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People v. Torres

MARCH 29, 1974.

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

v.

DANILE SALCEDO TORRES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EARL E. STRAYHORN, Judge, presiding.

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE SULLIVAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

After a jury trial, defendant was found guilty of murder and sentenced to a term of 14-20 years. On appeal, he contends error was committed in that (1) a Spanish-speaking attorney was not appointed to defend him; (2) his trial should have been in Spanish, as well as in English; (3) a police officer was allowed to act as an interpreter for the prosecution; (4) his wife was permitted to testify to a confidential conversation; and (5) a police officer was allowed to testify to a translation to him by a third person of a spontaneous declaration in Spanish by defendant's wife.

It appears that Thomas Penabad was offered by defense counsel to act as interpreter. After being interrogated by the court and the State concerning his qualifications, he was accepted. Jose Mercado was then offered by the State to act temporarily as its interpreter, because a Mr. Rios was unavailable. He was also interrogated by the court concerning his qualifications and was allowed to act as interpreter without objection by defense counsel. Subsequently, during the trial, Manuel Rios, a police officer, arrived and was substituted as the State's interpreter without any questions as to his qualifications and without objection by defense counsel.

The following testimony was received: Carmen Velez, defendant's wife, testified for the State that on October 16, 1969, she and defendant had been living apart about 1 year, although they continued to work at the same factory. On October 15, 1969, defendant approached her at work and asked her to come back to him. She replied, "No, I do not want to go back with you, because you are a very bad man." Defendant then said, "If I don't kill you, I will kill your brother." A co-worker at the factory was present during this conversation.

She further testified that at about 7 A.M. on October 16, 1969, she and her daughter left their apartment and were waiting on the front steps of the building for her brother, when she heard "something that exploded". She looked through the glass outer door and saw her brother lying up against the door with a revolver on the floor at his side and her husband kneeling over him. She saw defendant take hold of her brother's neck. Defendant looked at her and, after breaking through the glass door, fled. She was unable to see whether there was anyone else in the hallway near her brother and defendant. She did not know Domingo Pratt, nor did she see him or anybody else there at the time of the shooting.

Thomas Blomstrand, a police officer, testified for the State that on October 16, 1969, he responded to a radio call, and upon arriving at the scene of the occurrence he saw a man "laying on his side with his head and shoulder and right arm to a broken window of a front door", and "lying next to him on the floor in the hallway was a revolver". He also testified that the victim's sister was excited and speaking in Spanish. An interpreter at the scene informed him that she said her husband had shot her brother.

Defendant testified that early on October 16, 1969, he and Domingo Pratt stopped at the residence of his wife to drive her to work. He and Pratt entered the building and met his wife, his daughter and his brother-in-law in the hallway. An argument ensued between Pratt and his brother-in-law, who was shot by Pratt. His wife had gone outside when the argument began, and after the shooting he opened the door and left, and Pratt broke the glass door as he left. He denied that he had told his wife at work the day before that he was going to kill her brother, and he denied that he shot or that he touched his brother-in-law that morning.

OPINION

I.

Defendant first contends he was denied the effective assistance of counsel, because he was not provided with a Spanish-speaking attorney at arraignment.

• 1 It is well established that arraignment is a "critical stage" in a felony case and that the right of counsel attaches automatically before any plea is made or accepted. (People v. Hessenauer, 45 Ill.2d 63, 256 N.E.2d 791.) At the arraignment, through a court approved interpreter, defendant in answer to questions by the court, stated that he had no lawyer, that he had no money to hire one, and that he would like the public defender to be appointed for him. The court then appointed the public defender and directed him to use the interpreter and discuss the charge with defendant. After a short period of time, the appointed counsel informed the court that the discussion had taken place and that defendant was entering a plea of not guilty.

• 2 We have found no evidence in the record nor is it argued by defendant that he was not fully informed at arraignment concerning the charge against him. Nor does our review of the record reveal any evidence that defendant was unable to comprehend what was taking place during the arraignment proceedings. To the contrary, it appears that defendant was fully informed of his rights by the public defender and, in the absence of any indication of incompetence in the manner his appointed counsel carried out his duties, we are of the opinion that no prejudice resulted to defendant because he did not have a Spanish-speaking attorney. We conclude that the court did not err in appointing a non-Spanish-speaking attorney to represent defendant at arraignment. See People v. Harper, 43 Ill.2d 368, 253 N.E.2d 451.

II.

Defendant next contends he was denied a fair trial because (1) he was not furnished with an indictment in the Spanish language; (2) the trial and other proceedings were not conducted in Spanish as well as in English; and (3) he could not speak or understand English with any proficiency and, as a result, could not comprehend the totality of the proceedings.

• 3 Defendant provides no authority in support of his argument that he should have been furnished with an indictment in Spanish, and we believe that the rule to be applied in the case of a foreign-speaking defendant is the same for all defendants; namely, that their constitutional rights should be protected, including the right to be fully informed concerning the charges in an indictment. We have already found that no error resulted because a Spanish-speaking attorney was not appointed on arraignment, and that defendant was fully informed by his attorney, with the assistance of the appointed interpreter, concerning the charges against him. We further note that there is no contention that the defendant was not provided with a copy of the indictment in English, as required by section 113-4(a) of the Criminal Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 38, par. 113-4(a)), and we conclude that he was not deprived of a fair trial because the indictment was not in the Spanish language.

Neither do we accept defendant's contention that he was deprived of a fair trial because the proceedings were not conducted in Spanish. As we view it, a defendant has a right to be fully informed of proceedings, and in order that he comprehend their nature, information should be given him by his attorney, using an interpreter where needed.

We note the following colloquy occurred during the cross-examination of defendant:

"(Answers through Interpreter Manuel Rios, unless otherwise indicated.)

Q: Mr. Torres, on the 16th day of October, 1969, how long had you resided in Chicago? He can answer ...


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