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People v. Freeman

DECEMBER 12, 1966.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Criminal Division; the Hon. ALFONSE F. WELLS, Judge, presiding. Judgment of conviction affirmed.


After a jury trial, defendant was found guilty of murder. He was sentenced to the penitentiary for 40 to 75 years. On appeal, defendant contends (1) that he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and (2) that the trial court (a) misstated the evidence to the jury, (b) discredited the defense attorney and deprived defendant of a fair trial, and (c) committed prejudicial errors in the conduct of the trial and in the giving and refusing of instructions.

On March 1, 1964, the body of Cola Taylor, with multiple bruises and abrasions and naked except for a brassiere and a garter belt, was found under a porch in the vicinity of South Lawndale Avenue, Chicago. The defendant, Arthur Freeman (24 years), and William Bryant (18 years) were jointly indicted for her murder. The indictment charged that they intentionally and knowingly killed Cola V. Taylor by striking her with their fists, without lawful justification, in violation of chapter 38, section 9-1 of the Illinois Revised Statutes, 1963. Subsequently, Freeman was granted a trial severance from Bryant.

At the trial of defendant Freeman, a coroner's pathologist, Dr. Eugene Tapia, testified he performed an autopsy on the body on March 1, 1964, and made both an internal and external examination. Death was caused by multiple internal injuries. There were multiple contusions and abrasions on the face and body, and three stab wounds, one in the right lobe, one in the left superior forearm, and one in the left lobar quarter above the left groin. In his opinion, the various abrasions on the body were caused "by blows, by fist or stabbing in the abdomen."

On cross-examination, Dr. Tapia said, "In my opinion, death was caused by multiple internal injuries. I can say nothing more specific. Death was caused by a trauma. A trauma is a force applied to the body that causes a hemorrhage, laceration, abrasion, contusion, rupture of the viscera. In layman's language, it is a wound or injury. I feel that death was caused by a beating that could have been done by a human hand. The puncture and stab wound was unlikely to have caused death by the bleeding. She maybe would have died of infection. The stab wound hadn't lacerated any major blood vessel, just the bowels. The puncture lacerated the abdomen wall, the skin of the abdomen, of the belly. In my report, I reflect that the belly, also known as the peritoneal cavity, was filled with fifteen centimeters of liquid. That liquid was blood. That blood got in the belly from the laceration of the right peritoneal space. It is a rupture. The type of instrument that caused that rupture in my opinion is a stabbing, a kicking, or by fists. . . . That injury that I have just described, could not have been caused by a sharp instrument such as a knife. Nor could that injury have been caused by a can opener. The breaking of a blood vessel would occur before a body expired. In my opinion, I cannot tell the time of death. . . . I would include the injury in the area of the mouth would be the cause of death. The injury in the area of the mouth was a laceration. It didn't cause the death per se."

Arthur Flynn, testifying for the State, related that on February 29, 1964, at 2:00 a.m., he and the decedent were standing on the corner of Central Park and 16th Street, when two men with knives approached them. One of these men forced the decedent around the corner at knife point, while the other man knocked Flynn down and threatened him. Flynn, on parole for armed robbery, did not report the incident to the police. The next day, Flynn was taken to a police station and questioned about the murder of Cola Taylor. He remained in custody for two or three days, during which time he picked out photographs of the two attackers. Subsequently, Flynn identified both men from a police lineup. One was Arthur Freeman. Objections to the disclosure of the identity of the second man were sustained throughout the trial.

William Bryant, also under indictment for the murder of the decedent, testified for the State and against Freeman. He stated he expected to receive consideration for his testimony. Bryant related that he and Freeman had shared an apartment at 1423 South Lawndale Avenue, and on February 29, 1964, at 3:00 a.m., while he was asleep in the apartment, he heard a commotion in the bed with him. When he woke up, "I seen Freeman having intercourse with this woman and he was beating her in the stomach with his fist. He kept repeating, `You got me stabbed, you got me stabbed.' I got up and I went to the kitchen to get a cigarette. When I went to the kitchen I seen this fellow Otto sitting there with a knife in his hand. The man's full name is Otto Dean. I then turned around and went back into the bedroom and asked Freeman what was happening. I started pulling at his arm, and asked him what was going on. He jumped up, said, `Man, she got me stabbed, she got me stabbed.' He had a stab wound in his chest in the right side. At the time both Freeman and the lady were naked. I think the lady was Cola Taylor. Freeman was sweating and breathing hard. He had his fist clenched. He kept looking at me, and said, `I am going to kill the bitch.' He jumped back in bed and started beating her again. He was beating her with his fist in her stomach and side. He hit her quite a few times. As I was trying to get Freeman off her, he asked, `Where is that money?' She said she didn't have any at first. Then she said it was in her brassiere. So then, about this time, this other fellow, Otto, came in and ran into the bedroom with a knife in his hand. He said, `I heard that.' He put the knife to her throat, `Where is that money?' She said it was in the bed. Otto pushed me out of the bed, snatched the covers and sheets off the bed, started shaking them off. They didn't find any money. Freeman ran into the kitchen, and was looking into a cabinet where we keep beer bottles. . . . Well, he grabbed an opener, a can opener, and ran back into the bedroom with it. This guy, Otto, told me to sit down, and I could hear Cola screaming; I could hear Freeman hitting her as she was screaming and hollering. . . . So then Otto and I both got up and looked into the bedroom. Freeman was stomping on her with his bare foot in the head. She was on the floor. He sat down in the chair, reached in the bed, grabbed one of his shoes and started hitting her in the head with the heel of it. And then this other fellow, Otto, he said, `Well, I am cutting out of here,' and he left. Then I went back in the room and Freeman was still beating her with the shoe. He then said he was going to let her rest for awhile and then he was going to take her home. Then Freeman laid down on the bed, and then I got into bed and I got to sleep. At this time Cola Taylor was lying on the floor at the foot of the bed."

The next morning Bryant found the decedent in the same position and ascertained that she was dead. He awakened Freeman, and "I told him his girl friend was dead. At first he didn't believe me. He went over to her and tried to get her up. He started crying, bouncing his fist on the dresser, `Why does she have to die on me, why does she have to die on me?' I told him I was going to call the police. He said I couldn't call the police. He said since I was going to play the hero, he would rather go to jail for two murders instead of one. He also said, `If you try to sneak off I will tell them you helped me.'"

They put the body in a closet and left. Later, they returned to the apartment and carried the body into an alley and placed it under a porch. They put her clothing into a garbage disposal.

On cross-examination, Bryant described his activities during the evening and said that Otto was not present when he arrived home, and when he first saw Otto in the apartment he did not ask any questions of him. He did not learn the full name of Otto Dean until he met him in the County Jail. He also said that to the best of his knowledge he had never seen Cola Taylor before he saw her in the apartment. The court sustained objections to questions as to whether he was present in a lineup in the police station with Freeman, "when Arthur Flynn accused the two of you as taking her off the street at knife point."

For the defense, Otto Dean, then in the County Jail under a sentence of 40 to 60 years for rape, denied ever having been in the apartment at 1423 South Lawndale. He also denied knowing Freeman, and met Bryant for the first time while they were both in the County Jail. Lee Bertha Taylor, the 12-year-old daughter of the decedent, testified that on the night of the murder, Arthur Flynn had come over to their home and had left with her mother. Flynn had a long knife, and he told Cola Taylor to "get going." Geneva Bolden, then 17 years old, testified that she had a date with the defendant for the evening of February 28 at the Indigo Lounge. She arrived late, and they had a slight argument. She left the club at 2:15 a.m. and did not see Freeman afterwards. Leon Bell saw Freeman between 2:00 and 2:30 on Saturday morning at 15th and Lawndale. Freeman had a cut over the heart and told Bell he "got cut in a lounge." Freeman entered Dolly's Restaurant, and Bell went home. Roosevelt Williams saw Freeman in Dolly's on February 29, 1964, between the hours of 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. Freeman had been "cut," and when he left, Freeman was still there.

The defendant, Arthur Freeman, testified he had been in the penitentiary from 1957 to 1960 for armed robbery and again from 1961 to 1963 for statutory rape. He described at length his activities during the evening of February 28 and the early morning of February 29. He told of being attacked on the street by two unknown men. Both had knives and cut him in the chest. He went to Dolly's Restaurant, put vinegar on the cut, and met Bell. Dolly and Roosevelt Williams walked him home about 2:00 a.m., and Bryant was not there. After some time, he left the house "about 4:00 in the morning" to find Bryant to go to the hospital with him, as he was worried about his knife wound. On the street he met the decedent, whom he had seen around the neighborhood. She told him that "some chump" had "jumped on her," and he showed her his wound. She expressed concern for him, and he asked her to keep him company until Bryant came home. They arrived at the apartment at "about 3:00 a.m.," and Bryant was there.

The decedent went into the bedroom, and "Cola called me and I went in there and we had sex. Then she started complaining about her stomach, and she had my hand and she asked me, `What about rubbing it?'" Subsequently the decedent fell into a deep sleep, and defendant unsuccessfully tried to awaken her, but she appeared groggy and fell on the floor. Defendant then applied a cold towel to the decedent in an attempt to revive her and noticed a scratch on her stomach, to which he applied salt. Because the decedent was heavy and he was weak from his wound, he let her lay on the floor, figuring the hardness of it would eventually awaken her. Later, Bryant awakened him and told him, "Your girl friend is dead." His description of the disposition of the body was similar to that of Bryant.

Defendant further testified that at a police lineup of four men, Flynn identified Bryant as the man who hit him, and after some hesitation, Flynn identified defendant as "the one that had the knife." Defendant denied knowing Otto Dean — "there was no ...

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