People v. McDonald, 75608

CourtSupreme Court of Illinois
Citation168 Ill.2d 420,214 Ill.Dec. 125,660 N.E.2d 832
Docket NumberNo. 75608,75608
Parties, 214 Ill.Dec. 125 The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee, v. Maurice McDONALD, Appellant.
Decision Date19 October 1995

Page 832

660 N.E.2d 832
168 Ill.2d 420, 214 Ill.Dec. 125
The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee,
Maurice McDONALD, Appellant.
No. 75608.
Supreme Court of Illinois.
Oct. 19, 1995.
Rehearing Denied Jan. 29, 1996.

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[168 Ill.2d 429] [214 Ill.Dec. 128] Appeal, Circuit Court (Cook). RULE: 603; TYPE: Capital. Richard E. Neville, Judge. CASE NUMBERS: TR92CR2151.

Charles M. Schiedel, Deputy Defender, Springfield, and Steven L. Clark, Assistant Defender, Chicago, both of the Office of the State Appellate Defender, for appellant, and Maurice McDonald, Ely, Nevada, appellant pro se.

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

Chief Justice BILANDIC delivered the opinion of the court:

Following a bench trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant, Maurice McDonald, was convicted of two counts of murder and one count of armed robbery. (Ill.Rev.Stat.1983, ch. 38, pars. 9-1(a), 18-2(a).) The jury found defendant eligible for the death penalty based upon the statutory aggravating factor of murder of two or more individuals. (Ill.Rev.Stat.1983, ch. 38, par. 9-1(b)(3).) The same jury then found that there were no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude imposition of the death sentence. Accordingly, the trial judge sentenced[168 Ill.2d 430] defendant to death for the murders and to 60 years' imprisonment on the armed robbery count.

Defendant's death sentence has been stayed pending direct review by this court. (Ill. Const.1970, art. VI, § 4(b); 134 Ill.2d Rules 603, 609(a).) For the reasons that follow, we affirm defendant's convictions and sentences.


On the evening of February 27, 1983, Lester Coats was at his home located at 530 East 86th Place in Chicago. Also at Lester's home that evening were the following individuals: Barbara Coats Terrell (Lester's daughter), Althea (Barbara's daughter), Deneen Coats (Lester's granddaughter), Clarence Coats (Lester's son), and defendant. Lester was a drug dealer and defendant was employed as his "bodyguard/gofer." That evening, Lester and his daughter Barbara counted the proceeds from drug sales, which totaled $13,000. Lester subsequently placed the money in a little metal box which he locked and stored in the hall closet. According to Barbara, this was an unusual place for Lester to store anything because he generally kept his money in the bedroom closet. In addition to money, Lester also kept other items in the bedroom closet, including jewelry, guns, and food stamps, all of which were received in exchange for drugs.

Barbara further testified that Lester's girlfriend, Brenda Robertson, arrived at the

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[214 Ill.Dec. 129] house around 11:30 p.m. By 1:30 a.m., everyone had departed, leaving Lester and Brenda alone in the house.

At approximately 4:40 a.m. on February 28, 1983, Officer William Tuck responded to a call of a "man down" at 530 East 86th Place. When he arrived, he found Lester bleeding on the sidewalk in front of his house. At the time, Lester appeared to be alive. Officer Tuck followed a trail of blood to the house and went inside. The front door was unlocked and there were no signs of forced entry.

[168 Ill.2d 431] Sergeant Peter Dignan next arrived on the scene to find paramedics working on Lester. After noticing a large amount of blood on the sidewalk, he proceeded inside the house. Sergeant Dignan testified that there was blood on the walls and floor. He also noticed that the house had been ransacked. In the kitchen, Sergeant Dignan discovered that the wires to the alarm were severed. He also recovered a bloodstained knife from the kitchen sink. Sergeant Dignan then followed the trail of blood to the basement. In the basement, Sergeant Dignan found the lifeless body of Brenda Robertson. Brenda had an electrical cord wrapped around her ankles and wrist, and multiple stab wounds to her body. Sergeant Dignan also noticed that there was a fur coat on the floor with five food stamps lying on it.

Doctor Mitra Kalelkar of the Cook County medical examiner's office performed the autopsies on Lester and Brenda. The autopsy on Lester revealed that he had died because of multiple stab wounds, including a stab wound that perforated his heart. Dr. Kalelkar testified that this wound was so serious that a person so injured would collapse in approximately five minutes from the time that the injury was inflicted. Brenda also had multiple stab wounds, including an incised wound around the left nipple of her breast. Brenda's heart had been perforated as a result of the injuries inflicted on her. She too died as a result of multiple stab wounds. According to Dr. Kalelkar, both Lester's and Brenda's wounds were consistent with a theory of one instrument, such as a knife, having been used on both victims.

Rosemary Small, defendant's girlfriend, testified that defendant arrived at her home in the early morning hours of February 28, 1983. Small was uncertain of the exact time that defendant arrived. She could only place it at sometime between 2 and 4 a.m. Defendant awoke Small and told her that they had to get out of [168 Ill.2d 432] the house because someone had shot at him. Before leaving, Small noticed some jewelry, food stamps, and two guns on the kitchen table. These items had not been there earlier. Defendant instructed her to put the jewelry and food stamps in her purse. Defendant then drove Small and her son to his cousin Janice Thomas' house.

Thomas testified that defendant arrived at her home on February 28, 1983, at approximately 5 a.m. Defendant brought his clothes wrapped in a sheet, and a rifle. Defendant left those items with Thomas. After unwrapping the sheet, Thomas found clothing, a telephone and two guns. A few days later, the police went to Thomas' house after receiving a call about the weapons. Thomas voluntarily turned the two guns and the rifle over to the police. The items recovered included a Winchester rifle, a .38-caliber Llama revolver, and a .44-caliber Smith and Wesson revolver.

On March 3, 1983, Sergeant Dignan and Detective John Yucaitis located Small at her mother's apartment and took her to police headquarters. After being questioned, Small told the police that defendant gave her food stamps and jewelry the morning of the murders. The food stamps and jewelry were recovered from her purse. The serial number on some of the food stamps recovered from Small's purse corresponded to the serial number on a food stamp recovered from Lester's basement. Officer Fred Harris, a latent fingerprint examiner, established that defendant's palmprint was found on the food stamp recovered from Lester's basement.

The weapons recovered from Thomas' house and the jewelry recovered from Small's purse were subsequently identified by various members of the Coats family as having been Lester's property. Barbara Coats Terrell testified that when she went to Lester's house a few days after the murder

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[214 Ill.Dec. 130] she did not find any of his jewelry, food stamps, or money in the house.

[168 Ill.2d 433] The State then rested its case, and defendant, acting pro se, presented his case in chief.

Defendant testified in his own behalf. In 1982, Lester hired him as a bodyguard. Lester paid defendant $100 a day in cash and $25 a day in food stamps, which he gave to his family.

On February 28, 1983, Lester gave defendant $600 and $200 in food stamps. Lester also instructed defendant to take $2,000 to $3,000 in food stamps to a grocery store for a cash redemption. Consequently, defendant insisted that there were no food stamps in Lester's house that day. Later that evening, between 8 and 9 p.m., Lester asked defendant to purchase some cocaine for Lester's personal use. Upon defendant's return to Lester's home, Brenda Robertson was there. Defendant left Lester's home around 10 p.m. Before leaving, defendant warned Lester not to open the door for anybody since there was money in the house. Defendant admitted being aware of the $13,000 in the house that night. However, he claimed that $13,000 was a small amount of money.

After leaving Lester's house, defendant stated that he went to his apartment on 68th Street to gather his belongings to move them to his new apartment at 79th and State. An unknown person started shooting at him. Defendant shot back with his .38 Llama revolver. Following this incident, defendant went to his uncle's house about 12:30 a.m.

After leaving his uncle's house, defendant went to Small's house about 2 a.m. Defendant then took Small to Thomas' house along with all of the things that he was going to take to the 79th and State apartment. Defendant denied giving Small any jewelry or food stamps on the morning of February 28, 1983. According to defendant, the jewelry recovered from Small belonged to Small. Moreover, defendant stated that the weapons recovered from Thomas' house belonged to defendant.

[168 Ill.2d 434] Defendant next went to Lester's house between 6 and 7 a.m., but left when he saw the police. Defendant believed that Lester was arrested for narcotics. Later he found out that Lester was dead and that the police were looking for him.

As a final matter, defendant presented his theory regarding the murder. First, he pointed out that he and Lester were friends. Defendant claimed to love Lester and that he had no reason to harm him. Instead, defendant contended that Lester opened the door for Arlene Williams, Lester's common law wife. A fight arose in which Brenda stabbed Lester and ran into the basement where Lester subsequently murdered her. Some unknown person then came into the house and stabbed Lester and searched his house for the money.

In addition to his own testimony, defendant presented the testimony of his family members and a fingerprint expert. Defendant's...

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