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People v. Alvarado

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

August 9, 2013

JAMES ALVARADO, Defendant-Appellant.

Held [*]

The 45-year enhanced sentence imposed on defendant for the first degree murder of his wife after she disclosed that she had been unfaithful was upheld over defendant’s contentions that the trial court erred in determining that defendant could either use all or none of the video of his interrogation, that allowing the jury to view the video a second time during deliberations was an abuse of discretion and that he was entitled to the day-for-day credit for the 25-year firearm enhancement of his sentence, since the entire video was relevant and playing only a portion would have been misleading, and further, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in permitting the jury to review the video during its deliberations; however, a person convicted of first degree murder is required to serve the entire sentence without any good-conduct credit, and the enhanced part of defendant’s sentence is considered part of the sentence for murder.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of La Salle County, No. 06-CF-575; the Hon. H. Chris Ryan, Judge, presiding.

Allen H. Andrews, of State Appellate Defender’s Office, of Springfield, for appellant.

Brian Towne, State’s Attorney, of Ottawa (Terry A. Mertel and Justin A. Nicolosi, both of State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor’s Office, of counsel), for the People.

Justice O'Brien concurred in the judgment and opinion.



¶ 1 Following a remand for a new trial (People v. Alvarado, No. 3-08-0200 (2010) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23)), defendant, James Alvarado, was convicted of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 2006)) and sentenced to 45 years in prison. His sentence included a 25-year enhancement because he discharged a firearm which proximately caused the victim's death. Defendant appeals, arguing that: (1) the trial court erred when it determined that he could play either all or none of a video recording of the interrogation; (2) the trial court abused its discretion when it permitted the jury to watch the video recording of the interrogation for a second time during deliberations; and (3) defendant is entitled to day-for-day credit for the 25-year enhancement. We affirm.


¶ 3 Following the shooting death of defendant's wife, the State indicted him on three counts of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 2006)). Police conducted a videotaped interrogation after defendant's arrest. In the video, defendant admits to shooting his wife after he learned that she had an extramarital affair. Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion to suppress the video because the police officers had ignored his request for counsel. The trial court granted defendant's motion, and the video was suppressed. The cause proceeded to a jury trial where defendant was convicted of first degree murder. However, on appeal, this court remanded the cause for a new trial. Alvarado, No. 3-08-0200.

¶ 4 During the second trial, defendant testified that, while engaging in intercourse with his wife, he noticed that she was behaving differently when performing oral sex. When he inquired into the new technique, she became nervous and evasive. The couple went into their bathroom and continued the conversation while sitting on the floor and smoking cigarettes. Eventually, she admitted to kissing another man while she was at a convention in Springfield; however, she continued to be evasive about the oral sex technique. Defendant became frustrated and retrieved a loaded pistol from a box in the bathroom closet. He hoped to frighten her so she would tell him the truth. Apparently frightened, she admitted to an affair. Defendant became so upset that he started shaking. Defendant testified that he did not remember what happened next, but he did remember seeing his wife slumped over with a red mark on her chest.

¶ 5 Officer Robert Wood testified that after arriving at the scene, defendant explained that he had learned his wife had had an affair and that he "lost it." Deputy Sheriff Doug Pastirik testified that defendant said he could not believe that he had ruined his life, asked how he could tell his children about the stupid thing that he had just done, and said several times that he had "screwed up."

¶ 6 Defense counsel sought to play the last two minutes of the video of defendant's interrogation with police. That portion showed defendant's reaction to the news that his wife had died. The State argued that the completeness doctrine permitted it to have the rest of the interrogation shown to the jury because the remainder placed defendant's reaction to his wife's passing in perspective. Defendant disagreed and argued that the two-minute portion of the video should not open the door to the rest of the interrogation. The trial court determined that playing only the two-minute portion would be "self-serving" and that the rest of the interrogation included other indicators of defendant's state of mind. Therefore, the court stated that it would not permit defendant to show only the final two minutes; defendant could either play the entire interrogation for the jury or none of it. Defendant decided to show the interrogation, and it was played for the jury during the presentation of defendant's evidence.

ΒΆ 7 In closing argument, defendant argued that he lacked the mental state for murder but that he was guilty of involuntary manslaughter. During its deliberations, the jury requested a transcript of the interrogation. Defendant objected. The trial court decided that, while it would not show the jury a transcript, it would replay the interrogation. After the video was played, the jury continued its deliberation and eventually found defendant guilty of first degree murder. Defendant received a 45-year sentence. The sentence included a 25-year enhancement because while ...

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