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People v. Johnson

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 25, 1973.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLEE,

v.

EUGENE JOHNSON, APPELLANT.



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

MR. JUSTICE WARD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The defendant, Eugene Johnson, was found guilty by a jury in the circuit court of Cook County of the murder of Emma Pietras and the armed robbery of Otto Pietras, her husband, Joseph Schultz and Francisco Diaz during a robbery in Otto's Tavern in Chicago. Following the jury's recommendation, the trial court sentenced the defendant to death for the murder of Mrs. Pietras. The judge imposed three concurrent sentences of 50 to 100 years on the armed-robbery convictions. The defendant's appeal has been taken directly to this court.

The defendant's contentions on appeal are:

1. That he was not guilty of murder under the felony-murder doctrine.

2. That he did not knowingly waive his constitutional rights.

3. That the trial judge applied an improper standard in denying the defendant's motion to suppress the confession.

4. That the trial court erred in denying the defendant's motion to suppress identification testimony.

5. That the defendant was denied his right to counsel.

6. That the imposition of the death sentence was improper and the sentences for robbery were excessive.

Otto's Tavern was owned and operated by Otto Pietras and his wife, Emma Pietras. On April 18, 1968, at about 10:45 P.M., Otto Pietras, Frank Diaz, George Schehl, Joseph Schultz, Raymond Becker and Jerry Miller were seated at the bar and Emma Pietras was serving as the bartender. Two young men entered the tavern and going directly to the pool table at the rear of the premises they began to play a game but then abruptly left the tavern. Minutes later two others, armed with shotguns, entered. One of them, whose face was covered by a stocking mask, came through the front entrance and stationed himself at that door. The other, whose face was exposed, came through the rear entrance and announced a holdup. That robber, who was later identified as the defendant, shoved his shotgun into Joseph Schultz's stomach and told him to sit down. Schultz, who had been coming out of the washroom when he encountered the defendant, testified at trial: "I observed his face * * * for a minute and just looked at him stone cold." The man then moved from one customer to another taking money and stuffing it into his pockets. He then went behind the bar and took the money from the cash register. The commission of the robberies took about five minutes. The robber who had taken the money then walked to his companion and both robbers walked out the front door. The man with the mask re-entered the tavern approximately two seconds later, it was testified, and fatally wounded Emma Pietras, who was sitting at the end of the bar and close to the front door.

The police learned that one Charles Knox had information about the crimes. He was picked up early on April 21 and was taken to the police station for questioning. There he stated that he had met Moses and Edward Clay at about 1:00 A.M. on April 19. They told him that they had committed a robbery and shot a woman at 1875 Bissell Street. He also said they had a large sum of money. The police then went to the apartment where the Clays lived, and arrested three brothers, Oscar, Moses and Edward Clay. One of the officers seized a wallet and watch which were in plain view in the living room and which had been taken in the robbery from Diaz.

Moses Clay, when questioned, told the police that the defendant had participated in the robbery. The officers proceeded to the defendant's home at 750 North Milwaukee Avenue and placed him under arrest. He was advised of his right not to make a statement and his related rights, and was taken to the police station. There he was again orally advised of these rights and was also given a card to read, on which these rights were printed. Following this the defendant made an oral statement that he had robbed the patrons of Otto's and had taken the money from the register. He said that Edward Clay had shot Emma Pietras.

Shortly thereafter, two lineups were held in which Moses, Oscar and Edward Clay, Charles Knox, the defendant, and defendant's half brother, Louis Clayton, appeared. Four of the victims, George Schehl, Joseph Schultz, Frank Diaz and Ray Becker, viewed the first lineup. Schultz and Schehl, in the presence of Diaz and Becker, identified the defendant as one of the robbers. A second lineup was held shortly thereafter for Otto Pietras. He too identified the defendant.

After further questioning Moses Clay, the police then returned to the Clays' apartment building. They recovered a single-barrell .12-gauge shotgun from the rear roof of the building and also a brown paper bag containing various identification cards bearing the name "Pietras" from a garbage can behind the building. The officers went to the home of the father of the Clays, who turned over a .16-gauge shotgun to ...


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