People v. Wright, 1-89-1533

Decision Date19 August 1991
Docket NumberNo. 1-89-1533,1-89-1533
Citation578 N.E.2d 1090,218 Ill.App.3d 764,161 Ill.Dec. 444
Parties, 161 Ill.Dec. 444 The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Mervyn WRIGHT, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

Randolph N. Stone, Cook County Public Defender, Chicago (R.H.R. Sivertrust, Asst. Public Defender, of counsel), for defendant-appellant.

Jack O'Malley, Cook County State's Atty., Chicago (Renee Goldfarb, Asst. State's Atty., Marilyn F. Schlesinger, Sp. Asst. State's Atty., of counsel), for appellee.

Justice BUCKLEY delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant, Mervyn Wright, was charged, tried by a jury and found guilty of first degree murder and attempted residential burglary. Defendant was sentenced to 80 years imprisonment. Defendant appeals his conviction on the basis that (1) the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress evidence of his prior burglary conviction, (2) he was deprived of his constitutional right to present a defense because the trial court prevented him from introducing evidence of the decedent's marital status, (3) he was improperly denied a Batson hearing after he made a prima facie showing of racial discrimination in the State's use of peremptory challenges during jury selection, (4) Illinois' first degree murder statute is unconstitutional, (5) the trial court improperly admitted morgue pictures of decedent, and (6) he was deprived of his right to a fair trial by prosecutorial misconduct and the trial judge's bias.

Defendant was charged with attempted residential burglary and first degree murder for the September 1987 attempted break-in of a room at the Roberts Motel at 66th and Martin Luther King Drive and the shooting death of Gregory Edwards, an off-duty police officer. Prior to trial, several motions in limine were made by the defendant and the State.

Defendant moved to exclude defendant's prior burglary convictions from evidence. The trial court denied this motion stating that this evidence "goes to defendant's credibility." Next, defense moved to prevent the State from revealing that the decedent was an off-duty Chicago police officer. The defense argued that the evidence would be prejudicial because the jury would perceive the defendant as a "cop killer" instead of realizing the case was a burglary/murder case. The State responded that the jury would hear evidence regarding and see photographs showing the decedent's gun, holster and handcuffs located inside the motel room. The trial court denied defense's motion explaining that if the jury was not informed that decedent was an off-duty police officer, they might assume he was a "dope dealer."

The State made a motion in limine to preclude defendant from raising the decedent's marital status. Defendant objected to the motion, arguing that decedent's marital status was relevant to show decedent's state of mind at the time of the shooting and in order that inferences may be drawn by the jury that decedent may have shot at defendant first and why defendant believed he had to protect himself. The trial court overruled defendant's objection and granted the State's motion. The trial court, however, informed the defendant that it would allow him to tell the jury that the victim registered under an assumed name.

In May 1989, a jury was selected. The trial court, in its introductory comments, advised the venire members that the victim was an off-duty police officer and inquired whether that fact would influence anyone's objectivity in serving on the jury. One person responded affirmatively and was dismissed. Defendant made no record of the racial composition of the venire, but did make a motion for a Batson hearing after the jury was sworn. The only evidence defendant presented to the court was that the State had challenged six individuals, five of whom were black females and one who was a Indian female. Defendant stated that he thought a prima facie showing had been made. The State argued that there were five blacks chosen for the jury. The trial court denied the motion.

During opening statements the State noted that decedent was an off-duty police officer and that due to his profession, he possessed a gun and further that the decedent understood that the defendant's attempt to break into the room was an effort to burglarize the room. In defendant's opening statement, he also commented that decedent was an off-duty police officer and was in a motel room with a lady friend and registered under an assumed name. Additionally, defendant stated that top echelon members of the Chicago Police Department were potential witnesses.

After opening statements, the State called Angelia Williams to testify. Williams testified that she was present in the decedent's motel room the night he was shot. Williams testified that she was a "Miss" who was residing with her mother in September 1987. Williams stated that she met decedent in 1984 and continued a casual relationship with him until July 1987 when they began seeing one another on a more serious level. The Wednesday before decedent was killed, Williams and decedent were together and agreed to consummate their relationship the following Monday, September 28, 1987. Williams testified that she was aware that decedent was a Chicago police officer. On September 28, 1987, decedent picked her up while still in his uniform. They proceeded to the Roberts Motel where decedent registered while Williams waited in the car. The couple went to room 114 and engaged in sexual intercourse. Decedent fell asleep afterwards until Williams woke him when she saw someone outside their room and then heard someone trying the door knob of the room.

Williams testified that decedent put on his pants and she went into the bathroom. From the bathroom, Williams heard the decedent ask if there was a problem with the door. Williams heard no response. Decedent ordered the person to get away from the door. Thereafter, Williams heard a loud noise as if the door of the motel room was being broken. This noise was followed by a gunshot and then a series of gunshots. Once the room was quiet again, Williams called out to the decedent but received no answer. Williams came out of the bathroom and saw decedent lying motionless just inside the open doorway with blood coming from his head. Williams shook the decedent, but he did not respond.

Decedent's gun was lying near his body. Fearing someone might walk into the open room, Williams threw it across the room. After attempting to get a call through to the motel's front desk, Williams ran to the office to seek help. Williams waited in the office for the police to arrive.

Dr. Barry Lifschultz as staff forensic pathologist at Cook County Medical Examiner's Office testified that on September 29, 1987, he performed an autopsy on the decedent. Dr. Lifschultz found five injuries to the decedent. One gunshot wound entered the left side of decedent's head which had traveled through the brain and lodged in the skull. There was evidence of contact discharge to the decedent's skin and bone. Contact discharge occurs when the tip of a gun has been pressed directly against the target and the trigger is pulled. The second injury was an abrasion to the left side of the decedent's head which is consistent with being hit in the head by a door. The third wound was a gunshot wound which passed through the right shoulder muscle and exited out the right upper back. There was powder stippling which indicates a close range firing of about six to 12 feet. The fourth injury was a bullet that entered the decedent's lung and was recovered from the left chest cavity. There was also powder stippling surrounding the external wound. The fifth injury was a gunshot wound to the left hip. The bullet was found in the abdominal cavity.

Joseph Stroter, a security guard for Great Lakes Security Company, was providing security to the Parkway Garden housing project on September 29, 1987. At approximately 12:45 a.m., Stroter saw defendant and another black man trying to flag down a car. Stroter testified that he heard the defendant scream, "Man, just stop any car. I'm shot man." Stroter saw the defendant and the other man enter an ambulance repair garage at the intersection. Stroter also noticed squad cars with flashing lights at the Roberts Motel. Stroter went to the motel where he recognized Officer Portis.

Officer Portis told Stroter that she received a "911" message of a man shot at the Roberts Motel. Stroter directed the police to the garage, telling them he thought he knew who had committed the shooting. On the way to the garage, Stroter pointed out a man walking north on Martin Luther King Drive as the man who was with defendant earlier. The police stopped and detained the man. Stroter then went to the garage and found defendant telling several workers to take him to the hospital. Stroter offered to help defendant and asked what had happened. Defendant told Stroter that "some bitch just went off" and shot him. Stroter turned defendant over to the police.

Officer Portis told defendant that she and her partner were Chicago police officers. Portis asked defendant what happened. Defendant acknowledged he had been shot, but that he did not know who shot him or where the shooting took place. Portis asked defendant whether he had been at the Roberts Motel. Defendant replied that he had not been there.

Detective Utter went to the hospital to question defendant. Utter gave defendant his Miranda warnings and asked him how he had been shot. Defendant's exact words were, "I don't know nothing, I ain't seen nothing and I ain't heard nothing." Utter left the hospital and returned later with Switowicz and Szudarski and questioned defendant regarding his wound and his whereabouts during the shooting of decedent. Defendant stated that his injury was linked to a person named "Little Bo," whom he had met earlier on the street. Defendant claimed that Little Bo...

To continue reading

Request your trial
34 cases
  • State v. Wilson
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • June 10, 1993
    ... ... State, 260 Ga. 472, 396 S.E.2d 901, 902 (1990); People v. Wright, 218 Ill.App.3d 764, 161 Ill.Dec. 444, 578 N.E.2d 1090, 1098 (1991); State v. Potter, ... ...
  • People v. Makiel
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • May 24, 1994
    ... ... People v. Wright (1991), 218 Ill.App.3d 764, 161 Ill.Dec. 444, 578 N.E.2d 1090 ...         While defendant points to several instances in the record where ... ...
  • People v. Wilson
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • November 24, 1993
    ... ... See also People v. Wright (1978), 57 Ill.App.3d 940, 15 Ill.Dec. 407, 373 N.E.2d 753 (evidence of altercation between sheriff and defendant during trip from courtroom to jail ... ...
  • People v. Glasper
    • United States
    • Illinois Supreme Court
    • June 18, 2009
    ... ... 93, 552 N.E.2d 684) and were invited by defense counsel's comments concerning Price and Farris (see People v. Wright, 218 Ill.App.3d 764, 780-81, 161 Ill.Dec. 444, 578 N.E.2d 1090 (1991) (where the following argument was held to be proper as invited by defense ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT