The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hartman
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Lawrence P. Fox, Judge Presiding.
Following a jury trial, defendant Larry Miller was convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting death of his wife, Rose Miller. The circuit court sentenced defendant to 40 years' imprisonment. On appeal defendant contends that: (1) the court erred in precluding him from testifying regarding his absence of motive and his state of mind; (2) the court erred in admitting evidence of prior incidents between him and Rose; (3) he was deprived of the presumption of innocence; (4) his fifth Amendment right to post-arrest silence was violated; (5) the State's closing argument denied him a fair trial; and (6) his sentence was excessive.
Rose Miller, defendant's wife, was shot and killed in front of their home at 5919 S. Fairfield on September 19, 1998. The couple had two children, William Brawder and Jasmine Collins, who were present at the time of the shooting.
The State presented the following evidence:
Asunsion Colin Bernal, who lived across the street from 5919 S. Fairfield, testified that on September 19, 1998, he was on his balcony when he saw defendant and Rose arguing on their front porch. Rose was walking down the stairs with nothing in her hands. As she reached the gate, defendant took out a chrome gun and shot her one time. Bernal testified that there was nothing blocking his view.
Rose's eleven year old nephew, Antonio Rowe testified that on the morning of September 19, he heard defendant and Rose arguing before defendant left the house. When defendant came home that night, Rowe saw him go into the basement, return carrying a dark colored duffle bag with a towel hanging out of it, and go out to the front porch. Rowe heard a big boom followed by someone banging on the front door saying let me in. William opened the door and defendant told him to call an ambulance. Rowe saw defendant run into the basement holding the dark colored duffle bag.
Officer Mark Davis testified that when he responded to a call of a person shot at 5919 S. Fairfield on September 19, 1998, he saw the victim on the ground. When he asked her who had shot her she responded my husband. Davis found an expended bullet on the stairs in front of the house. He recovered a chrome-plated .357 magnum handgun containing two live rounds and a spent shell from a box in defendant's basement.
Officer Donald Barrett testified that during a pat down search of defendant he found six live bullets in defendant's pants pocket. Officer Kostecki testified that on September 19, 1998, he recovered an expended bullet from the stairs and a towel from the front porch at 5919 S. Fairfield.
Joseph Thibault, a forensic scientist with the Illinois State Police who tested the recovered evidence, testified that the fired bullet found on the porch was fired from the gun recovered from the basement "to the exclusion of all others." The parties stipulated that Ellen Connolly, an expert in forensic science, would testify that the ripping, tearing, fiber melting, singing, and heavy deposit of gunshot residue on the towel recovered from the scene was consistent with contact shots from a gun.
Ethel Collins, Rose's mother, testified that she had a conversation with Rose on September 17, 1998, during which Rose stated that she was going to divorce defendant. John Collins, Rose's brother, testified that he received a phone call from Rose on September 17, 1998, during which Rose stated that defendant had gone back to his old ways and that she was going to file for divorce. John understood that to mean that defendant had resumed physically abusing Rose.
Anita Collins, Rose's sister, testified that she received a phone call from Rose on August 30, 1998. She could hear defendant in the background yelling "why do you have to have your sister go everywhere with you?" Then the phone went dead. When Anita called back the phone was busy. On May 4, 1993, while visiting Rose, Anita saw defendant push Rose, choke her, and pull her hair during an argument. She heard defendant tell Rose "to get that shit out of your hair 'cause you're not going anywhere", referring to a hair weave. Anita called police at Rose's request.
Officer Yvonne Delta testified that she investigated a domestic battery complaint at 5919 S. Fairfield on May 4, 1993. Defendant answered the door and said they had not called police. Delta saw red marks on Rose's neck and marks on her head where her hair had been pulled out. Defendant, who appeared uninjured, was arrested.
Rose's friend, Carolyn Young, testified that on August 22, 1998, she and Rose had just arrived at Rose's house when defendant walked up to Rose and asked if he could talk to her. When Rose responded that she did not want to argue, defendant grabbed her and said "bitch, you think you slick." The three entered the house where the argument continued. While Young was in another room, ...