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People v. Goodman

March 05, 2004

[5] THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, )COOK COUNTY.
v.
APRIL GOODMAN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court of No. 98 CR 23697 Honorable John J. Moran, Jr. Judge Presiding

[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Tully

[8]  Following a jury trial, defendant, April Goodman, was found guilty of solicitation of murder for hire (720 ILCS 5/8-1.2 (West 1998)), sentenced to 30 years' incarceration, and fined $25,000. Defendant timely appeals contending: (1) the trial court abused its discretion when it instructed the jury with a nonpattern instruction; (2) this matter must be remanded for fitness hearings because the trial court failed to make sufficient rulings regarding defendant's fitness for trial and sentencing; (3) the trial court improperly admitted evidence of other crimes and the State made improper arguments regarding that evidence; (4) the trial court improperly admitted evidence of a telephone conversation without an adequate foundation; and (5) the State improperly commented on defendant's failure to testify. We affirm.

[9]  BACKGROUND

[10]   The essential allegations of the State's case against defendant are relatively straightforward. On August 4, 1998, defendant met with an undercover police officer posing as a "hit man." Defendant and the hit man discussed killing her ex-husband, Albert Goodman, and agreed on a price of $5,000. On August 10, 1998, defendant met with the hit man again, gave him a $1,000 down payment, and asked him to kill Goodman. Both conversations were recorded electronically. Following the second encounter, the police arrested defendant and the State charged her with solicitation of murder for hire.

[11]   Defendant filed a motion to suppress statements she made to the police after her arrest. On April 23, 1999, the trial court conducted a hearing on defendant's motion. At the hearing, a police officer, an assistant State's Attorney, and defendant testified. The trial court denied defendant's motion. At the conclusion of the hearing, defense counsel requested a "BCX" (behavioral clinical examination) to determine if defendant was fit to stand trial. The trial court ordered the examination and continued the matter.

[12]   On August 5, 1999, the trial court conducted a fitness hearing. The parties stipulated that Dr. Matthew Markos "would testify" that based on his experience and training he is qualified as an expert in the field of psychiatry. The parties stipulated that Markos "would testify" that he had reviewed defendant's medical records and conducted a clinical interview. The parties stipulated that Markos was of the opinion that defendant was fit to stand trial with medication. The parties stipulated that defendant had a history of a mental disorder, bipolar type, and was currently in remission with medication. The parties waived argument, and the trial court found that defendant was fit to stand trial without questioning defendant or hearing additional evidence.

[13]   Before trial, the State moved to allow the introduction of evidence that defendant had previously asked other individuals to kill Goodman. The State argued that this evidence was relevant to establish defendant's motive and intent. Defendant responded arguing that the evidence was not relevant and, if relevant, the probative value of the evidence was outweighed by its prejudicial effects. On June 16, 2000, the trial court ruled that the evidence of other crimes was admissible.

[14]   The trial court commenced a jury trial on October 2, 2000. Albert Goodman testified that he met defendant through the Great Expectations dating service in January 1995. He and defendant were married in June 1995. Goodman testified that problems with the marriage developed almost immediately. Goodman filed for dissolution of the marriage in August 1995. The couple separated and attempted reconciliation several times. Goodman testified that, in June 1996, defendant attempted to push him down the stairs at a home they shared. Goodman struggled with defendant but testified that he never struck her or attempted to push her down the stairs. Goodman was later arrested in connection with the incident. He was ultimately found not guilty of all charges.

[15]   Goodman further testified that, after the incident in June 1996, defendant informed him that she was pregnant. Goodman testified that defendant had a miscarriage as the result of a "tubular pregnancy." Goodman testified that, to his knowledge, nothing he had done caused defendant to miscarry. The parties' marriage was ultimately dissolved in September 1997. On August 10, 1998, Goodman received a telephone call from defendant. Defendant told Goodman that she needed $10,000 for liposuction. Goodman testified that, as part of the divorce settlement, he was required to pay for defendant's medical and psychiatric needs. Goodman told defendant that he had already paid for liposuction and would not give her any additional money. Defendant responded, "That settles it then, you are evil," and hung up the telephone.

[16]   Nicholas Ellis testified that, in May or June of 1997, he met defendant in a bar in Oak Park. Ellis made a joke about knowing someone who could break kneecaps. Defendant seemed interested in the comment and asked Ellis if he was in the mafia. Defendant gave Ellis her telephone number and they later agreed to meet for dinner. The following weekend Ellis took defendant to dinner. During dinner, defendant asked several times about a favor she needed. Ellis asked about the favor, and defendant said she would tell him about it later. After dinner, the couple saw a movie. After the movie, Ellis asked about the favor again. Defendant's demeanor changed, and she told Ellis that she needed someone to kill her husband. Ellis told defendant that she had the wrong idea about him and took her home. Ellis did not ask defendant for a second date. Ellis did not report his conversation with defendant to the police until after he learned of her arrest in August 1998.

[17]   Hugh O'Neill testified that, in May or June of 1997, he met defendant in a bar in Chicago. Defendant gave O'Neill her telephone number, and he called her to arrange a date the next week. O'Neill took defendant to dinner. During dinner, defendant asked O'Neill whether he would be willing to do something for her. O'Neill asked what, and defendant asked if he would be willing to kill her ex-husband. Defendant told O'Neill that her ex-husband had pushed her down a flight of stairs and killed her baby. O'Neill told defendant he had no interest in helping her and ended the date. Defendant said that she would have to find some other way and that she might try "hanging out in strip clubs" to find some guy willing to kill her husband. O'Neill testified that he did not report his conversation with defendant to the police until after he learned of her arrest.

[18]   Victor Lazzaroni, a general contractor, testified that, in June 1997, he was meeting friends for dinner at a steakhouse on Rush Street in Chicago. While he was seated in the bar area with his friends, Lazzaroni saw defendant standing near their table. One of Lazzaroni's friends, Seymour Goldstein, asked defendant to join them for a drink. Lazzaroni asked defendant if she was married, and she responded that she was but wished she was not. Defendant said that she wished her husband would die. Lazzaroni cautioned defendant that she should not speak that way because someone might overhear. Defendant said that she owned some real estate that she wanted to develop. Goldstein told defendant she should speak to Lazzaroni because he was a builder. Defendant joined Lazzaroni and his friends for dinner. During dinner defendant discussed her plans to develop the real estate, but said that she could not do so until the divorce was final. Defendant said she wished she could find someone to kill her husband. Lazzaroni again cautioned her about speaking like that. During dinner, Lazzaroni saw a business associate in the restaurant. They briefly discussed a construction project and Lazzaroni gave the man his telephone number. Lazzaroni left the restaurant after dinner.

[19]   Lazzaroni further testified that he received a telephone call from defendant a few days later. Defendant left a voice mail message for him, said she was April, and asked him to call her. Lazzaroni did not immediately recognize the name "April," but returned the telephone call. Lazzaroni spoke to defendant, who told him that they had met at the restaurant and said that she would like to discuss the real estate development. Lazzaroni said that he was busy and asked her to call back the next week. Defendant telephoned Lazzaroni the next week and spoke about the real estate. Lazzaroni asked if defendant's divorce was final, and she responded "not yet, but I wish that he would die." Lazzaroni cautioned defendant not to speak that way. Defendant said she wanted to meet with Lazzaroni and told him that she was in Itasca. Lazzaroni was on his way to a meeting in Itasca and agreed to meet defendant at a hotel bar. At the bar, defendant again said that she wished her husband would die or that she could pay someone to kill him. Lazzaroni told her not to speak that way and told her to call him if she ever got the land. Approximately one week later, defendant telephoned Lazzaroni again. Lazzaroni was in his car approaching his home and told defendant that he would call her back. Lazzaroni called defendant from his home telephone. Lazzaroni testified that defendant again said that she wished she could find someone to kill her husband.

[20]   Lazzaroni further testified that he began to worry that he might be criminally liable if defendant made good on her threats to find someone to kill her husband. Lazzaroni called Ron Hasko, an acquaintance who worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (the FBI). Lazzaroni's acquaintance was not available but his partner, Joseph Stiller, returned the telephone call. Lazzaroni spoke to Stiller and told him about his conversations with defendant. Stiller told Lazzaroni that someone from the FBI would telephone defendant and warn her that they were aware of the threats. Lazzaroni never heard from defendant again.

[21]   Ronald Loch, an FBI special agent, testified that, in June 1997, he was assigned to a violent crimes task force in Chicago. Loch conducted a follow up investigation of Lazzaroni's complaint. Loch received a telephone number, 847-758-1107, from Lazzaroni. Loch called the telephone number and a woman answered and identified herself as April Goodman. Loch told the woman that he had information that she had "reached out to somebody to have her husband killed." The woman asked who that person was. Loch responded that he could not divulge that information. The woman said that her husband had been spreading rumors about her and that he might be the source of the information. Loch opened a case file and documented the telephone conversation, but did not attempt to locate Albert Goodman.

[22]   On cross-examination, Loch admitted that he had never spoken to defendant before or after the telephone conversation. Loch admitted that he did not call 796-9600 to determine an address associated with the telephone number he called. Loch testified that he and Stiller had driven past what they believed was defendant's home but did not locate her. Loch testified that he did not see the woman he spoke to on the telephone but that she identified herself as April Goodman. Loch admitted that he did not attempt to determine who had access to the telephone he had called.

[23]   Following cross-examination, defendant moved to strike Loch's testimony arguing that the State failed to lay a proper foundation for the admission of the ...


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