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People v. Kaczmarek

October 02, 2003


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Rarick


Docket No. 90865-Agenda 1-May 2003.

Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant, Henry Kaczmarek, was convicted of murder, residential burglary, home invasion, and armed robbery. Defendant was sentenced to a term of natural life imprisonment on the murder conviction, but no sentences were imposed on the other convictions. Defendant appealed. On March 31, 1993, the appellate court filed an opinion in which it declined to review defendant's convictions for residential burglary, home invasion, and armed robbery, due to lack of finality, but reversed the murder conviction and remanded for a new trial. People v. Kaczmarek, 243 Ill. App. 3d 1067 (1993). We denied leave to appeal. People v. Kaczmarek, 151 Ill. 2d 571 (1993).

Prior to the commencement of his second trial in November of 1996, defendant unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the State's charges on the grounds that his constitutional and statutory rights to a speedy trial had been violated. Following a retrial by jury, defendant was again found guilty of murder, and, based upon a trial court finding that the victim's murder was exceptionally brutal and heinous, defendant again received an enhanced term of natural life in prison pursuant to section 5-8-1(a)(1)(b) of the Unified Code of Corrections (Unified Code) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 1005-8-1(a)(1)(b)).

Defendant appealed, arguing, inter alia, that he had been denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial, and challenging the validity of his life sentence, claiming the penalty enhancement scheme provided by section 5-8-1(a)(1)(b) of the Unified Code is constitutionally infirm in light of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 147 L. Ed. 2d 435, 120 S. Ct. 2348 (2000). The appellate court rejected defendant's speedy-trial claim, but vacated defendant's life sentence and remanded for resentencing, concluding that "the penalty scheme set forth in section 5-8-1(a)(1)(b) of the Corrections Code offends the constitutional principles announced in Apprendi." 318 Ill. App. 3d 340, 341-42. We allowed the State's petition for leave to appeal (177 Ill. 2d R. 315).

The State argues that the defendant's sentence does not violate principles of Apprendi or, in the alternative, a violation of Apprendi does not warrant resentencing given the reasoning of this court's recent opinions in People v. Thurow, 203 Ill. 2d 352 (2003) (applying harmless error analysis to Apprendi violations), and People v. Crespo, 203 Ill. 2d 335 (2001) (applying plain error analysis). By way of cross-appeal, the defendant reiterates his appellate contention that his constitutional right to a speedy trial has been violated. For the reasons that follow, we affirm in part and reverse in part.

A comprehensive and detailed recitation of the procedural history of this case and the evidence adduced at defendant's trial and sentencing hearing is not necessary for our analysis. The pertinent facts are those which bear upon the parties' speedy-trial and sentencing issues. Hence, we will at this juncture summarize the relevant evidence presented at defendant's retrial, in order to provide a general overview, and more fully treat facts specifically relating to the speedy-trial and sentencing issues in our discussion of those issues.

Defendant was tried for the murder of 86-year-old Millie Nielsen. The evidence indicated that defendant broke into Nielsen's apartment where he stabbed, beat, and strangled her in the course of an attack that apparently started in Nielsen's kitchen and concluded in her bedroom. Defendant took items of minimal value from Nielsen's residence and was later apprehended in possession of some of her bloodstained personal belongings. When he was arrested, officers observed bloodstains on the quilted shirt defendant was wearing, and bloodstained jeans were recovered from the trunk of his car. A witness testified that he had seen defendant in the back yard of Nielsen's apartment building on the night of the murder. The witness saw defendant carry a bag through the back yard, place it in the trunk of his car, and drive away.

Dr. Michael Chambliss performed the medical examination of Nielsen's body and testified to her extensive injuries. Dr. Chambliss concluded that Nielsen died as a result of manual strangulation with the contributing factors of blunt force injuries and stab wounds. Dr. Chambliss stated that Nielsen could have died from the blunt force injuries alone.

Pamela Fish, an expert in electrophoresis, serology, and DNA analysis, testified to the results of her 1987 examination of the physical evidence. At that time, she determined the blood found on defendant's jacket and jeans was consistent with Nielsen's blood type and could not have come from defendant. Fish determined that the substance on other evidentiary items was human blood, but due to the small quantity provided, she was unable to identify a particular blood type. Prior to defendant's second trial, Fish attempted to perform DNA testing on blood samples collected in this case; however, their small size and degraded condition made testing ineffective.

Rod Englert, an expert in crime scene reconstruction and blood splatter, examined the physical evidence and photographs in the case. Englert stated that the blood on Nielsen's kitchen floor appeared smeared, indicative of a struggle in which someone bled. Englert noted that the blood on the kitchen wall immediately outside the bedroom represented classic medium velocity splatter, suggestive of blunt force being inflicted upon the victim. Given the low angle of projection, Englert believed that Nielsen had received numerous blows while on the kitchen floor. Englert concluded that the blood on the knees of defendant's jeans, and the back of his shirt sleeves, represented transfer stains-blood swiped against something or someone. The blood on the front of defendant's shirt sleeves represented medium velocity splatter. The blood at the bottom of defendant's jeans was also consistent with medium velocity splatter. Englert testified that these stains were not consistent with defendant having picked up a bag with blood on it or with such a bag having been placed on top of clothing. Englert further stated the stains were not consistent with defendant having kneed another person in the nose.

Defendant testified, offering an explanation for the blood on his clothes and his possession of Nielsen's belongings. Defendant claimed he had been involved in three fights prior to the night of Nielsen's murder, and he intimated that the blood on his clothing had been deposited there during one or more of those altercations. Defendant claimed two of the fights were with his friends, Tom Szeszol and Bill Henderson, while a third fight involved an unidentified man who was attempting to break into defendant's car. In the latter fight, defendant stated, he hit the man three or four times in the face and kneed him in the nose. According to defendant, everyone involved in the fights bled.

As for his possession of Nielsen's bloodstained property, defendant stated he had noticed a bag on the side of Nielsen's apartment building. He looked inside the bag and discovered therein a box of silverware. He picked up the bag, carried it to his car, and placed it in the trunk. Later that morning, defendant decided to look into the bag and removed the bag's contents, some or which were bloody. Defendant kept some items and disposed of others, including a bloody pillow case, in a Dumpster. Defendant sold some of the items for $60.

Given this evidence, the jury found that defendant had committed the murder of Millie Nielsen. We turn our attention to a discussion of the law governing the constitutional right to speedy trial, followed by a recitation of the circumstances preceding defendant's ...

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