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People v. Miller

JULY 3, 1974.

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

v.

CLARENCE EUGENE MILLER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Morgan County; the Hon. JOHN B. WRIGHT, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE KASSERMAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant appeals his conviction for the offense of burglary rendered after a jury trial and for which he was sentenced to not less than 2 nor more than 6 years' confinement in prison. The issues raised by appellant on appeal are:

1. Whether the court committed reversible error by admitting evidence that latent fingerprints discovered at the scene of the offense were defendant's.

a. Whether one not qualified as an expert may given an opinion on the identity of fingerprints.

b. Whether the court erred in admitting hearsay to establish the identity of the fingerprints in People's Exhibit #3.

c. Whether the court erred by allowing an expert to testify that in his opinion the latent prints found at the scene of the crime were the defendant's where the expert had no first hand knowledge of the identity of the prints used in the comparison.

2. Whether the trial court committed plain error in admitting into evidence a police booking card which clearly indicated prior criminal activity by the defendant.

3. Whether the sentence imposed was excessive and based upon the mistaken impression that the minimum sentence for burglary is 2 years.

It is our opinion that it is unnecessary to consider any issue other than whether the court erred in allowing expert testimony that fingerprints found at the crime scene were the defendant's where the expert had no basis upon which to identify the prints used for comparison.

The only relevant evidence introduced by the prosecution connecting the defendant to the offense charged consisted of the testimony of Detective Potter and one Cecil L. McDougall, their testimony being limited to fingerprint identification.

Officer Potter testified that the latent fingerprints which he lifted from the crime scene appeared to match those on the fingerprint card for one Clarence Eugene Miller and that he forwarded such fingerprints to the state crime laboratory for identification. He further testified that he subsequently caused the fingerprint card and the fingerprints which were lifted from the scene of the crime to be sent to the state crime laboratory.

Cecil L. McDougall, who was identified as a fingerprint expert for the State of Illinois, Illinois Bureau of Identification, testified that the fingerprints lifted at the scene of the crime matched the fingerprints present on the fingerprint card of Clarence Eugene Miller; however, on cross-examination, he testified that he did not take sample prints from the defendant in this cause, Clarence Eugene Miller, but that the fingerprints raised from a lamp at the scene of the crime matched those on a card bearing the name "Clarence Eugene Miller."

The defendant called only one witness in his defense, his mother, who testified that the defendant was at home watching television at the time the offense was committed.

The defendant argues in this appeal that the introduction of the fingerprint card bearing the name of Clarence Eugene Miller is irrelevant, contending that the fingerprint card can be used only to ...


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