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People v. Peacock

August 21, 2001


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McBRIDE


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Richard L. Samuels, Judge Presiding

Following a bench trial, defendant Taki Peacock was found guilty of first degree murder, aggravated vehicular hijacking, armed robbery, and aggravated kidnapping. Defendant was given an extended-term sentence of 80 years for first degree murder and 30 years on each of the other offenses, to run concurrent with the 80-year term.

The evidence at trial showed that on August 31, 1995, the victim, 60-year-old Rufus Taylor, was confronted in his garage at 6937 South Merrill Avenue in Chicago by defendant and Lawrence Wallace. According to a written statement defendant later gave to an assistant State's Attorney, he and Wallace had planned to take the victim's car the day before but had decided against it after seeing someone sitting on a porch near the victim's garage. On August 31, when the victim got out of his car, Wallace put a .25 caliber gun to his head. Defendant had obtained the gun earlier from his sister-in-law. Defendant drove the victim's car to an area near 131st Street and Halsted Street while Wallace held the victim at gunpoint in the backseat. On the way, the victim asked to be dropped off and Wallace said they could not drop him off because he had seen their faces. Defendant, in his statement, acknowledged that he then "figured Wallace was going to kill Mr. Taylor." Upon arriving at 131st and Halsted, defendant located a secluded spot on property belonging to the Cook County Forest Preserve. According to defendant's statement, they got out of the car and Wallace then shot the victim in the face. Defendant, after unjamming the gun, fired a single shot at the victim but missed. Wallace then shot the victim again. Defendant and Wallace left the wounded victim and drove to Gary, Indiana, in the victim's car. Wallace gave defendant $200 that they had taken from the victim. When defendant and Wallace were told the "chop-shop" they were looking for was closed, they went to a fast-food restaurant drive-up window and bought a bucket of chicken. The drive-through attendant testified at trial that defendant, who was driving, asked her what time she was going to get off work and offered to come back and pick her up later.

After being left to die by defendant and Wallace, the victim managed to get to Halsted Street, where civilians came to his aid and called the police. Police and paramedics arrived on the scene. The victim was initially conscious and told an officer that his car had been taken by two black males, one tall, one short, and that the shorter one (Wallace) had shot him. One of the civilians who had stopped to help contacted the victim's wife. The officers learned that the victim's car was a black Jaguar with vanity plates.

Following a message sent out over the Illinois State Police Emergency Network, defendant and Wallace were apprehended in the victim's car by Lake County, Indiana, sheriff's police. Defendant subsequently met with assistant State's Attorneys from Cook County and gave a signed statement detailing the above events.

The victim was taken to a hospital, where he died several days later. The cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the head.

Defendant's case was set for a jury trial on July 13, 1998. On that day, defense counsel stated that after extensive discussion with his client, defendant had decided to waive his right to a jury trial. Counsel also informed the court that defendant had discussed the matter with his mother. Defense counsel tendered to the court a jury waiver signed by defendant in open court. The trial court then admonished defendant regarding his right to a jury trial and ruled that defendant had knowingly waived his right to a jury. Defendant's counsel stated that it was his understanding that the trial would commence the next day. The State acknowledged that it had "all the witnesses on line for tomorrow as if it was a jury trial." After determining a starting time for the next afternoon, the trial court stated: "Gentlemen, will that be by agreement hold on call to tomorrow?" The State then entered a nolle prosequi on 14 of the counts against defendant, leaving 8 counts for trial. The court then stated: "Okay, gentlemen, trial will stand recessed until tomorrow."

The following day, the following colloquy took place:

"THE COURT: Please be seated. *** Ready for trial?

[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Yes, Judge. For the record, I would like to spread of record that earlier today around 12:30, I had an opportunity to come here to speak to my client and I was alerted by the court personnel that my client had an urgent request to speak to me.

Upon speaking with my client, he has instructed me at this time that he would respectfully like to withdraw his jury waiver that he tendered and entered before this Court yesterday. I discussed the matter with him extensively, Judge, and I feel that it is my duty to relay to the Court his request at this time to withdraw the waiver that he had entered yesterday, so we will be moving to withdraw said waiver, and ask for a jury instead.

THE COURT: Thank you, Mr. Wilson. Mr. Lynn.

[STATES ATTORNEY]: Judge, it is my understanding of the law in Illinois that a jury waiver that has been knowingly and voluntarily entered should stand, absent some showing as to that it was given under some misapprehension of the facts or the law. There is no indication that the defendant was improperly ...

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