricky Harvey and Kathy Kunkle and was aware that defendant socialized and did drugs with them. Jamison also knew a man who was called "Ice" and knew that "Ice" hung around with Ricky Harvey and others in the trailer court.

Detectives Doug Jones and Dave Ellis, of the Belleville police department, testified that defendant was arrested about six or seven blocks from the Bollingers' trailer at 8:47 a.m. on October 24, 1994. The officers had been searching for defendant on the morning of October 24 based upon information gathered during interviews conducted in the trailer park. At the time of arrest, defendant appeared to be about 6 feet or 6 feet one inch tall, and appeared to weigh between 180 and 200 pounds. Defendant did not appear to be injured or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. At the Belleville police station, police officers recovered four women's rings, an earring stud and approximately $24 in currency from defendant's pocket. Defendant's boots and pants were also taken into evidence.

Jones and Ellis both testified that, after defendant was given Miranda warnings, he made two statements, each of which was written out by Ellis. Defendant initially denied being at the scene of the murder. However, in his first statement, he described the following series of events. According to defendant, he had known the Bollingers for approximately two months, and had been engaged in a consensual sexual relationship with JoAna for the previous two weeks. On the morning of October 24, 1994, at about 1 a.m., defendant entered the Bollingers' trailer with their consent. Sometime thereafter, defendant went into the Bollingers' bathroom and smoked cocaine. When defendant came out of the bathroom, he asked Jacob if he could borrow $10. Jacob told defendant that he did not have the money but that he would ask JoAna, who was in the bedroom, if she had any. When Jacob went into the bedroom, defendant, who remained in the living room, started looking for money in JoAna's purse. Defendant found $80 and about four rings. Jacob came out of the bedroom and saw defendant taking the money from JoAna's purse. The two fought. Defendant put Jacob in a choke hold and took him back to the bedroom. In the bedroom, defendant and Jacob began fighting again. Defendant hit Jacob over the head with a vase and knocked him out. Defendant then took a knife from the bedroom dresser and told JoAna, who was screaming, to shut up. He then put his right arm around JoAna's throat and started choking her. JoAna kept fighting, but when defendant saw blood come out of her nose he let her go. Defendant then left the trailer, and threw his shirt and hat into some weeds as he walked off. Defendant later bought and smoked cocaine prior to his arrest.

In his second statement, defendant added the following facts. As defendant was choking JoAna, his arm got tired. He picked up a pair of white long-johns, wrapped them around JoAna's throat and tightened them, causing blood to come out of her nose. After defendant dropped JoAna, Jacob awoke. Defendant took a pair of vise grips from a tool box in the bedroom and hit Jacob with them twice. He later threw the tool, and the knife, into the trees behind the Bollingers' trailer. Just before being arrested, defendant stopped at "Vickie's" trailer and asked her to retrieve the clothes which he had thrown into the weeds.

Belleville police detectives Stephen Krug and Stephen Schmulbach testified about their observations and preservation of the crime scene on October 24. Krug and Schmulbach stated that they arrived at the Bollingers' trailer at approximately 4:50 a.m. They observed blood in various locations throughout the trailer, including large amounts of blood in the kitchen area and rear bedroom. They also observed JoAna Bollinger lying unclothed on the floor in the rear bedroom with a pair of dark blue pants around her neck. A bruise with some type of pattern was visible on her back. A clump of hair was found on the floor in the rear bedroom, next to the bed, and a broken ceramic mug was on the bed. From the living room, the detectives recovered a purse, coin purse and cosmetic case, as well as other items. An adjustable wrench and a knife were found in a wooded area outside the trailer. A shirt and cap were recovered from Vickie Jamison's trailer later on October 24. A pair of long-johns was recovered from the Bollingers' bedroom on October 28.

Schmulbach also stated that he attended the autopsy of JoAna Bollinger during the afternoon of October 24. At that time, the sole of a boot which had been taken from defendant at his arrest earlier in the day was compared to the bruise on JoAna Bollinger's back. Schmulbach photographed the boot next to the bruise and stated that the bruise pattern was similar to the tread pattern on the sole of the boot.

Forensic pathologist Harry Parks performed the autopsy upon JoAna Bollinger on October 24. Parks believed that JoAna had been killed by strangulation, probably by some type of soft ligature. Parks also noted what appeared to be a boot or shoe imprint on JoAna's back, similar to the sole of a boot shown to him by one of the police officers attending the autopsy. Swabs were taken of JoAna's mouth, vagina and anus and given to the police officers.

David Peck, assistant laboratory director at the Illinois State Police forensic laboratory in Fairview Heights, testified as an expert in fingerprint and footwear impression analysis. Peck examined numerous items of evidence taken from the crime scene for fingerprints, including the wrench and knife recovered outside the Bollingers' trailer, pieces of the broken ceramic mug, a leather purse and a cosmetic bag. Peck was unable to match any recovered fingerprints with defendant. Peck also stated that the bruise found on the back of JoAna Bollinger "could have" been made by one of defendant's boots, based on the similarity of patterns on the soles of the boots and on the bruise. Peck was unable to state positively that one of defendant's boots had made the impression on JoAna's back because of a lack of individual identifying characteristics on the soles of the boots.

Donna Rees, a forensic scientist employed by the Illinois State Police forensic laboratory, testified as an expert in the area of serology. Rees stated that, based upon a type of blood analysis known as genetic marking analysis, bloodstains found on the kitchen floor of the Bollingers' trailer, on the wrench found outside the trailer, on the pants taken from defendant at his arrest, and on the shirt recovered from Vickie Jamison's trailer "could have" come from Jacob Bollinger but not from defendant or JoAna Bollinger. Rees also identified the presence of semen on the vaginal and rectal swabs taken of JoAna Bollinger. No semen was found on the oral swab.

Phillip Sallee, a forensic biologist at the Illinois State Police's crime laboratory in Springfield, testified for the State regarding deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) evidence. Sallee described generally the process of restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) DNA profiling. Sallee said that he performed this type of DNA analysis upon blood samples taken from defendant and the Bollingers, and upon the seminal material found on the vaginal and rectal swabs taken of JoAna Bollinger. Sallee stated that he was able to develop a full DNA profile from the semen found on the vaginal swab and that this profile matched defendant's DNA. Based upon his statistical calculations, Sallee determined that the odds that a person selected at random from the general population would have the same DNA profile as that developed from the semen sample taken from the vaginal swab were 16 million to one. Sallee concluded that there was a "good chance" that the semen found on the vaginal swab came from defendant. Sallee also stated that the DNA extracted from the semen found on the rectal swab matched defendant's DNA. Sallee explained, however, that he was unable to develop a full DNA profile from the semen recovered from the rectal swab. Thus, according to Sallee, with respect to the semen sample taken from the rectal swab, the odds of a random match were one in every 200 African-American persons.

Defendant offered only one witness at trial, Ricky Harvey. Harvey testified that in October of 1994, he lived in a trailer across the street from the Bollingers. Harvey saw the Bollingers several times a week, and socialized with them on occasion. Defendant, whom Harvey had known for two years, stopped by almost daily to socialize with Harvey. According to Harvey, Jacob Bollinger knew both defendant and Willie "Ice" Sims and had seen both of them at Harvey's trailer. On cross-examination, Harvey testified that he had seen defendant during the early morning hours of October 24, 1994, but that he had not seen Willie Sims. Harvey stated that he thought Willie Sims was in the county jail on that date.

There was no rebuttal evidence presented by the State. After closing arguments and instructions, the jury found defendant guilty of the first degree murder of JoAna Bollinger, guilty of the attempted murder of Jacob Bollinger, and guilty of armed robbery.

No witnesses were presented during the eligibility phase of the death penalty proceedings. Following arguments by counsel, the jury found defendant eligible for the death penalty, pursuant to section 9-1(b)(6) of the Criminal Code of 1961, for having committed murder in the course of another felony.

At the final phase of the sentencing hearing, the State presented evidence that defendant had been convicted of theft in St. Clair County on June 7, 1994, and had been sentenced to a one-year term of imprisonment. The State also presented evidence that defendant had been convicted of theft in St. Clair County twice in February 1994, and had received a sentence of one year of probation for each offense.

The State then called Cynthia Braun, defendant's former parole agent, to testify in aggravation. Braun stated that defendant had been released from prison and placed on one year's supervised release on August 15, 1994. Upon his release, defendant requested and received employment and housing referrals from Braun. On cross-examination, Braun acknowledged that defendant had been identified as cocaine dependent while he was in prison. Braun stated that she did not provide defendant with any substance abuse counseling because defendant did not request it. She did not know if defendant had received any counseling while in prison.

Jesse Vineyard, a correctional officer at Menard prison, also testified in aggravation. Vineyard stated that in November 1995, prison officials conducting a routine inspection discovered a piece of metal, or shank, approximately an inch and a half wide by eight inches long, in defendant's cell. Vineyard stated that, as a result of this incident, a hearing was held before the prison's disciplinary committee. Defendant was found guilty of violating prison rules and lost various prison privileges.

Marilyn Stofleth, JoAna Bollinger's grandmother, was the State's final witness in aggravation. Stofleth read a victim impact statement to the jury.

In mitigation, the defense called one witness, defendant's mother, Joyce Wheeler. Wheeler testified that defendant was born in 1972, when she was 16. She also stated that defendant had a brother who was two years older than he was, and that she had never married the boys' father. Wheeler and her sons moved from Centerville, Illinois, to Minnesota when defendant was three, and then to California was defendant was four. The family returned to Centerville in 1986, when defendant was 14. Defendant was a good student while in California, but went "haywire" and "wild" after returning to Centerville. According to Wheeler, this was due in part to the murders of his uncle in 1986 and cousin in 1987. Defendant began skipping school and getting into trouble with the law after these murders. Defendant never completed the ninth grade.

Wheeler stated that defendant had abused drugs, specifically alcohol and cocaine, since he was 16 years old. Wheeler explained that defendant had pursued voluntary substance abuse treatment at the Gateway Center in Belleville when he was 16, and that he had also received treatment from centers in St. Louis and the Chicago area. However, defendant received no treatment for substance abuse upon his release from prison in 1994. Wheeler had unsuccessfully urged defendant to get more treatment at that time. Wheeler stated that, when defendant was on drugs, his personality changed and he became loud, rude and disrespectful. Wheeler also told the jury that defendant was the father of two boys, five and four years old, who now live with their mother. Defendant had lived with his sons for at least three years.

After closing arguments, the jury concluded that there were no mitigating circumstances sufficient to preclude the imposition of the death penalty. Defendant was sentenced to death. The court subsequently sentenced defendant to two consecutive 30-year prison terms for the attempted murder and armed robbery convictions. This appeal followed.


Motion to Suppress Statements

Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion to suppress the statements which he made to the Belleville police on October 24, 1994. In the motion, defendant alleged that the statements were given involuntarily and were obtained in violation of Miranda v. Arizona, and that he had been arrested without a warrant and without probable cause. Following a hearing, the circuit court found that defendant "became a suspect after a canvas of the neighborhood the morning of the murder" and concluded that "defendant's statement was voluntary and made with Miranda." The circuit court denied defendant's motion to suppress. On appeal, defendant does not contend that the statements which he gave to the Belleville police were involuntary or that his Miranda rights were violated. Instead, defendant repeats his assertion that the police lacked probable cause to arrest him on October 24.

At the hearing on defendant's motion to suppress, the State presented the testimony of Belleville police detectives David Ellis and Doug Jones. Ellis testified that he was called to the Bollingers' trailer at about 4:30 a.m. on the morning of October 24. Once at the trailer, he familiarized himself with the background of the case by speaking to the officers who had first arrived at the murder scene. He then began interviewing people who were present in the trailer park.

Ellis stated that one of the people he spoke to was Tony Graham, a resident of the trailer park. Graham told Ellis that he had heard "a bunch of noise" coming from the Bollingers' trailer, "like someone was trying to get out" and, at the same time, had seen, through a window, a person inside the Bollinger's trailer. Graham gave Ellis a description of the person he had seen. Shortly thereafter, Ellis related this description to another trailer park resident, Kathy Kunkle. Kunkle told Ellis that the description "was Paris Sims or sounded like Paris Sims." Kunkle also told Ellis that she had seen defendant the previous evening at Ricky Harvey's trailer. According to Ellis, Belleville police officers spoke with Harvey and confirmed that defendant had, in fact, been at Harvey's trailer on the night of October 23. Police officers also noted that Harvey's trailer was located across the street from the Bollingers' trailer. Ellis further testified that, at the time he ...

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