People v. Flores, s. 62398

CourtSupreme Court of Illinois
Citation131 Ill.Dec. 106,538 N.E.2d 481,128 Ill.2d 66
Docket NumberNos. 62398,65105,s. 62398
Parties, 131 Ill.Dec. 106 The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee, v. Mario FLORES, Appellant.
Decision Date29 March 1989

Page 481

538 N.E.2d 481
128 Ill.2d 66, 131 Ill.Dec. 106
The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee,
Mario FLORES, Appellant.
Nos. 62398, 65105.
Supreme Court of Illinois.
March 29, 1989.
Rehearing Denied May 26, 1989.

Page 483

[128 Ill.2d 75] [131 Ill.Dec. 108] Julius Lucius Echeles, Chicago, for appellant.

Neil F. Hartigan, Atty. Gen., Springfield, Richard M. Daley, State's Atty., Chicago (Mark S. Rotert, Asst. Atty. Gen., Chicago, Thomas V. Gainer, Jr., James S. Veldman, and Kenneth T. McCurry, Asst. State's Attys., of counsel), for People.

Justice WARD delivered the opinion of the court:

Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County, the defendant, Mario Flores, was found guilty of the armed robbery (Ill.Rev.Stat.1985, ch. 38, par. 18-2) and murder (Ill.Rev.Stat.1985, ch. 38, pars. 9-1(a)(1), (a)(2), (a)(3)) of Gilbert Perez. Upon the State's motion, a death penalty hearing was held, and the jury found that there existed one or more of the aggravating factors set out in section 9-1(b) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill.Rev.Stat.1985, ch. 38, par. 9-1(b)) and that there were no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude a sentence of death. The trial court then sentenced the defendant to death, but the sentence was stayed (107 Ill.2d R. 609(a)) pending direct appeal to this court (Ill.Const.1970, art. VI, § 4(b); 107 Ill.2d R. 603). Before that appeal was heard, the defendant filed a petition under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (Ill.Rev.Stat.1985, ch. 38, par. 122-1 et seq.), which was denied after an evidentiary hearing. An appeal from that judgment [128 Ill.2d 76] was consolidated with the defendant's appeal of his conviction and sentence, and both appeals are now before this court.

Evidence at trial showed that on January 1, 1984, the body of the victim, Gilbert Perez, was discovered in an alley at 2259 West St. Paul Avenue in Chicago. Next to the body were four spent shotgun shells and another shell was found three to six feet away. It was stipulated that the cause of death was multiple shotgun wounds resulting in massive injuries to the head, chest and internal organs.

Nancy Lebron testified that she lives in a second floor apartment at 2351 North Avenue in Chicago, which overlooks the intersection of North and Western Avenues. On January 1, 1984, at approximately 2 a.m., Lebron heard what sounded like an auto accident, and looking out her window, she saw a car which had been driven against an electrical light pole at the corner of the intersection. Shortly thereafter, the defendant and Victor Flores, who is not related to the defendant, drove up in a wine colored car and parked a short distance from the intersection. They were later joined by another man, who was driving a black and green car. Gilbert Perez, whom Lebron knew as "Blue Eyes," got out of the car that was parked against the electric pole and was approached by the men in the other two cars.

One of the men put his arms around Perez and, she said, talked to him "as if they were good friends." Meanwhile, the defendant returned to the car he was driving, removed a shotgun from the trunk, and pointed it in the direction of Perez. After one of his companions shouted at him, the defendant put the gun into the backseat of the car and returned to the group. Perez walked to the wine colored car and sat in the front passenger seat. The defendant sat in the backseat and

Page 484

[131 Ill.Dec. 109] Flores drove away. Lebron stated that as the wine colored car drove [128 Ill.2d 77] off following the green and black colored car, she wrote down its license plate number, "AA 959," and handed it to her husband.

Rinaldo Guevara, a Chicago police officer and gang crimes specialist with the Chicago police department, testified that on November 10, 1984, he spoke with Lebron, after receiving an anonymous telephone call from a man who said Lebron might have information concerning Perez' death. From an array of photographs, Lebron identified a photograph of the defendant and that of Sammy Ramos and stated that she had seen them with the victim at the intersection of North and Western Avenues on January 1, 1984. Lebron also identified the defendant from a lineup as the man whom she saw carrying the shotgun, and Victor Flores, as the man that was driving the wine colored car when it left with Perez. Guevara testified that the defendant was arrested driving a burgundy, 1982 Buick Regal with the license plate number "AA 9559," which was registered to Lena Flores, the defendant's sister.

Victor Flores testified that in the early morning hours of January 1, 1984, the defendant, driving his sister's 1982 Buick Regal, picked him up. As they were driving down North Avenue, a car driven by Perez passed them at a high rate of speed. They stopped at the intersection of North and Western Avenues where Perez' car, which appeared to have been in an accident, rested against an electric light pole. A few minutes later, Harry Gomez arrived and parked next to them. While they were talking, Gilbert Perez got out of his car and began shouting at a woman in the intersection who was involved in the accident. Flores stated that he, the defendant and Gomez walked to the intersection and approached Perez, who began to threaten them. At one point Perez made a "pitchfork" signal, which, according [128 Ill.2d 78] to Flores, meant Perez was a member of a street gang known as the Latin Stylers.

Flores testified that the defendant returned to his car, removed a shotgun, and approached the group. After Gomez confronted the defendant, he put the shotgun into the backseat of the car. Gomez then put his "arm around" Perez and led him to the defendant's car. Perez sat in the front seat and the defendant, with the shotgun in his hand, sat in the backseat. Flores drove the defendant's car and followed Gomez several blocks until they stopped on St. Paul Avenue. Flores testified that during the ride the defendant told Perez that Gomez was "Mousey" from the "D's." He explained that the "D's" were a street gang affiliated with a larger gang known as the "Folks," and that they were enemies of the gang he and the defendant belonged to, the Latin Brothers.

After the defendant, Gomez and Perez got out of the cars on St. Paul Avenue, Flores drove the car approximately 40 feet, and as he was turning the car around, he heard "four or five" gunshots. In his side, rearview mirror, Flores saw Perez lying on the ground and the defendant standing next to the body with the shotgun in his hand. Gomez was bending over Perez touching his "upper neck." Flores stated he then drove away but Gomez and the defendant caught up with him and directed him to Gomez' house. There, he saw Gomez with a "handful of chains" (chain necklaces) that Gomez said belonged to Perez.

Sammy Ramos testified on behalf of the State under a grant of immunity. On direct examination, he stated that he could not recall having a conversation with the defendant concerning the death of Perez. Ramos stated that he did recall testifying before the grand jury on November 13, 1984, but could not recall the content of his testimony. After receiving a transcript of the grand jury proceedings to refresh recollection, Ramos acknowledged [128 Ill.2d 79] that it contained an accurate description of his grand jury testimony. Upon further questioning, Ramos acknowledged he testified before the grand jury that on January 7, 1984, the defendant told him that on New Year's Eve, he and Victor Flores encountered Perez and Harry Gomez at the scene of an accident at the intersection of North and Western Avenues. The defendant said he became angry after Perez started swearing at a woman who was also involved in the

Page 485

[131 Ill.Dec. 110] accident. He removed a shotgun from the trunk of his car but put it back after Gomez told him to do so. Gomez then told Perez that he was a member of the "Folks" gang, whereupon Perez stated that he was "Blue eyes from the Stylers." The defendant said that the four men drove to Western Avenue and St. Paul Avenue, where he shot Perez six times and Gomez took the victim's chain necklaces from his body.

At the close of the evidence, the jury found the defendant guilty of murder and armed robbery. Thereafter, a hearing was held on the State's motion to seek the death penalty. The jury found the defendant subject to the death penalty, being 18 years of age or older at the time of the murder and having killed the victim in the course of a forcible felony, to wit, armed robbery (Ill.Rev.Stat.1983, ch. 38, par. 9-1(b)(6)).

At the second phase of the hearing, the State presented in aggravation evidence of the defendant's juvenile adjudications for retail theft, criminal trespass of a vehicle, and possession of a stolen vehicle. Each of these adjudications resulted in the defendant's being placed on probation. The State also presented the testimony of Rinaldo Guevara, who stated that he had known the defendant for five years and that the defendant is a "hardcore" member of the Latin Brothers street gang. Louis Rosero testified that on August 5, 1984, the defendant stopped him on the street and asked if he [128 Ill.2d 80] would accept a set of tires in lieu of payment for a debt the defendant owed him. The defendant told Rosero to meet him in an alley in back of his father's house. When he arrived, the defendant shot him in the chest five times and twice in the back. As a result, Rosero was rendered a paraplegic and is permanently confined to a wheelchair.

In mitigation, the defendant presented several witnesses who testified to his accomplishments as a high school swimmer and diver. Several witnesses testified to the defendant's good conduct while in custody awaiting trial and his willingness to counsel other inmates. The defendant testified that his life should be spared because he could be of great help to young people coming from "the streets" as he did. The jury found that there were no mitigating factors...

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