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People v. Dixon





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EARL E. STRAYHORN, Judge, presiding.


In July of 1972 defendant Henry Dixon and three others not presently before this court (namely, Sylvester Gibson, Michael Daniel, and Maurice Woods) were tried jointly in a bench trial for the offenses of attempt murder and two counts of aggravated battery. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 38, pars. 8-4, 12-4 and 12-4(b)(1).) All these offenses were alleged to have been committed against one Carl Jordan. Dixon was found guilty in the manner and form as charged in the indictment and was sentenced to a term of from 8 to 15 years in the penitentiary.

The offenses for which defendant Dixon was convicted allegedly occurred on 20 December 1971, about 7:45 p.m. at the apartment of Carl Jordan, then age 15, at 2145 W. Lake Street in Chicago. According to the State, Dixon and eight other youths (of whom three were Dixon's co-defendants at trial) came to Jordan's front door and engaged him in conversation. Thereafter, one of the youths (namely, co-defendant Woods) fired a sawed-off shotgun and struck Jordan in the abdomen.

Since one of the issues raised by Dixon on appeal is whether the evidence adduced at trial proved him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the evidence will now be summarized.

Irma Gray, Carl Jordan's mother, testified that at 7:30 or 7:45 p.m. on the date in question she was in the living room of her home, the Lake Street apartment mentioned above. Her younger son answered a knock on the front door, whereupon she saw her elder son Carl conversing at the door with one Odell Rankin and one Willie Dunn. Other than Rankin and Dunn, Ms. Gray was able to see only about five or six shadows outside a window. This window was in the living room about 5 to 6 feet to the right of the door from Ms. Gray's point of view. After about 10 minutes of conversation, Carl ducked his head back and leaped toward the floor. Ms. Gray then heard a gunshot blast and saw a long blast of fire coming through the open front door. Another shotgun blast then came through the living room window. Looking through the window, she saw approximately nine young black males running through a playground to the east of the apartment at a distance of about 50 feet. Her son Carl was lying wounded on the floor of the living room.

Chicago Housing Authority Patrolman James White testified that, on 20 December 1971, he was on duty at about 7:45 or 8 p.m. in the 2100 block of West Lake Street. While sitting in a car in a parking lot, he heard a shotgun blast. Five or 10 minutes later, he and his partner observed four youths running through a breezeway at 2029 W. Lake. The witness and his partner got out of their car and stopped the first three youths, one of whom was defendant Dixon. A fourth youth (one Guy Rufus), trailing the other three by 15 to 20 feet, was also stopped. Upon a search, Rufus was found to be carrying a sawed-off shotgun. Although Rufus denied having fired the gun, his hand was bleeding between the thumb and forefinger. The witness stated that Rufus' shotgun had been fired once, because there was an expended shell in the shotgun together with one live shell. The witness and his partner then transported the four youths and the gun and shells to their Chicago Housing Authority office at 1834 West Washington Street and turned the youths and the gun and shells over to Chicago police officers.

Officer William Frapolly of the Chicago Police Department testified that, on 20 December 1971, he was on patrol. He was called to Chicago Housing Authority headquarters at 1836 W. Washington Street at about 8 p.m. *fn1 There, two CHA guards gave him a sawed-off .12-gauge shotgun along with an expended .12-gauge cartridge and a .12-gauge shell. He then had occasion to interview the victim and the victim's mother and sister at the Lake Street apartment in connection with his further investigation. Carl Jordan, then still lying wounded on the floor of the living room, gave him two nicknames, in response to his question to Carl as to who had shot him. He didn't recall any names being given by Ms. Gray.

Officer Frapolly was later recalled as a witness for all the defendants. Frapolly then stated that he thought Carl Jordan identified his attackers as "Baby Gangster" and "Moose," but that Jordan's voice was slurred. He didn't think that Jordan gave him any other nicknames or names. If Jordan gave other names, he didn't understand them. He didn't think Jordan gave him nine nicknames.

Carl Jordan, the victim, testified that he was 15 at the time of the shooting. At 7:45 p.m. on 20 December 1971, his younger brother answered a knock on the front door of their apartment at 2145 West Lake Street in Chicago and opened the front door. Willie Dunn was there. The area was illuminated by a 300-watt bulb on the outside of the building above the door and about 11 feet up from the ground. He could see very clearly. Odell Rankin was at the left side of the door from Carl's point of view. He spoke with Rankin and Dunn through a screen door for about 10 minutes. He also saw five shadows and a person referred to as "Little Moose." Then, Mike Daniel, Henry Dixon, and Sylvester Gibson jumped out, each holding a sawed-off shotgun, at a range of 4 to 5 feet. Dixon told him to come out. Others present included Andrew Williams, Guy Rufus, and one "Little Moose." All told, six of those present had shotguns and one had a handgun. Woods fired through the screen door, hitting Jordan at a distance of one foot. After Jordan was shot, there was a second shot through the window.

On cross-examination, Jordan stated that Dixon was pointing a shotgun at him. His nine assailants were standing from left to right in the following order — Woods, Williams, Rufus, Dunn, Rankin, Daniel, Gibson, Dixon, and Little Moose. Jordan denied telling his mother or any police officer that he was shot by "Baby Gangster" (Dunn). He testified that, while he was lying wounded on the floor of the living room, he gave the investigating police officer (Frapolly) the nicknames of eight of the assailants. It was also established that, at the preliminary hearing, Jordan did not testify that Dixon either spoke to him or was holding a gun at the time of the shooting. Also, Jordan testified at grand jury proceedings that he had mentioned only Dunn and Rufus to the police. At trial, he stated that his mind was cloudy at the preliminary hearing because of the medication he was then taking. (The preliminary hearing was held 5 days after the shooting.)

Jordan stated that he did not know whether the bulb illuminating the area was 300 watts but that he assumed that it was from his experience with light bulbs. At any rate, the area was bright and he could see clearly.

The State then offered the shotgun and shell recovered from Rufus as evidence. Defense counsel objected on the basis that the gun had not been sufficiently connected to the incident or to any of the co-defendants. These items were admitted into evidence, whereupon the State rested its case-in-chief.

For the defense, the first witness was Youth Officer John McAvoy. He participated in the investigation of Jordan's shooting. At 9 p.m. on 20 December 1971, he spoke with Ms. Gray at the 13th District Police Station. There, she stated that Andrew Williams was the person who shot her son.

Portia Atkinson testified that she was 17 and lived at 2051 W. Lake Street, one-half block east from Jordan's apartment. On 20 December 1971, Dixon and two of his three co-defendants (namely, Gibson and Daniel) were at her home at 6:30 p.m. They remained there until 8:05 p.m. Also present were her mother and younger brothers and sisters. They were dancing, listening to music, and talking during the time in question. Atkinson also testified as to the light fixture in the vicinity of the Jordan apartment and stated that its bulb was a 75-watt bulb. On cross-examination, the witness was confused about the date and stated that Dixon and his co-defendants were in her apartment on 22 ...

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