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People v. Robinson





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Rock Island County; the Hon. FREDERICK P. PATTON, Judge, presiding.


As a result of a trial in the Circuit Court of Rock Island County, a jury found the defendant, Robert Robinson, guilty of armed robbery. Judgment was entered on that verdict, and the defendant was sentenced to 30 to 60 years imprisonment. He now appeals.

On September 9, 1975, an indictment was filed against the defendant charging him with the armed robbery of $220 in currency and "various narcotic drugs" from John Reimers. Following the defendant's discovery motion, the State provided a list of the physical evidence which might be presented at the trial. This included two suitcases, one black and one blue, with personal clothing and pills. Subsequently, the defendant, by separate motions, sought to suppress the items seized in a search of the automobile in which the defendant was riding on the night of his arrest and the items seized in a search of the defendant's hotel room. These motions described the property seized and included, among the items seized in the automobile, a suitcase containing clothing and pills, while identifying the black suitcase as one of the items seized from the hotel room.

At the conclusion of the first hearing on the motions to suppress, the trial judge denied the motion to suppress items taken from the car but granted the motion to suppress all evidence unlawfully obtained from the defendant's hotel room. Specifically, the trial court ordered "a brown toilet case and a small black suitcase" be suppressed.

On the day of the trial, the voir dire proceedings were interrupted to consider a new motion to suppress presented by the defendant. During this hearing, the question of where the black suitcase was seized was rehashed. Several witnesses testified. Ms. Margie Irene Boyd testified that there was one suitcase on the floor in the back seat of the car and, although she did not remember the color, it was a larger suitcase than the one (black) present in the courtroom. The defendant reasserted that he had a suitcase in the car but he last saw the black suitcase in the hotel room. Wanda Rhodes, who had borrowed and driven the car on the night of the defendant's arrest, testified she had never seen the black suitcase.

Two police officers also testified. Captain Wayne Carey of the Moline Police Department stated he recalled observing a black suitcase in inventorying the defendant's belongings, but not the blue one. He stated he had received the black suitcase from the evidence locker and not from Detective Cunningham. Detective Cunningham, who had conducted the search of the hotel room, later testified at the trial that he had not seen the black suitcase until he accompanied Captain Carey to the property room in order to examine it. He also stated that, although he made no report of his own, he found no mention in Captain Carey's report of the black suitcase with regard to the search of the hotel room. However, on the redirect examination of Captain Carey the defense introduced a police report which the witness acknowledged as being made by him after the inventory. That report indicated that the black suitcase and the brown toilet case were received by him from Detective Cunningham.

Sergeant Don Heston, who alone had searched the automobile, testified that he found two suitcases, including the black one. However, Sergeant Heston's police report did not mention the black suitcase, although he did list the blue suitcase as an item seized during the search of the car. When asked to explain why his report did not mention the black suitcase and the report of the hotel search did, the witness replied, "Mine was merely an error."

Following the hearing the trial court denied the new (or second) motion to suppress. However, the State did agree to remove certain items from the black suitcase which could not be tied in to the case by the State in order to avoid prejudicing the jury. The State left four drug bottles and a shirt in the black suitcase for trial.

During the trial a controversy arose over the testimony of Wanda Rhodes, with whom the defendant had been living. She was called as a witness for the State. However, when Ms. Rhodes appeared to be unable to recall the details of her consent to the search of the car, she was asked if she had any condition which might affect her memory. She responded that she suffered from epilepsy which often occasioned a lapse of memory. Ms. Rhodes was asked several questions concerning a conversation she had with the defendant in which he told her he robbed a drug store. She said she couldn't remember the conversation. The State then moved to call Ms. Rhodes as a court's witness, "not necessarily because I question her veracity or her integrity, but I would like permission to ask leading questions * * *. [A]nd while I am not wholly taken by surprise and would not swear that I am wholly taken by surprise, I am a little bit surprised about this particular occurrence we have had right now. And I would merely ask permission to ask leading questions of the witness." At this point in the proceeding, the trial judge refused the State's motion but allowed the State to question the witness outside the presence of the jury. During this questioning, the witness testified she remembered writing down the statement of the defendant and she remembered telling the police about it, but she did not remember the conversation in which the defendant was supposed to have made that statement to her. Ms. Rhodes also admitted she was a very close friend of the defendant and that she was concerned about whether he would be found guilty or not guilty. The trial judge reserved ruling on the motion, and the jury returned. After a few questions, the witness again indicated she could not remember the conversation, and, upon renewed motion of the State, the trial judge designated Ms. Rhodes a court's witness. The defense counsel's objection was overruled.

While Ms. Rhodes was a court's witness, the following exchange occurred between the witness and the State's Attorney:

"Q. Isn't [sic] a fact that you had a conversation with the defendant, Mr. Robinson, in which Mr. Robinson stated to you that he had robbed a drug store?

A. That I don't remember. I remember telling the officers the next day what I wrote on that paper, but I do not remember discussing anything of that.

Q. Are you telling us now that you do not remember telling ...

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