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The People v. Armstrong

OPINION FILED MAY 19, 1961.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, DEFENDANT IN ERROR,

v.

JAMES ARMSTRONG, PLAINTIFF IN ERROR.



WRIT OF ERROR to the Criminal Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOSEPH DRUCKER, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE SOLFISBURG DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied September 20, 1961.

James Armstrong, hereinafter called defendant, was indicted for the crime of statutory rape of his stepdaughter, Betty Jean Cobbs, age 14. A jury in the criminal court of Cook County convicted him and fixed his punishment at imprisonment for a term of fifty years.

The defendant contends on writ of error that the State's attorney committed deliberate prejudicial error when he interrogated a witness in relation to the defendant having committed other sex offenses with other girls, and that the court erred when it overruled defendant's motion to strike testimony about other girls having been involved with the defendant. The State contends that prior contradictory statements to show interest and bias of a witness and for the purpose of impeachment may always be proved to enable the jury to evaluate the credibility of the witness.

The complaining witness testified that at the time the defendant had acts of intercourse with her she was 14 years old. She further testified that she had become pregnant as a result of one of the acts, and that when she learned she was pregnant, she told her mother and her school teacher, Mrs. DeLeo.

Mrs. DeLeo, a school teacher at the Spaulding School for Crippled Children, stated that on March 5 and again on March 24, 1959, the complaining witness told her about intercourse she had the night before with her stepfather. Mrs. DeLeo further testified that she had a conversation with the complaining witness' mother, Mrs. Louise Armstrong, on March 6, 1959, following the March 5 incident.

Mrs. Louise Armstrong, testifying for the defendant, stated that the complaining witness never mentioned the defendant's name as having had intercourse with her. She further testified that in February, 1959, she talked with the complaining witness in the presence of the defendant and his mother, at which time the complaining witness stated that it was a blind boy at school, Willie, who made her pregnant. On cross-examination, she testified that she did not discuss with Mrs. DeLeo and a Mrs. Miller, another school teacher, the fact that her daughter had made a complaint about her husband. On cross-examination of Mrs. Armstrong, part of the testimony is as follows:

"Q. Did you not also tell them, when they told you about the fact that your husband had been doing this to your daughter, that he had done something similar to his own daughter and to a neighbor girl?

"A. No."

There was no objection to the above question. Mrs. DeLeo was again called as a rebuttal witness, apparently to impeach Mrs. Louise Armstrong, and the testimony is:

"Q. Was there anything said about any other girls at that time?

"A. Yes."

To a defense objection the court said:

"Objection sustained. I just sustained that. It is the ...


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