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People v. Savory

May 24, 2001

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLEE,
v.
JOHNNY LEE SAVORY, APPELLANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McMORROW

Docket No. 88786-Agenda 12-September 2000.

The defendant, Johnny Lee Savory, filed a motion in the circuit court of Peoria County pursuant to section 116-3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (725 ILCS 5/116-3 (West 1998)), in which he sought to obtain scientific testing of certain evidence introduced at his murder trial 20 years ago. The circuit court denied defendant's motion, and the appellate court affirmed. 309 Ill. App. 3d 408. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the appellate court.

BACKGROUND

The offenses for which defendant was convicted occurred in Peoria on January 18, 1977. The victims, Connie Cooper, 19 years old, and her brother, James Robinson, 14 years old, were found murdered in their home. They had been stabbed repeatedly, and there were no signs of forced entry to the residence. Defendant, also 14, was a friend of James and was known to have been at the house the night before the offenses. Defendant was questioned by police a week after the victims' bodies were discovered. After making several exculpatory statements concerning his activities on January 17 and 18, 1977, defendant eventually confessed to the crimes.

Defendant was convicted of the two murders following a jury trial in 1977. On appeal, the appellate court concluded that defendant's confession was inadmissible and reversed the convictions. People v. Savory, 82 Ill. App. 3d 767 (1980). The cause was remanded for a new trial, which was conducted in 1981, following a change of venue to Lake County.

At defendant's second trial, the State introduced evidence of certain admissions made by defendant to several of his friends on the day of the offenses. One of these friends, Ella Ivy, testified that defendant made inculpatory statements before 4:30 p.m., the time the victims' bodies were discovered. Ella stated that, at approximately 2:30 p.m. on January 18, defendant told her that he and James Robinson had been playing karate and that he had accidentally cut James. Ella also testified that she saw defendant again a little more than an hour later, around 4 p.m., and that he told her that Robinson and his sister were dead. That night, defendant told Ella that he was planning to take flowers to the victims' mother, and Ella saw a knife fall out of defendant's wallet.

Ella's brother, Frankie Ivy, testified that, at approximately 8 p.m. on January 18, defendant said that he had accidentally stabbed James Robinson and his sister.

Tina Ivy, sister of Ella and Frankie, testified that, at approximately 7 p.m. on January 18, defendant told her that "two kids had got killed." Defendant also told her that he and Robinson had been practicing karate earlier that day and that he had accidentally cut Robinson. Tina further testified about a conversation she had with defendant the day after the murders, on January 19. On that occasion, defendant told her that whoever committed the offenses must have known the victims, because the family dog, a German shepherd, would not have allowed a stranger in the house. Defendant also told Tina that the victims had been brutally stabbed.

At the second trial, the State also introduced evidence of statements that defendant made to police prior to making his inadmissible confession. In these statements, defendant said that, on January 17, the night before the victims were killed, he and James had prepared cooked corn and hot dogs in the kitchen and had played karate games in the living room. Defendant also said that they had moved the television set to the floor so that it would not get knocked over during their play. The State argued that the contents of these statements revealed a knowledge of the crime scene that only the offender would have had, and that what defendant said occurred on the evening of January 17 actually took place on January 18 and resulted in the deaths of the two victims. The State supported this argument with testimony from the victims' mother and stepfather. This testimony showed that James and the defendant had not eaten anything during the defendant's visit on the evening of January 17. The testimony also showed that, when the victims' mother and stepfather left for work on the morning of January 18, the kitchen was clean and the television set was in its customary place on a stand. The victims' mother further stated that she prepared corn and hot dogs for the children that morning and left the food on the stove for them. The parents returned home at approximately 4:30 p.m. and discovered the victims' bodies. At that time, the kitchen was in disarray and the television set was on the living room floor.

The State also presented physical evidence connecting defendant to the offenses, including evidence that hairs consistent with defendant's were found in the bathroom sink and tub, that a knife from defendant's home had blood on it, and that a bloodstain found on a pair of trousers recovered from the defendant's home was of the same blood type as Connie Cooper's.

Defendant presented evidence of an alibi and also attempted to show that the victims' stepfather and former boyfriends of Connie might have committed the crimes. Regarding the bloodstained trousers, defendant's father testified that they belonged to him, and that the bloodstain was from a cut he had received on his leg.

At the conclusion of the second trial, a jury again found defendant guilty of the murders of Connie Cooper and James Robinson. The trial judge later sentenced defendant to concurrent, indeterminate sentences of 40 to 80 years' imprisonment for the two offenses. Defendant's convictions and sentences were affirmed on appeal. People v. Savory, 105 Ill. App. 3d 1023 (1982). Defendant's subsequent post-conviction petitions, which included his claim that Tina and Frankie had purportedly recanted their testimony, were denied. His request for habeas corpus relief was also denied. No. 3-84-0008 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23); No. 3-90-0059 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23); Savory v. Lane, 832 F.2d 1011 (7th Cir. 1987).

Defendant initiated the present proceeding in 1998 by filing a motion in the circuit court of Peoria County pursuant to section 116-3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (725 ILCS 5/116-3 (West 1998)). Section 116-3 allows a defendant to have physical evidence subjected to scientific testing that was not available at the time of trial if certain requirements are met. To obtain testing, a defendant must present a prima facie case that identity was the issue at his trial and that the evidence to be tested has been under a secure chain of custody. Testing is permitted if, among other requirements, "the result of the testing has the scientific potential to produce new, non-cumulative evidence materially relevant to the defendant's assertion of actual innocence." 725 ILCS 5/116-3(c)(1) (West 1998).

In the present case, defendant's motion requested that DNA testing be performed on the bloodstained trousers that the State contended defendant had been wearing at the time of the offenses. Defendant maintained that he is innocent of the murders. He alleged that the test results would show that the blood did not match that of Connie Cooper, and would thus eliminate one of the pieces of physical evidence introduced by ...


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