Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division
Defendant’s conviction for the first degree murder of his wife for having an affair and his sentence to 56 years, including the mandatory 25-year firearm enhancement, were upheld over his contention that the trial court failed to properly consider mitigating factors.
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 08-CR-19741; the Hon. Joseph M. Claps, Judge, presiding.
Michael J. Pelletier and Alison L.S. Shah, both of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Chicago, for appellant.
Anita M. Alvarez, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Kathleen Warnick and Katherine Kaminski, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.
Presiding Justice Neville and Justice Pierce concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 Defendant Tyrone Powell was convicted of first degree murder of his wife following a jury trial and sentenced to 56 years in prison, which included a 25-year mandatory firearm enhancement. On appeal, Powell seeks to have the sentence reduced to the mandatory minimum of 45 years, contending that the trial court failed to consider certain mitigating factors. Contrary to defendant's assertion, the trial court in imposing sentence for first degree murder did consider the evidence in mitigation, including whether: (i) the circumstances of the offense were unlikely to reoccur, (ii) defendant showed remorse, (iii) defendant had improved his life over the past 10 years, and (iv) defendant acted under strong provocation and there were substantial grounds to excuse or justify his conduct. We affirm the sentence.
¶ 2 Background
¶ 3 The evidence revealed that 44-year-old Powell shot and killed his wife, Veltann Wilkins, near 82nd and Green Street, Chicago, close to their home at 8142 South Peoria, on the afternoon of September 22, 2008. Powell testified that he believed Wilkins was having an affair and feared that Wilkins's boyfriend, Albert Hudson, was coming to kill him.
¶ 4 At trial, the State played a portion of a phone call that Wilkins made to a 911 operator on September 22, 2008, at 12:57 p.m. On that call, Wilkins asked for police to come to 8142 South Peoria and said her husband "just now tried to drag [her] back in the house, " and was "getting in his car, he's in a Dodge Charger." Wilkins also told the operator, "Here he comes, here he come, he fitting to come get me."
¶ 5 Bobby Willis, who lived upstairs from Powell and Wilkins, testified that a little before 1 p.m. on September 22, he heard a woman's screams coming from the front of the building. Looking down from his balcony, he saw Powell on top of Wilkins, punching her, as Wilkins tried to move away. Wilkins then ran across the street as Powell "peeled off" in his car. Bobby heard gunshots and later saw Wilkins at 82nd and Green Street, lying on the curb and bleeding.
¶ 6 Faithe Jordan testified that shortly before 1 p.m., she was driving on 82nd Street on her way to school. Jordan saw a woman running down the street who was hysterical and screaming and asked Jordan for help, but Jordan kept driving because she thought the woman was "hallucinating." Soon after, Jordan heard a gunshot and drove back to where she first saw the woman. Jordan saw a Charger with its car door open, and then heard two more gunshots. When Jordan reached 82nd and Green Street, she saw a woman on the grass, bleeding, and the Charger on the sidewalk.
¶ 7 Louis Thompson testified that, shortly before 1 p.m., he was home at 8200 South Green Street when he heard two "pop" sounds and a woman's screams. He looked out the window and saw a man exiting a Charger he recognized from the neighborhood. The man talked to a woman who was standing in the street and shot her. After standing over the fallen woman and shooting her four to six more times, the man returned to his car and began to drive away. Thompson called 911, and an ambulance arrived shortly afterwards.
¶ 8 Another witness, Fred Harvey, who was working at the gas station at 82nd and Halsted, testified that he saw a woman running down the street screaming as she was being chased by a man holding a gun. Harvey ran toward the woman and called for the man to stop, but the man shot the woman from about 30 to 50 yards behind her. After the woman fell to the ground around 82nd and Green, the man walked up to the woman, shot her twice more in the back, and walked away. A few hours later, Harvey found a cell phone on the street, which he gave to the police.
¶ 9 Officer John Smith testified that shortly before 1 p.m., he was called to the intersection of 82nd and Green Street along with other officers. Officer Smith and his partner approached a Charger, where he observed Powell point a gun under his head. Officer Smith yelled for Powell to drop the gun, but Powell pulled the trigger. When the gun did not fire, Powell pulled back on the gun's slide to chamber another round and pulled the trigger a second time, shooting himself under his chin. The Charger then rolled over a stop sign before coming to rest. When the police approached the Charger again, Powell asked for the officers to kill him. Officers recovered a gun from the Charger's passenger seat.
¶ 10 The victim's son, Kenneth Williams, heard Powell and Wilkins arguing at 12:20 or 12:30 p.m.. He left the building before 1 p.m. that day. Around September 24, Kenneth found a letter torn in pieces in a tissue box in Powell and Wilkins's bedroom. With his upstairs neighbors, Williams pieced the letter together and identified the letter's handwriting as belonging to Powell. Williams' upstairs neighbors gave the letter to the police.
¶ 11 The State presented an excerpt of the torn, undated letter, which was addressed "To Whom it May Concern" and signed by Powell:
"As for that low down bitch I call my wife, this is the last time she will ever hurt me. I refuse to let that bitch continue to threaten me, to treat me like shit. Therefore I've decided to kill that bitch and then I will proceed to take my own life."
The search also recovered about 40 items of Wilkins's clothing that had been cut and shredded and a photograph that ...