Defendant’s conviction for first degree murder was upheld over his contentions that his prior interviews with the police, statements regarding his use of guns and knives, and the testimony of two women who said they had been assaulted by defendant were improperly admitted in evidence, since the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the jury to hear the prior interviews, the interview containing his inculpatory statements was highly probative and relevant to defendant’s explanation that the victim’s death was an accident, and defendant’s involvement in prior acts of domestic violence was relevant to prove the absence of mistake.
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County, No. 08-CF-1160; the Hon. Peter C. Cavanagh, Judge, presiding.
Michael J. Pelletier, Karen Munoz, and Ryan R. Wilson, all of State Appellate Defender’s Office, of Springfield, for appellant.
John Milhiser, State’s Attorney, of Springfield (Patrick Delfino, Robert J. Biderman, and David E. Mannchen, all of State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor’s Office, of counsel), for the People.
Presiding Justice Appleton and Justice Holder White concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 In November 2008, a Sangamon County grand jury indicted defendant, Duwon L. Patterson, with first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (2) (West 2008)). In December 2011, a jury found defendant guilty of first degree murder. In March 2012, the trial court sentenced defendant to 55 years' imprisonment.
¶ 2 On appeal, defendant argues he was denied a fair trial because the trial court improperly allowed other-crimes evidence and the jury was allowed to infer he had a propensity to commit crime. Defendant argues the trial court erred in admitting (1) unredacted police interviews from November 13, 2008, and November 14, 2008; (2) statements regarding defendant's use of knives and guns; and (3) testimony of two women who claimed defendant previously assaulted them. We disagree and affirm.
¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND
¶ 4 In November 2008, a Sangamon County grand jury indicted defendant for the first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (2) (West 2008)) of Tina Cathey.
¶ 5 A. The Pretrial Motion In Limine
¶ 6 On November 28, 2011, the first day of trial, defendant filed a motion in limine asserting the State sought to introduce "police reports" from 2008 mentioning defendant. Defendant also filed a motion to prevent the State from impeaching him with his prior convictions. This motion is not at issue in this appeal.
¶ 7 The State informed the trial court it intended to present evidence based on three police reports: (1) an incident occurring on May 28, 2008, where a woman alleged defendant, who according to the State was her boyfriend, battered her in the driveway; (2) an incident occurring on June 3, 2008, where Robin Freemon alleged defendant, who according to the State was then Freemon's boyfriend, battered her in her residence; and (3) an incident occurring on June 12, 2008, where Surrebea Tramble, who then had a domestic relationship with defendant, alleged defendant battered her and held her at gunpoint. Defense counsel argued the case did not present "an issue of who did it, but it's what was his intention" and added defendant "meant to hit her" but "he didn't mean to kill her." The trial court ruled "when, as in here, the evidence of misconduct is offered to prove intent or perhaps most relevant, the absence of mistake, the mere general area of similarity would suffice" and denied defendant's motion in limine about the police reports.
¶ 8 B. Defendant's Jury Trial
¶ 9 During opening arguments, defense counsel conceded defendant hit Tina but argued she died as a result of his attempts to remove her from the area by picking her up and carrying her over his shoulders.
¶ 10 1. The Day of the Murder
¶ 11 Tina, a 31-year-old female who was approximately 4 feet 9 inches tall, and weighed 100 pounds, was involved in a romantic relationship with defendant. She was staying with her friend, Jessica Estes, on Little Court in Springfield, Illinois, in November 2008. During the evening hours of November 11, 2008, several individuals, including defendant, were at Estes's house. Estes testified defendant and Tina were arguing over Tina's cell phone. She testified defendant saw a number for one of Tina's former boyfriends in the phone. This led to a series of arguments and defendant leaving and then returning to the house. The last time defendant returned, defendant took Tina's cell phone off a table and left. Tina called the police at approximately 5 a.m. on November 12, 2008, to report her phone was missing.
¶ 12 Tina's daughter testified on the morning of November 12, 2008, she and her mother were outside of their residence and defendant was near the garbage cans. He had Tina's cell phone in his hands. Tina told defendant to give her the phone back and then defendant choked her around her neck. Tina snatched the phone, and then defendant knocked the phone out of her hands onto the ground. Tina's daughter went inside to call the police. When she returned outside, she could hear defendant hitting her mother. She heard four or five punches.
¶ 13 2. The Missing Persons Investigation and November 13, 2008, Interview
¶ 14 A missing persons report was filed at 4:23 p.m. on November 12, 2008. The next day, the police, while investigating the report, learned defendant was the last person seen with Tina. When police entered the residence where defendant was sleeping, they observed defendant's head sticking out of a pile of clothes between a washer and dryer. Defendant requested the police to keep the handcuffs on him because "he didn't trust the police in Chicago. They beat you down."
¶ 15 Cheryl Williams and Gerald Felts, investigators for the Sangamon County sheriff's department, interviewed defendant on November 13, 2008. This interview was video recorded and is approximately 1½ hours in length. The typed transcript is 54 pages long. It was played for the jury. We note the State's Attorney fast-forwarded through parts of the video, twice. The record does not reflect what parts of the video were and were not played for the jury.
¶ 16 Defendant's claim addresses various statements made during the interview, including the following (we note we have edited the interview for clarity):
"WILLIAMS: You've never put your hands on [Tina]?
DEFENDANT: A long, long time ago.
WILLIAMS: Okay, have you ever been arrested for–
DEFENDANT: For domestic?
DEFENDANT: I ain't never been charged with domestic but I've been arrested for a domestic.
WILLIAMS: Okay. Have you ever been arrested for a domestic for hitting?
DEFENDANT: Females? No.
DEFENDANT: No. Tina. No.
WILLIAMS: Okay. And no females. You've never been arrested and–
DEFENDANT: No. Only person I ever got a domestic violence charge is my mom .
* * *
FELTS: Okay, that's why when we came to the house we asked for you. They say you're not there. You're laying back there by a washer and dryer covered up you know. That's why we had to put handcuffs on you 'cause we hear that you like to fight with police. You said you like to fight police correct?
DEFENDANT: I like, no I don't fight with the police. I'm so use [sic] to the police beating my ass. Yes, I will fight the police back–so far as beating my ass down here yeah.
FELTS: That's why we handcuffed you.
DEFENDANT: Like they told me the last time 'We don't like nrs like you. You think you tough.' You–I have to keep my thing. You're not going [to] just sit here and beat on me like the last time I was in. They beat my ass for what? For nothing'.
FELTS: Now did we treat you that way?
DEFENDANT: No, you all been cool so far.
FELTS: And you requested to keep your handcuffs on all the way here?
DEFENDANT: Yeah. 'Cause I don't know until we get here. Yeah and you all took 'em off so I'm cool."
¶ 17 Investigators asked defendant about his whereabouts on November 12, 2008, and where he stayed that night. Defendant explained he first went to Tina's house and then to a friend's house:
"FELTS: Where did you go in [the house]? Did you go back there and go to sleep on the washer and dryer over there?
DEFENDANT: Yeah, 'cause he asked 'cause earlier everybody keep talking about some uh, what's my sister say, talking about some right there that she's like 'I don't know what's going on.' So, I'm like 'Shit, I hope the police ain't still looking for me 'cause Tina knows where I'm at.' Tina's sending 'em into any crib I'm at. I went and I'm not gonna go to jail for no dumb shit. I'm tired of being in jail for dumb shit.
* * *
FELTS: Okay. Is there anything that you can think of that we might need to know about or that can help us try to find her?
FELTS: I'm afraid she's injured somewhere. She's hurt somewhere and that's why I'm trying to find out where she's at.
DEFENDANT: I don't know. I wouldn't even hurt Tina. I love Tina too much. Only thing I do is argue with her. We argue every fucking day. Every fucking day. I would never hurt Tina. For what? Why would I hurt Tina for?
WILLIAMS: Why would everybody think that?
DEFENDANT: 'Cause that's all, that's all the fuck she told 'He'll do this. He'll do this.' Well I'm just gonna the way your mouth is. Your mouth is flipper than momma and I don't even fuck with my momma. That's why I stay away from my momma, that's why I moved so fucking far. 'You're mouth is super flippy, ' I tell her that 24/7, Tina 'Your mouth is too fuckin' flippy. Square it up.'
WILLIAMS: Have you ever hurt a female?
DEFENDANT: Hurt a female? No.
WILLIAMS: I was told you put a female in the hospital. She had a ...