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People v. Valentin

March 31, 2004


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Kenneth J. Wadas, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Campbell

Following a bench trial, defendant, Edwin Valentin was convicted of the first degree murder of Irene Figueroa and of the attempted first degree murder of Gustavo Coronel, and was sentenced to concurrent terms of 45 and 30 years' imprisonment. On appeal, defendant contends that: (1) the State failed to prove him guilty of attempted first degree murder beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) his sentences are excessive; and (3) the trial court improperly admonished him regarding his opportunity to file a motion to reconsider his sentences pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 605. (Official Reports Advance Sheet No. 21 (October 17, 2001) R. 605, eff. October 1, 2001). For the following reasons, we affirm defendant's conviction, vacate his sentences, and remand this case to the trial court to resentence defendant consistent with this opinion.


The following facts are relevant to this appeal. On November 28, 2000, Irene Figueroa and Gustavo Coronel were driving in Coronel's car when they were repeatedly hit by a car being driven by defendant. As a result, Coronel lost control of his car and was hit by an oncoming car. Figueroa was killed and Coronel was injured. Defendant was arrested and charged with the murder of Figueroa and the attempted murder of Coronel.

At trial, Jeannie Colon, Figueroa's sister, testified that in November 2000, she was staying at Figueroa's house, located at 3750 West Armitage, Chicago. Prior to November 25, 2000, defendant had lived with Figueroa in the house. After defendant moved out, Figueroa had the locks changed. Figueroa was not dating Coronel at the time of her death.

On the afternoon of November 25, 2000, defendant visited Figueroa's house. Colon answered the door and defendant demanded to see Figueroa. Colon told defendant that Figueroa was not home, but let defendant into the house. Colon stated that defendant began to wave his hands and make "mean" faces. In a raised voice, defendant told Colon that he if he saw Figueroa with "another nigger" he would kill her. Shortly thereafter, defendant left.

On November 28, 2000, defendant returned to Figueroa's house at approximately 3:30 p.m. Colon again answered the door, and defendant entered the house and asked whether Figueroa was at home. Defendant then went upstairs to get some of his belongings and during that time Figueroa returned home with Coronel. Colon told Figueroa and Coronel that defendant was upstairs and that they should leave, and they did so. That was the last time Colon saw her sister alive. Defendant left the house soon afterwards.

Coronel testified that he had dated Figueroa on and off for seven years. On November 28, 2000, after speaking with Colon, Coronel and Figueroa left her home immediately, walked to his parked car, a 1987 Honda Accord, and, after driving a short distance north on Avers Avenue, noticed a small, dark, two-door car in front of them pull over. Coronel drove past the other car. In doing so, Coronel noticed that defendant was the driver of the car and that there was a girl in the passenger seat. Coronel identified defendant in open court.

Coronel testified that defendant drove up behind him and began to hit the rear of Coronel's car with his car. Defendant hit the rear of Coronel's car approximately four to six times in three blocks on Avers as Coronel approached Fullerton Avenue. Each time defendant hit Coronel's car, Coronel's car bounced back. Defendant appeared to speed up as he hit Coronel's car over and over. During this time, Figueroa was shaking and her eyes were wide open. Coronel turned the car from Avers onto Fullerton Avenue and defendant continued to follow behind them, ramming into Coronel's car another four times.

Finally, defendant hit Coronel's car with such force that the car began to spin and Coronel lost control of the car. Defendant then rammed Coronel's car into oncoming traffic, causing the passenger side of Coronel's car, where Figueroa was seated, to be exposed to oncoming cars. Another car collided with Coronel's car, hitting the passenger side door. Coronel's car came to a complete stop, at which time Coronel felt some pain and dizziness. When he looked back at Figueroa, she was unconscious and there was broken glass on her neck and clothes. Coronel screamed to several people on the street to call an ambulance, at which point Coronel saw defendant get out of his car and run toward Coronel's car. Defendant tried to pull Figueroa out of the car and Coronel yelled at him, "You killed her, you killed her." Defendant responded, "She ain't dead, she ain't dead," and then ran back to his car and left the scene. Upon arrival of the ambulance, paramedics removed Figueroa from Coronel's car and transported her to Illinois Masonic Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Coronel later identified defendant from a police lineup.

John Fischer testified on behalf of the State that he was at Tony's Finer Foods on North Central Park Avenue and Fullerton when he heard a loud crash, which sounded like a car accident. Fischer saw two vehicles sliding across Fullerton and noticed that one vehicle was totally smashed in on the passenger side. Fischer saw Coronel get out of the damaged vehicle and then heard defendant say to Coronel, "I told you not to fuck with me." Defendant then walked over to Coronel's car and unsuccessfully attempted to remove Figueroa from the car. Defendant then returned to his car and drove away. Fischer also identified defendant in a police lineup.

The parties stipulated to the following testimony: Chicago police officer Glines would have testified that he was assigned to investigate a homicide on November 28, 2000, and arrived at the scene, 3635 West Fullerton Avenue, at approximately 4 p.m. Chicago police officer Gerome Bugucki, who interviewed Coronel at the scene, would have testified that Coronel reported that he was traveling eastbound on Fullerton and that defendant last rammed into his car just west of North Monticello Street. Finally, Dr. Thamrong Chira, a forensic pathologist with the office of the medical examiner for Cook County, would have testified that the autopsy he conducted on Figueroa revealed that her death was a result of both external and internal injuries. Dr. Chira ruled the death a homicide. Anita Roman testified on defendant's behalf that she was with defendant on November 28, 2000, and that they have a child together. Roman testified that when defendant pulled his car over on Avers, another car hit defendant's car on the front left side fender. Defendant then followed that car and tapped it one time. Roman stated that the other car made a left turn, and a third car struck that car on its passenger side. Roman stated that she saw the accident from a distance away and claimed that she did not know the driver of the car that hit defendant's car, the same driver who later got into the accident on Fullerton. On cross-examination, the State impeached Roman with her prior testimony given at the grand jury on December 15, 2000. Roman testified at the grand jury that defendant told her that Coronel and Figueroa were in the other car. Roman further stated at the grand jury that defendant hit Coronel's car hard the first time, but did not hit the car hard on the second and third times. Roman also admitted that the force of the impact pushed her out of her seat.

The parties stipulated to the testimony of Assistant State's Attorney Anne Marie Allen, who would have testified that the grand jury transcript of Roman's testimony was a true and accurate record of the questions Roman was asked and the answers she gave.

The trial court found defendant guilty on all counts. The trial court noted that defendant's flight after the occurrence was circumstantial evidence of his guilt and that Roman's grand jury testimony was more credible than her trial testimony. The trial court denied defendant's motion for a new trial and, after a hearing, sentenced defendant to a 30 years' imprisonment for the attempted ...

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