Appeal from the Criminal Court of Cook County; the Hon. ROBERT
L. HUNTER, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.
MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE ENGLISH DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.
After a jury trial defendant was sentenced to a term of three to six years in the penitentiary for theft of 26 television and hi-fi sets.
On this appeal defendant does not contend that the evidence failed to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Indeed, the record discloses overwhelming proof of guilt. The sole point raised is that defendant's right to a fair trial was violated when on three occasions during the trial the State's Attorney was permitted to elicit testimony to the effect that defendant had refused to answer questions when interrogated by the police after his arrest. In each instance defendant's attorney interposed an objection which was overruled and made a motion for mistrial which was denied.
In People v. Rothe, 358 Ill. 52, 192 N.E. 777; in People v. Hansen, 348 Ill. App. 389, 108 N.E.2d 831; and, more recently, in People v. Lewerenz, 24 Ill.2d 295, 181 N.E.2d 99, convictions were reversed because of the admission of evidence that the defendant had refused to make a statement to the police. In the latter case the refusal was on advice of counsel. The principle declared was that the defendant was within his rights in refusing to make such a statement, and that evidence of such a refusal was neither material nor relevant since it had no tendency to prove or disprove the issues being tried.
We find this line of cases inapplicable to the case before us, however, because this defendant's refusal to answer questions was relevant when considered in context, and did tend to establish the charge against him.
In the course of a prompt and continuing investigation of the theft of a truck containing a large number of television sets, detectives apprehended defendant and two other men in possession of a smaller truck loaded with a substantial part of the missing equipment. The proof of this circumstance *fn1 brings the case within the rule that unexplained possession of recently stolen property gives rise to an inference of guilt which may be sufficient to sustain a conviction for theft. People v. Hawkins, 27 Ill.2d 339, 341, 189 N.E.2d 252; People v. Kulig, 373 Ill. 102, 104, 25 N.E.2d 72. Thus when defendant was caught with the goods his explanation or lack of it became of critical importance.
After defendant's apprehension he was taken to the police station and there questioned by Officer Murphy. The latter's testimony in this regard follows:
Mr. Tuite: (Assistant State's Attorney) Q. To the best of your memory what were the words you said to Mr. Boulahanis, what were the words he said to you at that time and place?
The Witness: A. I asked Mr. Boulahanis how he came in possession of the TV sets.
Q. What did he say to you?
A. He, to the best of my recollection, his words were "You know I can't tell you."
Q. What if anything else was said to Mr. Boulahanis? What if anything else was said to you?