Madison - St. Clair Record

Friday, February 21, 2020

Appeals court rules dead man's last words are relevant

State Court

By John Breslin | Dec 17, 2019

Gun

MOUNT VERNON - A dead man allegedly told a tale with his last words as he named his killer on a 911 call to police, and the accused murderer's reaction to hearing the recording was relevant to the prosecution, according to the Illinois Fifth District Appellate Court.

Allowing the introduction at trial of a redacted post arrest interview with the later convicted double murderer, in which the recording of the call was played, was not an abuse of discretion worthy of a new trial, the appeals court ruled. 

Randy McCallum, convicted in September 2009 of the first degree murders of two men, Charles Black and Kevin McVay, appealed a decision by the St. Clair County Circuit Court to deny a pre-trial motion blocking the jury hearing the redacted interview.

The Fifth District ruled that the recording of the interview was relevant as it revealed the effect of the call on the defendant and, even if there was a strong argument to exclude, the other powerful evidence against the convicted man makes any supposed error harmless.

Justice David Overstreet delivered the judgment Dec. 6. Justices John Barberis and Mark Boie concurred. The appeals panel noted that McCallum was convicted after a cigarette butt at the scene was linked to him, that he was identified by a witness and that Black, in a 911 call, said “Randy McCallum” was “the shooter."

On the recording, Black, breathing with difficulty, is heard pleading with "Randy" following the firing of gunshots, the ruling indicates. The calls end after more gunshots and the sound of the victim's "death rattle."

In what was a second interview, one of the investigators told the accused man that there was an exception to the old saying, "Dead men tell no tales." The investigator then played the recording, which caused the defendant, who was an alleged sometime friend of the dead men, to sit silently at the interview table with his head down in his arms.

After the defense had raised concerns about the same investigator spending much time going over the strength of the dead man's "dying declaration" and how a jury might hear it, prosecutors edited the recording to remove some, though not all, of the police officer's opinions, the appeals court further noted in its judgment affirming the conviction and denying a new trial.

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