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People v. Scott





APPEAL from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. FRANCIS T. DELANEY, Judge, presiding.


After a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County, the defendant, Willie Scott, was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to a term of 25 to 40 years. The appellate court affirmed the conviction (132 Ill. App.2d 822, 270 N.E.2d 87)(abstract opinion), and we granted leave to appeal.

The record shows that the presentation of evidence began with the testimony of Iver Johnson, a Chicago police officer, that shortly before 3:00 P.M. on August 11, 1967, he had received a radio message that there was an injured man at 5912 South State Street in Chicago. There the officer found Erskine Jones, Jr., lying on the sidewalk. He had been stabbed in the chest. He attempted to question Jones, after which Jones lapsed into unconsciousness and died within an hour without recovering consciousness.

The defendant's father-in-law, I.D. Johnson, who resided at 5936 South State Street, testified that the defendant had come to his home at about 2:00 P.M. on August 11, 1967, inquiring for Evonia Scott, who was the defendant's wife and the daughter of Johnson. The witness said he had told the defendant that Evonia, who had been separated from the defendant and living with her parents for about a month, was not at home. He testified, also, that at about 2:45 P.M. on the same day, Erskine Jones, the decedent, had come to his home looking for Evonia. When told that Evonia was not at home he had left. Johnson said he observed Jones walk north toward 59th Street and a few minutes later he saw the defendant, who had been standing across the street on State Street when Jones had come to the Johnson home, walk north on State Street and on the same side of the street as Jones.

The testimony of Gussie Johnson, the wife of I.D. Johnson and the mother of Evonia, was substantially the same as her husband's. In addition, she said that the defendant had telephoned their home at 3:30 and at 5:15 P.M. on August 11, 1967, and had asked to speak with Evonia. At the latter call Mrs. Johnson told him that her daughter would be home at 6:30.

Before 6:30 that evening, both Johnsons testified, two Chicago police officers came to their home while making a house-to-house inquiry regarding the murder victim. They were there at 6:30 when the defendant again phoned. Mrs. Johnson answered the phone and handed it to her daughter, who told one of the officers to listen on an extension.

Evonia Scott testified that following this telephone conversation, she and the two officers went to the defendant's residence at 5727 S. Calumet Avenue in Chicago. On arriving, she observed the defendant standing between two buildings, looking out from the corner of one of them. She noticed that other police officers had also come. When the defendant observed her and the two officers, she said, he ran toward them and "threw away a large, single blade, yellow-handled knife." At trial she identified one of the People's exhibits as the knife.

Detective Joseph Wasilewski of the Chicago Police Department testified that he and his partner, Dale Buehler, had spoken to Mr. and Mrs. Johnson during their investigation of the Jones stabbing. They were, he said, at the Johnson residence when Mrs. Scott received a call from the defendant, and after the telephone conversation, the officers accompanied Mrs. Scott to the defendant's home on Calumet Avenue. While they were enroute they stopped and detective Buehler phoned and requested that another team of detectives meet them at 57th and South Park, which was near the defendant's home. They met Officers Pendelton and Carroll, and after these officers were shown a photograph of the defendant, which had been furnished by Mrs. Johnson, Pendelton and Carroll prepared to go to the entrance of the building at 5727 South Calumet. Wasilewski testified that he and Buehler then proceeded with Mrs. Scott to the rear of the building. As they entered the backyard they observed the defendant running toward them and away from the front of the building. As he ran he threw "an object in the direction of the garage." Wasilewski and Carroll placed the defendant under arrest, and he was searched by detectives Carroll and Pendleton, who had followed the defendant when he ran from the front to the rear of the building.

The witness said that the defendant was at once taken by Buehler and him to a police station. Detectives Carroll and Pendleton also drove to the station and there Wasilewski said Carroll placed a yellow-handled knife on a table. The witness identified the People's exhibit as the knife.

Officer Patrick Carroll testified that Detective Pendleton and he were ordered by their commander to meet officers Wasilewski and Buehler at 57th and South Park. There, after they were shown a picture of the defendant, they proceeded to the front of the building at 5727 South Calumet. As they approached, they observed a man resembling the defendant standing on the front sidewalk. When the officers got out of their car, the man began to walk from them. When one of the officers called to him, "Hold it, we are police officers," the man began to run and as he ran he took an object from his right pocket and threw it away. Officer Carroll testified that he picked up the object, a yellow-handled knife, as soon as the defendant was arrested. He identified the exhibit as the knife thrown by the defendant. Officers Wasilewski and Carroll testified also to a statement made by the defendant in the police station, which we shall discuss later.

Another witness for the prosecution was Mrs. Hilda Boyd, an acquaintance of the defendant and his wife. She testified that about 4:30 or 5:00 on the afternoon of August 11, 1967, the defendant came to her apartment at 6020 South Wabash Avenue and asked whether she had seen his wife. When she answered that she had not, he said, according to her testimony: "Well, if you see her, tell her I am going to kill her." The witness said that the defendant added that he thought he had just killed a man at 59th and State streets, who had been going out with his wife. She said he then drew a yellow-handled knife from his pocket, brandished it before her, and said: "That is the knife I stabbed him with." The witness identified the knife which was in evidence.

The only defense presented was the defendant's testimony denying the commission of the crime. He testified that from 2:30 P.M. until his arrest at 6:30 P.M. on the day of the crime he had been in his apartment. He denied having made any telephone calls that day.

The defendant contends here there was error in not admitting into evidence certain utterances by the victim; that it was error to have the jury informed that the defendant had been advised of his right to remain silent; and that irrelevant and prejudicial evidence that his wife had suffered a broken jaw was admitted.

At trial the defendant unsuccessfully argued that a statement of the victim to Officer Johnson that his brother-in-law had been his attacker was admissible as a dying declaration. He contends here, too, that the trial court erred in refusing to admit the statement in evidence as a dying declaration, or, alternatively, as a part of the res gestae or as a spontaneous declaration. The appellate court considered and rejected the claim that the requirements for admission as a dying declaration had been met. The court noted that it had not been shown that Jones had a consciousness ...

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