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People v. Reed

DECEMBER 16, 1968.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. HARRY S. STARK, Judge, presiding. Judgment reversed.


The defendant, Johnnie Reed, was charged with the crime of attempted robbery (Ill Rev Stats, c 38, § 8-4). He was found guilty after a bench trial and was sentenced to the Illinois State Penitentiary for not less than one year nor more than three years. Our record shows that the date of conviction was April 19, 1967, and that on the same day notice of appeal was filed. The abstract and brief for the defendant was filed on August 23, 1968, more than a year later, by the Public Defender. The brief for the State was filed on September 25, 1968. No reply brief was filed and oral argument was heard on November 18, 1968.

The defendant contends, on appeal, that the State did not establish defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, on the ground that the single identification of the defendant was vague, doubtful and uncertain. This contention is predicated upon the fact that the description of the complainant gave the police said nothing about the assailant's face, but merely mentioned the dark coat he, the assailant, was wearing. The rule is well established in Illinois that a conviction cannot be deemed to be sustained by evidence beyond a reasonable doubt if the identification of the accused was vague, doubtful and uncertain. People v. Ikerd, 26 Ill.2d 573, 579, 188 N.E.2d 12. However, a single identifying witness has been held sufficient to sustain a conviction. People v. Hunter, 23 Ill.2d 177, 180, 177 N.E.2d 138.

The evidence reveals that Ernesto Pizarro, the complaining witness, was returning to his apartment about 8:45 p.m. on January 30, 1967. When nearing Wabash Avenue on 9th Street, he was approached by a man wearing a dark coat and holding a gun, "a beautiful Lombardi revolver." The assailant said "give me some money" to which Pizarro replied "I no have no money, I give you no money." When asked what happened after he told the assailant that he had no money, the complainant answered "Well, I walked into my home . . . across the street, I am watching the guy to see he is going downtown or turning south." Mr. Pizarro said he observed the assailant walk east on 9th Street and then south on Michigan Avenue. The complaining witness then went outside, hailed a passing police squad car, and went "looking for a guy with a dark coat on." Twenty minutes later, at about 12th Street on Michigan Avenue, the occupants of the squad car saw a man walking behind some parked cars. The squad car turned around and two policemen got out of the car to apprehend the man. The two police officers seized the defendant and brought him back to the squad car where Pizarro identified him as the man who had accosted him. Mr. Pizarro also testified that at the time of the attempted robbery, lighting conditions were good.

Spencer Coleman, a police officer, testified that after Pizarro entered his squad car they saw a person walking on Michigan Avenue about the 1200 block. The man they observed "had the type of hat that the complainant had described, and he had a bundle, it looked like he was putting on his coat." Officer Coleman said they then turned the squad car around in order to face the defendant. When they had done this the defendant ran away. The defendant, when apprehended, was carrying a dark gray coat and had taken off all of his clothes except his pants, shirt and shoes. The defendant also had thrown his hat on the ground. Officer Coleman said that the defendant struggled for a few minutes when he was arrested.

The defendant testified that he was unemployed and had been job hunting that morning. He further testified that he had attended a movie in the early evening and at 7:20 p.m. started to walk home. The defendant denied that he had attempted to rob Pizarro and also denied that a police officer had chased him on the night in question. He said he did not own a gun.

It appears from the testimony of the various witnesses that Pizarro's identification of his assailant rested entirely on the dark coat the assailant was wearing and the "beautiful Lombardi revolver" which was never found. The only words the assailant uttered were "Give me some money." On direct examination the complaining witness did not state the length of time he observed the defendant during the robbery attempt. The complainant also did not give a description of the defendant based on impressions received at the time of the attempted robbery. After Mr. Pizarro testified to the few words that passed between his assailant and himself and how the defendant was apprehended, he was asked the following questions and he made the following answers:

Q. Now, did you see the defendant sitting in the courtroom, Johnnie Reed, immediately after this? Did you see him?

A. Immediately afterwards, I don't identify him from face to face, but I identify the coat that he was wearing as a dark coat.

Q. Did you see him face to face?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. And was anyone with Johnnie Reed when you saw him face to face?

A. The policeman.

Q. And about how much later in terms of minutes was this that you saw Johnnie Reed from the time in which Johnnie ...

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