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People v. Chambers

JUNE 23, 1969.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. HERBERT R. FRIEDLUND, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.


In a bench trial and under consolidated indictments defendant was found guilty of murder and of robbery. He received two concurrent sentences to the penitentiary of 50 to 75 years. On appeal he contends (1) that his in-court identification "was tainted by a prior suggestive police lineup"; (2) that he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; and (3) that the sentences imposed were excessive.

On January 24, 1966, at about 2:00 p.m., a man with a knife entered the store of the Auburn Park Cleaners at 75 East 79th Street, where Mrs. Della Fields was alone on duty as a clerk. On his demand, Mrs. Fields gave him $20 from the cash register, and then they both went to the rear of the premises looking for a "second bank" kept in a small pasteboard pin box. While they were in the rear, Henry Cullors, a 74-year-old customer, came into the store for his shirts, which defendant directed Mrs. Fields to give to him. After some colloquy, defendant stabbed Cullors twice on the face, and Cullors died while still in the store.

The testimony of Mrs. Fields as to the robbery included: The man was "trying to get Mr. Cullors behind the counter and Mr. Cullors wouldn't come behind the counter so the man just swung and hit him with the knife, cut him with the knife. I saw the knife in the hand of this man. Mr. Cullors was cut on the left side of his face or head. After this Mr. Cullors told him, `Look how I am bleeding. Let her call a doctor.' And he told him, he said, `If you don't get behind the counter and lie down I will stand up here and let you bleed to death.' Mr. Cullors still wouldn't lie down and I told Mr. Cullors, `Lie down and I will get a doctor for you.' He then laid down. The man went to the door and came back. He had placed the money box I had given him on the counter while he was hitting Mr. Cullors. He then started toward the door and came back and took his money. He took the money out of the box and threw the box on the counter. Mr. Cullors was still lying there at this time."

After defendant left, Mrs. Fields called the police, who arrived in about five minutes. Mrs. Fields described the robber to the police as a male Negro, weighing about 160 pounds, and about 25 to 30 years old; he had a pock-marked face, and he was wearing a three-quarter length black leather coat and a black hat. Later that day she modified her description of the assailant by stating that he had a large bump on his cheek and was wearing a black jersey knit shirt under the coat.

On February 1, 1966, Mrs. Fields received a telephone call from the police that they had "caught a man that might be the man." Later she was taken to the 21st District Station for a showup, where she identified defendant as the assailant.

Police Officer James Lewis, a laboratory technician for the Chicago Police, went to the cleaning store on the day of the robbery and took pictures of fingerprints found on the pin box and transported the evidence to the Police Bureau of Identification.

Officer Joseph Mortimer, a fingerprint expert with the Chicago Police for over 20 years, testified he examined the fingerprint card of the defendant made at the time of his arrest and the photographs of the fingerprints on the pin box. A comparison revealed that the prints off the box matched the right thumb and left index finger of the defendant. The officer further stated that it was normal identification procedure to make seven to twelve points of comparison for positive identification, and in the instant case there were nineteen points of comparison between the defendant's left index finger and one of the prints lifted from the pin box. In the officer's expert opinion the prints "were made by one and the same person."

The defendant took the stand in his own defense. He had no recollection of the day in question and denied the robbery and the killing of Mr. Cullors.

Defendant's witness, Mrs. Delores White, testified that she was the office manager of the Gluckman Clinic at 2407 West Warren Avenue in Chicago, and that defendant was in the waiting room of the clinic at the time the cleaning shop was robbed. A "medical history" card was presented, which showed the dates 1-24-66 and 1-26-66 as dates on which the defendant was in the clinic. The witness said she personally made the entry on the respective dates.

Officer Alford testified on rebuttal that he had seen the card on February 1, 1966, at the Gluckman Clinic, and the date 1-24-66 did not appear on the card.

Initially considered is defendant's contention that the lineup was grossly unfair and substantially tainted the subsequent in-court identification by Mrs. Fields.

Mrs. Fields testified that the lineup of February 1, 1966, consisted of five Negro men with hats on and of different heights. She was asked if she noticed whether the person who committed this offense had a goatee, beard, mustache or was clean-shaven. Her answer was that she did not know. She further testified that at the lineup she did not notice whether the defendant had a goatee or a mustache; also, she did not observe whether any of the other men in the lineup had a pock-marked face or bumps on their face. Mrs. Fields said the robber was of dark complexion and in the lineup some of the men were darker than others. She stated that in the lineup she recognized the defendant by the green jacket he was wearing.

Police Officer O'Connell testified that at the time of the lineup defendant was a "Male Negro, six feet tall, 185 pounds, dark complexion, pock-marked face, with a prominent festered pimple on his left cheek, mustache, he had badly decayed or broken teeth in the front, he was wearing a green hat, a light green ...

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