Modified upon denial of rehearing January 23, 2015.
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 09-CF-2212. Honorable Rosemary Collins, Judge, Presiding.
JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Hudson and Spence concurred in the judgment and opinion.
[¶1] Following a jury trial, the defendant, Edward Johnson, was convicted of first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 2008)) and aggravated criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/12-14(a)(2) (West 2008)). He was sentenced to 50 years' imprisonment for the murder conviction and a mandatory term of natural life imprisonment for the aggravated-criminal-sexual-assault conviction. On appeal, the defendant argues that: (1) he was prejudiced by improper prosecutorial comments in rebuttal; (2) the trial court erred in admitting other-crimes evidence as to the issues of motive, lack of mistake, and modus operandi ; (3) he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel; and (4) the trial court erred in curtailing defense counsel's cross-examination of a certain witness. We affirm.
[¶3] On August 27, 2009, the defendant was charged by indictment with the aggravated criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/12-14(a)(2) (West 2008)) and first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 2008)) of the victim, Vicki F. The charges alleged that the defendant had used force or threatened force to commit a sexual act upon the victim and that he had killed the victim by striking her in the head.
[¶4] Between June 1 and June 7, 2012, the trial court conducted a jury trial. The State's evidence established that, on May 17, 2008, the victim's body was discovered on the concrete porch of an abandoned brick business building at 210 W. Jefferson in Rockford. (This building was three blocks away from where the victim lived.) The victim was lying on her back with dried blood on her face and in her hair. Her pants were somewhat twisted and her shirt had been slightly pulled up. The zipper on her pants was slightly down but the pants themselves were fastened at the waist. Her bra was undone. At the morgue, a deputy coroner discovered that she had green paint flakes lodged in her pubic hairs and on her thighs. The paint flakes appeared to be consistent with paint flakes on the porch where her body was discovered.
[¶5] The victim's autopsy indicated that she had abrasions above her left eye, on her left temporal area, and on her nose. There were also lacerations on her lips, an abrasion and contusion on her left arm, and a small laceration on her posterior right scalp. A pathologist determined that many of the external injuries were the result of blunt force trauma, consistent with a hit or punch and inconsistent with a fall. The injury to the back of her head was consistent with her head being smashed into a hard object, like concrete. All of the injuries were recent and would have occurred around the time of death. The pathologist found no trauma, lacerations, or bruising to the victim's pubic or anal area. The pathologist explained, however, that a lack of such injuries did not in itself demonstrate whether the victim had been sexually assaulted.
[¶6] A forensic scientist examined the victim's vaginal and anal areas and found the presence of semen. The semen matched the defendant's DNA profile. Based upon the amount of sperm found on the victim, the forensic scientist determined that the victim could have engaged in sex up to a day prior to her death, or 12 to 24 hours before the collection of evidence from her body.
[¶7] The defendant denied killing the victim or sexually assaulting her. He had no specific memory of having sex with her. However, he admitted that it was a possibility.
[¶8] The State also introduced evidence that the defendant had assaulted three other women. The defendant responded to all of those allegations.
[¶9] Brianna K.
[¶10] Brianna testified that on January 4, 1997, she was 13 years old. At 9:30 p.m. on that day, she was walking in her neighborhood when she was accosted by the defendant. He grabbed her by the arm, told her that he had a gun, and forced her to walk with him. She broke free and began to run, but the defendant caught her and forced her to the ground in the parking lot of a car dealership. He got on top of her and repeatedly struck her in the face with his fist. He told her that he was going to kill her or hurt her badly.
[¶11] The defendant dragged Brianna into some bushes, ripped off her clothes, and placed his mouth on one of her breasts. He then attempted to place his penis in her mouth, but she slapped it away. When he tried to insert his penis in her vagina, the police arrived. The defendant attempted to run, but was immediately caught by the police. An ambulance took Brianna to the hospital, where she remained for two days. She had been rendered unconscious during the assault, and she suffered numerous injuries to her face, legs, and thighs.
[¶12] The defendant acknowledged that in 1997 he pled guilty to sexually assaulting Brianna.
[¶13] Linda P.
[¶14] Linda testified that, in 2008, she moved from South Dakota to Rockford to look for a job in the insurance field. On July 7, 2008, around 6 a.m., while walking to a McDonald's restaurant, she noticed that a man on a bicycle (later identified as the defendant) was following her. She and the defendant engaged in small talk, but she became uncomfortable when he put his arm around her waist. As she walked faster, the defendant kept pace beside her on his bicycle. When they reached the end of the block, she turned and entered an alley, which she believed was a short cut to McDonald's.
[¶15] After Linda entered the alley, the defendant pushed her to the ground, held her down, and told her to " give him a blow job." At that point, the defendant lowered his pants and forced Linda to perform oral sex by placing his penis in her mouth. When the defendant removed his penis from her mouth, she immediately got up, ran to the McDonald's restaurant, and asked the clerk to call the police.
[¶16] At the time of the incident, Linda had been prescribed several medications for bipolar disorder, including lithium and Buspar, but she had not been taking her medications. At the time of trial, she was under a doctor's care and taking Buspar and Paxil.
[¶17] On cross-examination, Linda acknowledged that the defendant never struck her or displayed a weapon. However, she felt threatened by his intimidating manner and because he was physically bigger and stronger. She also acknowledged that the alley into which she turned was more secluded than the street on which she could have continued walking. She denied ever working as a prostitute. She denied agreeing to have sex with the defendant in exchange for money. She acknowledged that she was unemployed at the time of the assault.
[¶18] The defendant testified that at the time in question he was riding his bicycle to his job at the Octopus Car Wash. on East State Street in Rockford. While on his way to work, Linda yelled out to him and asked, " What's your name?" The defendant stopped and talked to her. Eventually, Linda offered to perform oral sex on him in exchange for $10. After he agreed, Linda led him to an alley behind a Walgreen's drug store. Linda then performed oral sex on him. He did not threaten her or force her to do so.
[¶19] When they had finished, Linda asked him for the money. He patted his pockets and held his hands up, indicating that he did not have any. Linda then became upset and threatened to call the police. He tried to calm her down by telling her that he would give her the money after he got off work that day. However, she stormed out of the alley. The defendant then got on his bicycle and went to work.
[¶20] Lori L.
[¶21] Lori testified that she was currently serving a sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections for a felony offense of prostitution. She also acknowledged that she had prior convictions of felony and misdemeanor prostitution and also a felony drug conviction.
[¶22] On July 11, 2008, around 10 p.m., she went to the Monkey Business bar in Rockford. She denied that she was working as a prostitute that evening. Rather, she went to the bar to celebrate her son's twenty-fourth birthday. She left the bar at approximately 1:30 a.m., alone and " really intoxicated."
[¶23] While she was walking through the parking lot behind the bar, the defendant approached and asked if she wanted a " date." She said " no" and told the defendant that she " didn't date black men." The defendant then hit her in the face and ordered her into a nearby alley. She complied because she feared for her life.
[¶24] Once they were in the alley, the defendant pulled her jeans and underwear down to her knees. As she lay on her stomach, the defendant raped her anally. Several minutes later, two police officers arrived and shined a flashlight on them. The defendant got up and told the officers that he and Lori were friends. Lori shouted, " No, I was raped. I was raped." Lori declined an offer to be driven to the hospital. She told the police that she just wanted to go home.
[¶25] Lori acknowledged that, at the time of the incident, both her husband and her boyfriend were black men. She explained that, when she told the defendant that she did not " date" black men, she meant that she did not want to have sex with him for money. She also acknowledged that she told the police that she had not been injured in any way during the assault. She denied telling the police that night that she and the defendant were just friends having sex. On ...