Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division
On appeal from defendant’s conviction for attempted first degree murder arising from an incident in which he stabbed his girlfriend during an altercation, the appellate court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence concerning defendant’s assault on his girlfriend a few months earlier, since defendant had a bench trial, the evidence was admitted to show defendant’s state of mind, motive and intent, and the probative value of the evidence was not outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 10-CR-12868; the Hon. Vincent M. Gaughan, Judge, presiding.
Michael J. Pelletier and Levi S. Harris, both of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Chicago, for appellant.
Anita M. Alvarez, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Michelle Katz and Janet C. Mahoney, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.
Presiding Justice Neville and Justice Sterba concurred in the judgment and 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 7½ 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 Background
¶ 4 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.
¶ 5 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.
¶ 6 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, she 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.
¶ 7 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 ...