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People v. Dodson

APRIL 24, 1973.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. LOUIS B. GARIPPO, Judge, presiding.


Defendant was indicted for murder. After a bench trial he was convicted of the lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to a term of not less than eight nor more than twenty years. Two issues are presented on this appeal:

(1) Whether the warrantless seizure of defendant's jacket was illegal; and

(2) Whether the evidence established defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

On October 14, 1969 defendant and his cousin, Myron Violet, went to Elsie's, a tavern in Lyons, Illinois, in defendant's vehicle. While in the establishment defendant engaged in an argument with a barmaid, Mary Ludington. His cousin admonished him, "You're just going to get yourself in trouble, you are out looking for it, I don't want any part of it and I am leaving." Violet departed the tavern. Defendant then presented his grievance to the tavern owner.

Decedent, Elizabeth Blondin, was a patron of Elsie's at the time defendant and Violet were on the premises. Mary Ludington had occasion to observe the contents of decedent's purse during the evening. She described and identified the purse at trial.

After presenting his grievance to the tavern owner defendant engaged in a conversation with decedent. Decedent then informed Ethel Boesch, another barmaid employed at Elsie's, that "she was going down the street" and, indicating defendant, "this fellow wants to go with me, I don't know why." Ethel Boesch then spoke to defendant. He was wearing a jacket with a Standard Oil Company emblem on it. He responded to her inquiries that his name was Gerry and he was employed at the H and W Standard station located at Harlem and Washington, whereupon decedent said: "Write that down just in case." Defendant and decedent departed the tavern together at approximately 3:00 A.M. on October 15, 1969.

Three prosecution witnesses testified that defendant did not appear to be intoxicated while he was at Elsie's.

Clif Hiller, a fellow employee of defendant's at the H and W Standard station, testified that he saw defendant drive past the station at approximately 6:30 A.M. Defendant was traveling in the direction of his apartment.

Dr. Stanley Palutsis testified that he observed an automobile, similar in appearance to defendant's, being operated in an erratic manner in a park across the street from his house at approximately 6:45 A.M. on October 15, 1969. When the automobile departed, he observed decedent's body near the site where the automobile had been. He immediately telephoned the police.

Officer John Smith of the Riverside Police Department responded to the report. When he arrived at the scene he observed decedent's body, naked from the waist down, near the roadway. Upon removing the body, he discovered a button beneath decedent's left elbow. The button was preserved for evidence and was later determined by crime laboratory analysis to be morphologically similar in all visual characteristics to each of the buttons remaining on a jacket owned by defendant.

Defendant reported for work at 9:30 A.M. on October 15, 1969. Shortly thereafter he engaged in a phone conversation with his wife. She expressed anger in telling him that she had found a purse in his automobile. His wife regularly utilized his automobile in traveling to her place of employment, so defendant borrowed a vehicle and went there. Upon his arrival he entered his automobile and discovered a purse on the rear seat. Defendant testified that there was no identification in the purse, so he discarded it in a garbage can. The purse was subsequently recovered and identified at trial as decedent's.

Defendant testified that he departed Elsie's with decedent because "she wanted a lift somewhere and I was getting plastered." He sat in the back seat of the automobile because he was too intoxicated to drive. Decedent sat in the front seat with his cousin, Violet, who had been waiting at the automobile. The three patronized two additional taverns after departing Elsie's. At the final tavern they visited, defendant exited alone and went to sleep in the car. When he awoke he was alone in the vehicle and it was located in a parking lot behind his apartment building. He went into his apartment and resumed his sleep.

In rebuttal, Officer Smith testified that he was present at the police station during the morning of October 16, 1969 and heard defendant relate that he was alone when he ...

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