Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County; the Hon.
ALBERT S. O'SULLIVAN, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.
MR. JUSTICE SEIDENFELD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.
Defendant appeals from a judgment of conviction of murder, and from the 14- to 20-year sentence imposed thereon, after a jury verdict.
In support of his claim of errors sufficient to require a reversal and a remand for a new trial, defendant urges that a statement of the deceased was improperly introduced as a purported dying declaration, and that he was not proven guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt upon his introduction of evidence of justifiable use of force in self-defense. Defendant further urges that his motion for a directed verdict at the close of the People's case was improperly denied, and claims procedural errors in the order of proof.
On April 21st, 1968, Eddie Crooks appeared in the doorway of the office on his used car lot. Donald Hampton, a witness for the State, testified:
"I noticed he hesitated for a moment, a second more or less. His face was real white. And the light reflection on his shirt, it appeared to be red. And I took it for granted at the time he had a red shirt, which I'm not sure of. But it appeared to be wet when the sun reflected on it, and he was acting kind of funny. He was standing erect, kind of stiff like, and staring right directly ahead.
"He proceeded down the steps. He was putting his hands on the side of the doorway. Walked [of] stiff legged down the steps. I was still in my car at this time watching, because I thought it looked like he might be sick or something. So just as he stepped off the bottom step on a little concrete landing, his knees buckled. His knees came towards the direction I was in. He fell backwards. And his head happened to strike one of the steps. . . ."
The witness further testified that Crooks was on his back and that he went up to him, saw that there was blood all over his shirt and called for a Mr. Robbins, who was in the vicinity, to call an ambulance. However, Robbins did not seem to know what Hampton was saying, so Hampton rushed into the office and made the call while Robbins rushed over to where Eddie Crooks was lying.
Carl Robbins testified (first out of the presence of the jury, and thereafter in the jury's presence):
"I told him, I said, `Just take it easy, Eddie, I got an ambulance on the way.' And he said, `Tell them to hurry,' he said, `I'm hurting bad,' he said, `I don't think I'll make it this time.'
"I said, `Who did this to you?' And he said, `Big Ed, the mailman.' And that's all that was ever said."
Dahlin, a Rockford Police Sergeant, answered the call and arrived at the scene within two or three minutes. He testified:
"Well, I went up to the individual laying on the sidewalk with his head laying on the stoop. And I says, `What happened'? He says, `I've been shot.' I says, `Where?' And he says, `In the chest.' He had his hand on his chest.
"And I says, `Well, take it easy,' I said, `The ambulance is right behind me.' And I said `Who shot you?' And he said, `Ed Aarhus.' I said ...