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People v. Hall

October 26, 2000

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLEE,
v.
FELIPE HALL, APPELLANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Bilandic

Docket No. 86194-Agenda 6-March 2000.

Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Madison County, defendant, Felipe Hall, was convicted of two counts of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 1994)). The same jury found that defendant was eligible for the death penalty and that there were no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude the death penalty. Accordingly, the trial court sentenced defendant to death. Defendant's execution 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 conviction and death sentence.

BACKGROUND

I. Trial Evidence

On October 4, 1994, Frank Crook, a farmer in rural Madison County, was awakened by the sound of two or three gunshots. Crook looked at his alarm clock; it was 1:30 a.m. The gunshots were followed by four shotgun blasts. Later that morning, David Mueller, a farmer whose property adjoins Crook's property, discovered two piles of clothing on a dirt field road, and observed in his field what appeared to be a body. Mueller contacted authorities. An officer from the Madison County sheriff's office who was dispatched to the scene found the nude bodies of two young women-a blond-haired Caucasian and an African-American. The women were later identified as Christina Masters and Samantha Beasley, respectively.

An autopsy of Masters revealed that she had suffered two shotgun wounds, one to the middle of the forehead, and one to the right breast. Either shot would have been fatal. Masters also suffered a traumatic amputation of the middle and ring fingers on her right hand, which the pathologist testified are defensive wounds. An autopsy of Beasley revealed that she, like Masters, suffered two shotgun wounds, one to the lower back and one to the right breast. In addition, Beasley suffered two gunshot wounds-a through-and-through wound in the left buttocks and thigh, and the fatal wound, in which the bullet traveled through the right shoulder, into the lung and heart, ultimately entering the left arm. According to the pathologist, blood spatters on the soles of Beasley's feet indicate that she was not standing at the time she was shot.

Illinois State Police, who processed the crime scene, recovered two discharged Norinco brand 9-millimeter shell casings, a live 9-millimeter cartridge, and four discharged Remington brand shotgun shells. Police testified that the proximity of the shotgun shells is consistent with a single shooter, and that the barrel of the shotgun which was used in the murders was probably cut off.

Prosecution witnesses testified that on the evening of October 3, 1994, the victims, along with Tiffany Edwards and Ernestine Renee Rankins, went to Juanita Lane's apartment at the Colony North Apartments in Jennings, Missouri, a community outside St. Louis. Masters was driving a red Merkur Scorpio. At about 11:30 p.m., Masters drove Beasley, Lane and Edwards to Rally's, a local eatery, for hamburgers. A receipt from Rally's, which was recovered from the Merkur, shows a purchase on October 3 at 11:51 p.m. According to Lane, Masters was not her normal self that evening. Lane testified that Masters was quiet, nervous, and kept looking in her rearview mirror.

Upon their return to the Colony North Apartments from Rally's, Edwards and Lane went inside. Beasley and Masters stayed in the car, which Masters parked in the lot for the apartment complex. A short time later, Masters moved the Merkur to a different spot in the parking lot. According to a statement Edwards gave to police, the Merkur was parked just a few spaces away from a burgundy Oldsmobile Eighty Eight or Buick Park Avenue. Inside the burgundy car were three black males. Edwards later observed that the burgundy car was gone, and Masters' car was empty.

Various prosecution witnesses testified regarding incidents involving the Merkur, Masters, and defendant just prior to the murders. David Fiedler, a loan officer at General Finance, identified defendant as the man who was with Masters on September 26, 1994, when Masters applied for an auto loan in connection with the purchase of the Merkur. Fiedler remembered the transaction because the Merkur Scorpio is an unusual car. Fiedler described defendant as "controlling." A week after the purchase, Fiedler received a telephone call from defendant, who identified himself as "Jonathan." Defendant indicated that he would like to resell the Merkur.

Kimberly Woolridge testified that she met defendant through a friend, Michelle Smith, in the summer of 1993, and knew defendant under various names, including Felipe Hall, Lamont Hall, and Jonathan Scales. At defendant's request, Woolridge verified employment for Masters in connection with the auto loan, although Woolridge's company did not, in fact, employ Masters. Woolridge further testified that one evening, as she, Smith and defendant were leaving A.J.'s, a restaurant and lounge in St. Louis, defendant discovered that his car, the Merkur, was gone. Defendant was extremely upset.

Defendant's cousin, Damie Brown, also testified regarding an incident outside A.J.'s in which defendant's car, the Merkur, was missing. According to Brown, as they drove around looking for the vehicle, Masters drove up in her station wagon, told defendant that the Merkur was stolen, but that she knew where to find it. They followed Masters to the Colony North Apartments, where the Merkur was parked. Defendant told Brown that it was funny how the car kept disappearing.

Juanita Lane testified that three or four days prior to the shootings, Masters asked Lane to accompany her to pick up her new car. The two women drove to a Motel 6 in the St. Louis area where the Merkur was parked. Records from the Motel 6 establish that Masters rented a room in her name on September 25, 1994, which was paid through October 3, 1994. Motel employees identified defendant as the man seen in that room on a regular basis. Lane also testified that on the day following their trip to the Motel 6, Masters again asked Lane to accompany her to pick up the Merkur, which Lane did. This time the vehicle was parked outside A.J.'s.

Andre Franklin, who at the time of trial was serving a sentence at the Colorado State Penitentiary, testified that defendant told him the Merkur was his car, but that it was registered in the name of some female who was "tripping a little bit." Franklin explained to investigators that "tripping" meant that the woman was "fucking with [the car]." According to Franklin, defendant did not appear unhappy or emotional when defendant talked to him about the Merkur.

Michelle Smith testified that she knew defendant through Brown, with whom Smith had grown up. On the evening of October 3, 1994, Smith rented a green Chevy Aerostar van for defendant. Defendant explained that he was moving and would need the van for a day. Smith picked up defendant at the Motel 6 and went to the car rental agency. Smith recalled that defendant was wearing construction boots.

Smith and defendant met the next day, October 4, at approximately 5 p.m. to return the van. With defendant were "Dre" and "Rico." Smith testified that defendant seemed frustrated, "hyper," and rushed. As Smith settled the paperwork, she saw defendant wiping down the door and the interior of the van. When Rico asked defendant what he was doing, defendant responded, "[E]vidence, fingerprints." Smith noticed that defendant's upper lip was cut all the way through. Defendant said he had been lifting weights and was hurt while spotting for someone. Defendant reimbursed Smith for the cost of the rental van.

Defendant asked Smith to rent him another vehicle to go to Colorado, but Smith refused. Defendant told Smith he needed to move again because the motel room was in Masters' name. When Smith inquired further, defendant told her to watch the news and that Masters "was not living." Smith watched the news, saw Masters' photograph and thought that she was someone Woolridge had met. Smith called Woolridge, who confirmed that Masters was the girl for whom Woolridge had verified employment.

Sherry Harris testified that at 10:30 or 11 p.m. on October 3, 1994, she left her sister's house in St. Louis and was going to take a bus to her boyfriend's house in Jennings. As she walked to the bus stop, a green van pulled up. The driver of the van, whom Harris identified as defendant, offered her a ride. Harris accepted. Defendant introduced himself as Lamont. They proceeded first to Allen Street in St. Louis, where defendant had a brief conversation with a male. In this conversation, defendant said he would be back to pick him up that night. Defendant and Harris then proceeded to the Colony North Apartments in Jennings to see if defendant's car was there. Defendant explained that the prior evening his girlfriend had stolen a set of extra car keys and that she had later stolen his vehicle.

When Harris and defendant arrived at the Colony North Apartments, Harris saw a red car, which she identified in court from a photograph of the Merkur. Harris saw the back of the heads of the two occupants of the vehicle. The female driver was blonde and light-skinned; the female passenger was dark-skinned. Defendant parked close to the Merkur and said, "[S]he got a nigger in my shit." Defendant was angry. Defendant then exited the van, removed a two- to three-foot-long shotgun from under the seat, and went over to the Merkur. Defendant pointed the shotgun at the driver and said, "[Y]ou got to three to get out." At this point, Harris exited the van and ran to her boyfriend's house, which was not far away.

The following evening, October 4, 1994, defendant went to the airport and purchased two tickets to Denver in the names of Rico Hall and Tracy Clay. The ticket agent testified that defendant, who was with two other men, did most of the talking. Although defendant indicated that he wanted to fly out that evening, the last flight to Denver had already departed. The ticket agent described defendant as smooth, polite, educated, and "kind of a con[-man]." According to testimony from Andre Franklin, the two tickets were for defendant and himself, who flew out the next morning as scheduled. Franklin also testified that he and defendant had discussed going to Colorado on numerous occasions. On October 3, 1994, between 11 p.m. and midnight, defendant found Franklin on Allen Street in St. Louis. Defendant was driving a van. With defendant was an African-American female. Defendant told Franklin that he was leaving for Colorado that evening, that Franklin should get his things together, and that defendant would pick him up after he dropped off his passenger. Franklin estimated that defendant would be back within an hour. Franklin, however, did not see defendant again until late the following morning.

Based on information received from Kimberly Woolridge, Madison County sheriffs learned that defendant maintained a storage locker at a facility in St. Louis. The rental agreement for the locker, dated August 26, 1994, was in the name of Suzanne Eckler, defendant's wife. In a search of the locker, sheriffs seized a Jennings 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol, three 9-millimeter clips, a box of 9-millimeter shells and one Remington brand shotgun shell. The 9-millimeter ammunition was of a different brand than the 9-millimeter shell casings found at the crime scene. Sheriffs also seized a type of arrow gun which resembles a shotgun. Harris, however, testified that the arrow gun was not the weapon she saw defendant take from the van on the night of October 3.

A forensic examination of the pistol seized from the storage locker disclosed that while it was not the weapon involved in the murder of Beasley, it was its "twin." St. Louis police recovered the other twin weapon in November 1994. Police officer David Dietzel testified that they were monitoring an area of known gang activity and illuminated their lights on a large group of people. An individual later identified as Monaco McNeil dropped a gun. McNeil denied the gun was his, but provided no information on how he obtained it. Forensic tests established that the gun McNeil dropped was the one used in Beasley's murder.

Suzanne Eckler, defendant's wife, testified that in the summer of 1994, at defendant's request, she purchased two brand new guns for him. Eckler purchased the weapons in Colorado where she was living, and mailed them to defendant in St. Louis under a different name. Eckler identified the handgun seized from the storage locker and the weapon recovered from McNeil as the two guns that she purchased for defendant. Eckler also identified a receipt that was made out in her name, dated July 16, 1994, in connection with her purchase of the second gun.

A housekeeper at the Mary Kay Inn in Hazlewood, Missouri, where defendant stayed for approximately six to eight weeks during the summer of 1994, told police that sometime in August she saw two similar black handguns in defendant's possession.

Tammy Brown, who was also employed as a housekeeper at the Mary Kay Inn, testified that in mid-summer 1994, she developed a relationship with defendant. Brown recalled seeing a handgun and a shotgun in his room. According to the statement she gave to police, Brown saw what looked like a sawed-off shotgun, approximately two feet long, which defendant said he was holding for somebody. At trial, Brown's testimony was equivocal as to whether the shotgun she saw could have been the arrow gun found in defendant's storage locker. Brown testified that she still had feelings for defendant, who had helped her financially.

Brown further testified that on one occasion, as she was leaving defendant's motel room, she saw a young, blonde-haired girl entering his room. When Brown asked defendant about the girl, defendant said that she was just somebody he needed to help him rent cars and hotel rooms and get identification for him.

Dawn Meyers also saw a handgun on the nightstand in a St. Louis hotel room occupied by defendant during the summer of 1994, as well as a shotgun. Meyers had gone to defendant's hotel room to pick up a friend, Tammy Witt, who was dating defendant. Meyers testified that she was "positive" that the arrow gun seized from defendant's storage locker was not the shotgun she saw in defendant's room. Witt, however, testified that the only gun she saw was a black handgun.

Glen Shubert, a forensic scientist with the Illinois State Police, compared hair samples taken from the victims with hair found in the Aerostar van driven by defendant. Of the several Caucasian and Negroid hairs found in the van, one Caucasian hair was microscopically similar to Masters' head hair, and one Negroid hair fragment was microscopically consistent with Beasley's head hair.

Thomas Gamboe of the Madison County sheriff's department testified that tire tracks at the crime scene did not match the tires on the Aerostar van, but were similar to the tire treads on one of the police vehicles. Although investigators found a footwear impression at the crime scene, they were unable to find a match. Eckler testified that when defendant returned to Colorado in October 1994, he purchased a new pair of steel-toed hiking boots. Defendant told Eckler that he threw his other boots into a dumpster because he thought a print could be matched to those boots.

Defendant testified on his own behalf. Defendant admitted to multiple felony convictions in Colorado. He denied killing Beasley and Masters. Defendant testified that he obtained two handguns, but that he sold one of them in the summer of 1994 because he needed money. Defendant also testified that he never fought with Masters over the Merkur.

Although defendant initially testified that the arrow gun was not in the van on October 3, 1994, defendant later testified that this was the gun he held as he approached the Merkur in the parking lot of the Colony North Apartments. Defendant did not recall telling Masters and Beasley that they had to the count of three to exit the car. Rather, he said the gist of his conversation with Masters was that he wanted the car back and that they agreed to meet at the motel.

Defendant explained that he wiped down the steering wheel and the driver's side door of the van that Smith had rented for him in order to remove the blood from a cut lip which had dripped on the van. Defendant remembered buying new boots in Colorado, but denied telling his wife that he got rid of the other pair because of a possible footprint match. Finally, defendant testified that on October 4, 1994, at 1:30 a.m., he placed a telephone call to his mother to let her know he was alright.

Eliza Madison, defendant's mother, testified consistently about the October 4 telephone call. She also said defendant sounded calm and normal.

William Hoffman, Masters' stepfather, testified that on the evening of October 4, 1994, he answered a telephone call at his mother-in-law's house from a man who identified himself as Lamont. The caller asked for Masters.

Tequila Green, Beasley's cousin, testified that she could have told Madison County sheriffs that Beasley was dating a black man named Reggie, and that she had seen Reggie drop off Beasley in a dark Oldsmobile Eighty Eight. Green, however, did not recall providing that information to authorities. Daarino Musoddiq also testified that she may have told Madison County sheriffs that Beasley had dated Reggie and that she had seen Reggie drop off Beasley in an older model vehicle, possibly an Oldsmobile Cutlass or Eighty Eight.

In rebuttal, Detective Leonard Suhre, of the Madison County sheriff's department, testified that the department's investigation revealed that "Reggie" was Reginald Stewart. According to Suhre, on the night of October 3, 1994, Stewart was in the St. Clair County jail.

The jury found that defendant was guilty of the murders of Beasley and Masters.

II. Sentencing Hearing

At the first phase of the capital sentencing hearing, the same jury found that defendant was eligible for the death penalty in that he was convicted of murdering two or more persons (720 ILCS 5/9-1(b)(3) (West 1994)), and that the murders were committed in a "cold, calculated and premeditated manner pursuant to a preconceived plan, scheme or design to take a human life by unlawful means" (720 ILCS 5/9-1(b)(11) (West 1994)).

At the second phase of the capital sentencing hearing, the State presented evidence in aggravation that defendant was involved in the drug trade; that defendant had made threats to Masters and others; and that defendant had an extensive criminal record, with a history of assaults. The State also supplemented the record with victim impact statements from four family members, as well as the testimony of one family member. In mitigation, defendant presented the testimony of his mother concerning his potential for rehabilitation and her belief in his innocence.

The jury found that there were no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude a sentence of death. Accordingly, the court sentenced defendant to death.

ANALYSIS

I. Speedy-Trial Issue

Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion to dismiss, alleging a violation of his right to a speedy trial. See 725 ILCS 5/103-5(a) (West 1994). Defendant argues that the trial court erred in dismissing his motion without an evidentiary hearing.

An accused possesses both statutory and constitutional rights to a speedy trial. 725 ILCS 5/103-5(a) (West 1994); U.S. Const., amends. VI, XIV; Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §8. Although the statutory and constitutional provisions address similar concerns, the rights established by each are not necessarily coextensive. People v. Kliner, 185 Ill. 2d 81, 114 (1998); People v. Jones, 104 Ill. 2d 268, 286 (1984). Defendant here asserts only a violation of his statutory right to a speedy trial.

Under the speedy-trial statute, a defendant in custody for an alleged offense must be tried within 120 days from the date he or she was taken into custody, "unless delay is occasioned by the defendant." 725 ILCS 5/103-5(a) (West 1994); People v. Bowman, 138 Ill. 2d 131, 137 (1990). Similarly, a defendant on bail or recognizance must be tried within 160 days from the date the defendant demands trial "unless delay is occasioned by the defendant." 725 ILCS 5/103-5(b) (West 1994).

A delay is "occasioned by the defendant" when the defendant's acts caused or contributed to a delay resulting in the postponement of trial. Kliner, 185 Ill. 2d at 114; People v. McDonald, 168 Ill. 2d 420, 438 (1995). Any period of delay found to be occasioned by the defendant tolls the applicable statutory period. 725 ILCS 5/103-5(f) (West 1994); McDonald, 168 Ill. 2d at 438-39. A defendant not tried within the statutory period must be released from custody and is entitled to have the charges dismissed. 725 ILCS 5/103-5(d) (West 1994); 725 ILCS 5/114-1(a)(1) (West 1994); Kliner, 185 Ill. 2d at 114-15. The defendant bears the burden of establishing facts which demonstrate a violation of the speedy-trial statute. Kliner, 185 Ill. 2d at 114. Only where a defendant's speedy-trial motion, and any answer filed by the State, present an issue of fact not of record must a trial court conduct a hearing on the defendant's motion. 725 ILCS 5/114-1(c), (d) (West 1994). On review, a trial court's determination as to whether a delay is attributable to the defendant is entitled to much deference and should be sustained absent a clear showing that the trial court abused its discretion. Kliner, 185 Ill. 2d at 115; McDonald, 168 Ill. 2d at 438; Bowman, 138 Ill. 2d at 137.

In the present case, the trial court permitted argument on defendant's speedy-trial motion, but did not set the matter for an evidentiary hearing. The court determined that, based on its review of the record and Illinois law, only 98 days under the speedy-trial statute had elapsed and, therefore, that no violation of defendant's statutory speedy-trial right occurred. Defendant argues that the trial court should not have ruled on his motion without first conducting a hearing to determine the truthfulness of defendant's allegation that his appointed counsel failed to consult with him prior to requesting several continuances. Defendant maintains that the trial court improperly attributed delay to him on the basis of a "silent record."

We agree with defendant that where the record is silent, a delay in trial will not be presumed to be attributable to a defendant. See People v. Reimolds, 92 Ill. 2d 101, 106 (1982). Here, however, the record is not silent. To the contrary, the record discloses that several continuances were requested "upon [m]otion of [d]efendant." In each instance, the order granting the continuance states that the delay "is ruled attributable to the [d]efendant." Each order is acknowledged by defense counsel.

Generally, for purposes of tolling the speedy-trial period, a defendant is charged with delay caused by defense motions. People v. Ladd, 185 Ill. 2d 602, 608 (1999). Further, this court has held that where a defense attorney requests a continuance on behalf of a defendant, the resulting delay is attributable to the defendant. See Bowman, 138 Ill. 2d at 141-42. This result naturally flows from the law governing attorney-client relations. As we explained in the Bowman case:

"The general rule in Illinois is that a client is bound by the acts or omissions of his lawyer-agent. While not an ironclad rule, it is necessary in order for a representative system of litigation to function. [Citation.] In criminal proceedings, an attorney is authorized to act for his client and determine for him procedural matters and decisions involving trial strategy and tactics. [Citations.] Thus, the affirmative acts of a defendant's counsel cannot be separated from the defendant's own acts." Bowman, 138 Ill. 2d at 141.

The record need not affirmatively show that, in conjunction with a request for a continuance, the attorney has consulted with the defendant. Such a rule would "intolerably burden" the trial courts. Bowman, 138 Ill. 2d at 142. Moreover, "an ordinary, uncontested motion for a continuance does not involve rights of the accused of such a substantial nature as to invalidate the actions that occur without the accused's express consent." Bowman, 138 Ill. 2d at 142. Thus, defendant cannot claim that the delay in trial should not have been attributed to him.

Finally, where a defendant does not promptly repudiate an attorney's unauthorized act upon receiving knowledge of the same, the defendant effectively ratifies the act. Bowman, 138 Ill. 2d at 143. A contrary rule "would force every trial court to inquire into every chargeable delay to determine whether an accused personally agreed to a continuance, or at least ...


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