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People v. Gilmore

DECEMBER 17, 1969.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOHN C. FITZGERALD, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.


Defendant appeals from his conviction for murder. He was found guilty by a jury and was sentenced to a term of fourteen to seventeen years. Defendant first appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court contending that the introduction of records of prior convictions for impeachment purposes violated his constitutional rights and that the prosecution's final argument was unfair and prejudicial. The Illinois Supreme Court found that "[n]either claim presents a substantial constitutional question, and on the Court's own motion the cause is transferred to the Appellate Court for the First District."

The defendant raises these same points on appeal in this court.

The defendant does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence, and the facts may be briefly summarized. On October 18, 1965, at approximately 10:00 p.m. in the vicinity of Leavitt and Madison Streets in Chicago, Willie Harris was shot and killed by the defendant. Joe Lewis Phillips, a cousin of the deceased, was an eyewitness to the event. He observed the deceased drinking while he waited for him in his car. The defendant and a female passenger then drove up in the defendant's car. The deceased and the defendant had an argument. Ultimately the defendant shot the deceased who was unarmed and moving away from the defendant. The defendant ran to his car, but before he could pull away, the police stopped him and placed him under arrest.

Three police officers also testified for the State. One of the arresting officers found two revolvers under defendant's car, one of which was the murder weapon. He also found an open knife approximately five or seven minutes after the shooting, lying on the curb fifteen feet from the deceased. Between the deceased and where the knife was found is a paper stand. A crowd had gathered after the shooting. The wife of the deceased testified that this was not her husband's knife.

A second police officer testified that when he arrived upon the scene, he observed Harris lying face down holding a lighted cigarette in his right hand. He took the cigarette out of his hand so he wouldn't burn himself.

The third officer was present at the hospital where Harris was taken after the shooting. He observed a nurse remove a closed knife from a pocket of the deceased's jacket. He further testified as an expert witness that one bullet was fired from the murder weapon while a second shell had misfired.

Leon Jones testified for the defense. He knew both the defendant and the deceased. On the night in question he saw the deceased standing in a restaurant located on the corner of Leavitt and Madison arguing with the defendant. He asked the deceased to refrain and led him by the arm into the street. The deceased then pushed him into a paper stand. He did not see deceased do anything and returned to the restaurant. Both the defendant and the deceased were sober.

A police detective, testifying for the defense, stated that the defendant was a police informant. On the night in question the defendant was told to look for a specific person who was wanted by the police. The defendant subsequently notified the police upon seeing the wanted man. The defendant had been seen in the company of other city and federal police officers.

Helen Gowdy testified for the defense. She is a narcotic addict and a police informant. She had used narcotics on the morning of October 18. She heard the deceased accuse the defendant of informing on his friend. The deceased was the aggressor in the argument and was threatening the defendant with a knife before the defendant shot him.

The defendant testified that he had provided information leading to the arrest of the deceased's friend and that the deceased had demanded bond money for his partner. When he refused to provide the money, the deceased threatened him with a knife. He shouted a warning but the deceased continued to advance with the knife in his hand. He finally shot the deceased. He denied attempting to shoot the deceased twice.

On rebuttal the State offered into evidence the defendant's 1953 conviction for "armed robbery" and his 1954 conviction for the sale of narcotics. These were introduced for the purpose of impeaching the defendant's credibility.

The defendant contends that the court erred in allowing evidence of defendant's prior convictions to be presented to the jury. When the defendant elects to take the stand to testify, he will be treated like any other witness, and a prior conviction may be properly used for impeachment of his credibility. People v. Williams, 17 Ill.2d 193, 161 N.E.2d 295; People v. Lacey, 24 Ill.2d 607, 182 N.E.2d 730; and People v. Wright, 72 Ill. App.2d 150, 218 N.E.2d 798. There is also a statutory provision authorizing the State to introduce a defendant's prior conviction into evidence for the purpose of his impeachment. Ill Rev Stats 1965, c 38, § 155-1:

No person shall be disqualified as a witness in any criminal case or proceeding by reason of his interest in the event of the same, as a party or otherwise, or by reason of his having been convicted of any crime; but such interest or ...

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