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People v. Conrad

MARCH 10, 1967.




Writ of error to the Circuit Court of Cook County, Criminal Division; the Hon. ALFRED J. CILELLA, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.


After a jury trial defendant was convicted of murder and was sentenced to the penitentiary for life. Defendant sued out a writ of error in the Supreme Court and the case was transferred to this court.

Contentions on Appeal *fn1

1. Defendant was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in that he was insane, as a matter of law, at the commission of the murder; and

2. Defendant did not receive a fair trial.


On January 4, 1960, defendant was a journeyman pipefitter, thirty-nine years of age. He resided on South Moody Avenue in Chicago with Margaret Conrad, his wife of approximately three and one-half years, and Mrs. Conrad's two daughters from a previous marriage: Margaret Nowicki, the decedent, who was fourteen years old, and Elaine Nowicki, age twenty.

According to the evidence adduced by the prosecution, Elaine Nowicki left early in the morning for work. Defendant then drove his wife to work and returned home. The decedent was at home and was supposed to accompany defendant to the union hall where the latter was to seek employment, as he had been laid off from his job two days before. At one-thirty that afternoon Elaine called home and spoke with defendant. She recalled that defendant said that he had gotten a new job and they discussed the possibility that she could now ride to work with him. She also stated that defendant appeared anxious to end the conversation and, in response to her inquiry as to the reason for his haste, defendant replied that he had a great deal of housework. There was also some discussion of a gift that she was going to buy and defendant stated that Margaret was watching television. Margaret Nowicki's body was found at 6:00 p.m. that evening by her mother when she returned from work. *fn2 The body was prone on the living room floor with the hands outstretched, covered with a blanket. It was clothed in a torn white blouse, or pajama top, and a pair of panties which were inside out and backward. A babushka was worn loosely about the neck. The handle of a knife protruded from the area of the fifth rib, the blade having penetrated the heart and left lung in an oblique, upward direction. There were several contusions on the body: on the left side of the face, the front of the neck, the right thigh, right arm and at least one wrist. There was a swollen lip and a bloody discharge in the mouth, and a scratch appeared at the base of the left thumb. The contusions were sustained prior to death, not more than eighteen hours before infliction of the wound.

Defendant testified as to his activities in the house after driving his wife to work. He stated that when he returned home Margaret was still in bed; that he told her to dress so that she could accompany him to the union hall; that she expressed reluctance in leaving the house because a thirty-five year old neighbor was coming over for a "Christmas drink." Defendant advised her to forget any arrangement with the neighbor and Margaret made an indiscernible response. Defendant then testified that he drank a large amount of beer and wine, but Margaret still was not ready. He took a butcher knife from the kitchen and went to the basement to cut some cardboard to put on top of the Christmas tree box but, finding no cardboard in the basement, he returned to the kitchen. Defendant carried with him a length of clothesline from the basement. Defendant drank additional amounts of liquor, placed the knife on the table and attempted to remove knots from the clothesline. He called to Margaret again but she told him that he would have to come up and drag her out. After advising her that he would, she replied that he wouldn't dare. Defendant ascended the stairs and entered her bedroom. After he tugged on the corner of the quilt on the bed, she sat up in bed and playfully swung her fist at him. Defendant grabbed her hands and tied them together with the clothesline which he had brought from the basement. He loosened his hold on the line when she complained of being hurt, and Margaret began to tug on it. Defendant then dropped the clothesline, went downstairs to the kitchen and drank more whiskey. He then picked up the butcher knife, went into the living room and began counting Christmas cards hanging in an archway. He became dizzy and his head began to ache. He became aware that something was in back of him and swung around with the knife still in his hand. Defendant admitted that the decedent had on occasion snuck up behind him and tugged on his belt. (In his statement to the Chicago Police defendant admitted that he knew it was Margaret behind him and that he remembered only that the knife was going towards her.)

The next event that he was able to recall was the phone ringing (the call from his other daughter, Elaine). Defendant's only recollection of the conversation that transpired in that call was that it dealt with whether something was wrong, in that Elaine had perceived a strange quality in his speech. After concluding that telephone conversation defendant, becoming aware of an unusual silence in the house, walked into the living room and found Margaret on the floor. Defendant touched her, discovered blood, determined that Margaret was dead and collapsed in bewilderment in a living room chair. He then went to the bedroom to obtain a blanket with which to cover the body. Subsequently he took some checks from a dresser, cashed them at a bank, packed a suitcase and took a taxi to the railway station. Defendant next was able to recall only that he found himself in a depot in Milwaukee.

Defendant remained in Milwaukee for six days, living under an assumed name in a hotel and drinking alcoholic beverages. He then told his story to a priest who advised him to go to the police, which defendant did. Defendant hailed a police car. The testimony with regard to defendant's statements to the police officers in Milwaukee are in conflict. Defendant testified that he told Officer Parys (the policeman who was driving the squad car which he hailed) that he was wanted in Chicago for the death of his daughter; that the officer questioned him as to his health and whether he hadn't been drinking too much; that he was finally placed in the squad car, driven into an alley, and further questioned as to his sobriety; that he asked Officer Parys to take him to someone with authority, and was then taken to the police station in another police vehicle (referred to by defendant as a "wagon") called by the policeman.

Officer Bernard Parys testified that defendant told him "I killed my stepdaughter." He further stated that defendant was immediately placed in the squad car, taken to a side street and then was conveyed in another vehicle to the police station. The next day defendant was taken into custody by the Chicago Police, who returned him to Chicago. Defendant's statement to them was rendered the following day.

With regard to defendant's relationship with his stepdaughters, Mrs. Conrad testified that:

At night when they used to go up to bed they used to kiss him good night and he used to say, "now, kiss me the way you are supposed to." He didn't want to kiss them like a dad. He wanted them to really kiss him.

A lot of times Margie [the deceased] would go to kiss him and back away and he would grab her and he would say, "Kiss me. Let me show you how." And he did the same with Elaine and Elaine said, "If you don't want me to kiss you, Dad, I won't kiss you at all," and she went upstairs.

Mrs. Conrad's testimony was corroborated by her daughter, Elaine.

On January 5 a post-mortem examination was performed by two coroner's pathologists, one of whom was Dr. Leo Pevsner. He testified that in addition to the various other injuries to the body of the deceased as aforesaid, on the inside of the right thigh there was a contusion encompassing a circular area slightly less than one inch in diameter; the hymen was not intact and there was evidence that it had been perforated quite recently. Sperm was ...

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