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People v. Van Riper

JULY 23, 1970.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County, Sixteenth Judicial Circuit; the Hon. CARL A. SWANSON, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.


Rehearing denied and supplemental opinion September 21, 1970.

Defendant was convicted by a jury under an indictment charging that he aided and abetted one George Haynes in the unlawful sale of marijuana. He appeals from the judgment entered upon the jury verdict and the sentence of ten years to ten years and one day in the penitentiary.

Error is charged in the refusal of defendant's pretrial motion in limine, in various rulings on evidentiary matters during the trial, and in the refusal of bail pending appeal. It is also argued that the evidence does not show the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The evidence introduced by the prosecution was that defendant was present in Haynes' apartment on December 17th, 1968, the date of the alleged offense, when inspectors for the Illinois Bureau of Narcotics came there with marked money to make a purchase of marijuana from Haynes; and that there were negotiations between the agents and Haynes in defendant's presence, characterized as "haggling" over the price. The agents testified that Haynes stated he and the defendant would pick up the marijuana for the witnesses to see and that they then left in Van Riper's car, returning a short time later with the drug. Defendant is alleged to have said that he would buy it if one of the agents did not, even if he had to go out and get the money, and that it was good material. Defendant smoked a marijuana cigarette in the agents' presence in connection with this alleged conversation.

Defendant was not shown to be in possession of the marijuana and he was not seen by the agents to receive any of the money paid to Haynes in the purchase.

Van Riper testified that he was not present in the apartment on December 17th. This was corroborated by his sister and brother and two employees of a shopping center, where he claimed to be during the time in question.

The jury was justified in returning its verdict on the conflicting evidence. The credibility of the testimony of the State's witnesses was chosen over that of the alibi witnesses. The agent who made the purchase testified that he relied upon the advice of defendant that the marijuana was of good quality and worth the price to be paid before he made the purchase. This testimony on its face might appear somewhat incredulous. However, the agent explained that his purpose was to protect his "cover" as a drug purchaser and that he would not otherwise have purchased on this occasion without defendant's assurance. This explanation of the conversation was for the jury to evaluate, together with the evidence that defendant drove Haynes in defendant's car when Haynes left and subsequently returned with the supply. On review it must be said that the State's evidence was sufficient beyond a reasonable doubt to support the finding of guilt of aiding and abetting an unlawful sale of marijuana.

Defendant has placed his major emphasis on claims of trial error which he argues deprived him of a fair trial.

He first suggests that the court erred in refusing to grant his motion in limine made prior to trial. In the motion defendant sought to exclude evidence tending to show defendant used or possessed narcotic drugs. He also sought to exclude evidence bearing on his manner of appearance or dress at the time in question. While notifying the State of his alibi defense, he sought to make a distinction between the issue of defendant's whereabouts at the time of the crime and the question of the identification of the defendant. He offered to concede that the agent's testimony would identify defendant as the person referred to as being present in the apartment who purportedly aided in the sale by Haynes, but maintained that he was not there. The motion further sought to exclude evidence of actions by defendant on occasions prior to December 17th.

The court denied the motion in its entirety. In so doing, we believe that the court acted within its discretion in deciding that it would rule on the matters raised as they came up in the trial. Defendant cites the civil case of Bruske v. Arnold, 100 Ill. App.2d 428, 432, 241 N.E.2d 191 (1968), together with textbook authorities approving such pretrial motions in criminal cases. (Stanton Illinois Criminal Law and Practice, Volume 1 at pages 402 and 438; ILP, Criminal Law, §§ 265 and 267.) While we do not preclude circumstances under which such motions may be properly granted, or improperly denied, in a criminal case, the ruling on the very broad request here was well within the court's discretion.

We next consider the court's trial rulings upon the evidence sought to be excluded in the motion. The evidence questioned included the testimony by a State's witness that the defendant had smoked a marijuana cigarette in his presence to aid in the sale by Haynes and the testimony of the witness that defendant had been present but not participating on two or three previous occasions in Haynes' apartment when narcotics were sold.

The State argues that the smoking of the marijuana cigarette by defendant was admissible as part of the res gestae of the crime. We do not accept this term or concept as applicable to the situation here, but we do agree that the evidence was properly admitted.

There was considerable discussion relating to the quality of the marijuana and its worth, preceding the consummation of the sale. The testimony that defendant smoked a cigarette made from the material, boosted its quality and offered to purchase it himself, establish circumstances which properly went to the trier of the facts to determine whether defendant did aid and abet the sale. This evidence was independently relevant to prove the circumstances of the crime charged and it was unnecessary to limit the scope of the testimony to proof of a mental state by an instruction to the jury, as defendant argues. Although the act of defendant in smoking a marijuana cigarette was evidence of the crime of possession of narcotics — a crime with which he was not charged — it was so blended or connected with ...

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