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The People v. Triplett

OPINION FILED MARCH 29, 1967.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLEE,

v.

WILLARD LAVERNE TRIPLETT, APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Appellate Court for the Second District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County; the Hon. WILLIAM R. DUSHER, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE SCHAEFER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied May 16, 1967.

In 1956 a jury in the circuit court of Winnebago County found the defendant, Willard Triplett, guilty of the murder of his brother, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1961 his petition under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1961, chap. 38, pars. 826-832.) was dismissed by the circuit court and this court affirmed. (Memorandum Order 3307.) The defendant's writ of error to review the original judgment of conviction was transferred to the appellate court. (People v. Triplett, 33 Ill.2d 155.) That court affirmed, (66 Ill. App.2d 237) and we allowed leave to appeal.

As to the circumstances of the alleged offense it is necessary to state only that the deceased was found burned to death in the defendant's house trailer; that the two brothers had been drinking heavily and had quarreled at one time during the evening. The defendant testified that he had put his brother to bed in the trailer, and had then, at about 2 A.M., driven to Beloit to visit his former wife. His presence in Beloit at the time in question was corroborated by several witnesses. When the defendant returned, his trailer had been destroyed by fire and his brother's body was found in it. It was the theory of the prosecution that the defendant had struck his brother during a fight in the trailer and had then set fire to it and driven to Beloit.

The only issue now raised in this court is the defendant's contention that the trial court committed reversible error by permitting testimony to be given concerning two lie-detector tests. The State argues that any objection to the testimony concerning the tests was waived by the defendant's failure to assert it in his written motion for a new trial. The appellate court so held. But the defendant's motion for a new trial asserted that the trial court erred "in refusing to sustain objections to the improper cross-examination conducted by the State," and "in refusing to sustain objections of the defendant to improper evidence introduced by the State." These grounds might have been stated in more specific terms, but the defendant's repeated objections to testimony concerning the lie-detector tests and his motion for a mistrial upon that ground show that the trial judge must have known that the motion for a new trial referred to his rulings on the admissibility of that testimony.

The first mention of lie-detector tests occurred during the hearing on the motion to suppress the defendant's confession. At that time a deputy sheriff under cross-examination by the defendant's attorney volunteered the following unresponsive statement: "It was at his own request that he go to Wheaton. He didn't trust the lie test upstairs. He said, `I want another lie test.' And he said, `If it proves me lying, I will then tell you the complete truth.'" When the defendant's attorney objected the trial judge said: "I want to find out. I want to see that this man has a fair trial. You can go right ahead." The witness then continued: "So, when he told us he didn't have much faith in this lie test upstairs, we said, `Would you like to go to Wheaton and take a lie test', and he said `yes'. And he said, `If that proves I am lying, I will then come back and tell you the truth.'"

Before the jury, during the cross-examination of the defendant by the State's Attorney, the following occurred:

"Q. Did they talk to you about taking a lie test on Sunday?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Did you sign any statements on Sunday morning?

A. No. I don't think I did.

Q. What was said about taking a lie test?

Mr. Fabiano: I object to any reference to a lie test. I think the State's Attorney knows better than mentioning anything like that.

The Court: A lie test is a lie detector test, I suppose. If you change it that way, I will ...


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