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People v. Armstrong





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. L. SHELDON BROWN, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied May 25, 1972.

Eugene Armstrong, the defendant, and Clifton Hill were indicted in the circuit court of Cook County for the murder and armed robbery of Charles Pollard which occurred in the early morning hours of December 14, 1967. Their cases were severed and on January 15, 1969, a jury found the defendant guilty of both charges. On the jury's recommendation, the trial judge sentenced him to death on the murder charge. The trial judge also sentenced him to not less than 19 nor more than 20 years imprisonment on the armed robbery charge.

It is undisputed that at approximately 6 A.M. on December 14, 1967, Charles Pollard, a plainclothes Chicago police officer, was found dead in an alley behind his residence in Chicago. An autopsy revealed that he had been fatally shot by a .32 or .38 caliber gun. His empty wallet was found near his body, and his service revolver and wristwatch were missing. They were never found, nor were any guns discovered that belonged either to Clifton Hill or the defendant.

The defendant was arrested at about 6:30 P.M. on December 15, 1967, and held in custody thereafter. At approximately 3:30 A.M. on December 16, he made a written statement to a Cook County assistant State's Attorney. Defense counsel moved to suppress this statement and any other statements made by the defendant at or after his arrest.

At the beginning of the statement the defendant was advised of his constitutional rights and the defendant indicated that he understood those rights and nevertheless wanted to make the statement without availing himself of any of those rights.

In the statement, Armstrong told how he and Clifton Hill had committed armed robbery upon a man who turned out to be police officer Charles Pollard. He stated that Hill had shot Pollard as they tried to escape. They had taken $23 and a watch from the victim. Armstrong sold the watch. He also stated that he later told Ronald Walker of the crime after he learned that the victim was a police officer. At the conclusion of the statement, Armstrong indicated that he had been advised of his rights four or five times during his detention, and that he had been treated "okay" at the police station.

After a hearing at which witnesses were heard on behalf of both the State and the defendant, the trial court denied the defendant's motion to suppress and ruled that the defendant's oral and written statements to the police and the State's Attorney would be admissible at trial.

Other than the statements made by the defendant while he was at the police station, the only evidence which directly related to his participation in the robbery and killing of Charles Pollard was the testimony of three of the State's witnesses. These witnesses were Vernon Walker, Ronald Walker, and Rosemary Walker, who were brothers and sister.

Vernon Walker, age 21, testified that Armstrong came to his bedroom when he was there on a Wednesday in mid-December 1967, although he didn't remember the date. At that time Armstrong told him that he needed money and that he "may go rip someone off," which means to rob someone. Armstrong then placed two guns in the closet in Vernon's room. That evening Armstrong returned to the room, changed his clothes and told Vernon that he was going to "rip someone off." After midnight Armstrong again returned to the bedroom and told Vernon that he had "stuck up a guy" and taken a watch, a ring, and some money. Vernon then asked him if he could wear the watch, and Armstrong gave it to him. Later that morning Arnold Hill came to Vernon's home, and Vernon gave the watch to Hill. Vernon described the watch, and his description matched that of the victim's watch as it had been described by other witnesses. The next Friday Vernon saw Armstrong in a tavern and told him that it was "a cop he had ripped off." Armstrong did not respond to this remark.

Rosemary Walker, age 20, testified that she saw Armstrong at her home on a Wednesday in mid-December 1967. She first saw him there at about 5:30 P.M. Armstrong then left her home, but he returned around 8 P.M. with Clifton Hill. Armstrong changed his clothes and told her that he was going to rip someone off.

Ronald Walker, age 19, testified that he saw Armstrong on Thursday, December 14, 1967, at the home of Arnold Hill. He saw Armstrong and Clifton Hill counting some money and displaying guns at that time. Later that day he saw Armstrong in a tavern. He testified that Armstrong then told him that he and Clifton Hill had robbed and shot a man that morning, but that he didn't believe Armstrong at that time. Commenting on a newscast on the tavern's television later that night, Armstrong told Ronald that "the man the newsman said got shot, it was him and Clifton Hill that did that." Armstrong then asked Ronald if he could leave a gun at his mother's house, but Ronald refused to allow him to do so.

On appeal the defendant has contended, inter alia, that his conviction should be reversed because of (1) error committed by the trial court in denying his motion to suppress the confessions made by him, (2) an improper limitation of defense counsel's cross-examination of Vernon Walker, and (3) prejudicial remarks made by the prosecutor during his closing argument to the jury.

The only one of these contentions that we find it necessary to consider is the first, for it is clear that the defendant's statements should have been suppressed because of failure of the prosecution to call all material witnesses connected with those statements. The conduct that gave rise ...

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