APPEAL from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County; the Hon.
ROBERT L. GAGEN, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE CARTER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
A jury found the defendant-appellant, George Allen, guilty of murder and, following a sentencing hearing, the court imposed a 70- to 100-year sentence. The defendant has appealed.
There are five issues presented for review:
(1) Whether the court erred in tendering jury instructions;
(2) Whether the court erred by denying the defendant's request for a continuance to obtain new counsel;
(3) Whether the court erred in ruling on certain evidentiary matters;
(4) Whether the court erred in denying the defendant's motion for a new trial based upon newly discovered evidence;
(5) Whether the court should reduce the degree of the offense or the sentence imposed.
On July 23, 1971, an indictment was returned charging George Allen with the murder of Herman Reynolds. On February 6, 1974, the appellant was arrested. On May 21, 1974, the day appellant's trial was to begin, a pretrial discussion took place. The defendant moved for and was granted a substitution of judges. The next day the defendant sought to change lawyers as he alleged that his retained counsel wanted him to plead guilty. The court stated that it felt the sole reason for the request was to delay the trial, and denied the request. The court then ordered the jury selection to begin, and the trial commenced the next day.
The State's first witness was Verna Reynolds, mother of the deceased who identified a photograph of the deceased as her son. The prosecution's next witness, Ronald Barkowski, testified that on May 11, 1971, he was a desk clerk at the Villa East Motel in East St. Louis, Illinois. He identified the defendant and stated that he had been renting a room at the motel. He said that on the morning in question he heard two shots and saw the defendant standing in Room 120 firing at another man who was running away. He concluded by saying that he saw no weapon in the running man's hand.
Larry Vancil, an East St. Louis police officer who was passing the motel at the time, stopped to assist Reynolds. Vancil "patted down" the deceased both at the scene and at the hospital but discovered no weapon on his person. Sandra White, the day clerk at the motel, said she heard a shot and saw a man running. She testified that she heard five shots in all, and identified the defendant as the man doing the shooting. The coroner of St. Clair County testified that four bullets passed completely through Reynolds' body, causing his death.
The defendant took the stand and testified that he was living at the Villa East Motel and that he met the deceased on May 9, 1971, at a tavern in East St. Louis, Illinois, when he and one "Swede" Jefferies threatened him. They told the defendant that they wanted "pay-off" money from him. The defendant further testified that he called Captain William Johnson of the East St. Louis Police Department on the morning of May 11 to report the threats made to him by the deceased and Jefferies. The defendant stated that he saw the deceased around the motel in the morning and that he knocked on his door, stating that Jefferies wanted to talk with him about money. During the conversation, the defendant testified that the deceased acted like he was going to get something out of his pocket, and the defendant shot him in the stomach and then continued pulling the trigger. The defendant then fled with Ernestine Johnson who was living in Room 120 at the motel. The accused said that he never learned of Reynold's death and that he began to shoot because he saw a gun coming out of the deceased's pocket.
On cross-examination the defendant stated that he fled because he was scared of the "War Lords." He admitted that Room 120 was for Ernestine Johnson who was a prostitute, but that she didn't conduct her business from the room. The defendant stated that he could be called a "pimp," but at one time he had an interest in a tavern and dry cleaning establishment. He testified that the deceased thought he had a lot of money because he had a Cadillac and the statement was made that he "had girls." The defendant said he knew the deceased was coming after him because the girls had told him. He also told of calling Captain Johnson about the threats and that his two "girl friends" had been raped by the deceased. The defendant stated that he did not know how many shots he fired, but did reload his gun.
On redirect examination, the defendant testified that Sergeant Pool of the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department told him that the deceased had spent some time for rape.
Captain William Johnson of the East St. Louis Police Department testified that the defendant had called him early on the morning of May 11. The defendant recounted that the deceased had raped two of his women and threatened them and him. The threats were communicated through the girls. On cross-examination Johnson stated that the defendant did not tell him that he was threatened directly by the deceased. Johnson also told of a ...