Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 10 CR 12868 The Honorable Vincent M. Gaughan, Judge Presiding.
Presiding Justice Neville and Justice Sterba concurred in the judgment, with opinion.
¶ 1 After the defendant Keith Nash and his girlfriend Denise Rules had argued, Denise sought to get away from Nash in a car driven by her brother when defendant suddenly reached through the open car window and stabbed her. Nash was charged with attempted first degree murder and aggravated domestic battery. A bench trial resulted in a conviction of Nash for attempted first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/8-4(a), 9-1(a)(1) (West 2006)). The trial court sentenced Nash to prison for 7 ½ years.
¶ 2 On appeal, Nash contends that he was denied a fair trial when the trial court permitted the State to introduce other-crimes evidence that took place less than four months earlier. During that incident, the couple argued as well, and Nash chased after Denise as she attempted to flee in her car. He crashed his car into the rear of her car, and then punched out the driver's side window, and repeatedly punched Denise in the chest. The State proffered that this evidence was relevant to Nash's state of mind, motive, and intent, and separately, that it was admissible as propensity evidence of a prior incidence of domestic violence (725 ILCS 5/115-7.4 (West 2010)). Nash argued that the prior altercation was not relevant to the case at bar, and that its prejudicial effect outweighed any probative value of the evidence. The trial court admitted the evidence as proof of Nash's state of mind, motive, and intent, but not for propensity. The trial court also determined that the probative value of the evidence was not outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice to Nash. We affirm.
¶ 3 Denise testified that on June 26, 2010, while she was working at a McDonald's restaurant, Nash came in and began calling her names and screaming at her to finish her shift so that he could talk to her. When she was done for the day, her brother, Shawn Rules, arrived to pick her up.
¶ 4 Denise, Shawn, Nash, and an acquaintance then got into the car and began driving to the home she shared with Nash. Shawn drove, the acquaintance sat in the front passenger seat, and Denise and Nash sat in the backseat. Along the way, Nash began to grab and pull on Denise's shirt, call her names, and threaten to "smack" her, "beat [her] up, " and "kill [her]." Denise believed that Nash was mad because his sister had told him that Denise had received text messages from another man. Shawn told Nash to stop calling Denise names, and the two men began to argue.
¶ 5 Once at the home, everyone exited the car. Nash started grabbing Denise, pulling her clothing and pushing her against a gate. Shawn told Nash to stop putting his hands on her. Denise was then able to get away from Nash, told him that she "was leaving him, " and she ran upstairs to get her belongings. Some "boys" that were outside helped her get her things, and when she came back outside about five minutes later, Shawn and Nash's quarrel had escalated into a physical confrontation. Denise tried to stop the fight by telling Shawn she was ready to leave.
¶ 6 Denise testified that she got back into the car with Shawn and the acquaintance, and they drove away. At the end of the block, however, Denise realized that she had forgotten her phone. They circled back to the home. As Shawn was about to stop the car in front of the home, Nash ran toward the car, reached his arm through Denise's open window, and then ran around the back of the car to the front driver's side window. Denise saw that Nash had a knife in his hand and that he was trying to stab Shawn, who suddenly drove away. It was then that Denise noticed she was bleeding from stab wounds. Shawn drove to a hospital. Denise was subsequently transferred to another hospital where she was treated for injuries to her liver and lungs over the next two weeks.
¶ 7 In regard to the trial court's ruling on the other-crimes evidence, Denise testified to the incident that took place on March 7, 2010, also involving an argument with Nash and an attempt by her to get away from him. Nash became upset because he did not want Denise to leave; nevertheless, she got into her car, with her daughter, and began to drive away. Nash, following in his car, crashed his car into the rear of Denise's car, approached Denise's car, punched out the driver's side window, reached inside the car, and began punching Denise in the chest, before getting back into his car and leaving.
¶ 8 The defense attempted to raise a number of inconsistencies in Denise's trial testimony from statements she made to police, to hospital staff, and to the State's Attorney's office regarding the two altercations. This evidence showed that Denise had spoken to a police officer about the June 26 incident while hospitalized and had given a written statement to an assistant State's Attorney. In those statements, she claimed that she and Nash had been dating for five years, rather than the two years she testified to at trial. She failed to report that Nash was shouting at her inside her workplace, that he had grabbed her shirt, that he told her he was "going to kill" her, or that he had pushed her against a gate. She also failed to report that she had gone inside the home to get her belongings, that some boys had helped her do so, or that Nash had tried to stab her brother. In addition, Denise told a doctor at the hospital that she was stabbed by an unknown person with an unknown object.
¶ 9 Denise explained that when she initially talked to the police, she had just been brought into the hospital by ambulance, she was in a lot of pain and on morphine, and feeling the shock from the attack. She testified that when the officer asked her to tell him "as much as [she] could, " she thought that she had told him everything, but that she "wasn't in [her] right state of mind [to be] able to tell him every detail." As for her written statement, she testified that she was in so much pain that she had signed the paper without reading it, that she was still drowsy, and that she told the assistant State's Attorney as much as she could. Denise acknowledged that she had not originally told the police about her brother's involvement because she did not want him to get in trouble.
¶ 10 The defense also elicited that Denise had spoken to a police officer about the March 7 incident, but that she had not told the officer that her daughter was in the car or that Nash had driven into her car, and she had reported that the incident took place at a location other than the one she identified at trial. Denise acknowledged that Nash was charged in connection with the March 7 altercation, but that she did not appear in court, and the ...