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People v. Littlejohn

DECEMBER 17, 1970.




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


Defendant, Jessie Littlejohn, was found guilty at a bench trial of the unlawful sale of a narcotic drug and sentenced to the Illinois State Penitentiary for a term of not less than ten nor more than thirteen years. The defendant was also sentenced concurrently to not less than one nor more than three years for jumping bail. Sentence was imposed after the defendant pleaded guilty to the indictment charging the offense of bail jumping. Defendant made a motion to consolidate the two cases for the purpose of appeal, which was granted. Defendant appeals from the aforementioned convictions on the grounds that (1) he was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) he was deprived of the true and legal name of the alleged informant purchaser, which denied him his right to be informed of the "nature and cause of the accusation", and; (3) he was denied the right to a speedy trial.

The evidence indicates that on May 18, 1965, at about 11:00 A.M., John Leak (alias Roy Andrews, an informer), called and spoke on the telephone to Officer Thomas King. After the conversation he went to the narcotics bureau at 11th and State streets where he was stripped and searched. The informant was then given two ten dollar bills which had been dusted with fluorescent powder and the serial numbers recorded. The record discloses that the informer knew that the bills were recorded but did not know that they had been dusted with fluorescent powder.

The informant, along with Officers King, Kelly, and Collins left the police station and drove in an unmarked car to the area of 63rd and Drexel. The officers parked the car in a "T" alley, north of 63rd between Ingleside and Ellis. Although the officers remained in the squad, John Leak got out of the auto and walked to the northwest corner of 63rd and Drexel streets. Prior to reaching the corner, Leak had a few words with his prostitute-girl friend named Margaret, who stood between 15 and 20 feet from the defendant.

Leak testified that he first saw the defendant standing in front of his car at the northwest corner of 63rd and Drexel. Leak had known the defendant for a period of about three months. The defendant asked what he wanted and Leak told him that he wished to purchase two ten dollar packages of heroin. The defendant then told Leak to get into the car. Both entered the car with the defendant getting in on the driver's side while Leak sat opposite the defendant. Leak testified that no one was in the car besides Jessie Littlejohn and himself. The defendant then reached up under the dashboard and took two tinfoil packages which he gave to the informant. Leak tendered to the defendant the two prerecorded and fluorescent powder dusted ten dollar bills and got out of the car. The defendant then drove off in his auto with another fellow. Leak walked across the street toward the police car, took the license plate number of Littlejohn's car and gave the two packages of heroin to Officers King, Kelly and Collins.

At about 1:30 P.M. or 2:00 P.M. of the same day, Officer Ernest Grissett received a radio communication describing defendant's auto. The officer observed the defendant's auto being parked around 67th and Langley streets. The two occupants were placed under arrest, searched, and transported to the station. At police headquarters the defendant's hands and clothing were placed under a fluorescent light. Traces of fluorescent powder were found on the defendant's hands and in the right pocket of his trousers. The pre-recorded bills were not found.

The defense attacks the sufficiency of the evidence by challenging the credibility of the informant, John Leak. The defense points to the fact that John Leak was a narcotics addict, that he was addicted to drugs on the day of the alleged sale and also on the day of the trial, that he took narcotics just prior to testifying, that he was unemployed and had an income of $51.00 per week coupled with a habit that cost him about $20.00 a day.

The Illinois Supreme Court and this court have dealt in length with the credibility and the weight to be given the testimony of a narcotics addict. In People v. Boyd, 17 Ill.2d 321, 326, 161 N.E.2d 311, the Supreme Court stated:

"We have previously had occasion to consider the weight to be given the testimony of a narcotics addict who is a police informer. In People v. Hamby, 6 Ill.2d 559, we held that the fact that a witness is also a narcotics addict has an important bearing upon the credibility of the witness and likewise held that while, technically speaking, a police informer who cooperates with the police to arrange for a sale of narcotics is not an accomplice, the situation of such a witness is sufficiently similar to that of an accomplice to warrant close scrutiny of the witness's testimony. In People v. Crump, 5 Ill.2d 251, 125 N.E.2d 615, 621, we quoted with approval the following language from State v. Fong Loon, 29 Idaho 248, 158 P. 233: `Habitual users of opium, or other narcotics, become notorious liars * * *. The capacity of a witness to observe and to receive accurate impressions, to retain them in his memory, and to correctly relate them, also his power to inclination to be truthful are all subjects which go to the credibility of a witness.'"

• 1 We agree with the defense that the fact that Leak is a narcotics addict has an important bearing on his credibility and consequently his testimony is to be reviewed with due caution. (People v. Reddick (1969), 107 Ill. App.2d 123, 245 N.E.2d 873.) A corollary of this rule is the principle that the uncorroborated testimony of an addict-informer alone is insufficient to prove an accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the unlawful sale of narcotics. People v. Watkins (1966), 68 Ill. App.2d 389, 393, 216 N.E.2d 494.

In reviewing the informer's testimony, John Leak testified on direct examination that he did not talk to anybody on the corner of 63rd and Drexel besides Jessie Littlejohn. On cross-examination he stated that he had a conversation with his girl friend Margaret before he went over to Jessie Littlejohn. The informer explained he simply forgot about the conversation with Margaret on direct examination. We believe this apparent inconsistency to be inconsequential. Furthermore, the conviction in the instant case rests not solely on the testimony of the informer. There was corroboration by the testimony of the police officers as well as the traces of fluorescent powder.

Although the police did not witness the transaction in question, the subsequent arrest of the defendant in his car in the same area with another fellow within two hours of the alleged sale corroborates the informer's testimony. Of paramount importance is the fact that traces of fluorescent powder were found on the defendant's hand and trousers. The powder traces clearly came from the two ten dollar bills. The corroborative element of the traces of flourescent powder is strengthened by the fact that the informer knew the bills were recorded but did not know they had been dusted with flourescent powder. A police officer testified that the bills had been dusted before the informer arrived at police headquarters, then recorded in his presence. These facts show that the defendant had received the marked money, thus corroborating the sale.

The defense places great reliance on People v. Bazemore (1962), 25 Ill.2d 74, 182 N.E.2d 649. We quote approvingly from Bazemore (p. 77):

"And while we are loathe to disturb their findings in such matters, we cannot say after a searching analysis of the record that the entirely uncorroborated testimony of Lenier (the informer) is so clear, satisfactory, and convincing as to remove all reasonable doubt of defendant's guilt. This is not a case where the informer's accusation receives corroboration from close police surveillance of the transaction, from an immediate arrest, or from the finding of marked money on the accused, but one ...

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