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People v. Hutchins

DECEMBER 19, 1972.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ROBERT J. COLLINS, Judge, presiding.


This appeal unfolds a phenomenon of our times: the inexplicable, reasonless street killing of one teenage lad by another. In this case, defendant was charged with murder, a jury convicted him and the court sentenced him to imprisonment for 30 to 60 years.

The event, a tragedy for all concerned, occurred at about 7:00 P.M. on May 6, 1969 near an alley in the vicinity of South Ada Street and West 71st Place, Chicago. Janice Sparks, Ronald Murphy, Edward Cooper, Larry Haney, all teenagers, were going home from an after-school baseball game in a nearby playground. At or near the alley, a boy ran past Haney and toward Ronald Murphy. Haney heard some shots. He turned and saw the boy firing a gun at Murphy. Two other boys joined the first one. More shots were heard. Janice Sparks turned, looked and saw a boy with a gun in his hand. She knew the boy, having seen him 15 or 20 times before. He lived in her neighborhood and had been in her home visiting her brother, Jerry. Janice did not know the boy's real name. She knew him by the nickname, "Turk." She saw the boy shoot Ronald Murphy. Murphy was wounded in the back and died almost immediately. Just before the shooting, Janice Sparks heard "Turk" and the boys with him yell, "Mad Lads!" The police arrived a short time later and Janice gave them her name and address. The next day she told police officers that it was "Turk" who shot Ronald Murphy. Although she could not give them "Turk's" name, her brother suggested that a neighbor, Willie Pate, possibly knew it because Pate and "Turk" had attended the same high school. From this information, the investigating officers learned that defendant was the boy who was known to Janice Sparks as "Turk."

This discovery also disclosed to the officers that on May 4, 1969 defendant had run away from home. His mother, Mrs. Evonn Hutchins, had reported this fact to the police. On May 8, 1969, two officers, one then investigating the shooting of Ronald Murphy, went to Mrs. Hutchins' home and asked if she had a photograph of her son. The officers did not tell her that defendant was wanted for murder. Mrs. Hutchins gave the officers a class group photograph that had a circle around the head of a boy who, Mrs. Hutchins told the officers, was her son. Using this photograph, the officers went to Janice Sparks and showed it to her. She told them that "Turk" was the boy whose head was encircled in the photograph. Defendant was then arrested and taken to the police station. A short time later, Janice was brought to the station. She saw defendant and told the police that he was "Turk." Defendant was indicted and charged with the murder of Ronald Murphy.

Prior to his trial, defendant filed a motion to suppress the identification testimony of witnesses for the State on the ground that his pre-indictment confrontation with them violated his constitutional rights. After hearing supportive evidence, the trial court overruled the motion. The cause then went to trial before a jury which, over objections, heard the testimony of a Chicago Police Department Youth Officer that on July 24, 1967 he had a conversation with defendant in which he said his nickname was "Turkey" and that he was a "Mad Lad." After hearing the evidence and receiving its instructions, the jury returned a verdict finding defendant guilty of the murder of Ronald Murphy.

Urging that his conviction be reversed, defendant presents three issues. I. Whether the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the in-court identification testimony of witnesses for the State. II. Whether the trial court erred in allowing a Chicago Police Department Youth Officer to testify, over objections, that he had a conversation with defendant in July 1967. III. Whether the sentence imposed by the trial court is excessive.


The record discloses that Janice Sparks was the only witness who, in court, identified defendant as the boy who shot Ronald Murphy on May 6, 1969. Janice Sparks' testimony was clear, certain and convincing. It showed she knew the defendant, saw him shooting Murphy and recognized him when she looked at his face. When he testified in support of his motion, defendant admitted that he had known Janice Sparks for about a year and a half, the period they attended school together. In fact, defendant volunteered the information that he saw Janice almost every weekend during that time. It appears, then, that this important witness knew the defendant, had an adequate opportunity to see him and had the occasion to observe and recognize him. Therefore, her in-court identification testimony was based on a source separate and apart from any identification procedure conducted by the police.

• 1, 2 This being so, the issue is resolved by the principle that legal or constitutional questions do not arise when one suspected of a crime is identified by a person who has previously known him and the in-court identification is independent of and uninfluenced by any pretrial confrontation. (See People v. Robinson, 42 Ill.2d 371, 247 N.E.2d 898; compare People v. Davis, 45 Ill.2d 514, 261 N.E.2d 314; United States ex rel. Phipps v. Follette (2 Cir. 1970), 428 F.2d 912; People v. Hudson, 46 Ill.2d 177, 263 N.E.2d 473.) We conclude that the trial court did not err in denying defendant's motion to suppress the in-court identification testimony of witnesses for the State. People v. True, 133 Ill. App.2d 156, 273 N.E.2d 24; compare People v. Watkins, 46 Ill.2d 273, 263 N.E.2d 115.


At the trial, the assistant State's Attorney, out of the jury's presence, told the court that he was going to call Chicago Police Department Youth Officer Thomas Jackson, as the State's last witness, to testify concerning a conversation he had with defendant, then 14 years old, on July 24, 1967 in a Chicago police station. Defendant's counsel moved to suppress the testimony on the ground that it had taken place almost two years before the shooting of Ronald Murphy and because defendant had not been advised of his constitutional rights when he answered questions asked by Officer Jackson. After hearing evidence and finding that defendant's constitutional rights had been respected, the trial judge overruled the motion. Then, before the jury, Officer Jackson testified concerning the conversation. Jackson said that on July 24, 1967, in his capacity as a youth officer, he asked defendant about nicknames and defendant told him his was "Turkey." He asked defendant about gang affiliations and he said he was a "Mad Lad." Officer Jackson testified that he knew of a street gang, a branch of the Englewood Disciples, known as the "Mad Lads."

Defendant argues that the testimony of Officer Jackson was prejudicial to his rights and irrelevant to any issue in the case because the conversation about which he testified occurred almost two years before the shooting of Ronald Murphy. Moreover, defendant argues, Officer Jackson's testimony violated the Juvenile Court Act which provides, in part, that "[n]either the fact that a minor has been the subject of proceedings under this Act nor any confession, admission or statement made by him to the court or to any officer thereof before his 18th birthday is inadmissible as evidence against him of his interests in any other court or proceeding * * *." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 37, par. 702-9(1).

• 3 Officer Thomas Jackson was a Chicago policeman. He was not an officer of the juvenile court. (See People v. Hester, 39 Ill.2d 489, 237 N.E.2d 466.) Therefore, admission of his testimony concerning admissions or statements made by defendant when he was 14 years old did not violate any section of the Juvenile Court Act. Compare People v. Zepeda, 47 Ill.2d 23, 265 N.E.2d 647.

The relevancy of Officer Jackson's testimony requires recall of the evidence furnished by Janice Sparks. She testified that she knew defendant by a nickname, "Turk" and that before Ronald Murphy was shot, "Turk" and the boys with him shouted "Mad Lads." Therefore, among the material facts in issue were whether defendant had a ...

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