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People v. Bryant

September 28, 2001


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 98-CR-30071 Honorable Timothy Chambers, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Theis


Following a bench trial, defendant Lizell Bryant was convicted of attempted first-degree murder and aggravated battery and sentenced to an extended term of 60 years' imprisonment. Defendant appeals his convictions and sentence, arguing that (1) the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant did not act in self-defense; (2) his right to due process was violated when the State failed to tender evidence favorable to the defense; (3) his extended-term sentence should be reduced under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 147 L. Ed. 2d 435, 120 S. Ct. 2348 (2000); and (4) a 30-year sentence would be excessive. For the reasons that follow, we affirm defendant's conviction, but vacate his sentence and remand for resentencing.

In 1998, defendant was indicted on several charges, including attempted first-degree murder and aggravated battery. At his first trial, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of aggravated battery but was unable to render a verdict on the attempted murder count. Defendant's motion for a new trial was granted, and his second trial was a bench trial.

The following facts were adduced at his second trial. Defendant's wife, Evelyn Bryant, first testified for the State. She and defendant married in 1991 but separated in 1997. Evelyn moved out of their house and into a studio apartment in Des Plaines at 1409 East Ashland Avenue while defendant purchased a two-flat apartment in Joliet. While separated, Evelyn continued to see defendant, spending some weekends and nights with him.

On the evening of October 20, 1998, defendant arrived in Des Plaines around 10 p.m. and Evelyn allowed him into the apartment. At some point, defendant hit Evelyn on her head. She fell to the floor, where defendant sat on her back and continued beating her with his fist. He next hit her over the head several times with a vase and a brass candlestick. During this incident, defendant told her that she was going to die, that if anyone came to the door he would kill her, and he hoped she had said good-bye to her grandchildren. Evelyn tried to defend herself by covering her head with her hands and asked him why he was doing this to her, but defendant continued to hit her and at one point covered her face with pillows.

When defendant stood up and walked toward the kitchen, Evelyn ran for the door, but defendant stopped her and stabbed her twice in the chest with a kitchen knife. She grabbed the blade and tried to bend it back towards defendant. Evelyn bit defendant and defendant bit her back. She then took control of the knife and ran to the kitchen to call the police. Defendant reached the phone first, pulled it off the wall, and threw it to the floor. She screamed at defendant to leave, but he stood in front of the door and asked her why she made him do this to her. He then left and Evelyn went to a neighbor's apartment for help. When the police arrived, Evelyn told them that defendant had done this and gave them his address and a description of his car.

On cross-examination, Evelyn stated that she did not remember if the dining-room table had been turned over during the struggle and stated that she did not cut defendant. Evelyn denied knowing about a woman named Laura Williams or that defendant had a girlfriend during their separation. She recalled seeing a card at his apartment from Laura but believed defendant when he told her the card was for his son. She denied accusing defendant of having an affair with Williams and other women but agreed that her daughter had seen him with another woman.

Officers Jeff Rotkovich and Jeff Jacoby of the Des Plaines police department testified that they responded to 1409 East Ashland Avenue and observed a woman lying in a pool of blood. Both saw a knife on the floor near her left hand. Jacoby searched the apartment and noticed blood on the walls, a vase and a pillow. The living-room table was turned over and the wall telephone was on the floor.

After defendant was arrested a few hours later, Rotkovich observed cuts and scrapes on defendant's arm and hand and a bite wound on his thumb, but no knife wounds. Rotkovich testified that defendant was not taken to the hospital for his injuries. On cross-examination, Rotkovich stated that blood was found in defendant's car and on a tissue located on the front seat.

The State stipulated that Dr. Rabih Salloum would testify consistent with his testimony from defendant's first trial. Dr. Salloum stated that Evelyn suffered lacerations to her head, multiple bruises to her back, cuts on her hand and fingers, and two stab wounds to the chest. In his opinion, any of these injuries could have been fatal. He stated that her hand injuries were sustained when she tried to push a knife or sharp object away from her.

The parties stipulated that Officer Badertscher of the Joliet police department would also testify as he did in the first trial. There, he stated that when he apprehended defendant in Joliet he noticed defendant's hand was bleeding and blood on a napkin and clothing in the front seat of the car. Defendant told Badertscher he did not do anything.

Robert Wijas next testified that he was visiting his girlfriend at her 1409 East Ashland Avenue apartment on October 20, 1998, when he heard a woman screaming around 10 p.m. After about 20 minutes, he heard the woman ask a man to leave twice. He then heard a door slam and saw a man leave the building and get into a Chevy Blazer. Wijas called the police and later determined that the screaming came from Evelyn's apartment. He never heard a man scream.

Michael Roston testified for the defense that he owns Roston Corporation, where defendant worked for 10 years running errands and delivering mail. In the summer of 1998, defendant came to work with bruises and scratches on his face. Roston believed defendant when he said that he sustained the injuries falling off his bicycle. Defendant's mother, Ida Conner, also testified that she visited ...

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