Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 97 CR 9539 Honorable Bertina E. Lampkin, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Wolfson
This was a senseless shooting -- with no apparent motive or reason -- which resulted in the death of 16-year-old Michael Thomas.
Defendant Kent Killingsworth (Killingsworth) was charged with the October 10, 1996, murder of Thomas. After a bench trial, he was found guilty of first degree murder and aggravated discharge of a firearm. A sentence of 40 years imprisonment was imposed for the murder conviction and a concurrent term of 15 years imprisonment was imposed for the aggravated discharge of a firearm conviction.
Killingsworth contends the witness testimony presented at trial, in light of his alibi evidence, failed to establish beyond a reasonable doubt his identity as the shooter. We are also asked to consider whether the trial court abused its discretion when it imposed the 40 year sentence for the murder conviction.
We affirm the two convictions and the sentence for murder.
It was stipulated at trial Thomas died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds. One shot entered the left side of Thomas' head, one entered the left shoulder, and two entered the left side of Thomas' upper back. It was further stipulated the four bullets recovered from Thomas' body appeared to come from the same weapon -- a .9mm gun. No gun was recovered.
The State presented the testimony of two eyewitnesses. The first eyewitness was Ricky Brown, who had been a friend of the victim Michael Thomas (known as Mickey) for several years, having grown up in the same neighborhood. Brown, like Mickey, was 16-years-old on October 10, 1996.
On that date, between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m., Brown saw Mickey at the corner of 66th and Campbell. Another friend, William Ephraim (also known as Pea-Dog), drove up to the corner in a two-door, white Grand Prix. Brown, Mickey, and another friend, Shanard Lesure (Lesure), got into the car. They rode to a car lot at 56th and Western. Ephraim drove, Brown was in the front passenger seat, Mickey sat behind Ephraim, and Lesure sat behind Brown.
After a short while the four friends drove back toward 66th Street, traveling south on Campbell. At about 63rd Street, Ephraim pulled over to the curb to talk to some people. Since Campbell is a one-way street, Ephraim pulled up to the curb on the driver's side.
Initially, two young men, whom Brown identified as "Marlon" and "Head," were talking to Ephraim and Mickey. Then the two men called over a third person named "Kiki." Though Brown testified he had never spoken to Kiki before that day, Brown said he had seen Kiki in the neighborhood over the past several months and recognized him as someone who went by the name "Kiki." In court, Brown identified Killingsworth as Kiki.
Brown testified defendant approached the car from the rear driver's side. As soon as defendant came up to the car, Brown heard gunshots. Brown said he didn't see defendant fire the gun because he turned his head toward the front of the car just as defendant arrived. Brown did testify, however, he looked back after the shots as Ephraim was pulling away from the curb to rush Mickey to the hospital. Brown said he saw defendant with a gun in his hand, running away from the car. Brown said defendant was the only person he saw holding a gun.
After the shooting, Ephraim drove to Holy Cross Hospital. Mickey was wheeled inside and Lesure stayed with him. Brown and Ephraim left the hospital and Brown went to Mickey's house to report the shooting. Brown said he spoke to Mickey's sister, Michele, and told her what happened.
Later that night, when Brown was walking in the area of 66th and Campbell, the police drove up. They had Michele in the car and she pointed him out to the police. Brown then accompanied the police to the station, ...