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People v. Fletcher





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JAMES FELT, Judge, presiding.


Defendant, James Fletcher, was indicted for attempt burglary. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 38, pars. 8-4(a), 19-1(a).) He was convicted by a jury and sentenced by the trial court to a term of three years and four months to 10 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

In this appeal defendant presents the following contentions: (1) that there was no evidence to sustain his attempt burglary conviction; (2) that during the hearing on defendant's motion to suppress his identification the trial court improperly restricted defense counsel's questioning of the identifying witness to matters concerning that witness' observations at the police lineup; (3) that his arrest was invalid because it was conducted without probable cause and without an arrest warrant; (4) that the police acted improperly when they seized gloves which were in defendant's hotel room at the time he was taken into custody and when they took possession of an automobile, which was parked a short distance from the same hotel; (5) that the trial court committed reversible error when it allowed the prosecution to introduce these gloves into evidence even though the prosecution failed to establish a connection between the gloves and the criminal offense charged; and (6) that the trial court's constant threat to hold defense counsel in contempt had such a chilling effect on defendant's representation that he was effectively denied proper confrontation of adverse witnesses and adequate assistance of counsel.

At approximately 7:30 p.m. on June 24, 1973, Mrs. George Lysy heard a loud pounding noise which emanated from the back storage area of a drug store located opposite her home. In response to this commotion she and her husband went out on their second floor porch to investigate. Mrs. Lysy's view of the rear of the store, however, was obstructed by foliage. Since she continued to hear the sounds of pounding, the witness yelled: "Stop hitting the building." After a moment of silence, Mrs. Lysy observed two men run alongside the storage area. As the two men passed her, the witness shouted once again. One of the men turned and looked up at her but did not stop running. He and his companion then got into a waiting automobile and sped away.

Mrs. Lysy ran downstairs and went to the area from whence she believed the pounding noise originated. She discovered a cardboard box in the back storage area, moved it aside and saw that the box concealed a hole in the drug store's wall. Near the same hole she found a broken sledgehammer with a red handle.

When the police arrived, Mrs. Lysy described the two men she had observed running as being white and in their mid-twenties. She also stated that the one who looked directly at her had dark, bushy hair with full sideburns. However, the witness was unable to describe to the police any specific characteristic relative to the mouth, nose, complexion or eye color of either man.

Several hours after providing this description to the police, Mrs. Lysy picked defendant from a police lineup. At the trial she testified that defendant was the man who turned and looked at her.

Mr. Lysy confirmed his wife's testimony concerning this incident, but he was unable to add anything to her description of the two men. However, two days prior to the attempt burglary, Mr. Lysy observed a maroon Oldsmobile parked in the space where he usually put his own vehicle. The Oldsmobile had two or three stickers on the right side of its windshield, and its body was damaged on the left side. Since the car was blocking his space, Mr. Lysy hurriedly wrote down the Oldsmobile's license plate as Number TP7521. *fn1 The witness then noticed three men coming toward the car. The group got into the Oldsmobile and backed it out of his drive.

Mr. Lysy testified that defendant was one of these three men. He also stated that defendant was one of the two men whom he saw running from the drug store's back storage area on June 24; that it was daylight when he and his wife viewed the two men; and that the fleeing men entered the same maroon Oldsmobile which was parked in his driveway on June 22.

After receiving descriptions from Mr. and Mrs. Lysy, the police proceeded to defendant's hotel because the police were aware that he owned a maroon Oldsmobile with a license plate number similar to the one given to the investigating officer by Mr. Lysy. Arriving at the hotel, the police set up surveillance outside the building. Approximately 4 1/2 hours after the attempt burglary was reported, the officers observed defendant drive up in a maroon Oldsmobile, park the car in an adjacent rear alley and go into the hotel.

One of the police officers checked the automobile and ascertained that it matched Mr. Lysy's description and bore license plate number TP2571. The two policemen then went into the hotel, obtained defendant's room number from the desk clerk and proceeded to his floor. While seeking defendant's room, an officer noticed a young woman preceding him down the corridor. She came to defendant's door and knocked. Defendant asked: "Who's there?" At this juncture the police officer showed the woman his identification and silently signaled her to remain quiet. He then told her to respond. She stated her name, and the officer told her to get out of the way. Defendant opened his door, but when he saw the police, he attempted to close it. However, the police officer forced the door open before defendant was able completely to shut it. Defendant was arrested as he fled toward the rear portion of his hotel room.

The police seized four clear plastic gloves which were lying in open view on top of a dresser. One of the gloves was marked with a reddish tint. However, no scientific analysis was conducted by the police to determine whether this tint matched the red paint on the handle of the sledgehammer which was found at the scene of the attempt burglary.

The police drove the Oldsmobile to the police station parking lot. Mr. Lysy was able to select this vehicle from 50 to 60 other cars and identify it as the automobile he had seen on June 22 and June 24. Even though Mr. Lysy was present at the police station when his wife selected the defendant from the lineup, the police did not ask him to view the same group of men.

During trial it was stipulated that the Oldsmobile was owned by defendant; that no fingerprints were found on the sledgehammer; that a fingerprint on the cardboard box was not ...

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