People v. Peeples, 83783.

CourtSupreme Court of Illinois
Citation793 N.E.2d 641,205 Ill.2d 480,275 Ill.Dec. 870
Docket NumberNo. 83783.,83783.
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee, v. William PEEPLES, Appellant.
Decision Date20 June 2002

793 N.E.2d 641
205 Ill.2d 480
275 Ill.Dec.

The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee,
William PEEPLES, Appellant

No. 83783.

Supreme Court of Illinois.

June 20, 2002.

Rehearing Denied August 29, 2002.

793 N.E.2d 646
Marshall J. Hartman and Martin S. Carlson, of the Office of the State Appellate Defender, Chicago, and Anne E. Carlson, Northbrook, for appellant

James E. Ryan, Attorney General, Springfield, and Richard A. Devine, State's Attorney, Chicago (William L. Browers, Assistant Attorney General, Chicago, and Renee G. Goldfarb, James E. Fitzgerald and William D. Carroll, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

793 N.E.2d 647
Justice McMORROW delivered the opinion of the court

Pursuant to the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. (West 1994)), defendant, William Peeples, petitioned the circuit court of Cook County for post-conviction relief. The circuit court dismissed defendant's amended post-conviction petition without conducting an evidentiary hearing. Because defendant was sentenced to death for the underlying murder conviction, he appeals directly to this court. 134 Ill.2d R. 651(a). For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court.


This court has previously detailed the evidence presented at defendant's trial in our opinion on direct appeal. People v. Peeples, 155 Ill.2d 422, 186 Ill.Dec. 341, 616 N.E.2d 294 (1993). Therefore, we state here only those facts which are necessary to the disposition of this appeal.

On May 18, 1988, defendant was arrested for the murder of Dawn Dudovic, who was discovered stabbed to death in her Schaumburg apartment earlier that day. Defendant and his fiancee, Vanessa Allen, lived in an apartment next door to the victim's apartment.

During the early evening hours of May 18, Pamela Killeen, the victim's roommate, returned home and observed the victim's car in the parking lot. Upon arriving at the front door of unit 102, the apartment she shared with the victim, Killeen discovered a red-stained piece of paper towel wedged in the door which prevented the door from locking. Killeen removed the paper towel and entered the apartment. She then noticed red stains on the walls and carpeting leading to the kitchen, and discovered the victim lying on her back on the kitchen floor. In an immediate attempt to seek help, Killeen pounded on the front door of unit 101, defendant's apartment. Killeen testified that she continued to knock and scream at the door of unit 101 for about a minute because she had heard sounds inside that apartment. However, when there was no response, she sought and received help from another neighbor, Kenneth Evenson. Evenson accompanied Killeen to her apartment, observed the victim lying in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor, and returned to his apartment to call the paramedics. Shortly thereafter, the paramedics arrived and pronounced the victim dead.

At approximately 6 p.m., members of the Schaumburg police department began arriving at the apartment complex and initiated a canvas of the building. When the officers knocked on the door of unit 101, they received no response. However, the officers noticed that shadows appeared and disappeared through the apartment's peephole, indicating that an individual was present inside. The officers contacted the building's manager and were told that Vanessa Allen was the tenant of record for unit 101. When the officers telephoned Allen at work, she informed police that she lived in the apartment alone. Based on this information, the officers concluded that no one should have been in the apartment.

At approximately 7:40 p.m., the police had not yet gained entry into unit 101. At that time, the officers observed smoke coming from underneath unit 101's front door. When an officer went to the rear of the apartment and tried to look into the bedroom through a separation in the window curtains, the curtains suddenly went up in flames. The officer, who then had an unobstructed view of the bedroom, observed two fires burning in that room. In addition, it appeared that at least three other fires were burning in the living room. Shortly thereafter, Schaumburg

793 N.E.2d 648
firefighters arrived at the scene and broke out the bedroom window of unit 101. The firefighters then extended a fire hose into the apartment and attempted to extinguish the blaze. At that point, defendant appeared inside the apartment and exited through the shattered bedroom window. Defendant was arrested and transported by police to a local hospital, where medical personnel tended to a deep laceration on his left hand that had cut through the tendons of three fingers and which was bleeding profusely. Defendant also had a second cut at the web part of his left hand

Pursuant to a search warrant, police officers searched defendant's apartment and discovered evidence of six separate fires in the living room and six separate fires in the bedroom. Each fire had been started by igniting small piles of items. Recovered from one of these piles was a wallet that contained defendant's driver's license, as well as a large kitchen knife with a bloodstained wooden handle. Investigators also discovered a satchel in the living room, which contained a coffee cup. Examination of this cup revealed that it contained sugar and was spattered with blood.

During this time, the police also continued their investigation at the victim's apartment. An evidence technician collected blood samples from the kitchen and other areas of the victim's apartment. At trial, an expert in serology testified that the blood samples taken from several locations in the victim's apartment were of type A, which was defendant's blood type. The serologist further testified at trial that blood discovered on defendant's wristwatch and on the knife recovered from his apartment was determined to be type AB, the blood type of the victim. Testimony was also adduced that two piles of a white substance were discovered on the floor of the victim's apartment, one near the front door and one near the kitchen doorway. This substance was later confirmed to be sugar.

An autopsy performed on the victim revealed that she had suffered 23 stab wounds and 16 incised wounds. The victim also exhibited several defense wounds to her hands and arms. According to the medical examiner, the victim died as a result of multiple stab wounds, three of which pierced her lung, liver and heart. The medical examiner further testified that the wounds inflicted upon the victim could have been made by the knife recovered from defendant's apartment, although they could not be tied with certainty to any particular weapon.

Defendant testified on his own behalf. According to defendant, on the morning of May 18, 1988, he did not go to work because he was ill, took over-the-counter medication, and slept most of the day. Defendant stated that at approximately 4 p.m. he removed a package of frozen pork chops from the freezer and attempted to pry the pork chops apart with a sharp kitchen knife. Defendant, who is left handed, held the package of pork chops in his left hand and held the knife in his right hand as he tried to pry the meat apart. Defendant stated that the knife slipped, and he suffered a minor cut to his left hand. Defendant testified that when he made a second attempt to separate the pork chops, the knife slipped again and caused a deep bloody wound to his left hand. According to defendant, he wrapped his hand to control the bleeding, took pain relievers, lay down, and fell asleep.

Defendant testified that he was awakened from his sleep by his telephone ringing and by pounding on his front door. Defendant stated that he looked through the peephole, saw police, and did not respond because he did not want the building management to discover that he had been

793 N.E.2d 649
living in the apartment, which was registered only in Allen's name. Defendant denied that he had set the fires in his apartment, and asserted that the police broke into his apartment and set the fires in an effort to force him out. Defendant also denied placing the knife in one of the piles of burning clothes, and contended that police placed the knife and wallet in the pile because he was the most convenient suspect and also because of "the prejudice in the northwest suburbs."

During cross-examination, the State confronted defendant with a photograph of an unopened package of pork chops lying on the kitchen counter in defendant's apartment. The State then introduced the unopened package into evidence. In addition, defendant had no explanation for the fact that the kitchen knife handle appeared to be covered with blood when, according to his testimony, only the blade of the knife had cut his hand.

On March 7, 1990, at the close of evidence and after argument, the jury returned verdicts finding defendant guilty of first degree murder, aggravated arson, home invasion and armed violence. On April 9, 1990, pursuant to defendant's pre-trial waiver of a sentencing jury, the first phase of defendant's sentencing hearing was conducted. The trial judge found that defendant was eligible for the death penalty under section 9-1 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (720 ILCS 5/9-1(b)(6) (West 1994)) in that he was over 18 years of age at the time of the offenses and that he had committed first degree murder in the course of a home invasion.

Immediately following the circuit court's finding of eligibility, the State indicated that it was prepared to proceed to the second phase of the death penalty hearing. Defense counsel requested a continuance, stating that "there are certain aspects of the mitigation we were [sic] still working on," and that there were some mitigation witnesses that their "investigator was trying to locate." Defense counsel's request for a continuance, however, was principally based upon their discovery that defendant had suffered from spinal meningitis as a youth,...

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