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People v. Pruitt

JANUARY 28, 1974.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County; the Hon. ALBERT S. O'SULLIVAN, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied February 27, 1974.

The defendant, Elmer Pruitt, Jr., being granted a severance from his co-defendant, Raymond Fuller, was convicted of armed robbery after a jury trial and was sentenced to 5-15 years in the penitentiary.

Defendant raises the following issues on appeal:

(1) Did the trial court err in denying defendant's motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence?

(2) Did the trial court improperly limit defendant's counsel's examination of the complaining witness?

(3) Was the witness, Fredrick Aubey, qualified to testify as an expert?

(4) Should physical evidence introduced at trial have been excluded because, he alleges,

(a) the evidence was seized pursuant to an illegal arrest;

(b) the evidence was retained by the police in violation of Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 38, sec. 108-2;

(c) the chain of possession was not proven at trial.

(d) the evidence was irrelevant as it was not connected to the defendant?

(5) Did the trial court err in refusing to give the optional portion of I.P.I. Criminal 3.02 instruction concerning circumstantial evidence?

(6) Was defendant proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?

The defendant allegedly robbed the Minit-Mart Grocery store in New Milford, Illinois. At approximately 9:15 P.M. on November 24, 1971, two men armed with revolvers, wearing gloves and disguised with false black beards, entered the grocery store and demanded money from the owner, William M. Rader. Rader put approximately $500 in a bag and the two men left with the money in a light colored 1960 four door Oldsmobile. Rader then called the Sheriff's Department.

After receiving a radio message concerning the robbery, Deputy Sheriff Billy Gene Burgess spotted a car which fit the description of the car used in the robbery. Burgess put on his squad car's red light in an attempt to pull over the other car but the driver refused to stop and took off at a high rate of speed. Burgess pursued the Oldsmobile in his own car until the Oldsmobile collided with another car. Thereupon, three men emerged from the Oldsmobile and attempted to escape on foot. After an extensive chase on foot, Officer Burgess caught one of the men, Raymond Fuller.

Detectives Otto Belter and Harry Dermody of the Rockford police department also received a radio message concerning the robbery. In addition, they received another message stating a chase was in progress. A block and a half away from the car crash the detectives observed the defendant walking north on Central Avenue away from the scene of the crash. When the detectives stopped the defendant, he showed them his driver's license as identification. The detectives observed that the defendant seemed nervous and out of breath, but not drunk. He had mud on his shoes, on his right knee of his trousers, and on his right hip pocket. The detectives asked the defendant where he was going and he answered that he was going home. When the detectives then asked why he was walking in the wrong direction, he said he was lost. Defendant then volunteered that he had arrived in the area by automobile and had been left there by the driver after they had had a fight. He could not describe either the car or the driver.

Detective Belter then walked to the accident scene to investigate while defendant remained in the custody of Detective Dermody. After Belter talked to Officer Burgess about the defendant, Detective Dermody gave the defendant his Miranda rights and the defendant was then taken to the Detective Bureau in the Court House.

Detective Richard Alan Meyers of the Winnebago County Sheriff's Department, who was also at the scene of the accident, looked inside the 1960 Oldsmobile and observed a .38 caliber revolver with brown handles, and the bottom part of a beard or wig.

A search of the area by Detective Meyers and Maborne produced a holster and a .22 caliber Rome pistol with white grips. Later, a ten-year-old boy also discovered another revolver in the area and turned it over to the police. Another search of the area by a detective and the boy produced two bullets.

The Oldsmobile was impounded at the court house. A search of the car revealed the bag contained $354.90 in cash and $44.05 in checks identified by the proprietor as checks received by him in the store, a goatee type beard and moustache, a false moustache, a pair of glasses with a rubber nose, three wigs, and a .38 caliber revolver.

At the Detective Bureau defendant surrendered some of his clothing. Additionally, the police combed out glass and paint particles from the defendant's hair using the defendant's comb. Fuller and defendant were placed in a line-up. The store owner Rader identified Fuller as having been in his store approximately ten to fifteen minutes before the robbery, and identified the defendant as resembling one robber because of the stern appearance of his eyes. Rader, however, was unable to make a positive identification of either robber.

Because of Rader's inability to make a positive identification the defendant was released. The police kept defendant's clothing and the particles from defendant's hair. Laboratory analysis of these things revealed that the glass particles taken from the defendant's hair and clothing matched both the safety glass of the Oldsmobile and the glass particles taken from Fuller's hair. The paint particles taken from the defendant's person and clothing matched the paint from the car struck by the Oldsmobile. Finally, fibers taken from the defendant's clothing matched the fibers of the false beard and moustache found in the Oldsmobile. Defendant was then re-arrested.

At trial, the defendant reiterated the story he had told the police. He had been drinking with someone whose name he did not know. On the way from one bar to another the two had an argument and a fight ensued. He ...

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