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People v. Dee

FEBRUARY 18, 1975.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. LOUIS B. GARIPPO, Judge, presiding.


Henry Dee and James Sayles were found guilty of the murder and armed robbery of Arthur Snyder and the murder and armed robbery of Edith Snyder after being tried jointly before a jury in the circuit court of Cook County. Both defendants were sentenced to concurrent terms of 100 to 200 years for the two murders and 20 to 40 years for the two armed robbery counts. Both defendants filed a joint appeal of their convictions and raise the following arguments: (1) The trial court erred in admitting into evidence a certain photograph of the body of one of the murder victims; (2) it was error for the court to have denied the defendants' motion to prohibit the introduction of Henry Dee's prior convictions; (3) it was error for the court to permit a State witness to testify from medical records that the witness had prepared; (4) the prosecution's argument that Edith Snyder had been sexually assaulted by the defendants was improper; and (5) the evidence was insufficient to establish the defendants' guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The evidence presented at the trial can be divided into four broad categories: the condition in which the victims' bodies and home were found; the circumstances surrounding the defendants' arrest; the identification of certain articles seized from the defendants at the time they were arrested; and expert testimony linking the defendants to the scene of the crime. The crimes were discovered when two Chicago firemen, Robert Hartwig and Joseph Grajek, entered a residence at 5412 1/2 North Kenmore Avenue in Chicago at approximately 2:30 A.M. on August 17, 1971, in response to a fire alarm. The firemen testified that inside they discovered the bodies of Arthur and Edith Snyder. Edith's body was found lying on a bed, her hands bound behind her back, her mouth gagged, and her eyes blindfolded. Her legs were spread apart with her nightgown drawn up above her hips completely exposing the lower part of her body. Arthur Snyder's body was found lying on the kitchen floor also with his hands bound behind his back. A claw hammer was embedded in his skull, and a considerable amount of blood was splattered about the immediate vicinity of Arthur Snyder's body.

A fire which had been emanating from the bedroom in which Edith Snyder's body was found was extinguished. The two firemen detected the strong odor of gas in the apartment and found that the gas jets on the kitchen stove had been turned on. Two police officers, William Lahey and Andrew Wise, arrived about 20 minutes later in response to a call made by the firemen. They testified that they found the bodies of Arthur and Edith Snyder as described by the two firemen. Detective Frank Heatley, a homicide investigator, testified he arrived at about 2:50 A.M. and observed the bodies of both of the victims. A laboratory technician, James Frankenbach, testified he arrived an hour later and examined the body of Arthur Snyder. These six witnesses all concurred on the condition in which the Snyders' bodies were found.

Dr. Jerry Kearns, a coroner's pathologist, testified that he had examined the bodies of both Arthur and Edith Snyder and determined that the cause of death in both cases was extensive brain damage caused by fragmented fractures of the skull. He testified that a claw hammer was the type of instrument which could cause such injuries.

At about 3 A.M. that morning, a short time after the discovery of the crime, four Chicago police officers, Lynn Brezinski, Hugh Cahill, Larry Race and William Durkin, testified that they were in Washington Park in Chicago. They were then unaware of the events at the Snyder house. At that time they observed a Yellow Cab proceeding on Russell Drive without its lights on. The cab halted and two individuals later identified as the defendants, Henry Dee and James Sayles, exited the cab and began walking in the general direction of the police officers. One of the officers shined a light on them which revealed a hand gun inserted in Dee's waistband. Officer Cahill shouted, "Halt, police." The defendants both attempted to flee but were tackled by the police officers. While Dee was fleeing he threw down a blue shirt he was carrying which was later recovered by the police.

Both defendants were searched. The search of James Sayles recovered a number of pieces of identification issued to an Arthur Snyder including a chauffeur's license, credit cards and a transportation bond card. Sayles was also in possession of a Polaroid land camera. Henry Dee had in his possession a .32-caliber revolver in his waistband and some silver certificates and coins later found to be collector's items. Radio communications with their police headquarters revealed that the cab the defendants had been seen driving was checked out to Arthur Snyder.

The defendants were then transported to a police station. All four officers testified that they observed no injuries, cuts or bruises on the defendants at the time they were arrested. Officer Cahill testified specifically that the defendants were not injured in any way at the time of their arrest nor when they were transported to the police station. Investigator Heatley, who had arrived at the police station where the defendants were being held, testified that he observed what appeared to be blood splattered on the clothes of both defendants. He ordered photographs taken of both defendants with their clothes on. The photographs, which were admitted into evidence at the trial, reveal a dark substance splattered on the clothes of both defendants and also show the absence of any observable facial injuries to the defendants.

One of the defendants, Henry Dee, testified for the defense. Dee testified that he had been at defendant Sayles' home the night of August 16, 1971, and he stayed there with Sayles until about 2:35 A.M. on the morning of August 17, 1971. Three persons, in addition to Dee and Sayles, were also present: Dee's girl friend, Maxine Ellison; Sayles' wife, Geraldine; and another woman named Jessie. Dee testified that the three women left Sayles' home at various times that night, the last leaving at about 1:30 A.M. Maxine Ellison, the last to leave, testified that she left Sayles' home about 1 A.M. that morning.

Dee then testified that he and Sayles left the house on foot about 2:35 A.M. on the morning of August 17, 1971, and while crossing 62nd Street they had to hurry to avoid a speeding car. A few moments later they were called over to a police car and were questioned as to their identity and activities in the area. Dee testified that the police ordered them into the police car and transported them to Washington Park where a Yellow Cab was parked. In response to police questioning, both defendants denied any knowledge of the cab. Dee testified that the officers then beat and kicked both him and Sayles and struck them with guns and sticks, leaving the defendants with cuts, bruises and scrapes. Dee testified he was bleeding from both sides of the face. The officers, according to Dee, then went to the cab and removed a number of articles including a blue shirt and threw them in a pile on the ground. They then searched the two defendants and threw the items they found into the same pile. The defendants were then taken to the police station where they were questioned and photographed. Dee testified that the next day while he was being examined by a doctor at the County Jail, he told the doctor of the beating.

In rebuttal, the State called Dr. Stanley Gierasinski whose job it was to examine persons brought to the receiving room at the County Jail. Dr. Gierasinski was initially unable to recall the results of his examination of Dee and Sayles. After examining medical records he made the day of the examination, he testified that neither Dee nor Sayles told of any such beating. The doctor also testified that he had not observed any recent injuries, bruises or cuts on either of the defendants that day.

In the State's case, evidence was presented identifying a number of items the arresting officers had recovered from the defendants at the time of their arrest. The Snyders' daughter, Bonnie Klecan, identified a silver certificate, some rare coins, some credit cards, and the camera as belonging to her parents. A photograph and several negatives from the camera were also identified. Bonnie's husband, William Klecan, also identified the camera.

The State also presented expert testimony concerning certain substances found on the defendants' clothing. A laboratory technician from the Chicago police crime laboratory, Timothy Zamb, testified that he had taken samples of splattered reddish-brown stains found on Sayles' shirt, trousers and gloves and on the blue shirt the police testified Dee had thrown to the ground before his arrest. Tests determined that the substance was type B blood. James Sayles, Henry Dee and Edith Snyder all had type O blood, Zamb testified. However, Arthur Snyder had type B blood.

Zamb also testified that particles of carbonaceous material, a carbon compound which includes matter such as ash and soot, were found upon the clothes of both defendants. Zamb found that the carbonaceous material found on the defendants was morphologically similar to carbonaceous particles found upon the clothing of Edith and Arthur Snyder. An expert for the defense, Ronald Draftz, testified that such particles ...

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