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The People v. Ibom





WRIT OF ERROR to the Criminal Court of Cook County; the Hon. ERWIN J. HASTEN, Judge, presiding.


This case comes before us on writ of error to the criminal court of Cook County to review a judgment entered upon a jury verdict finding the defendant, Gamili Ibom, guilty of involuntary manslaughter. The defendant was sentenced to imprisonment in the penitentiary for a term of 1 to 14 years.

A number of errors are alleged to have occurred in the trial, but in the view which we take of the case there is no necessity for us to consider any assigned error other than the sufficiency of the proof to establish the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt.

The defendant in this case, Gamili Ibom, is an exchange student in this country from Nigeria. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Oregon, had received a scholarship to return to the university on September 25, 1961, to finish work upon his master's degree in physics, and had been working as a bus driver to defray part of the cost of his schooling. On May 13, 1961, the defendant was employed by the Chicago Transit Authority as a bus driver and testified that he had been so employed for approximately one year, and was operating the Kedzie-California bus about 10:00 o'clock on the Saturday night in question. At that time John Hutt, a smallish man 65 years old, boarded the bus which defendant was driving at the Archer Avenue intersection. John Hutt was thereafter thrown or fell from the bus to the sidewalk, was taken to the hospital and there died. The People's theory of the case is that decedent boarded the bus, told defendant he did not have money to pay his fare, and that defendant thereupon shoved him out upon the sidewalk occasioning injuries to decedent's head which resulted in his death. The defendant contends decedent was intoxicated, refused to pay his fare, and that defendant then attempted to escort decedent down the steps and off the bus; that in the course of this action, decedent lost his balance and fell, striking the sidewalk.

The prosecution's testimony as to the alleged offense included Mrs. Hutt who testified that her husband was 65 years old and had been in good health, but who, on cross-examination, admitted that he had fallen and hurt his head approximately a month prior to the incident in question. Thaddeus Barnhill was the chief witness for the prosecution. He testified that he was a passenger on the bus, observed the decedent get on the bus and tell the bus driver that decedent did not have the correct fare for the bus and ask the driver to give him a lift for a few blocks; that the bus driver meanwhile had shut the doors and proceeded across Archer Avenue and that he then stopped, opened the bus doors and without any argument or "flusteration," the bus driver rose from his seat, placed his hands about the decedent's waist, and shoved him backwards out of the bus door; that as the bus driver was starting to push the man out the door, the witness got up and told the bus driver, "Stop! Don't touch that man," and that when the man fell out of the bus, the witness was standing in the door exit looking down upon the bus driver and the decedent; that the driver of the bus then reached down and picked up the decedent's feet, which were still resting upon the bus steps and threw them out the door; that witness told the defendant he had better call the police, and that defendant left; that defendant was gone gone seven or eight minutes and then returned; that subsequently the fire department ambulance arrived and removed Hutt from the street. This witness also testified that when Hutt was picked up by the firemen, one of his hands went limp, opened up, and some change fell out of it; that the firemen picked up the change amounting to 22 cents and passed it to the police officer. On cross-examination it developed that this witness, who testified on direct examination that three people, the decedent and two women, got on the bus at Archer and Kedzie, had previously testified at the coroner's inquest in response to a question as to "Who got on the bus at Archer and Kedzie?", "One man got on the bus at Archer and Kedzie," and that the man was John Hutt. The witness also admitted that he had said nothing to the police about 22 cents falling out of the decedent's hand when the witness was later interviewed. At the coroner's inquest this witness had also testified that he arose from his seat after the bus driver had shoved the decedent out the door and then told the bus driver "not to bother that man any more."

In addition, Thaddeus Barnhill admitted on recross-examination that he had signed a statement for a representative from the Chicago Transit Authority in which he also stated that the decedent was the only one to get on the bus at the corner of Archer and Kedzie.

A second eyewitness for the prosecution was Katherine Gniadek, a woman who had a good deal of difficulty with the English language. Many of her answers to the prosecutor's questions were completely unresponsive, and such intelligible testimony as she did give was largely in answer to leading questions.

As an illustration of the difficulty encountered in the testimony of the prosecution witness Katherine Gniadek, the following examples are taken from her direct examination.

"Q. Did anybody else get on the bus at that time outside of you and the other lady?

A. I don't ____ maybe ten, after ten, I don't know."

And then a little later the following:

"Q. And did you see a man get on the bus after you, and talk to the bus driver?

A. A man talked.

Q. Please talk loud so we can all ...

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