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People v. Martin

MAY 16, 1968.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Criminal Division; the Hon. JOHN C. FITZGERALD, Judge, presiding. Judgments reversed.


Defendants appeal from convictions of robbery. They were tried at a bench trial along with Donald Lee. Martin was sentenced to a term of three to ten years in the penitentiary and Williams was sentenced to one to two years in the penitentiary.

The issue on appeal is whether the identification of Martin and Williams by the complaining witness was sufficient to support a finding of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Alexander Hubbard, the complaining witness, testified that on September 16, 1965, at approximately 1:50 a.m. three men hailed and entered his cab at the corner of 48th Street and South Parkway. He had never before seen the three men. The cab was then under the corner lights and, as the rear door was opened, the interior light of the cab went on. Hubbard was directed to drive north to 44th Street and then turn off toward St. Lawrence Avenue. As he turned south on St. Lawrence he was told to stop the car, "this is a stick-up." All three passengers had butcher knives. The cab was in motion as the man identified by Hubbard as Martin got money out of the driver's pocket and took the money changer. The man identified as Williams was holding Hubbard and cut him on the chest and hand. Hubbard was then ordered out of the cab and told to walk south on St. Lawrence. The assailants escaped through an alley. When the police arrived a few minutes later Hubbard gave his description of the men. He testified that he said Williams had on a brown jacket and a brown hat and that he was about Hubbard's height, five seven or eight. Martin had on a red and white sweater. At the trial Hubbard said that all three men were clean-shaven the night of the robbery. Later in the morning of the robbery, he returned to the scene of the robbery and discovered a knife similar to the one which injured him. The knife was not introduced into evidence.

On October 21, 1965, Hubbard approached two police officers at 47th and Vincennes and said he had just seen the three men who had robbed him. He testified that between the dates of the robbery and the arrest he had seen two of the defendants individually on the street but did not then go to the police because he wanted to get all three together.

Hubbard testified that he wore his glasses all the time, but on cross-examination stated that he wore them mostly to read.

Defendants testified in their own behalf and all three denied taking part in the robbery. Martin said he was unable to remember where he was on September 15th, but that he only saw the other two defendants once in September and that was on September 8th, his birthday. He also said he had had a stroke in July, 1965, which left his right hand somewhat incapacitated in that if he wrote he had "to do it by going through a whole lot of motions."

Williams testified that he was at his sister's house from 3 or 4 p.m. on September 15th until 9 or 10 a.m. on the 16th. He said he was over there often to watch television and occasionally stayed overnight if his sister requested him to. Clodies Slaughter, sister of Williams, testified that he came to her house and stayed overnight. She recalled the particular date because her television had been repaired and was returned to her that day. That evening they stayed up to watch the late movie which went of about 1:30 or 2 a.m. A repair ticket with a "date promised" of September 15, 1965, was introduced into evidence.

Lee testified that he was at home, which alibi was corroborated by his sister and mother.

Defendants Martin and Williams contend that the discrepancies in the complaining witness' testimony and identification of defendants raise a reasonable doubt as to their guilt. It is well known that positive identification by one credible witness is sufficient to sustain a conviction. (People v. Hunter, 23 Ill.2d 177, 177 N.E.2d 138; People v. Brown, 16 Ill.2d 482, 158 N.E.2d 579; People v. Robbins, 88 Ill. App.2d 447, 232 N.E.2d 302.) However, the conviction cannot stand if the identification is vague, doubtful and uncertain. (People v. Cullotta, 32 Ill.2d 502, 207 N.E.2d 444; People v. Ikerd, 26 Ill.2d 573, 188 N.E.2d 12.) The court in the Cullotta case said at page 504:

". . . where, as here, the identifying witnesses have never before observed the accused, the attendant circumstances, including the opportunity for definite identification, must be carefully weighed and considered."

The robbery took place about 1:50 a.m. Three men entered the cab at a well-lighted corner while there was an interior cab light on. As the door was closed the light was turned off. At that time the driver had no notion of any trouble. From that time to the completion of the robbery the interior lights of the cab were out. The driver was finally told to get out of the cab and not to look back.

That same night he described Williams as about his own height, 5' 7" or 8". The record shows that Williams is 6' 4". In People v. Marshall, 74 Ill. App.2d 483, 221 N.E.2d 133, this court reversed a conviction based on the complaining witness' identification of the defendant. The witness described the man who robbed him to police as 5' 10" or 11" and the defendant was only 5' 6". The court said on page 484:

"The complaining witness gave an explanation for his erroneous estimate of the robber's height. He said he was on the ground and had to look up at the robber who was standing in the truck, the floor of which was about two feet above the ground. This explanation is reasonable as far as it goes and could account for the witness' first impression of the height of the robber. However, the witness got into the truck ...

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