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People v. Pumphrey





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. DANIEL J. WHITE, Judge, presiding.


Defendant, Melvin Pumphrey, was charged by indictment with the offense of armed robbery in violation of section 18-2 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 38, par. 18-2). Upon a jury trial defendant was found to be guilty as charged. Judgment was entered on the verdict and defendant was sentenced to serve a term of confinement of 4-6 years in the Illinois State Penitentiary.

From entry of the judgment of conviction defendant appeals contending that certain evidence was improperly adduced and served to deny him a fair trial. Specifically, defendant asserts that the trial court erred in permitting the State (1) to cross-examine a defense witness and defendant concerning their prior use of assumed names; (2) to cross-examine the witness about her arrest in connection with the armed robbery which gave rise to the instant charges; and (3) to introduce collateral evidence of defendant's use of an assumed name.

A review of the facts adduced in the case at bar reveals that at approximately 10:30 p.m. on Friday, February 25, 1972, Judee Potter was returning to her home following presentation of a school play held at the Arnold School in Chicago, Illinois. Potter parked her automobile in the vicinity of 1450 N. Astor Street and attempted to retrieve some property from the trunk of her vehicle. Another automobile, described as a green 1970 Buick Skylark, drew near so as to permit its occupant to ask directions of Miss Potter. The driver seized this opportunity to open the car door, point a silver pistol toward Potter and demand her purse. She complied and the assailant drove away. Potter noted that the vehicle carried Illinois license plates bearing number 936 893.

Potter testified that during this episode the area was illuminated by a street lamp as well as light from the interior of the automobile and Potter characterized the illumination as "very bright for evening." From a distance of "a few feet" and for a period of 1-2 minutes Potter observed the features of her assailant.

Approximately ten minutes later, Chicago Police Officer William Disselhorst arrived on the scene and interviewed Miss Potter. She provided the officer with the license number of the assailant's car and described him as a male Negro, 30-40 years of age, 5'9"-5'10" in height, weighing 180 pounds, black hair, dark eyes, light complexion, and wearing a black vinyl coat and a red and gold striped scarf. She also informed the officer that the assailant had a short thick neck and a wide nose. At trial, Potter positively identified defendant as the man who robbed her at gunpoint.

Based upon the license number provided by Potter, Chicago Police Investigator Monroe Vollick ascertained that the vehicle was registered to Mary Pumphrey, defendant's spouse. Vollick obtained a photograph of defendant and showed it and several others to Judee Potter. Potter selected defendant's photograph as portraying her assailant.

Defendant was arrested on March 15, 1972, and was placed in a lineup which was viewed by Potter. She again identified defendant as her assailant.

Vollick testified that he subsequently spoke with defendant in an effort to locate the automobile employed in the robbery. Defendant indicated that the car was under repair in a garage located at 800 W. 63rd Street but was unable to provide the officer with the name or telephone number of the shop. Vollick stated that he attempted to locate the vehicle without success.

At the time of trial, defendant was 5'5" in height and weighed 145-150 pounds. Admitting a discrepancy between defendant's stature and her description of the assailant, Potter testified that her description was "totally off" in this regard. However, Potter characterized her description of defendant's facial features as "very accurate."

Defendant testified in his own behalf and denied any participation in the crime charged in the indictment. Defendant testified that on the day in question he was employed until 4 p.m. as a substitute janitor at the Arnold School in Chicago, Illinois. Defendant was also self-employed as an interior decorator and, in association with his wife, operated a home furnishings store located at 820 E. 79th Street. Defendant indicated that he arrived at his store between 4:30 and 6 p.m. and proceeded to the home of Inez Collins where he was employed to perform certain repairs. According to defendant, he remained at the Collins residence continuously until 11:45 p.m.

Inez Collins testified that defendant arrived at her home at approximately 6 p.m. and began work. At approximately 9 p.m., Inez Collins left defendant in the company of her husband and, upon her return near midnight, defendant had gone. Mr. Collins did not testify at defendant's trial.

Defendant also adduced the testimony of his wife, Mary Pumphrey. She testified that at approximately 8:30-8:45 p.m. on February 25, 1972, she, too, was the victim of an armed robber who held her captive for a period of 10 minutes. According to Pumphrey, she was accosted in an alley behind her store by a man who drew a weapon and stole her purse and automobile. The purse contained currency, the keys to the store and the vehicle registration. She fled and summoned police.

Chicago Police Officer Lorenzo Morgan arrived at the scene at approximately 10 p.m. and initiated an investigation. According to Morgan, Pumphrey described her assailant as a male Negro, 5'10" in height, weighing 180-200 pounds, black hair, brown eyes, dark complexion and wearing a dark, navy-type jacket with a white hood. Pumphrey also ...

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