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People v. Ward

DECEMBER 18, 1968.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County, Seventeenth Judicial Circuit; the Hon. ALBERT S. O'SULLIVAN, Judge, presiding. Judgment affirmed.


The defendant, LeGrand Hatfield, was sentenced to the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet for a period of not less than two nor more than seven years, having been found guilty of Armed Robbery by the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. The case had been submitted to the court on a plea of not guilty with a trial by jury waived.

The questions presented for review are whether the verdict was a result of the consideration by the court of incompetent evidence, prejudicial to defendant, and whether there was sufficient evidence to sustain the conviction.

LeGrand Hatfield was a licensed pharmacist in the State of Illinois. In 1961 he had been committed by his subsequently estranged wife to the East Moline Hospital as an alcoholic. Within two weeks after his discharge, he apparently returned to excessive use of alcoholic beverages.

On August 17, 1962, defendant purchased a gun. This gun was introduced as an exhibit by the People in the trial below. On August 22, 1962, a tavern known as the Tenstopet, located in Winnebago County, was robbed at gunpoint by one Sammy Gene Baker. The evidence shows that the defendant, LeGrand Hatfield, had met Sammy Gene Baker earlier on the evening of August 22 at a tavern known as the Huddle Inn. A considerable amount of alcohol was consumed by defendant at that tavern. Defendant and Baker went from there to the Rockford Tap, where additional alcoholic beverages were consumed by both parties. At some point during the evening Robert Cletus Ward joined the defendant and Baker. From the Rockford Tap the three went to the Tenstopet in defendant's car which defendant drove. He parked the car about a half block away. When they arrived, Baker left the car, entered the tavern and, at gunpoint, demanded and received the money in the cash register. The defendant and Ward stayed in the car. Baker returned to the car and told the defendant to start moving. A police vehicle in the vicinity of the Tenstopet at the time of the robbery shortly thereafter stopped defendant's automobile. Ward was found to have a large amount of money in his possession. The police also found in the car the gun which defendant had purchased several days prior. The gun was loaded.

Defendant signed a statement on August 23, 1962, while in the custody of the police in the City of Rockford. The substance of the statement was that he, Ward and Baker had been drinking together on the night of August 22, that:

". . . We got to talking and decided to go out to the Tenstopet tavern and hold up the place. I had a gun that I had bought at Stern's Pawn Shop on West State Street. It is a .32 cal. automatic with serial number 89161. I bought this gun last week. We were going to use this gun to hold up the Tenstopet. I had a clip full of shells and the gun was loaded . . . ."

The statement further indicated the defendant drove his car to the tavern; that Baker took the gun, went into the tavern and, some 20 minutes later, returned and said, "Let's go."

After a bench trial, the court rendered judgment finding defendant guilty of having participated in this armed robbery. A petition for probation was denied, and at the time of sentencing, the court asked the defendant if he had anything to say before the sentence was passed. The defendant replied that he didn't know anything about the crime until after it had been committed. The court responded that it felt from the evidence that he had been a party to the robbery; that it was his car and his gun. The court further stated:

". . . I think there was another robbery . . . committed by the same parties under the same circumstances, but which I am not considering here."

Sentence was then pronounced.

The written statement signed by defendant on August 23, 1962, was admitted into evidence without objection by defendant's counsel. The defendant takes the position that without the statement there is insufficient evidence to find him guilty and that because of his intoxicated condition, little or no weight should be given to this statement. It appears from the record that within a day or two after giving this statement and after being transferred to the County Jail, defendant became unconscious and remained so for four days, suffering from delirium tremens.

An employee of the tavern testified that Baker came in and at gunpoint demanded and received the available money. The evidence further discloses that defendant and Ward stayed in the car and that when Baker returned, he told defendant to start moving. The robbery took approximately 20 minutes. A police officer testified that he was cruising in a squad car in the vicinity of the Tenstopet tavern when he received a call that a robbery was in progress. He said that as he approached the tavern he saw someone come out and get into a parked and waiting car. The car drove off and was stopped by the police within three blocks of the tavern.

[1-3] Defendant first contends that the statement signed by him is a statement and does not constitute a "confession," as it does not contain all of the necessary elements of the crime. Defendant urges that the statement does not explicitly state that while Baker was in the tavern he committed the offense charged. We agree that a confession must admit all the necessary elements of the crime. People v. Sowell, 56 Ill. App.2d 110, 117, 205 N.E.2d 487. We do not deem it necessary, however, to determine whether the statement made by the defendant constitutes a confession, for we cannot agree with defendant's next contention, that since it is only a statement and since defendant is a known alcoholic who had been drinking heavily on the day of the crime, the trial court should have disregarded this statement. The evidence before the trial court was that the defendant purchased a gun several days before the robbery, that on the day of the robbery he and two companions, after considerable drinking, decided to rob the ...

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