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The People v. Dennis





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. REGINALD J. HOLZER, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied December 3, 1970.

This is an appeal from the circuit court of Cook County which, after a jury trial, adjudged defendant Charles Dennis guilty of the offense of armed robbery and sentenced him to imprisonment in the penitentiary for a period of not less than 40 nor more than 80 years. Constitutional questions being presented, the appeal reaches us directly from the circuit court. See our Rule 603. 43 Ill.2d R. 603.

The evidence elicited on behalf of the State during defendant's trial consisted of the testimony of two witnesses. The complaining witness, Robert Brown, testified as follows: In the early morning hours of August 4, 1966, specifically around 1:30 to 1:45 A.M., Brown was operating a taxicab in a southerly direction on Cottage Grove Avenue near Drexel Square in Chicago, when he was hailed over to the curb by three persons. Brown pulled his cab over to the curb and to a point about 20 feet from a brightly lit street light in order to pick up the passengers. The first person to enter the cab was a dark-complected Negro male of about 150 lbs. in weight and standing about 5'7" or 5'8" tall. This passenger, after getting into the cab, took the left back seat directly behind Brown. The next person to enter was a Negro woman weighing about 105 lbs. and of an estimated height of 4'11" to 5'1". The woman took the middle back seat. The third person to enter the cab was another Negro male about 5'11" to 6'0" in height wearing a light, long, trench coat. This person, identified in court by Brown as the defendant, took the right back seat in the taxi. After the three were settled, the man directly behind Brown told him to go to 7725 South Dobson, which he did. During the trip, which lasted about 15 minutes, Brown had occasion to intermittently glance to his right rear in the process of changing lanes of travel, during which times he had opportunities to observe the face of the passenger in the right rear seat. Upon reaching the South Dobson address, Brown stopped his cab. At that location it was quite dark, but immediately after stopping the cab, Brown turned on the courtesy lights, one of which was located over the windshield inside the cab and the other of which, also inside the cab, was mounted just above the back window. According to Brown, the courtesy lights were bright enough to allow a person to read a newspaper.

After the courtesy lights were lit, Brown turned to his right to collect his fare, looking directly into the face of the person in the right rear seat. Thereupon Brown heard a "click", after which he observed, in the hands of the person directly behind him, a sawed-off shotgun. The barrel of the gun was directed toward Brown's head. Brown was told to turn off the courtesy lights, to shut off the motor, and to leave the keys in the ignition, all of which he accomplished. The man directly behind Brown then said to him "Let's have it," and when Brown failed to do anything, the man in the right rear seat brought his face within twelve inches of Brown's and admonished Brown not to "play crazy." Brown thereupon handed the latter approximately $25 in currency.

Brown subsequently, at the direction of his assailants, got out of his cab and ran away from the scene into a park, where he remained for about ten minutes. He then walked to the corner of 77th and Dobson, where he had been told by the robbers he would find his keys, located the keys, and started walking. Shortly thereafter, Brown hailed a passing taxi and caused the calling of the police. When an officer arrived, Brown had a conversation with him.

On August 6, 1966, Brown had a conversation with Detective Stuart Bradshaw of the Chicago Police Department at the police station located at 92nd and Cottage Grove, during which conversation Brown viewed some 50 to 60 photographs, none of which he could identify as photos of any of the robbers. Defendant's photograph was not among those Brown observed. After Brown gave Detective Bradshaw a description of the individuals who robbed him, he left the police station. Subsequently, on August 23, 1966, Brown again had occasion to visit a police station, this time at 1121 South State Street. After a conversation with Detective Bradshaw, Brown was directed to view a lineup. He observed four male Negroes in the lineup and immediately identified the defendant as one of the robbers in question, specifically as the man who occupied the right rear seat of his cab on the morning of the robbery. Prior to this identification, nothing had been said to Brown about any of the individuals in the lineup.

On cross-examination, Brown stated that when he was initially interviewed by a police officer after the incident, he gave a description of the robbers. Brown then testified that he didn't remember whether such police officer was writing the description down or not. However, Brown further saw the officer writing during the conversation and specifically while Brown was talking. Just what the officer wrote, Brown did not know. It was further brought out that Brown subsequently gave another description of the offenders to Detective Bradshaw. It does not appear, however, that this description was reduced to writing. Brown denied giving a description of the offenders to the first officer with whom he talked after the occurrence which differed from the one he gave Detective Bradshaw. With regard to the lineup, Brown stated on cross-examination that he had talked with Detective Bradshaw prior thereto. Bradshaw at that time told Brown that the latter had been asked to come to the station to view a lineup. Of the men in the lineup, Brown recognized only the defendant.

The State next called Detective Stuart Bradshaw, who testified that, in connection with his duties, he was assigned to the case in question, that he first had a conversation with Brown on the telephone when the latter was asked to come to the police station for the viewing of photographs. Brown was unable to identify any of the photographs, but did give an oral description of the offenders to Bradshaw. Brown thereupon re-enacted the crime for Bradshaw, after which he left the station. Bradshaw continued his investigation, leading to defendant's arrest on August 22, 1966. Brown was again contacted and the lineup ensued. Prior to the viewing of the suspects, Bradshaw told Brown that there would be four Negro males in the lineup, and that Brown was not to say anything until the lineup was over. The defendant was not mentioned nor were any of the other men in the lineup. Brown, upon viewing the suspects, immediately identified the defendant.

Prior to defense cross-examination of Bradshaw, the State delivered all reports which had been made out by him to defense counsel. The assistant State's Attorney then represented that the reports thus delivered "* * * constitute every single report that every investigating officer made and filed with the Chicago Police Department except for the one report made by a beat officer on August the 4th, 1966 * * *."

On cross-examination Bradshaw testified that although Brown indeed had given him a description of the offenders during their August 6, 1966, interview, such description was not transcribed. After having obtained such description of the offenders, Bradshaw phoned in a wanted message to the police communications center, which message described the offenders in the words of Robert Brown. There is no showing that the contents of this particular communication were ever transcribed, although Bradshaw had on other occasions and in connection with other matters seen wanted messages which had been reduced to writing.

For the defense, the defendant testified in his own behalf that the first time he had ever seen Brown was at the trial when the latter took the witness stand, and that he had not robbed Brown at any time. On cross-examination defendant stated that on the evening before the morning of the robbery he believed that he and his girl friend had attended a movie, although, he stated, his memory was hazy. He believed that he had left the theater about 11:00 P.M., and from there he went directly to his apartment. He did not thereafter leave the apartment, and by midnight on August 4, 1966, he had been asleep. Defendant stated that he was acquainted with one Vernon Smith, but couldn't recall whether he had seen him on the night in question. Defendant stated that Smith was a close personal friend, and although they had not seen each other at any time since August 4, 1966, defendant had written to Smith. Defendant might have on occasion been in a restaurant with Smith, but he had never eaten a meal with him.

In rebuttal, the State introduced a record of defendant's January 30, 1958, conviction of the offense of armed robbery as tending to impeach his veracity. The jury was of course subsequently instructed that the record of the prior conviction was to be used only for the purpose of affecting the witness's credibility.

The State then asked the court to call Vernon Smith as a court's witness, which request was honored, Smith testifying as follows: On August 3, 1966, he was a bartender at the Vogue Lounge, working from 7:00 P.M. until 4:00 A.M. the next morning; that defendant had been in the Vogue Lounge on August 3, 1966, from 9:00 P.M. or 10:00 P.M. until 11:00 P.M., when he left for awhile. He returned shortly and stayed at the lounge ...

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