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People v. Radford

APRIL 3, 1967.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Criminal Division; the Hon. EUGENE WACHOWSKI, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.


Rehearing denied May 18, 1967.

After being jointly indicted and tried before a jury, defendants were found guilty of conspiracy and sentenced. On appeal, defendants assert trial errors and that the State failed to prove the material allegations of the indictment. Defendants' separate appeals were consolidated here.

The indictment shows that six persons were jointly indicted for the offense of conspiracy to commit theft of property in excess of $150 in value, "that is to say, they intentionally and knowingly agreed to obtain by deception control over lawful money . . . the property of the Continental Casualty Company, a corporation, intending to permanently deprive the said Continental Casualty Company of the use and benefit of said property." The indictment further alleged the details of self-inflicted injuries, a deliberate automobile collision and the filing of actions for damages against the Keeshin Transport System, "in violation of Chapter 38, Section 8-2, of the Illinois Revised Statutes 1963."

Of the six indicted, two testified for the State at the trial of the three instant defendants, Walter Radford (otherwise known as William Rowe), Douglas McGhee, and Raymond Howard. The jury found the defendants "guilty of conspiracy in manner and form as charged in the indictment." Howard was placed on probation for two years, with the first 90 days to be served in the House of Correction. McGhee was sentenced from one to two years in the penitentiary. Radford was sentenced from four to five years in the penitentiary.

John Harrell and Wilson Thomas, Jr., the two conspirators who testified for the State, related in detail the planning and the execution of the injuries and the collision. Early in May, 1963, defendant Walter Radford went to the house of John Harrell. Radford drove Harrell to a meeting with defendants Howard and McGhee, who, Radford told Harrell, had already agreed "about having their arms and legs broken." Radford offered Harrell "$400 for breaking Raymond Howard's or Douglas McGhee's arm or leg, whichever one wanted the leg or arm broke." Later, at Radford's home, and in the presence of Douglas McGhee, Raymond Howard, Harrell, and Wilson Thomas, Jr., who had a broken arm in a cast, Radford told them he "had witnessed Wilson Thomas, Junior's accident, and he had taken him to a lawyer," who had already turned down a settlement offer of $5,000. Later that afternoon, McGhee and Howard decided not to go through with the plan.

On May 16, 1963, Radford again met with Harrell, McGhee and Howard, and said, "This is the day we are going to have the accident," and McGhee and Howard agreed to go ahead with the plan. Later, they all met with Wilson Thomas, Jr., and he introduced Radford to Richard Singleton, and Radford "told Singleton that he could make a whole lot of money by just driving this car in a set up accident." Radford and Harrell then picked up two cement blocks and put them in the trunk of Radford's car. In the afternoon of the 16th, Radford said to McGhee and Howard, "Which would you want, your leg broke? Or which one wants your arm broke. The one with the leg can collect more money than the one with the arm broke." McGhee and Howard flipped a coin to determine which one would get the broken leg, and "Raymond Howard won. He was the one that would break his leg and Douglas McGhee would break his arm." Radford then "told Singleton that he was to be the driver of the car that was going to be involved in the accident, along with two other passengers, Raymond Howard and Douglas McGhee; . . . that he would give the signal by giving two blasts from the horn, and for Richard Singleton to get his car in front of the truck so that he could cut Richard Singleton off when the truck hit him."

Later that evening, May 16, 1963, McGhee's arm was placed on the two cement blocks, and Harrell broke the arm with an automobile axle. The same procedure was repeated with Howard's leg, after some persuasion and threats. Radford, Thomas, Singleton and Harrell helped McGhee and Howard into the rear of Singleton's car. Then Radford, with Harrell and Thomas in his car, and Singleton, with McGhee and Howard in his car, drove to the Dan Ryan Expressway, and Singleton got in front of a Keeshin Transport System truck, driven by Rex Flowers. At approximately 10:00 p.m., while southbound at about 55th Street, Radford cut off Singleton's car, Singleton slammed on the brakes, and the Keeshin truck hit Singleton's car. Flowers stopped the truck, put out warning flares, and "talked to some fellow who came there and wanted to know if I needed a witness to the accident. He said he saw it. He gave me a name and address." The name was Hansen, and "I gave the card to the company, for insurance." Flowers was informed that two men were injured.

A traffic police officer assigned to patrol the Ryan Expressway, and who arrived at the scene of the occurrence within a few minutes, testified that Howard and McGhee were in the back of Singleton's car, conscious and moving. He noticed the skid marks were unusual, and the brake lights were disconnected. Radford told him that he was a witness.

A claim representative for the Continental Casualty Company testified that on May 17, 1963, he was assigned to investigate the occurrence. He attempted to locate the one witness, Arthur Hansen, 4805 South Forrestville Avenue, Chicago, and "I didn't find him. . . . He wasn't living there. He wasn't known there." He never made contact with Hansen. Harrell testified that it was Radford who told the truck driver that his name was Arthur Hansen, and that he gave "4805 South Forrestville" as his address.

Over the objection of defendants, the court received in evidence, as State's exhibits, certified copies of personal injury complaints filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County on behalf of Howard and McGhee for $75,000 each. No testimony was offered on behalf of the defendants.

Considering the trial errors complained of, we find no error in the court's denial of defendant Radford's motion for a more complete answer to his request for a bill of particulars. The State's answers included the date, time and place of the occurrence, and offered "to furnish the statement of John Harrell which covers the details of each of these alleged transactions." We consider that the indictment and the answers of the State sufficiently specified the particulars of the offense, so as to enable the defendants to prepare their defense. This was a matter for the sound discretion of the court, and we find no abuse of discretion in denying the motion. People v. Petrilli, 344 Ill. 416, 419, 176 N.E. 437 (1931).

Defendant Radford next complains that he was seriously prejudiced when the State questioned Wilson Thomas, Jr., an accomplice witness, as to whom he meant when he referred in his testimony to "Willie," and the witness answered, "Walter Radford." He was then asked by the State, "What name do you know him by?", and the witness responded with four alleged aliases. It is argued that this inquiry was made for the sole purpose of prejudicing the jury and calling the attention of the jury that Radford "used many aliases as is often done by men with prior criminal records."

We agree with defendants that "it is never the duty of the State's Attorney to resort to unfair and improper methods to secure a conviction." (People v. Jackymiak, 381 Ill. 528, 46 N.E.2d 50 (1943).) We have examined the record on this point, and we find no error. Defendant Radford was named in the indictment with an alias "William Rowe." It was proper to connect the testimony about "Willie" with defendant Radford and not improper ...

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