Writ of error to the Criminal Court of Cook County; the Hon.
DAVID A. CANEL, Judge, presiding. Reversed and remanded.
MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE DEMPSEY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.
The defendant and his wife, Florence Rainford, were indicted in March 1960 for assault with intent to commit rape and in November 1960 they were found guilty of that crime in a non-jury trial in the Criminal Court of Cook County. The trial judge sentenced the defendant to the penitentiary for a term of not less than 13 nor more than 14 years. Florence Rainford received a similar sentence. This appeal by John Rainford seeks a reversal of the judgment on the ground that the court unduly restricted his cross-examination of the witnesses for the State.
The complaining witness was the 13-year-old step-daughter of the defendant. Her testimony was that on March 1, 1958, she lived with her mother and stepfather and six brothers and sisters in a four room home in South Holland, Illinois. She testified that on that morning her mother told her to return to the children's bedroom and undress and get into bed with her stepfather. She did this. The defendant was undressed and kneeled over her in a straddled position. At this moment her stepbrother, Bill Rainford, 17, walked through the room into a bathroom which adjoined the bedroom. The defendant then covered himself and she started to cry. After her stepbrother left the bathroom her stepfather told her to get up and get dressed. This testimony was corroborated by Bill Rainford who testified on behalf of the State. Both the defendant and his wife denied the occurrence.
The accused in a criminal prosecution should be permitted broad latitude in cross-examination of the State's witnesses. This is particularly true in sex cases where as often stated by our courts the accusation is easily made and difficult to disprove. People v. Matthews, 17 Ill.2d 502, 162 N.E.2d 381; People v. Scott, 407 Ill. 301, 95 N.E.2d 315; People v. Fitzgibbons, 343 Ill. 69, 174 N.E. 848. The general issue presented is whether the court clearly abused its discretion in limiting the efforts of the defense to cross-examine the prosecutrix and her stepbrother on matters affecting their credibility. People v. Dukes, 12 Ill.2d 334, 146 N.E.2d 14.
The defendant cites four specific instances where the court allegedly committed prejudicial error. These shall be considered in order.
The first contention is that the trial judge refused to permit cross-examination of the complaining witness regarding a prior inconsistent statement purportedly made by her to an assistant state's attorney some two and one-half years prior to the trial. The pertinent segment of the record concerning this contention reveals the following:
"Q. Now, as a matter of fact, young lady, isn't it true that in March of 1958 you were taken to Pat Egan's office, an Assistant State's Attorney, in this building?
Mr. Wolke [assistant state's attorney]: Object.
The Court: What is the purpose of the inquiry?
Mr. Brody: [attorney for the defendant]: The purpose of the inquiry is to show this Honorable Court that on another occasion she made a statement contrary to what she is making now. I have a right to bring that out.
The Court: . . . The objection will be overruled. You may ask her the question. (Pending question read by reporter.)
Q. And did you and he have a ...