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People v. Arbuckle

APRIL 18, 1966.




Error to the Circuit Court of Winnebago County; the Hon. WILLIAM R. DUSHER, Judge, presiding. Judgment affirmed.


The defendant, Donald Arbuckle, was found guilty by a jury in the Circuit Court of Winnebago County for the offenses of escape and aiding escape. He was sentenced to a term of not less than four years and 360 days nor more than five years in the penitentiary; also, to a term of 270 days at the Illinois State Farm, both sentences to run consecutively. He sued out a writ of error to the Supreme Court to review the convictions claiming:

1) that he was denied his constitutional rights to demand the nature and cause of accusation against him because the indictment was faulty;

2) that he was denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial;

3) that the trial court erred in the admission of evidence, and

4) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the conviction.

The Supreme Court considered the constitutional questions raised on the first two grounds and held that the allegation of error with respect to the indictment raised no real question of defendant's constitutional right "to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation." It further held that defendant was obviously not deprived of his constitutional and statutory right to a speedy trial. This cause was then transferred to this court for consideration of the remaining issues in the case. People v. Arbuckle, 31 Ill.2d 163, 201 N.E.2d 102 (1965).

On February 19, 1958, the defendant went on trial in the Circuit Court of Winnebago County for the charge of statutory rape. After a jury had been selected and certain evidence adduced, the defendant withdrew his plea of not guilty, waived trial by jury and entered a plea of guilty. The guilty plea was accepted by the court and judgment entered accordingly. The court continued the case until February 21 for hearing in mitigation and aggravation of the offense and defendant was remanded to jail.

On the evening of February 20th the defendant and one Thomas Verkuilen escaped from the county jail. The jail is located on the fourth floor of the court house. About 9:30 p.m. on February 20th the deputy jailer attempted to lock the prisoners in their cells for the night. To do this he pulled a lever which was supposed to lock all of the cell doors at one time. As he pulled the lever down it appeared to jam and one cell door opened. The jailer opened the tier door and reached in to pull the cell door closed. As he reached for the door Verkuilen came out and struck the jailer on the head with a stick. Arbuckle then came out of the cell and struck at the jailer with a sock containing a bar of soap. After overpowering the jailer, the two prisoners went down one flight of stairs to the jail office where they wrestled and overpowered a second jailer. They then went into an interrogation room beyond the office where Verkuilen pulled off a screen and broke a window. Verkuilen went out of the window and climbed down a drainpipe. Arbuckle climbed out of the window and in attempting to go down the drainpipe, fell breaking two bones in his left ankle and a bone in an arm.

An intensive search was conducted and in the early morning of February 21, the defendant was found in an automobile in a parking lot close to the court house. He was taken to a hospital for treatment and then brought back to the county jail where he was imprisoned. On the same day, February 21, he was taken into court on a stretcher and was sentenced to the penitentiary for a life term on the statutory rape conviction. Thereafter, he was indicted for the offenses of escape and aiding an escape and was returned to Winnebago County for trial on these charges in June of 1958. He was represented at the trial and in this appeal by an experienced trial attorney appointed by the court.

At the trial the sheriff, two jailers and seven other deputy sheriffs, Thomas Verkuilen and the chief deputy clerk of the circuit court, testified on behalf of the State. The defendant testified in his own behalf. The gist of the defendant's testimony was that on the evening of February 20th, the doors of the jail were opened so he walked out with Verkuilen. With reference to his attack on the first jailer, he testified that he was defending himself as he was going out the door because the jailer was trying to hit him with some keys.

The testimony leaves no doubt whatsoever in our minds but that defendant Arbuckle was guilty of the crimes for which he is charged. We have examined his argument with respect to corpus delicti and the evidence being insufficient, but find no justification for these arguments.

[2-7] Defendant contends that the conviction of the felony of statutory rape was not properly proved. It must be kept in mind that this was not offered for impeachment purposes. This proof was offered during the State's case in chief because one of the necessary elements of the charge against him under the Escape Statute was that at the time of his escape he was confined in jail on a felony charge. For the same reason the State also offered evidence tending to show that at the time of the escape Verkuilen was imprisoned on a misdemeanor conviction. To offer this proof the State called the deputy circuit clerk as a witness who read certain portions of the court records in plaintiff in error's statutory rape case and in Verkuilen's petty larceny case. The entire records in both of these cases were admitted in evidence as People's Exhibits 2 and 3. We feel that the records were properly introduced and that the two convictions were proved by the records. Whether the clerk should have been permitted to read portions of those records to the jury we feel was a matter within the province of the trial court.

It is urged that the court erred in admitting the testimony of one Michael Iasparro, deputy sheriff, pertaining to a confession made by defendant at the hospital in the early morning of February 21, 1958, in violation of c 38, § 729, Ill Rev Stats (1957). The deputy sheriff who was listed as a witness on the indictment stated that he saw defendant lying on a table in the emergency room of the hospital. He asked the defendant what happened and what he had done. The defendant responded that he was glad he got caught because he was frozen to death and that he thought his ankle was "busted." The defendant stated that they, he and Verkuilen, had planned the escape for about a week, had obtained some soap and jammed the lock of the cell door. When the door jammed and the jailer entered the cell tier to shut the cell door, he struck the jailer in the face with a sock. As they went down the stairs, they met the other jailer and there was a scuffle. He stated that they then went into the interrogation room, pulled off the screen mesh and broke ...

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