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People v. Aristole

JANUARY 22, 1971.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

DEMATRIS ARISTOLE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JAMES D. CROSSON, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE LORENZ DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant was charged by indictment with the crime of arson in violation of Section 20-1 of the Criminal Code. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 38, par. 20-1.) In a jury trial he was found guilty and was sentenced to a term of 8 to 24 years.

On appeal defendant argues:

1. the indictment was legally insufficient to support the conviction;

2. certain medical records were erroneously excluded from evidence;

3. defendant was denied a fair trial by admission of evidence of a previous robbery conviction;

4. the court erred in failing to conduct a hearing to determine defendant's competency to stand trial;

5. the State failed to prove the requisite mental state of defendant at the time of the fact charged; and

6. the sentence was excessive.

The State presented two eye-witnesses, Ben Van Ella and Jack King. Van Ella testified that on April 6, 1968, he was employed as a security guard, patrolling with his dog the street between 1100 and 1200 N. La Salle Street. At approximately 11:20 P.M. he was standing in front of 1152 N. La Salle talking with Jack King. He saw a man at 1120 N. La Salle making a throwing motion and heard the sound of glass breaking and an explosion. He began to run toward the man and the man ran a few steps toward him and fell, then got up and ran in the opposite direction. At that time a police car drove up and an officer jumped from the car and apprehended defendant. The witness then entered the building. The first-floor apartment was in flames.

Jack King's testimony corroborated that of Van Ella. He was talking with Van Ella when he saw defendant throw a lighted object through the first floor window at 1120 N. La Salle. He heard an explosion and saw flames coming from the window. He ran with Van Ella toward defendant who first ran toward them, fell and then began to run away at which time he was captured by the police. He stated that defendant smelled of gasoline.

Chicago Police Officers Thomas Wilczenski and Thomas McNelley testified for the State. Both stated that on April 6, 1968, at about 11:00 P.M. they were patrolling near 1100 N. La Salle Street in a police car when they heard breaking glass. They saw two men running south and then observed defendant who ran a few steps north, stumbled, and then proceeded south. Officer McNelley jumped from the police car and grabbed defendant. Defendant smelled of a "petroleum product similar to gasoline." Defendant was placed in custody and Officer Wilczenski attempted to help extinguish the fire. Wilczenski stated that in his opinion defendant was not intoxicated when arrested.

John Brown testified for the State. He was one of about twelve persons who lived in the building at 1120 N. La Salle on April 6, 1968. He was in his second-floor apartment at about 11:00 P.M. that night when he heard an explosion and found smoke in the hall of the building. He was unable to go downstairs due to smoke but reached the roof by way of a fire escape.

Nick Romaniszak testified for the State. He was employed by the Bureau of Fire Investigation of the Chicago Fire Department. At about 12:30 A.M. on April 7, 1968, he investigated a fire at 1120 N. La Salle. His investigation indicated that the fire began three to five feet from the front windows of a first floor apartment and was caused by an accelerant. An accelerant is a highly flammable liquid similar to ...


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