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People v. Marshall

FEBRUARY 26, 1975.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. KENNETH E. WILSON, Judge, presiding.


Jerome Marshall, Ronald Stansberry, and Billy Hill were indicted for the murder of Alphonso Thomas. Stansberry and Hill entered negotiated pleas of guilty, but Marshall elected to stand trial on the charge of murder while committing the forcible felony of armed robbery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 38, § 9-1(a)(3)). A jury returned a verdict of guilty, and Marshall was sentenced to a term of 14 to 20 years in the penitentiary.

Marshall appeals from the conviction and raises several issues for review. However, since we have determined that the case must be reversed, the only question we deem it necessary to discuss is whether the evidence was sufficient to establish Marshall's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The evidence presented at trial established that, on December 9, 1971, Alphonso Thomas was stabbed to death in the neck with an approximately 5-inch-long knife. The stabbing occurred in Thomas' basement apartment, located at 304 East 59th Street in Chicago. A neighbor, Gussie Brown, testified that she received a telephone call from Thomas about 3:30 P.M. on the date of the occurrence, during which Thomas stated that he had just been robbed. Ms. Brown immediately telephoned the Chicago Police Department and Donald Keyes, the uncle of Thomas. Then, Ms. Brown went to Thomas' apartment and, through a window, saw Thomas struggling to come to the door. However, according to the witness, Thomas collapsed before he reached the door. Chicago police officers arrived shortly thereafter, and Alphonso Thomas was found lying face down in a pool of blood. Blood was smeared in all four rooms of the basement apartment.

Donald Keyes, the uncle of the deceased, was called as a witness by the State. Keyes stated that he examined the apartment shortly after the incident and reported to the police that the following items were missing: a 9-inch Panasonic color television set; a leather billfold; some food stamps; an electric iron; and some 45-rpm records. According to Keyes, the name "Al" had been written on the labels of the records by Thomas prior to his death. Keyes further testified that he had been asked to come to the Wentworth Avenue police station on December 14, 1971 to look at some records and that he recognized a record that belonged to the deceased because the initials "Al" appeared on the label. The witness identified People's Exhibit No. 2 as the record that had been recovered by the police. Keyes also identified People's Exhibit No. 1 as the television set which was missing from the apartment on December 9, 1971. According to Keyes, the apartment was again burglarized 2 days after the incident in which Thomas was stabbed.

Stanford Dillow, the manager of a tavern located one block from the scene of the crime, testified that Jerome Marshall entered his place of business between 3:30 and 4:30 P.M. on the date of the incident and asked if he wanted to buy a television set. After negotiating with Marshall for a short time, Dillow purchased the television set, identified as People's Exhibit No. 1, for $55. On cross-examination, Dillow stated that the television set had been brought into his tavern by a man other than Marshall.

Chicago Police Officer Michael Boyle, head of the team assigned to investigate the homicide of Alphonso Thomas, testified that he recovered a Panasonic color television set, identified as People's Exhibit No. 1, from Stanford Dillow. Based upon statements given by Dillow and another witness, the officer arrested Jerome Marshall at his home on December 12, 1971. While inside the apartment waiting for Marshall, the officer observed a large number of 45-rpm records. Marshall was then transported to the police station, advised of his constitutional rights, and questioned. Officer Boyle stated that Marshall at first denied any knowledge of the sale of the television set. When confronted with the statements of witnesses regarding his participation in the sale, according to Boyle, Marshall then acknowledged that he was involved in the sale of the television, but denied any knowledge of a killing in the area.

Officer Boyle testified further that, on December 14, 1971, he filed a complaint for a search warrant, alleging probable cause to believe that 45-rpm records marked with the name "Al" or "Helen" could be found in the Marshalls' apartment. A search warrant was issued pursuant to the complaint. The officer stated that a search of the apartment, where Jerome Marshall had lived with his mother and brothers, uncovered several hundred 45-rpm records. One of the records recovered from the Marshall apartment was identified by Donald Keyes as People's Exhibit No. 2.

Testimony regarding the events relating directly to the stabbing was provided by Marshall's co-indictees, Ronald Stansberry and Billy Hill. A plea bargain was effected on behalf of Billy Hill, who agreed to testify for the People in return for a 5- to 15-year sentence to be imposed on a plea of guilty to the charge of involuntary manslaughter. In addition, the State agreed that it would not oppose early parole for Hill, who had not been sentenced under the agreement at the time he testified. A plea bargain was also effected on behalf of Ronald Stansberry, who prior to trial had filed an alibi defense. After negotiations between counsel, Stansberry withdrew his plea of not guilty and entered a guilty plea to the murder of Alphonso Thomas. Stansberry was sentenced to a term of 14 to 25 years with the Department of Corrections. He subsequently testified on behalf of Marshall.

Billy Hill, testifying for the People, admitted that he was an unemployed heroin addict with a $50-a-day narcotics habit at the time of the occurrence. He testified that on the afternoon of December 9, 1971, he, Ronald Stansberry and a man identified as "Dice" planned to burglarize a house. Hill stated that Stansberry claimed to know of a house which had a television set that could be stolen. According to the witness, Stansberry borrowed a knife from a friend. Then, Hill, Stansberry and "Dice" went to the basement apartment of Alphonso Thomas at 59th Street and Prairie Avenue.

Hill testified further that he and "Dice" remained outside while Stansberry entered the Thomas apartment. While Hill and "Dice" were waiting outside the apartment, Jerome Marshall walked up to them and asked what they were doing. Hill explained that they were trying to get into Thomas' apartment. Then, according to Hill, he rang the apartment bell and was admitted by Stansberry. Hill stated that he told Marshall and "Dice" to "come on," and the three men entered the apartment where Stansberry was waiting.

Upon entering the apartment, Hill saw a trail of blood leading to a partially open bathroom door, through which he saw a man sitting on the bathtub. Stansberry explained that he and the man had "got into it," according to Hill. The witness testified that he then went into the living room and began unplugging the television set, assisted by Marshall. Then, according to Hill, Marshall left the area where the television set was located and began getting some 45-rpm records.

Hill testified further that he carried the television set out of the apartment. After their departure, Marshall told him that he knew where the television set could be sold. Hill and "Dice" then carried the television to a nearby tavern, following Marshall's instructions. When they were outside the tavern, Marshall handed the 45-rpm records that he had been carrying to "Dice" and told "Dice" to take the records to his house. Hill and Marshall then entered the tavern with Hill carrying the television set. After some negotiations with the tavern owner, Stanford Dillow, $55 was paid over to Marshall for the television set.

Finally, Hill testified that Marshall told him while the two men were incarcerated in the Cook County Jail awaiting trial for the murder of Thomas, that he (Marshall) had prevented Thomas from getting out of ...

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