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People v. Bell

JULY 20, 1965.

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, DEFENDANT IN ERROR,

v.

JAMES WILLIAM BELL, PLAINTIFF IN ERROR.



Error to the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. CREEL DOUGLASS, Judge, presiding. Reversed and remanded for a new trial.

CRAVEN, J.

The defendant, James William Bell, was convicted by a jury on a four-count indictment charging illegal possession of narcotic drugs. The defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment as a previous offender under the provisions of sec 192.28-38 of ch 38, Ill Rev Stats, 1959. The defendant brought a writ of error to this court to review certain alleged errors in the course of his trial.

The defendant alleges the following errors:

1. That the prosecution's chief witness, Mrs. Diane Twitchell, was not properly called as the court's witness and that the defendant was denied the privilege of recalling her as the court's witness during the presentation of his defense.

2. The introduction in evidence of an authenticated copy of a prior conviction of the defendant.

3. The failure to strike evidence of the defendant's bad reputation as testified to by a federal narcotics agent.

4. Failure to prove the identity of the defendant in this proceeding with the person named in the record of the prior conviction.

Mrs. Diane Twitchell was an eyewitness to the alleged offense. She was a former addict who was paid $15 a day by the State to obtain evidence against the defendant. She was given in excess of $1,000 to make purchases of narcotics from the defendant, some of which she used herself. When called to testify by the State as the court's witness, she claimed she was no longer addicted.

The practice of calling a person as a court's witness at the request of the prosecution has long been recognized in Illinois. Carle v. People, 200 Ill. 494, 66 N.E. 32. This practice was recognized where the person to be called was an eyewitness and the State's Attorney could not vouch for the credibility of the witness. Since the Carle case was decided in 1902, the Supreme Court of our State has restricted use of this practice to cases where there is a showing that manifest injustice would result if such witness does not testify. People v. Johnson, 333 Ill. 469, 165 N.E. 235.

In this case, the State's Attorney stated that:

"At this time I'd like to state to the court for the record that there is a witness by the name of Mrs. Diane Twitchell and Mrs. Twitchell has been an addict of narcotics, and I do not feel that I can vouch for her credibility and I therefore ask the court to call her as Court's witness."

The defense then objected to the calling of Mrs. Twitchell as the court's witness. The court ruled:

"I will sustain the motion of the State's Attorney to make Diane Twitchell the Court's witness. Motion is allowed over the objection of the defendant."

On the face of this record, there was no showing except for the above assertion that manifest injustice would result if Mrs. Twitchell were not called. The State now asserts that failure to call Diane Twitchell as the court's witness would have constituted a "miscarriage of justice." It is further contended that the refusal to allow the recall of Mrs. Twitchell by the defense as the court's witness is not an abuse of the court's discretion.

Mrs. Twitchell testified to the purchase of heroin from the defendant on several different occasions and turning over the purchased narcotic to State narcotic inspectors. It was shown by her testimony that she was induced to use drugs by the defendant and by one Terry Suggs who was at one time the roommate of the witness. Terry Suggs and the witness, Mrs. Twitchell, became acquainted at a time when both were incarcerated in ...


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