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People v. Henderson

MARCH 29, 1974.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Will County; the Hon. MICHAEL A. ORENIC, Judge, presiding.


Defendant Larry Henderson appeals from a conviction of burglary in the Circuit Court of Will County. A jury had found him not guilty of the charge of murder but did find him guilty of burglary. He was sentenced to a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 6 years, but as a result of a summary motion for sentence reduction, without prejudice to the appeal, his sentence was reduced to a minimum of 2 years with a maximum of 6 years. On Henderson's appeal from the conviction of burglary, he contends (1) that the jury verdict of guilty of burglary was not based on proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and (2) that the admission of testimony relating to another offense which defendant allegedly committed in the identical premises here involved was prejudicial.

The record indicates that at 4:45 in the morning of October 13, 1971, Police Officer Lantka noticed that there was a light on in the living quarters of Mrs. Agamy, who conducted a store in the same premises. The officer checked all entrances to the building and noticed that they were locked and undisturbed. He also checked the coal chute and found that it was open. He radioed for assistance and an off-duty policeman joined him shortly.

Officer Lantka then went into the basement through the coal chute and made a thorough search of the basement. During his search, with a flashlight, he observed the door leading into the first floor business section of the house, and noticed that the door was closed. He also checked behind a door which was not being used, but which was leaning against the wall and was disfunctional, and found nothing behind it. The policeman then rejoined the other officer by coming out through the coal chute.

While Officer Lantka was in the basement, the other officer radioed the dispatcher to telephone Mrs. Agamy. After the telephone started to ring and Officer Lantka came out of the coal chute, the light in the living quarters went out. One of the officers radioed to have the telephone call stopped. The officers then knocked on the front and rear doors, calling out that they were police and calling for Mrs. Agamy to find out if she was all right. There was some evidence that the policemen could hear a noise and could see the rear doorknob turning.

Officer Lantka then re-entered through the coal chute and walked, with pistol drawn, toward the rear entrance to the basement. He noted a shiny object and called, "Mrs. Agamy, is that you? I'm a police officer." As he walked closer he saw that the shiny object was a knife and that someone was holding it and hiding behind the disfunctional door. The officer saw what turned out to be a part of defendant's right arm and lower leg protruding from behind the disfunctional door, which was leaning against the wall. The officer called to the defendant three times to drop the knife, and, following the third call, the knife started to come up a little. The officer then told defendant to drop the knife or "I'll blow your head off". Defendant Henderson dropped the knife. The officer then walked to the back door, unbolted it and opened it. He told defendant to get up slowly and walk out of the basement. At that time, the officer testified, Mr. Henderson's hand was covered in the fashion of a glove by a white sock with a red and black band near the top. Defendant had no socks on his feet although he was wearing shoes. Defendant had some blood visible on him and had a slight head injury. It was noted that the basement ceiling and pipes are low.

The defendant was placed in the squad car and said: "Is she all right. I was just coming by to help her. Is she all right." The officers then went back into the basement and upstairs and noticed that there were many items scattered on the floor. The cash register door was drawn out and there were papers all around it. The officers then went to the living quarters where they found Mrs. Agamy's body on the bed. There were papers all over the floor, the dresser drawers were open, and there was blood on the floor. A police officer checked the remaining windows and entrances and returned to the squad car.

After defendant had been advised of his constitutional rights he agreed to talk without a lawyer and asserted that he was walking along in back of the store and heard Mrs. Agamy call for help. He stated he had been over playing pool across the street and wanted to know whether Mrs. Agamy was all right. He stated he simply wanted to help. At the time, defendant was quite disheveled and smelled strongly of intoxicants. Defendant stated that he had been at a tavern and left about 12:30 A.M. after having two or three beers. He said he walked to his auto and picked up his knife from under the seat. There was no explanation of for what purpose he picked up his knife. Defendant stated he then started toward the alley behind the Agamy building to walk to another tavern at which time, he stated, he heard Mrs. Agamy call for help. He said he saw no one but did see a light at the rear of her building. He said he saw the rear basement door standing open and that he entered through that door and stopped to close the door behind him. He said he thought he closed the door tightly, but thought he did not lock the door behind him. He said he then walked two or three more steps into the basement when suddenly someone struck him in front over the top of his head, and that he was unconscious until he heard the police calling to Mrs. Agamy, identifying themselves as police.

The autopsy which was performed on Mrs. Agamy's body indicated that she was scratched; had a black eye; her nose was broken; she had a broken rib; a contusion on the lung; and a hemorrhage around the kidney. Her heart indicated signs of a previous heart attack. The pathologist's opinion was that the traumas and injuries were not severe enough to cause her death. A medical opinion was given that the shock or fright might have caused an outpouring of adrenalin which speeded up the heart causing fibrillation which caused the death of Mrs. Agamy.

A number of tests were made which disclosed that the blood found in Mrs. Agamy's room was her type of blood and that none of that type of blood was found on defendant Henderson or his clothing. A number of weeks after the incident, a white sock with a black and red band around the top was removed from a spare bedroom located next to Mrs. Agamy's bedroom, and the hair found inside that sock was similar to the ankle hair of defendant Henderson.

At the trial, Walter Countryman testified, over a defense objection, that previously, on October 10, 1971 (just 3 days prior to the night defendant was apprehended in the premises), he and defendant Henderson broke into Mrs. Agamy's premises and took $700 from her safe and cash register. She was asleep at the time. Countryman admitted he had been promised a probation recommendation if he testified. He had left town immediately after the October 13, 1971, date. When Countryman returned a week later he first told police he had never been in the Agamy establishment. There was also testimony of two witnesses who indicated that defendant Henderson had left the Hideaway Tavern at about 8:30 P.M. rather than at the time to which he testified.

As indicated, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty on the felony-murder count but found defendant guilty on the burglary count. Defendant contends that there was not sufficient proof of his guilt of burglary beyond a reasonable doubt. The argument is premised upon the alleged failure of the State to prove that defendant had entered upon the premises with intent to commit theft. The State countered by pointing out that circumstantial evidence may be used for the purpose of establishing intent from conduct itself. The State points out that proof of unlawful entry into a building which contains personal property which could be the subject of larceny could give rise to an inference that will sustain the conviction of burglary in the instant case. (People v. Polansky, 6 Ill. App.3d 773, 287 N.E.2d 747; People v. Johnson, 28 Ill.2d 441, 192 N.E.2d 864; People v. Thompson, 48 Ill.2d 41, 268 N.E.2d 369.) Defendant contends that there was no specific proof that he had been on the first floor and out of the basement. Hair discovered on the inside of the white crew sock found on the first floor, however, did match the type of hair found on defendant Henderson's ankles.

• 1, 2 Defendant contends that, while intent can be inferred from unauthorized presence in a dwelling, the other evidence raises sufficient facts to negate the inference of an intent to commit a felony principally because no property was taken from Mrs. Agamy. No property, however, need be taken to sustain a conviction of burglary (People v. Gooch, 70 Ill. App.2d 124, 263 N.E.2d 603; People v. Figgers, 23 Ill.2d 516, 179 N.E.2d 626). As triers of fact, the responsibility rests with the jury to determine which of the conflicting testimony of witnesses is to be believed (People v. Umphers, 133 Ill. App.2d 853, 272 N.E.2d 278). Defendant cites People v. Dougard, 16 Ill.2d 603, 158 N.E.2d 593, in support of the contention that the facts must so thoroughly establish the guilt of the person accused as to exclude every reasonable hypothesis of guilt and that, even though jurors are judges of the weight of the evidence in criminal cases, the court should reverse the judgment of a conviction resting upon circumstantial evidence that raises a little more than a suspicion against an accused. The principle announced in the Dougard case, however, is not applicable to the facts in the case before us. The evidence against defendant is strong and found convincing by the jury. The record shows that Officer Lantka first searched the basement and that defendant Henderson was not there and, also, that the door at the top of the stairs was closed. The officer found nothing behind the nonfunctional door, where Henderson was later found to be hiding, armed with a knife. On the second search by Officer Lantka, the door at the top of the stairs was ajar 6 or 7 inches. Defendant, as noted, was then found hiding behind the nonfunctional door which was leaning against the wall and defendant was holding his knife in the threatening position. Also, hair found with blood on the thigh of defendant's pants was similar in color and characteristics to the head of hair standard of the hair of Mrs. Agamy.

It was impossible for anyone to have left the premises after the officer arrived because of the arrangement of the premises and the exits and the presence of the officers. If defendant had been knocked unconscious, as he claimed, he would have been found by Officer Lantka when the officer made the first search before the light in the living quarters was turned off. No one could have entered ...

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