JUSTICE McMORROW delivered the opinion of the court:
On November 16, 1995, Debra Evans was fatally shot and stabbed in the Addison apartment where she lived with James Edwards and her children, Samantha, Joshua, and Jordan. Debra was nine months pregnant, and the baby she was carrying, Elijah Evans, was cut from her womb. Samantha was killed in the apartment with her mother. Joshua and Elijah were taken from the apartment, and Jordan was left alone in the apartment with his dead mother and sister. The day after Debra's and Samantha's murders, police found Joshua's dead body in an alley in Maywood. When police arrested defendant, Jacqueline Annette Williams, on November 17, she was holding Elijah, who was still alive. In connection with the murders and kidnappings of the members of the Evans family, defendant, her cousin Laverne Ward, and her boyfriend Fedell Caffey were jointly indicted on several counts of first degree murder and aggravated kidnapping. They were tried separately.
Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Du Page County, defendant was convicted of the first degree murders of Debra, Samantha, and Joshua Evans. She was also convicted of the aggravated kidnappings of Joshua and Elijah Evans. The same jury found defendant eligible for the death penalty and found no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude the imposition of the death penalty. The circuit court sentenced defendant to death for the first degree murders of Debra, Samantha, and Joshua Evans. At a separate sentencing proceeding, the circuit court sentenced defendant to 15 years' imprisonment for the aggravated kidnapping of Joshua Evans and imposed a consecutive 15-year sentence for the aggravated kidnapping of Elijah Evans.
Defendant directly appeals her murder convictions and death sentence to this court. Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, §4(b); 134 Ill. 2d R. 603. Her death sentence has been stayed pending our review. 134 Ill. 2d R. 609(a).
At defendant's trial, James Edwards testified that in November 1995, he was living with Debra and her three children in a two-bedroom apartment in Addison, Illinois. Samantha was 10 years old, Joshua was 7 years old, and Jordan was almost 2 years old. Debra was nine months pregnant and was scheduled to enter the hospital on Sunday, November 19, to have labor induced.
At about 5:30 p.m. on November 16, 1995, Edwards left for his job. When he returned, after leaving work at 2:30 a.m., Jordan met him in the kitchen. Jordan was alive. Edwards found Debra lying on the living room floor between a coffee table and a love seat. She was unresponsive, and Edwards observed a large wound to her stomach. Samantha was lying on the floor in the children's bedroom. Her neck had been slashed. Joshua was missing. Edwards called 911.
Edwards further testified that several items were missing from the apartment, including a Grambling State University Tigers jacket and a pair of poultry shears. In addition, on the bed that he and Debra shared, there was an Ace bandage that Edwards had never seen before.
Patrice Scott testified that, shortly after midnight on November 17, 1995, defendant, who was a friend of hers, came to the Villa Park apartment Scott shared with Dwight Pruitt and Scott's three daughters. Joshua was with defendant, and defendant had blood on her sweater. Joshua was wearing a coat and boots but no socks or pants.
According to Scott, defendant asked if Joshua could spend the night at Scott's apartment because his mother had been shot "out west" during a drug deal, and defendant was going to visit her in the hospital. Defendant also told Scott that she, defendant, had given birth and would bring the new baby with her when she came to retrieve Joshua in the morning.
After defendant left, Scott asked Joshua what his name was. He told her his name and said he needed to use the bathroom. Joshua used the bathroom, and Scott put him to bed on her living room couch. During the night, Scott heard Joshua whimpering and crying in his sleep. Around 5 a.m., Scott arose to feed her newborn, Alexis. Joshua was still whimpering and crying in his sleep. When he awakened around 6 or 7 a.m., he was crying.
Scott testified that she asked Joshua if he was worried about his mother and told him that his mother would be okay. Joshua replied, "No, no, she's not," and said that his mother and sister were dead. He explained that four burglars had come through the window and cut his mother and sister. He said that his little brother had been left in the apartment and asked Scott to get Jordan. Joshua told Scott that he had been hiding in the apartment and that, when the burglars left, he ran out after defendant, who brought him to Scott's apartment. Joshua repeated this story several times.
Scott asked Joshua if he knew who the burglars were. Joshua identified the burglars as Annette, Fedell, Vern, and "Boo-Boo." According to Scott, defendant is usually called Annette, and defendant has a relative named Bo Wilson. Scott admitted that she did not initially tell police that Joshua had named Fedell and "Boo-Boo" as two of the burglars. She testified that she was afraid of Fedell.
Joshua continued crying after he told Scott what had happened to his family. Scott's daughters entered the living room and one of them read Joshua a book. Joshua listened to her read, but his emotional state did not change significantly. When Scott's daughters left for school, Joshua told Scott to chain the door because the burglars might return.
Scott further testified that, around 9 a.m., defendant returned to the Villa Park apartment. Scott informed her that there was a discrepancy between what defendant said had happened to Joshua's mother and what Joshua said had happened. Scott also told defendant that Joshua had named her, Vern, and Fedell as the "burglars" who had entered his apartment. Defendant became angry at Joshua, cursed at him, and accused him of lying. In response, Joshua asserted repeatedly, "No, no, that's what happened."
According to Scott, defendant then told Joshua that his mother had left him some medicine. Joshua replied, "What medicine, I don't take any medication." Defendant brought him into the kitchen and gave him something, after which he gagged and vomited. Scott again asked defendant about what Joshua had told her that morning. Defendant said that Joshua talked too much and that Caffey had told her to take him south to the "projects."
Scott testified that she then agreed to go to defendant's house so that defendant could give Scott some baby outfits for Alexis. Defendant drove Scott, Alexis, and Joshua in a gray four-door car to her Schaumburg townhouse. At the townhouse, defendant first brought Scott to a bedroom. Caffey and a white baby boy with blond hair and tape on his stomach were on the bed in the bedroom. Defendant then asked Scott to bring Joshua to the laundry room in the townhouse.
Scott testified that Caffey and an unidentified man were already in the laundry room. Scott denied that this man was Ward or Bo Wilson and denied that Wilson had threatened to kill her. After the unidentified man left, defendant told Caffey, "[Joshua's] got a big mouth. He knows - he knows our names. He said my name, your name and Vern's name." Caffey asked defendant why she had brought Scott to the house and why she had not taken Joshua "out south" as he had instructed.
Defendant told Joshua to sit on the day bed in the laundry room and picked up a rope from the floor of the laundry room. She wrapped it around Joshua's neck, and she and Caffey began strangling Joshua with the rope. Joshua and Scott screamed, Scott pushed defendant, and defendant dropped the rope.
Defendant then left the laundry room and returned holding a knife behind her back. According to Scott, Caffey did not instruct defendant to get the knife. When Scott saw the knife, she screamed and asked Caffey and defendant to take her home and to free Joshua. Defendant threw the knife on the bed. Caffey instructed defendant to take Scott home and informed Scott that, if she told anyone what had happened, he would kill her and her whole family. Scott grabbed Alexis and sat in the front seat of the gray car, which was parked in the garage of the townhouse. Defendant instructed Joshua to sit in the back seat, which he did. Scott looked into the back seat and saw Caffey stabbing Joshua as defendant appeared to be holding Joshua's arm. Scott felt Joshua kick the seat and heard him gagging.
Defendant then moved to the driver's seat of the car, and Caffey told her, "You know where to go." Joshua was whimpering in the back seat, and Scott was afraid for her life and her baby's life. They drove to Maywood, where defendant and Caffey took Joshua from the car and helped him walk to the back of a building. Defendant and Caffey returned without Joshua. Defendant left Caffey in Maywood and drove Scott to her apartment in Villa Park.
When Scott and defendant arrived at Scott's apartment, defendant asked Scott for cleaning products to remove vomit from her car. Scott gave her some cleaning supplies, and defendant drove away.
Pruitt's testimony about the events in Villa Park essentially mirrored Scott's. He added that he was watching the midday news around 11 a.m. on November 17 when he saw a television news story about the homicides in Addison. He attempted to call the police but could not find a working telephone until after defendant left Scott at the Villa Park apartment, around 12 p.m. After the police arrived, Pruitt and Scott accompanied them to Maywood, and Scott showed police the location where defendant and Caffey had left Joshua.
Pruitt admitted that, at the time of trial, he was serving a prison sentence for a weapons charge. He also testified that he was a gang member and had previous convictions for armed robbery and unlawful possession of a controlled substance.
Defendant's sister, Tina Martin, testified that, at 3:30 a.m. on November 17, 1995, she received a call from defendant. Defendant stated that she had just given birth and was at a friend's house. Martin and her mother went to the friend's house, where they saw defendant, Caffey, and a baby with light coloring.
Members of several different police departments and the Cook and Du Page County state's attorneys' offices testified to the circumstances of defendant's arrest and her statements to them. They testified that, during the afternoon of November 17, Joshua's partially clothed body was found in an alley in Maywood. That night, police arrested defendant and Caffey at defendant's Schaumburg townhouse. At the time of their arrest, defendant was carrying Elijah in an infant carrier, and Caffey was wearing the Grambling Tigers jacket taken from the Addison apartment. Police examined Elijah, who was alive, and observed a bloody piece of gauze taped over his navel.
In her initial conversations with police and prosecutors, defendant minimized her role in the murders and kidnappings. For example, during some conversations, she stated that Elijah was her son, and she had given birth at a friend's house on November 16. Defendant also stated that Caffey was the baby's father and that the baby's name was Fedell Caffey, Jr. In other conversations, defendant told police that Caffey and Ward went to the Addison apartment to speak to Debra about the unborn baby and to teach Debra a lesson. Defendant knew there would be "trouble" when they went to the apartment. At Caffey and Ward's request, defendant met them in the apartment building parking lot at about 10 p.m. on November 16. Caffey exited the building and handed a newborn baby to defendant.
Similarly, defendant attributed much of the responsibility for Joshua's kidnapping and murder to Scott and Caffey. For example, she told police that Scott gave Joshua Visine and soda pop to drink. Defendant also said that Caffey and Scott wanted her to leave Joshua in the "projects," but she could not, so she brought him to the Schaumburg townhouse. According to defendant, Caffey was angry that she brought Joshua to the townhouse and asked her to get a knife, which she did. Caffey then instructed defendant and Scott to pull on the ends of a cord wrapped around Joshua's neck. Caffey told defendant to drive to Maywood and stabbed Joshua during the car ride. Defendant further stated that, after they left Joshua in an alley in Maywood, Scott threw a sheet in which Joshua had been wrapped out of the car window as they drove by the Baldwin piano factory.
In a written statement defendant signed on November 18, however, defendant admitted to a greater role in the murders and kidnappings of the members of the Evans family. She stated that she and Caffey had been dating for two years. Throughout their relationship, defendant and Caffey had attempted to conceive a child. Caffey wanted a baby boy with light skin so that the baby would resemble him. Defendant had become pregnant, but one pregnancy had ended in an abortion and another had ended with a miscarriage.
According to defendant's statement, Ward was upset with Debra during the four months that preceded the murders. On November 16, 1995, Ward, Caffey, and defendant drove to Debra's apartment in the gray Sable because Ward wanted to talk to Debra about their son Jordan. Debra was pregnant and planned to deliver her baby on Monday. Debra had chosen to name the baby Elijah.
Defendant further stated that she, Caffey, and Ward arrived at the Evans apartment at about 9 p.m. Debra let them into the building and apartment. Debra sat on a small couch, and she and defendant had a conversation about their children. Subsequently, while defendant was in the bathroom, she heard a loud ringing noise. She exited the bathroom and saw Debra lying on her back. Debra's eyes were blinking rapidly, and bubbles were coming from her mouth. Caffey was holding a small silver automatic gun. Ward was standing beside Debra and appeared to be stabbing her in the neck.
Caffey then made a cut "crossways" on Debra's abdomen with the poultry shears. As he cut, defendant could see the head of a baby. She and Caffey wanted the baby because it was a boy. Caffey pulled the baby from Debra and cut the umbilical cord while defendant stood next to him. Caffey did not want the baby at that point because he thought he had killed the baby, but defendant still wanted the baby. She blew into the baby's nose and mouth, and he began breathing.
Defendant further stated that, as she dressed the baby in a sleeper, Caffey and Ward went into the children's bedroom. Joshua ran from the bedroom crying that Caffey and Ward were hurting his sister. Defendant covered Debra with a blanket, but when Joshua saw his mother, he vomited and ran to the bathroom.
Defendant began to leave the apartment with the baby. Joshua grabbed her legs and said that he did not want to stay there because Caffey and Ward were bad. Defendant and Joshua exited the apartment through the back entrance. Caffey and Ward joined them in the car and they all drove to a location on Roosevelt Road, where Ward exited the car. Defendant and Caffey then drove to Scott's, where they left Joshua. Defendant lied and told Scott that Joshua's mother had been shot at a "drug spot."
Defendant stated that she and Caffey then drove to the house of a friend, where they placed a bandage on the baby's navel. Defendant and Caffey spent the night at the Schaumburg townhouse, where they washed some of the baby's blood from the coat Caffey had stolen from the Addison apartment.
On Friday morning, defendant returned to Scott's apartment and learned that Joshua had told Scott about the murders. Defendant knew at that point that they "were in deep trouble." She took Joshua to the Schaumburg townhouse. Scott came with them because she wanted to see defendant's baby.
According to defendant's written statement, Caffey and Ward were at the townhouse. They were all afraid that Joshua would identify them. Caffey told defendant to tie a scarf around Joshua's mouth, which she did. Ward left the townhouse at that point. Defendant asked Joshua to sit on the bed and tried to poison him by having him swallow "antiseptic." Caffey asked defendant to get a knife. Defendant did so and gave Caffey the knife. Joshua was screaming and frightened. Scott was also frightened because Caffey was threatening her.
Defendant further stated that they put Joshua in the car on the floor behind the driver's seat. Defendant sat in the driver's seat, and Caffey sat in the back seat. Caffey wrapped a cord around Joshua's neck several times and ordered defendant and Scott to pull on the ends of the cord. Joshua was screaming, crying, and moaning. Defendant and Scott dropped the cord, and Caffey began stabbing Joshua. Defendant drove to Maywood, where she pulled into an alley. She removed the sheet that was wrapped around Joshua and left him in the alley. Defendant dumped the sheet at a piano company and drove Scott to her apartment. They killed Joshua because he knew who committed the murders.
In addition to evidence of defendant's statements to police, the State presented police testimony describing the scene of Debra's and Samantha's murders. On the sidewalk in front of the apartment building, police found the poultry shears described by Edwards and by defendant in her written statement. There was blood on the shears, and one of the handles was broken. The windows and doors of the apartment showed no signs of forced entry. There was blood spattered in the living room, hallway, and bathroom of the apartment. Police found an emissions test notice addressed to Debra Evans on a hutch in the living room. The State's fingerprint expert opined that a fingerprint on the emissions test notice matched defendant's. In the master bedroom, police discovered an Ace bandage soaked in blood next to a bloodstain on the bed.
In the dishwasher in defendant's Schaumburg townhouse, police found the knife defendant had identified in her written statement as the weapon used to kill Joshua. In a garbage bag in the garage, police found a white coaxial cable. There was a bed and scarf in the laundry area. There was what appeared to be a pool of blood on the floor of the back seat of the gray car in the garage.
With respect to Joshua's kidnapping and murder, police recovered an empty brown iodine bottle from the kitchen garbage in Scott's apartment. On November 18, police discovered a bloodstained bed sheet near the Baldwin Piano Company in Bellwood, seven blocks from the alley where defendant left Joshua's body. Police found a matching sheet and pillowcase in defendant's townhouse.
According to the State's serology expert, the samples from the following items tested positive for human blood: the poultry shears, the bathroom vanity in the Addison apartment, the Ace bandage, the emissions test notice, the Grambling Tigers jacket, the bed sheet found by the piano company, and the carpet from the gray Sable. In addition, there was saliva on the scarf found in defendant's townhouse, although it could not be determined whether the saliva was human. The State's DNA experts opined that blood on the white cord from defendant's garage belonged to Joshua; blood from the Addison apartment vanity belonged to Elijah; blood on the Grambling Tigers jacket belonged to both Elijah and Jordan; blood on the poultry shears belonged to Samantha; blood on the carpet of the gray Sable belonged to Joshua; and blood on the sheet recovered near the piano company belonged to Joshua. In addition, one of the State's DNA experts testified that in his opinion Ward was the father of both Elijah and Jordan.
Dr. Shaku Teas testified concerning the autopsies she performed on Debra's and Samantha's bodies. Samantha had seven stab and incised wounds on her neck and some incised wounds to her left arm. Dr. Teas explained that, generally, a stab wound is deeper than it is long and an incised wound is longer than it is deep. According to Dr. Teas, the cause of Samantha's death was multiple stab wounds.
With respect to Debra's autopsy, Dr. Teas testified that a bullet had entered the back of her head and traveled through the right side of her brain to the area behind her forehead. In addition, Debra had four incised wounds to her neck. There was a 13-inch gaping wound from one side to the other of Debra's abdomen. Her uterus had been sliced open. The placenta and umbilical cord, which had been cut with a sharp instrument, remained in the uterus, but there was no fetus. Some intestines near the uterus had also been cut. Dr. Teas testified that the temporal order of Debra's wounds could not be determined from the autopsy alone. With respect to the ability of a fetus to survive when its mother dies, Dr. Teas testified that a fetus can survive as long as the mother's heart is beating. After the mother's heart stops, however, the fetus can survive for only three to five minutes. In Dr. Teas' opinion, the main cause of Debra's death was the gunshot wound, and the multiple stab and incised wounds were contributing causes. Dr. Teas further opined that all of the stab and incised wounds to Samantha and Debra could have been caused by the poultry shears.
Dr. Christopher Olson, Debra's obstetrician and gynecologist, testified that, when a Caesarean is performed in an appropriate medical manner, three persons are required to deliver a child. If there were no concern for the well-being of the mother and child, fewer persons would be needed. Dr. Olson testified, however, that more than two hands are needed to deliver a baby by Caesarean, particularly if a horizontal incision, such as the one on Debra's abdomen, is made. Dr. Olson further testified that the incision used to remove the baby from Debra's uterus was at the back of the uterus. Therefore, the uterus must have been pulled to the side or lifted out of the abdomen to make this cut. According to Dr. Olson, it was unlikely that this could have been accomplished by one person.
Dr. Olson also stated that, for a fetus to survive, it would have to be removed from a nonbreathing mother within two to three minutes. In Dr. Olson's opinion, Debra's heart was beating when the baby was removed from her body because the baby survived and because the blood spatters around her body suggested a certain amount of blood pressure.
Dr. Joseph Cogan testified that he performed an autopsy on Joshua. Dr. Cogan stated that Joshua had injuries, such as ligature marks, that indicated strangulation. The marks appeared to be from some sort of cord wrapped around his neck two times. There were several stab wounds to Joshua's neck. Joshua had no defensive wounds. Dr. Cogan also found evidence of aspiration, that is, evidence that Joshua had inhaled his own vomit.
Dr. Cogan further testified that the stab wounds occurred while Joshua was still alive. The strangulation preceded the stab wounds, and the aspiration occurred after he was stabbed. Dr. Cogan opined that, although he did not analyze Joshua's stomach contents, the unusual damage to the tissue of Joshua's lungs from the aspirated stomach contents was consistent with the ingestion of iodine. Dr. Cogan also testified that the ligature marks were consistent with the white cord found in defendant's garage, and the stab wounds were consistent with the butcher knife found in defendant's dishwasher. Dr. Cogan testified that Joshua would not have died instantaneously from his injuries but would not have lived for more than 30 minutes. In Dr. Cogan's opinion, Joshua died from multiple injuries: the strangulation, the stab wounds, and the aspiration of the stomach contents.
In addition to this testimony describing the circumstances of the murders and kidnappings of members of the Evans family, the State presented evidence concerning defendant's and her co-defendant's activities in the months preceding the murders and evidence of their relationships with the Evans family. Edwards testified that he had been living with Debra since 1989. Between 1989 and 1995, Edwards and Debra separated several times. During these separations, another defendant, Ward, lived with Debra and fathered Jordan and Elijah. Edwards stated that, several months prior to the murders, Debra had decided to name the baby she was carrying Elijah. During the last few weeks before the murders, Ward telephoned the Evans apartment several times, and Edwards overheard Debra arguing with Ward.
Edwards further testified that one week before the murders defendant came to the Evans apartment unexpectedly. Defendant and Edwards had a short conversation, during which defendant asked Edwards what time he went to work and how he traveled to work. Edwards told her that he worked from about 6 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.
Scott testified that, in the fall of 1995, defendant asked her if Pruitt knew where she could get a gun. Pruitt testified that defendant had asked him on several occasions to obtain a gun for her in the summer of 1995. Caffey was with her the last time.
Defendant's cousin John Pettaway testified that he saw defendant, Ward, and Caffey together during the afternoon of November 16, 1995. As Pettaway and Ward were driving around Wheaton that afternoon, they met defendant and Caffey twice. On both occasions, defendant, Caffey, and Ward had a brief conversation. Pettaway further testified that, the following day, he saw defendant at a car wash vacuuming the back seat area of the gray four-door car she was driving.
Defendant's sister, Tina Martin, testified that, around 6:50 p.m. on November 16, 1995, Ward came to the house Tina shared with her mother on Crescent Street in Wheaton. Ward made a telephone call to Debra Evans. Tina overheard a portion of their conversation, during which Ward asked, "Is the baby mine, or is it his." Ward left the Martin house around 8:10 p.m.
Cynthia Sawyer, a friend of Debra and defendant, testified that Debra and defendant had lived together at one time. Sawyer further testified that Ward and Debra had argued about the paternity of Jordan for several years before the murders. A few days before the murders, Sawyer observed defendant wearing an Ace bandage on her right arm.
According to the testimony of several State witnesses, defendant was unable to have children in 1995, but, in the months before the murders, pretended that she was pregnant. Defendant's sister, Tina Martin, testified that defendant told her that she was pregnant in April 1995. Defendant said that the baby was due in August, and Tina held a baby shower for defendant. Defendant later told her sister that the baby was due in October. She did not have a baby in October but continued to claim that she was pregnant. Darlene Bearden, defendant's probation officer, testified that, on November 1, 1995, defendant told her over the telephone that she had given birth. At an appointment on November 9, defendant told Bearden that she had named the baby Elijah.
Following the presentation of this evidence, the State rested its case in chief. Defendant's case consisted primarily of testimony intended to impeach Scott and Pruitt's testimony. One police officer testified that she showed Scott a photo array on January 19, 1996. Scott selected a photo of Bo Wilson from this array and, contrary to her trial testimony, stated that she was "fairly positive" that he was the other man in the Schaumburg townhouse when she, defendant, and Joshua arrived there. Scott told the officer that Wilson appeared angry that Joshua was with her and defendant. Scott also stated that Wilson was a gang member, terrified her, and had threatened her.
Another police officer testified that, when Scott spoke to him on November 17, she said that Joshua had told her that four black men had entered the Addison apartment and two of them had come through the bedroom window. In addition, she stated that Joshua had said that, after the "bad men" left, he ran out and found defendant. Still another police officer testified that Scott had told him on November 18 that she did not know who held Joshua as Caffey stabbed him. Defendant also presented the testimony of a police officer who stated that Pruitt had said that he first heard of the murder on the 10 a.m. news, and Scott returned to the apartment around 11 a.m.
The only other witness for the defense was Kim Young, another friend of defendant. She testified that defendant had made false claims of pregnancy several times prior to 1994 as part of a "female game" they played to keep the men they were dating. In addition, the defense presented two stipulations. According to one, the time of Pruitt's 911 call was 12:44 p.m. According to the other, during an interview on November 18, 1995, with assistant State's Attorneys, Scott said that Caffey wanted defendant to take Joshua to the projects on the south side, but defendant had told Caffey that Joshua could be hurt there.
In rebuttal, the State called a police officer, who testified that, on November 18, 1995, Scott stated that defendant held Joshua while Caffey stabbed him.
The jury found defendant guilty of the first degree murders of Debra, Samantha, and Joshua Evans. In addition, the jury found her guilty of the aggravated kidnappings of Joshua and Elijah.
At the first stage of defendant's sentencing hearing, the jury considered the evidence presented at trial and defendant's convictions for first degree murder and aggravated kidnapping. In addition, the State presented evidence that defendant's date of birth was December 22, 1966. The jury returned eight separate eligibility verdicts. In connection with Debra Evans' murder, the jury found defendant eligible for the death penalty under the multiple-murder and felony-murder statutory aggravating factors. See 720 ILCS 5/9-1(b)(3), (b)(6) (West 1994). In connection with Samantha Evans' murder, the jury found defendant eligible for the death penalty under the multiple-murder and brutal and heinous murder of a child under 12 statutory aggravating factors. See 720 ILCS 5/9-1(b)(3), (b)(7) (West 1994). In connection with Joshua Evans' murder, the jury found defendant eligible for the death penalty under the multiple-murder, felony-murder, brutal and heinous murder of a child under 12, and murder of a witness statutory aggravating factors. See 720 ILCS 5/9-1(b)(3), (b)(6), (b)(7), (b)(8) (West 1994).
At the second stage of sentencing, the State presented evidence concerning defendant's criminal history. This history included evidence that, in 1988, defendant had been sentenced to court supervision for the offense of theft by deception and for the offense of retail theft. In 1991 she was arrested for credit card fraud. In addition, she was convicted of theft based on her 1991 possession of jewelry and checks that had been stolen during a series of burglaries in the area around the Wheaton house she shared with a male companion. In 1993, defendant and another woman were arrested for cashing and attempting to cash forged checks at local banks. The checks had been stolen from the office of a Wheaton attorney whose office defendant's mother cleaned. According to the woman arrested with defendant, they planned to give the money from the forged checks to defendant's male companion. Defendant was convicted of forgery.
Defendant's probation officers testified that, in January 1992, defendant was sentenced to 24 months of probation for felony theft. Defendant was sentenced to additional terms of probation for violating the terms of her probation and remained on probation in November 1995.
One of defendant's friends testified that, in January 1995, she and defendant visited Caffey in the hospital. Defendant said that she had accidentally stabbed Caffey, and Caffey's lung had been punctured. A few months ...