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People v. Johnson

OCTOBER 10, 1975.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. BIRCH E. MORGAN, Judge, presiding.


Defendant, Arthur Lee Johnson, appeals from his conviction of armed robbery and from a sentence imposed of 6 to 18 years' imprisonment. The sole issue raised here is whether the trial court erred in giving an accountability instruction.

Daniel Frye, a Champaign, Illinois, police officer, testified that shortly after 1 p.m. on December 14, 1972, he investigated an armed robbery at the Medical Arts Center in Champaign. He stated he received a radio broadcast giving the description of two individuals who were possibly involved in the robbery. About three blocks north of the scene of the robbery he observed a black male who matched one of the broadcast descriptions. He stated the individual tried to run from him, but he finally apprehended him. He identified the individual as the defendant. He testified a brown paper sack containing $126.90 was removed from the person of the defendant. He also stated that when arrested defendant had extremely long fingernails. On cross-examination Frye testified that at the time of his arrest defendant was wearing a brown leather coat, but he didn't remember whether or not defendant had any facial hair at that time.

Roger Lefler, an employee of the Medical Arts Center Pharmacy, testified that at approximately 1 p.m. on December 14, 1972, he observed two individuals enter the pharmacy. He described the said individuals as follows:

"Well, they were both black males, approximately — both were approximately seventeen to twenty-three years of age. One was — the taller of the two was somewhere in the neighborhood of five-ten to six feet in height. The other was, uh, five-eight to five-ten in height. Both of them were fairly well built. They weren't obese. They were relatively slender. They both had dark coats on, and hats. The hats weren't dark but they were different. Both the coats were similar, about knee length.

Well, the only hands that I saw were the hands of the shorter of the two. And I don't — well, the thing that was striking about them was that the fingernails on each, on every finger were quite long. They were about half-an-inch to three-quarters of an inch long.

They looked quite similar really, with the exception of height * * *."

He stated one of the individuals asked him where the restroom was located, and he directed him to the second floor. He stated they then left in the general direction of the restroom. He testified they returned 5 to 10 minutes later and the shorter one asked if he had Pearl Drops toothpaste. He stated that after complaining about the price the shorter one asked to buy the toothpaste and handed him some money. As he started to give the shorter one change, he observed the taller individual pull a gun out of his pocket, shove it between his eyes, and state, "Put the money in the bag." He stated he reached under the counter, pulled out a brown bag, put the register money in the bag, and handed it to the shorter one. He estimated approximately $150 was taken. He further stated, although he was not certain, the defendant very closely resembled the taller of the two individuals. He stated defendant has the same skin tone, the same nice complexion and the same facial features as one of the individuals. He stated the taller individual was wearing a dark brown knee-length coat and hat similar to that seized from the defendant at the time of his arrest. He further stated the box of Pearl Drops toothpaste, the pharmacy bag, and the cash register receipt seized from defendant at the time of his arrest were the same items he handed to one of the robbers. He also stated the brown bag seized from defendant looked like the same bag into which he put the money. On cross-examination he stated:

"A. I just — mentioned that [referring to his identification of defendant as resembling the taller of the two] only on the basis of height because height is about the only way I could tell a difference between the two. Facially they were about the same. He looked, well, it's difficult to tell his height from here when he stood up because I was on the wrong level. But it could easily have been either one.

Q. Mr. Johnson could have been either one of the two men?

A. Facially, yes. As far as height goes, it depends on his height."

He further stated that when he saw defendant at the police station he had a small goatee on his chin.

Wayne Kobel, a Champaign police officer, testified he assisted in the arrest of defendant and he observed a brown paper bag fall from defendant's coat. He stated the brown bag contained $126.90, a sales receipt for a purchase from the Medical Arts Pharmacy and a box of Pearl Drops toothpaste. He stated defendant denied involvement in the robbery and told him three black males gave him the brown bag in the vicinity of the Medical Arts Center. He stated that at the time of his arrest defendant had a sparse growth of hair on his chin.

William J. Vanatta, a fingerprint examiner for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, testified a fingerprint found on the box of Pearl Drops toothpaste corresponded to the right thumb fingerprint of defendant. He further ...

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