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People v. Alexander

OCTOBER 22, 1973.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

BEN ALEXANDER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



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

MR. JUSTICE EGAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The defendant, Ben Alexander, was found guilty by a jury of the murder of Robert Stephen and sentenced to 14 to 28 years. The issues are whether the trial judge improperly influenced the jury and whether the defendant was proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Roosevelt Bowens had known the deceased, Robert Stephen, since 1964. He had known the defendant, Ben Alexander, for about 15 months but did not know his last name until after Stephen was killed. On July 13, 1971, he was employed by Brown Moving Van and was on his way to work when he met Stephen at 7:00 A.M. at Ella's Lounge, where his boss, Mr. Brown, picked him up each day. Brown arrived and told him that the job they had that morning was postponed. Bowens went to a number of taverns all day and drank a couple of pints of wine, to which, he testified, he limited his daily drinking.

Ella's Lounge is located at 114 West 95th Street in Chicago, and Bowens had been in there several times that day. He saw the defendant at about six that evening when the defendant parked what looked like a cement truck across the street from the tavern.

At 9:50 P.M. Bowens was standing between Ella's Lounge and a tavern called Big Deal located at 116 West 95th Street. There were about six people that he knew, who were talking in front of the tavern. Stephen was not in the group but was down the street somewhere. The street was fairly busy, and there was much noise and traffic. He next saw the defendant talking to Robert Stephen on 95th Street about 25 or 30 feet from him. There were three other people whom he did not know, including a little boy, with the defendant and Stephen. He did not see anything in the defendant's hand and he could not hear the conversation. When they finished talking, Stephen came back going west and then went down the street. The defendant went east on 95th Street. Stephen told Bowens that "the man said he was going to get his shit." Bowens thought that this meant that the defendant was going to get a weapon.

About 10 or 12 minutes later he saw the defendant again, coming west on 95th Street on the same side of the street that the tavern was located and did not see anything in the defendant's hand when he first approached the tavern. When Bowens saw the defendant coming, he went across 95th Street from the north side to the south side "because of what was said where [he] was standing." When he got to the other side of the street, he heard a shot and looked around. He saw four people in front of the tavern, Cat Eyes, the defendant, Melvin Perry, and Robert Stephen. Stephen and the defendant were standing, and the other two were sitting. The defendant was moving from a tree closer to Ella's Tavern, and Bowens saw the firing of a pistol and heard a number of shots. He testified as follows:

"Q. Did you see who held the pistol at this time?

A. Yes, I saw the man holding the pistol.

Q. Do you know who that man was?

A. Well, at that time I did not know who it was until it was over."

He saw Robert spin around and hit against Ella's Tavern and slide to the ground. He saw a man standing over Robert, heard another shot, remained where he was, and the man who was standing and leaning over Robert walked away. He was never asked who that man was. On direct examination the following occurred:

"Q. Now, when you first saw the defendant Ben Alexander approaching the tavern where you were standing and upon your going across 95th Street, did you see anything in the hands of the defendant, Ben Alexander?

A. From the distance where I was standing and from where he was walking, coming towards the tavern, I ...


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