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People v. Camacho

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division

August 9, 2016

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JOSE CAMACHO, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 12 CR 3709 Honorable Kay M. Hanlon, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE HYMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Neville and Simon concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          HYMAN JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Defendant Jose Camacho was sentenced to 32 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of first degree murder. On appeal, he contends the trial court erred in refusing to provide the jury with an instruction on mitigation from first degree murder to second degree murder due to provocation. We disagree. Camacho's version of the incident does not reveal any evidence of provocation that he willingly entered into the fight with the victim. Instead, his testimony establishes he acted defensively, fearing for his life.

         ¶ 2 Camacho also challenges certain monetary assessments imposed against him that he argues qualify as fines. Camacho argues, and the State correctly concedes, he is entitled to $5 per day of presentence custody credit against the $50 court system assessment. Regarding assessments intended to fund the technological advancement of both the State's Attorney's and public defender's offices, a prospective goal, we disagree they were intended to compensate the state for the costs associated in prosecuting a particular defendant, and classify them as fines.

         ¶ 3 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 The State charged Camacho with first degree murder in connection with the May 24, 2001, death of Flavio Venancio. The police arrested Camacho in Mexico in 2012, and his trial began the following year.

         ¶ 5 The evidence at trial showed that Camacho lived with Jose Zavala and Jose Davila at Zavala's apartment in Hanover Park. Camacho and Zavala worked together. Zavala testified that, in the early morning hours of May 25, while he was sleeping, he heard a knock on his bedroom door. When he opened the door, he saw Camacho, who "looked sad" and was dirty. Camacho told Zavala that as he was driving, his passenger told him to go "faster" and "faster, " and, when Camacho did, he lost control of the car and crashed. Camacho told Zavala the crash was the passenger's fault, but that the passenger told Camacho it was his fault for "being a dumb ass" who could not drive. They got out of the car and Camacho told the passenger to bend over and "look at what he had done." After that, Camacho grabbed the passenger by the neck and began hitting him with a pen. Then, Camacho tried to drown the passenger, but felt "remorseful, " so he pushed on the passenger's stomach so the water would come out. Zavala testified that Camacho never told him that the passenger had a weapon or tried to injure him.

         ¶ 6 That morning, when Zavala arrived at work, he saw Camacho's car in the employee parking lot. Zavala noticed damage to the front right side, something he had not seen before. Camacho, however, did not show up for work.

         ¶ 7 Davila testified that in the afternoon of May 24, 2001, Camacho drove him to work in his burgundy Mitsubishi and Davila did not notice any damage to the car. Around midday the following day, Davila saw Camacho "[i]n a yard for work." Camacho told him he had a "problem" the night before with someone who lived in their apartment complex. Camacho said he and this person were drinking beer, and, when they ran out, they entered Camacho's car and drove around to look for more beer. As they were driving, Camacho hit a guardrail. The passenger became "upset, " told Camacho he could not drive and told Camacho to let him drive, which made Camacho "upset." Camacho eventually drove to a "secluded place" and told the passenger to get out of the car. Then Camacho began hitting him with a pen in different parts of his body and submerged the passenger's head in a pond.

         ¶ 8 Camacho told Davila that, when he realized the passenger was not moving, he pulled the passenger out of the water and pushed on his stomach "to see if he would react." After water came out of the passenger's mouth, Camacho decided to leave. He threw his car's registration papers around the area so he could report the car stolen. Camacho did not tell Davila that the passenger had a weapon or threatened him or that Camacho was injured. After their conversation, Davila accompanied Camacho to a bus station where he bought a ticket to New York. Davila did not see Camacho again until trial.

         ¶ 9 Davila did not remember telling a grand jury that both Camacho and the passenger were hitting each other or that, after Camacho hit the passenger in the stomach with a pen, they both fell into the water. Davila further did not remember saying that, after Camacho put the passenger's head in the water, he pulled him out of the water and pressed on the passenger's stomach until water came out. Davila also could not recall telling the grand jury that when Camacho saw the passenger was "coming to, " he thought to himself "God help him" and left.

          ¶ 10 Schaumburg police lieutenant Kurt Metzger testified he investigated a dead body found in a retention pond "off the beaten path" near the Schaumburg Metra train station. The body was facedown in the water with the back of the individual's head exposed. Near the pond, Metzger found a lanyard attached to an identification card for a "Pascual Fernandez." Metzger also found registration paperwork for a Mitsubishi Eclipse and an insurance card naming Homero Salgado and Antonio Perez of Anaheim, CA, as the owners. Metzger eventually learned the victim's name was Flavio Venancio. Other evidence at trial showed Flavio Venancio was Pascual Fernandez.

         ¶ 11 A week later, Metzger traveled to California and interviewed Perez and Veronica Tamayo, Camacho's wife. After these conversations, Metzger sought Camacho, who he learned used Salgado as an alias. During Metzger's conversation with Tamayo, she showed him a telephone bill with calls from collect call numbers. Metzger contacted the phone company and traced the calls to a residence in Hanover Park belonging to an individual by the name of Zavala. Metzger contacted Schaumburg police detective Vito Rago and told him to visit the Zavala residence.

         ¶ 12 That day, Rago met with Zavala, who took Rago to his employer's parking lot where Camacho had left his car. In the lot, Rago saw a red Mitsubishi Eclipse with damage to the front passenger side. Inside the car, Rago found muddy boots. Zavala did not know Camacho's whereabouts.

         ¶ 13 In California, Metzger and the Anaheim police department could not locate Camacho, and the police issued an arrest warrant for him. Eleven years later, Camacho was arrested in Mexico and extradited to the United States.

         ¶ 14 Crime scene technician James Herman investigated the dead body found in the retention pond. He noticed the victim was facedown in the water. Herman rolled the victim's body over; the victim's eyes were swollen shut, and he had lacerations above his left eye. Herman found a cartridge from the center of a fountain pen. And on a road near the scene, Herman saw maroon-colored paint on a damaged guardrail, broken car parts, glass, and a wheel cover with a Mitsubishi emblem.

         ¶ 15 Medical examiner Dr. Scott Denton performed the autopsy of Venancio and observed mud all over his body and in his nose, mouth, trachea, larynx, lungs, esophagus, and stomach. Venancio's stomach alone contained nearly 200 cubic centimeters of mud, more than half the liquid capacity of a soda can, and pieces of twigs and branches that Denton had never seen before. Based on the quantity of mud inside the body, Denton stated that Venancio must have struggled "an excessive amount." Denton concluded that Venancio drowned under water by having his face pushed against mud, which required a "very forceful event." The drowning could not have been accidental due to the extent of Venancio's injuries. Denton noted that, after being submerged in the mud, Venancio likely lost consciousness within 60 seconds and thereafter could not voluntarily move.

         ¶ 16 There were about 20 stab wounds on Venancio, mostly concentrated on his face, consistent with being inflicted by a pen as well as various abrasions and impressions elsewhere on the body that also appeared to have been inflicted by a pen. An X-ray revealed a piece of pen with a metal tip 1½ inches long deep inside Venancio's left nostril. Denton stated that only "severe force" could have broken a pen inside of ...


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