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People v. Torres





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOHN F. HECHINGER and the Hon. JAMES J. STRUNCK, Judges, presiding. MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE SIMON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Mr. PRESIDING JUSTICE SIMON delivered the opinion of the court:

A jury found Jose Torres guilty of the murder of Sandra Jean Johnson and Rose Mary Brown; he was sentenced to serve 100-300 years on each offense, the sentences to run concurrently. On appeal Torres contends: (i) he was denied a fair trial by the State's reference to conversations and prior statements designed to improperly bolster a weak witness, by the State's asking a police officer for disclosure of a statement the witness made implicating defendant, by the prosecutor's closing argument and by police testimony insinuating defendant was a fugitive; (ii) he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; (iii) he was deprived of a fair trial when a police officer referred to defendant's arrest record; (iv) the court erred in admitting photographs of one of the victims; (v) the court precluded defendant from presenting his theory of defense by refusing to call a person as a court's witness; and (vi) he was denied his right to a speedy trial. We reject these contentions and affirm the judgment.

The State's key witness, Peter Gonzalez, testified that defendant shot the women, and Torres testified Gonzalez did the shooting. The only significant issue for the jury to resolve was who was telling the truth.

On the evening of the murders, September 2, 1973, Gonzalez, who was then 16 years old, and Torres were driving around the Rush Street area in Chicago in a car Torres borrowed from a friend. They picked up the two victims, who offered to perform sexual acts for money, and drove to a beach area off Lake Shore Drive where, according to Gonzalez, Torres parked the car. Gonzalez also testified that after Torres and Sandra Johnson left the car and were gone several minutes, Gonzalez heard a noise like a gunshot. Torres returned to the car alone, telling Gonzalez and Rose Mary Brown that Sandra Johnson had taken a taxi home. Rose Mary Brown asked to be let out, and as soon as she was out of the car, Torres shot her in the back of her head. According to Gonzalez, that was the first time he knew that Torres had a gun. Gonzalez also testified that Torres told him he had shot Sandra Johnson. Torres' account was similar to Gonzalez's, except he testified that he remained in the car while Gonzalez left the car with Sandra Johnson, and that Gonzalez shot both women.

Gonzalez also testified that on the evening of the murders, he and his roommate, Pablo Alavarez, were sitting on the stoop in front of their building when Torres approached them. Torres took Alvarez aside and talked to him, and Torres and Alvarez then went upstairs. When Torres returned, Harry Hernandez loaned Torres his car and Torres and Gonzalez drove off, subsequently picking up the two women.

Gonzalez testified that after the murders Torres gave the gun and car keys to him, telling him to return them to the owners. He returned the keys to Hernandez and put the gun away in his apartment early the morning of September 3. Later that day, Gonzalez told Hernandez what happened, and the next day, September 4, he told Alvarez what happened, but his testimony did not include what he told them. Gonzalez also testified that subsequent to the murders and prior to his arrest, he had conversations with James Bosques and his brother, Olvin Bosques, friends of his who both were witnesses. He did not testify to what was said in those conversations either.

Gonzalez was arrested on September 11 and charged in juvenile petitions with both murders. He made a statement to the police and to an assistant State's attorney who told Gonzalez that if he testified, no charges would be pressed against him. Gonzalez admitted that promises were made to him for his testimony, but he did not remember when, where or by whom. Gonzalez did not remember if the juvenile charges against him were dropped, but he recalled that he did not return to juvenile court on those charges.

Alvarez testified that on the evening of September 2, he and Gonzalez were outside their apartment when Torres walked over and asked him if he could borrow his gun. He and Torres went upstairs while Gonzalez remained outside, and Alvarez gave Torres the gun. Gonzalez returned the gun about 4 a.m. on September 3, and Alvarez noted it had been fired. That evening Olvin Bosques, owner of the gun, came to Alvarez's apartment and took his gun. Over objection, Alvarez testified to talking with Gonzalez on September 4, 1973, after Gonzalez showed him a Sun-Times newspaper article. After Alvarez read the article, he and Gonzalez met Olvin Bosques and his brother, James, at Olvin's store. Alvarez testified that he showed the newspaper article to Olvin and conversed with him, and Olvin Bosques then returned the gun to Alvarez. Alvarez immediately gave the gun to James Bosques, and he and Gonzalez left the store. Alvarez next saw the gun at James Bosques' garage on September 11, the day Gonzalez was arrested. Also present in the garage at the time were James Bosques; Olvin's wife, Susan Bosques; and Freddie Mercado, who took the gun.

Olvin Bosques testified he had loaned the gun, which the evidence established was used in the murders, to Alvarez. On September 3, 1973, he went to Alvarez's apartment to get the gun and noticed a couple of shells were missing. The next day, Gonzalez and Alvarez came to his store while his brother James was there. They showed James and him a Sun-Times newspaper account of the murders and James took the gun.

James Bosques testified that on September 4, he saw the gun at his brother's store, and, after a conversation with Gonzalez and Alvarez, took the gun to his garage. On September 11, he, Susan Bosques, Alvarez and Mercado decided to get rid of the gun. Mercado took the gun and James did not see it again. Susan Bosques' testimony corroborated James Bosques'.

Although the record does not show how police investigator Samuel Greiner came in contact with Mercado, Greiner testified he met Mercado on September 18 at the Grand Avenue bridge over the Chicago River. He instructed Mercado to throw a rock into the river similar in size and weight to the .25-caliber automatic which he had thrown into the river and in the same location as he had thrown the gun. Mercado picked up a rock and threw it into the river in an area from which the gun was recovered the next day by a scuba diver. Ballistics testimony established that it was the murder weapon.

Police investigator Thomas Skelly testified that on September 11, he saw a 1967 purple Nova thought to have been used the night of the murders and stopped Hernandez as he was entering it. After his talk with Hernandez, the police began looking for Torres and Gonzalez. Gonzalez was found and arrested for the murders. Skelly and police investigator John Durkin testified that commencing September 11 they talked to Torres' mother, to Hernandez and to a few other friends of Torres. The investigators inquired whether these people knew where Torres was, and asked that they contact the police if they learned where he was. Neither officer testified as to what response he received from these individuals.

Skelly and police officer Richard Morask testified that following a lead, they found defendant's wife and another woman at an apartment on the morning of September 28. Although both women said defendant was not present, upon searching the apartment, the police found Torres hiding inside a refrigerator.

A secretary employed by Ludwig Drum Company testified Torres was employed on September 10, began work on September 11, never returned to work thereafter, and never picked up his pay check for the 8 hours he worked on September 11.

Torres testified he first saw the gun when Gonzalez shot Rose Mary Brown, and that Gonzalez told him he shot Sandra Johnson after leaving the car with her. As they were leaving the scene, Gonzalez told him he shot Rose Mary Brown because he had already killed Sandra Johnson and might as well kill them both. He also stated Gonzalez told him he had learned from Sandra Johnson that the women had friends, who intended to rob Gonzalez and Torres, following them in a car.

Torres also testified there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest around September 10 for possession of marijuana, and he was avoiding service of that warrant until he employed an attorney. His explanation for hiding in the refrigerator was that he thought the police were attempting to arrest him on the marijuana charge, and since he had just been married, he did not want to leave his wife. He admitted knowing of Gonzalez's arrest ...

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