APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Morgan County; the Hon.
HOWARD LEE WHITE, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE REARDON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
A Morgan county jury found the defendant, Glenn Sullivan, guilty of the May 29, 1975, armed robbery of the 104 Package Liquor Store in Meredosia, Illinois, a violation of section 18-2 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 38, par. 18-2). After entering judgment on the verdict, the court sentenced defendant to the penitentiary for a term of 8 to 24 years.
According to the testimony of eyewitnesses to the crime, two men with nylon stockings covering their faces entered the liquor store at approximately 5 p.m. on May 29, 1975. The store cashier, Margaret Easley, testified that the shorter of the two men was thin, attired in black plaid pants and armed with a "gun." The thin man remained at the door while his more heavy-set accomplice, who was attired in a Levi jacket and pants, went to the office and removed $179 from the cash drawer. This man had previously told the cashier to be seated and to place her head between her legs. At the same time, the thin man severed the store's telephone wire.
When the men finished, the heavy-set robber asked the cashier for her car's keys. She responded by saying the keys were under the car's front seat. After watching the men drive away in her blue and white Chevelle, the cashier fled to the store owner's home one block distant to call the police.
Morgan County Deputy Sheriff John Ryan testified that he received an armed robbery call at the county jail at 5:30 p.m. on May 29, 1975. After being given a partial description of the suspects and their car, Ryan and Sheriff Henry Jackson drove to Route 104 and then onto the Roegge Lake Road. As they proceeded eastward on the Roegge Lake Road, a green, four-door, 1968 Oldsmobile containing three persons passed them going in the opposite direction. The sheriff and deputy reversed their direction and were able to stop the Oldsmobile while both cars were still on the Roegge Lake Road. Defendant's alleged accomplices were the first to alight from the car, followed by the defendant who was wearing checked pants with no shirt. These pants matched the cashier's description of the pants worn by the robber who stood next to the liquor store door, armed with a gun. Thereafter, the men were transported to the Morgan county jail and charged with armed robbery.
The green Oldsmobile was transported to the Lowe Ambulance building in Meredosia where it was searched by the sheriff's staff. A knife was found on the automobile's dashboard and $47 was discovered in its rear seat. The suspects were also searched when they arrived at the county jail where $30 was discovered in one of defendant's socks, $54 on the person of another suspect and $48.40 on the other suspect. The money discovered on all three suspects totaled $179.40.
At trial, Esta Newman testified that on May 29, 1975, at 5:30 p.m., she was preparing dinner in her kitchen when she was distracted by a "funny colored" Oldsmobile containing three or four persons which had been stopped and then driven away from a spot near her home on the Arenzville Road. At approximately the same time, Dixie Kindred and Patricia Glover were driving in Mrs. Glover's car from Meredosia to the Glover residence on the Arenzville Road. They passed Esta Newman's residence where they observed a new blue car with a white top parked on the east side of the road. The car was later discovered to be registered to the liquor store cashier, Margaret Easley. At the same time, the two women observed an older, dark-grey car with a caved-in front end tailgating their vehicle. The older car was driven by a lone male and the women noticed that two men were standing behind the new car, with one man leaning into the trunk. Mrs. Glover testified that one of the men standing behind the new car was "heavy-set" and that the grey car pulled off the road in the direction of the new car.
On the day following the robbery, the police discovered a blue denim jacket, a partially filled box of .32-caliber revolver shells and a fully loaded, six-shot, .32-caliber revolver beside the Roegge Lake Road. The revolver was owned by Douglas Quinn, who loaned it to Clarence Armstrong, one of defendant's alleged accomplices, on the date of the robbery. Quinn identified the defendant and Albert Matthews, defendant's other alleged accomplice, as the two individuals who accompanied Armstrong when he asked to borrow Quinn's weapon. Quinn also rode with the trio on the day of the robbery to the Jones Sporting Goods Store in a large grey car to purchase a box of .32-caliber shells for the revolver.
Witnesses for the State testified that the defendant escaped from the county jail on September 4, 1975, five days prior to the date his case had been docketed for trial. Defendant fled to Orlando, Florida, where he was again apprehended and turned over to Morgan county authorities who returned him to the County for trial. Defendant later stated, at his sentencing hearing, that the escape was prompted by a threat made on his life by a deputy sheriff.
"Flight from justice may be indicative of consciousness of guilt and, if unexplained, is a circumstance which may be considered by the jury, in connection with the other evidence in the case, as tending to prove guilt. (People v. Schaffner, 382 Ill. 266; People v. Gibson, 385 Ill. 371.) However, flight is not always dictated by an impulse or purpose to escape the consequences of acts done and, in some instances, is equally or more consistent with some other hypothesis. Accordingly, we have adhered to the view that if there are circumstances which would tend to explain or excuse the flight on grounds consistent with innocence, a defendant is entitled to show them. (People v. Rappaport, 362 Ill. 462; People v. Bundy, 295 Ill. 322.)" (29 Ill.2d 127, 130-31, 193 N.E.2d 841.)
The court has recently held that necessity may be a proper defense or ground which could explain a defendant's flight from justice. (People v. Unger (1977), 66 Ill.2d 333, 362 N.E.2d 319.) In Unger, a defendant charged with the crime of escape (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 108, par. 121) was held to have properly attempted at trial to explain his flight from the State penitentiary by showing that his fellow inmates had threatened his life and sexually molested him. In the instant case, however; defendant did not attempt to explain his escape until after the jury had determined his guilt. Defendant did not offer an explanation of his escape until the sentencing hearing, when that explanation was permitted to be offered. Accordingly, we find no error in the admission at trial of testimony relating to defendant's flight.
On appeal, defendant presents two issues for our review: (1) whether the State's references to and presentation of defendant's alleged accomplices denied defendant a fair trial by informing the jury of the fact that the accomplices had previously been convicted of armed robbery; and (2) whether defendant's guilt was proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Since we decide this appeal on the basis of the first issue, we need not address the question presented to us in the second issue.
• 3 As a general rule, evidence that an alleged accomplice has been convicted or has pleaded guilty to an offense for which the defendant is being tried is inadmissible against the defendant because competent and satisfactory evidence against one person charged with an offense is not always competent and satisfactory against another. (People v. Burch (1974), 22 Ill. App.3d 950, 953, 317 N.E.2d 136, 139.) This, however, does not prohibit the State from presenting relevant accomplice testimony, whether that testimony is corroborated or uncorroborated. (People v. Wilson (1977), 66 Ill.2d 346, 362 N.E.2d 291.) Rather, we mean to say that one ...