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People v. Van Bussum

JUNE 30, 1966.




Writ of error to the Ciriminal Court of Cook County; the Hon. WALTER P. DAHL, Judge, presiding. Judgment affirmed. MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE SULLIVAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.

Rehearing denied September 12, 1966.

Defendant, Gerald Van Bussum, was indicted and tried for the offenses of involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide, and was found guilty by a jury of involuntary manslaughter. Defendant's motion for a new trial and motion in arrest of judgment were denied and the court entered judgment upon the verdict of the jury. Defendant was sentenced to the Illinois State Penitentiary for a term of not less than one nor more than five years.

The contentions of the defendant on appeal are: (1) That the instruction given by the court in regard to involuntary manslaughter was faulty in that it failed to require a showing of criminal liability by not including wilful and wanton conduct as the basis for said offense; (2) that it was error to allow the State to display, throughout the trial, an unopened gin bottle and an empty whiskey bottle, in full view of the jury; (3) that the court erred in denying a request made by him during the course of the trial to have his fingerprints compared with those on the empty whiskey bottle; (4) that the court erred in allowing a witness to testify, after an alleged order entered separating witnesses was violated; (5) that he was denied the right to impeach the credibility of certain witnesses after he offered to prove their bias and hostility.

The facts adduced on behalf of the State are: Arthur Vogel, a friend of the defendant, testified that on February 12, 1962, at approximately 7:00 p.m., the defendant picked him and David Schlosser up in defendant's auto, and the three proceeded to a liquor store in Justice, Illinois. There they obtained three bottles of ginger ale, one fifth of whiskey, and one small bottle of gin. Vogel subsequently admitted that the whiskey and gin had been stolen from the store. According to Vogel, they then went to the driveway of a friend, where they parked the auto, opened the bottles of whiskey and ginger ale, and drank highballs. They each had approximately one-third of the fifth of whiskey, and there were two or three ounces left in the whiskey bottle when it was thrown out of the auto.

At about 9:00 p.m. they went for a ride through Willow Springs, Illinois. Vogel testified that the defendant drove on Route 83 at times at about 105 miles per hour, and drove off the road several times. He stated that he yelled at the defendant to slow down. He was taken home at approximately 10:00 p.m.

David Schlosser, the other passenger, corroborated the testimony of Vogel as to the obtaining and drinking of the liquor. He stated that they each had about one-third of the whiskey. Schlosser testified that the defendant traveled at about 70 to 75 miles per hour on Route 83; that he told the defendant to slow down, and that the defendant might have gone off the road a couple of times. He was then dropped off by the defendant.

The accident in question occurred when defendant's auto struck that of Helmut Priedigkeit at the corner of the north-south street of Roberts Road and the east-west street of 71st street. The victim was seriously injured and subsequently died as a result of the crash. Roberts Road is a two-lane avenue divided by a white line. The streets were clear and dry, though snow was piled on the shoulder of the road.

Immediately preceding the accident, traveling north on Roberts Road, was a Cook County Sheriff's police car, a Village of Bridgeview police car, and a red Buick. The defendant passed all three of these cars at a high rate of speed. Police Officer Nispuruk of Bridgeview testified that the defendant was going 85-90 miles per hour, and the defendant passed him going north on the officer's left, that is, in the lane normally used for southbound traffic. A Cook County Sheriff's police officer, Homer Lander, said he was passed at 85-90 miles per hour, and the driver of the red Buick testified that the defendant passed him at 80-90 miles per hour.

Immediately after the defendant passed the Bridgeview police car, Nispuruk turned on his red mars light, as did also the sheriff's officer, and both gave chase to defendant's auto. Nispuruk testified that defendant never righted himself (i.e. got back into the north-bound lane), nor did he slow down, prior to the collision. The defendant struck the victim's Cadillac with such force that the Cadillac just "blew up" in the words of Nispuruk.

The victim was making a left turn from 71st street to go south on Roberts Road when he was struck by defendant. The defendant's auto was straddling the white line in the center of the road when it hit the victim's auto. The center of the Cadillac on the driver's side was "crushed beyond description," according to Officer Nispuruk.

Officer Nispuruk testified that he observed the defendant get out of his auto after the collision and throw away an empty ginger ale bottle. Further, he noted that the defendant walked unsteadily and that he detected a liquor smell on the defendant's breath. When Officer Nispuruk searched defendant's auto he found two empty ginger ale bottles and a full gin bottle.

Officer Lander testified that defendant's auto passed him at a very high rate of speed, about 85-90 miles per hour, northbound on Roberts Road at about 10:45 p.m. on the night in question. He immediately put on his mars light and took off after the defendant. The defendant then collided with the auto of the victim. After the impact Officer Lander saw the victim bloody and badly injured, and heard the screams of two little children who were pinned in the auto. Lander testified that after the accident the defendant got out of his car and said, "Oh, my beautiful engine."

Winan Dressel, driver of the red Buick that was also northbound on Roberts Road, said that the defendant passed him by about 80-90 miles per hour, and that his car "rocked" as the defendant sped by.

Edward Jonatis, the son-in-law of the victim, testified that he was driving immediately in front of the victim on 71st street prior to the accident. He had turned left at the intersection of Roberts Road and 71st street, and proceeded south on Roberts Road. He then saw a set of headlights bearing down upon him, and flashing red lights in the distance. The headlights came upon him so quickly that he was forced to turn his auto toward the shoulder of the road to avoid the oncoming auto. He estimated the speed of the oncoming auto at 90 miles per hour, and stated that it ...

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