People v. Brown

Decision Date28 March 1996
Docket NumberNo. 74532,74532
Parties, 216 Ill.Dec. 733 The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee, v. Anton BROWN, Appellant.
CourtIllinois Supreme Court

Rehearing Denied June 3, 1996.

As Modified on Denial of Rehearing June 3, 1996.

David J. Bradford, Locke E. Bowman and Kathleen M. Banar, Chicago, for appellant.

Roland W. Burris, Attorney General, Springfield, and Jack O'Malley, State's Attorney, Chicago (Arleen C. Anderson, Assistant Attorney General, Chicago, and Renee G. Goldfarb and Linda Woloshin, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

Justice MILLER delivered the opinion of the court:

Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant, Anton Brown, was convicted of three counts of first degree murder. At a separate sentencing hearing, the same jury found defendant eligible for the death penalty and further determined that there were no mitigating circumstances sufficient to preclude imposition of that sentence. Accordingly, the trial judge sentenced defendant to death. Defendant's death sentence has been automatically stayed pending direct review by this court. Ill. Const.1970, art. VI, § 4(b); 134 Ill.2d Rs. 603, 609(a). In this appeal, defendant raises numerous errors in various proceedings below as grounds for reversal in this court. For the reasons that follow, we affirm defendant's convictions and sentences.


On September 10, 1990, defendant was charged by indictment in the circuit court of Cook County with six counts of first degree murder. Ill.Rev.Stat.1989, ch. 38, pars. 9-1(a)(1), (a)(2). The indictments were based on the September 2 and 3, 1990, murders of Aretha C. Phillips and her two children, Monique Belton, who was two years old at the time of death, and John Belton, Jr., who was three years old at the time of death.

The evidence at trial established that Gloria Wallace, Aretha's mother, attempted to call Aretha on September 4, 1990, on her beeper. However, another woman, whom Wallace did not recognize, answered the beeper. Wallace then called the police. She told the police that her daughter's apartment windows were open, but that she could not contact her daughter. Wallace asked the police to go to Aretha's apartment to look for her daughter. The police subsequently met Wallace at Aretha's apartment. On arriving at the apartment, Wallace found a note, which she testified she gave to the police, on the door of the apartment. The note was from Aretha's baby-sitter and stated that the baby-sitter was supposed to baby-sit for Aretha, but that Aretha did not show up. The police then knocked on the door, but there was no answer. Having no key of her own, Wallace begged the police to enter the apartment. The police refused, stating that they had no authority to enter or to allow her to enter. After Wallace told the police that she was fearful for her daughter's life because she had not seen or heard from her daughter for a couple of days and it was unusual for the apartment windows to be open, the police called the fire department for assistance.

Ronnie Herring, a Chicago fireman, received a call to assist police. When he arrived at the location, he was met by several police officers and the "mother of the girl they were looking for." He was told to enter the apartment and look around to see if anything was irregular. Herring placed a ladder up to a partially opened window on the second floor and climbed through the window. He found himself in a bedroom with two beds. He saw nothing unusual in either of the two bedrooms in the apartment. Herring then searched the rest of the apartment, and after finding nothing unusual, he asked the police if they wanted him to let them into the apartment. The police answered no, but asked Herring to look around again. After finding nothing unusual, Herring left the apartment the same way he had entered.

Later that same day, Wallace filed a missing person's report on Aretha and the two children. After filing the report, she also went over to the store where defendant, who lived with Aretha, worked to see if defendant had seen Aretha. Defendant's boss told Wallace that defendant had left, saying that he "was going to see his girlfriend." Defendant's boss gave Wallace defendant's employment application, and Wallace proceeded to go to the address defendant gave on the application. A woman at the address told Wallace that she did not know defendant. Wallace also made various other attempts to find Aretha, including attempting to speak with defendant's aunt, calling Aretha's friends and relatives, and looking in the alleys and dumpsters for her.

The following day Wallace and her husband returned to Aretha's apartment. Wallace's husband climbed into Aretha's apartment through an open window and then unlocked the front door to let Wallace in. Wallace went into Aretha's bedroom and saw a pile of clothes on the floor surrounded by flies. She attempted to pick up the clothes, but could not because there was something under them. She also testified that she saw blood under the clothes. Wallace then left the apartment and flagged down a police car. She told the police officer that she thought her daughter was dead and that she could not find her grandchildren. Wallace and the police officer returned to the apartment. Shortly thereafter, several other police officers arrived at the scene.

After Officer Robert Johnson arrived at the apartment, he proceeded directly to the rear bedroom. In the bedroom, he saw a bundle of clothes. He subsequently looked under the clothes and saw a small portion of a woman's partially deteriorated face. Johnson then left the bedroom, secured the area, and called his supervisor, the crime lab, and detectives.

Detectives James O'Leary and James Redmond were assigned to the case. They went to the apartment and were met by Wallace and her husband. O'Leary then spoke with Johnson and proceeded to the rear bedroom of the apartment. O'Leary was directed to a pile of clothing on the floor. He observed the right arm of Aretha extending out from under the clothes. O'Leary then removed the top cover from the body and observed multiple stab wounds to the body. He covered the body and then went into the other bedroom. Meanwhile, Johnson had entered the other bedroom and saw something wrapped in a shower curtain under one of the beds. He poked at the mass with a stick. He felt the bundle again after flipping the mattress over. Johnson then left the bedroom and notified the detectives. O'Leary proceeded to enter the bedroom and stick his hand into the shower curtain. He felt a shoulder and an arm and, after probing further, felt another shoulder and arm. O'Leary testified that he knew then that there were two children in the shower curtain.

After the crime lab and medical examiner had finished processing the bedroom where Aretha's body had been found, the detectives unwrapped the body. Aretha was dressed in a white nightgown. There was blood on the sheets and blanket, and there was a pillow with blood on it over her head. The detectives then proceeded to uncover the children. The two bodies were intertwined, and each child was only wearing white underwear. The bodies were beginning to decompose and, therefore, the detectives were unable to detect any notable injuries. The detectives then proceeded to examine the rest of the apartment. O'Leary testified that there was no damage to the locking device on the front door, but that part of the privacy lock on Aretha's bedroom door had been broken.

O'Leary then had a conversation with Wallace. O'Leary asked Wallace if anyone else lived in the apartment with Aretha and the children. Wallace gave O'Leary defendant's name and description. Wallace also told the detective where defendant might be found. Wallace testified that the police asked her if she had any idea who might have murdered the victims, and she gave them defendant's name and description. O'Leary also asked if there was anything in the apartment that might identify defendant or help the police find defendant. Wallace told O'Leary about a photo album that she had seen the week before. After looking through the album, Wallace told the detective that defendant's photograph was gone, pointing to a blank spot in the album where a photograph had apparently been removed. After the apartment had been processed, the detective asked Wallace if anything was missing from the apartment. Wallace stated that several pieces of property were missing, including Aretha's car, beeper, television, microwave, and stereo.

Detectives subsequently began their attempts to locate defendant. That evening, defendant was brought to the police station by his uncle, Officer Charles Maratre. Defendant was taken into custody and, after several interviews with police, confessed to the three murders. Testimony regarding the circumstances surrounding defendant's confession was substantially the same as that presented at the suppression hearing. Defendant's confession was read into the record.

Defendant stated that he had lived with Aretha at the apartment where her body was found on and off since June 1990. Defendant asserted that on September 2, 1990, he worked at Farmer's Market until 5 p.m. Before leaving work, he borrowed $50 from his boss. After he left work, he bought some wine and cocaine with the money he had borrowed from his boss. He then went directly to Aretha's apartment. Aretha and the children arrived at the apartment around 7 p.m.

After dinner, defendant asked Aretha to dress the children so they could go out. Defendant wanted to visit a friend to borrow some money. Aretha dressed the children, and they all went out. Defendant first tried to borrow some money from a friend of his mother. When he was unsuccessful, defendant went to visit his aunt. Defendant's aunt gave him $5. At this point, Aretha and the children were in the car. Later, Aretha walked up to...

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