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People v. Sutton

OPINION FILED NOVEMBER 17, 1977.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

JOHN SUTTON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ROBERT COLLINS, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE ROMITI DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied December 8, 1977.

Defendant, John Sutton, was convicted of murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 38, par. 9-1), after a bench trial in the circuit court of Cook County, and was sentenced to a term of 14 years to 14 years and 1 day. The issues for review are, whether defendant was proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, whether he knowingly and intelligently waived a jury and whether he was prejudiced because of incompetency of counsel at trial.

We affirm.

Officer George Gaynor testified that at about 4:15 p.m. on December 24, 1972, he went to 6401 South Normal in Chicago, Illinois and found a body on the porch. Defendant, who was standing in the doorway, told him the deceased, Mr. Alfred Hill, had just left his apartment and had apparently suffered a heart attack. Officer Gaylor stated defendant did not appear to be excited. The deceased was taken to St. Bernard's Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Rose Hill, deceased's wife, then identified the body and asked that it be taken to the Metropolitan Funeral Home.

Officer Jasper testified that on December 25, 1972, he got a call to remove a body from the Metropolitan Funeral Home. Upon arriving there, he observed the body of Alfred Hill with a puncture wound in the left side of the chest. He stated the shirt and T-shirt belonging to the victim each had a hole in the same area of the chest as the wound, but the clothing was not bloody. He then transported the body to the Cook County Morgue.

It was stipulated, that if called, Dr. Culala, a forensic pathologist, would testify Alfred Hill's death was caused by a bullet wound to the chest and heart and that he had extracted a pellet from that area. It was further stipulated that the pellet taken from the deceased's chest was examined by a ballistics expert who, if called, would testify the pellet appeared to be a .22-caliber bullet.

John White testified that on December 24, 1972, he lived across the street from defendant and had known him for about five years. On that date he saw a police car at the side of defendant's building. He thought that Otis Harper, who lived in the apartment next to defendant, had been gambling and White and Bill Harper then drove to defendant's building and had a conversation with the police officers concerning the deceased. At this time defendant leaned out of the window and yelled, "What are you all doing with [John White]? He ain't done nothing."

When the police left, White, Bill Harper and defendant went to defendant's room and had a few drinks. White recalled there was nothing strange about defendant's appearance, and he seemed normal. Defendant gave White and Bill Harper $5 and told them to get some liquor. They returned to defendant's room and resumed drinking. White and Bill Harper then went to see Otis Harper in the next apartment down the hall. When they pushed the door to the room open, Otis Harper was not there. Defendant, who had followed them down the hall, admonished them to leave stating, "I'll bash your head in." Shortly thereafter, defendant said they were all friends and gave them $5 more to get another pint of liquor. White and Bill Harper left with the money and did not return.

Sidney Ridley testified that on December 24, 1972 he lived on the first floor of defendant's building. At about 4 p.m. he was by the front door of the building with his son when he heard a gunshot from upstairs. He took his son out the door and then went back inside and climbed the stairs. When he reached the top, Alfred Hill was lying on the floor. Defendant was standing beside him, and Otis Harper was standing in the door of his (defendant's) apartment. Ridley asked who shot Al Hill, and defendant replied that he did. Ridley suggested that they call the police, but defendant said not to. However, Ridley's wife subsequently called the police. Ridley then heard a dragging noise on the stairs, and about three minutes later he looked out the front window and saw that Hill was lying on the front porch. He later saw defendant meet the police on the porch and heard him say deceased had a heart attack. Ridley testified he remained inside and did not talk to the police.

Otis Harper testified that about 3 p.m. on December 24, 1972, defendant and Hill, who were his long-time friends, picked him up at his aunt's house, and they went back to defendant's apartment where each had a shot of whiskey. Later, the three men went into the bedroom and shot dice for about 45 minutes or an hour. Then an argument started between defendant and Hill. Defendant stated he would shoot Hill, and Otis observed defendant had a .22-caliber gun in his hands. Otis told defendant he did not need the gun because they were all friends, but defendant stated he would also shoot Otis. The latter immediately went to his room next door; several minutes later he heard a shot which was followed by the sound of dragging feet. He opened his door and saw defendant dragging Hill to the stairs. Otis caught Hill's wrist and called him three times but got no response. Otis told defendant he ought to be ashamed of himself for killing his best friend. Defendant replied that he would kill Otis and advised him, "You don't know nothing." Otis was backing toward his room when Ridley came up the stairs. Thereafter, Otis saw defendant drag Hill's body down the stairs to the first floor. About one hour later he (Otis) went out the front door and encountered defendant standing by the front gate. Defendant then stated to him that Al Hill had died of a heart attack and the police had taken him away.

Officer Richard Bedran testified that he interviewed defendant about 10:30 a.m. on December 26, 1972. Defendant told him that Hill had come to his apartment at about 4 p.m. on December 24, 1972, and had brought a half-pint of whiskey. They sat and talked while Hill drank the whiskey and the defendant had a soft drink. At about 4:30 p.m., Hill stated that he had to pick up his wife and left the apartment, leaving his topcoat and hat. About 20 minutes later, he noticed the police pull up in front of his house. He went downstairs and identified Hill, who was lying on the porch.

Defendant testified that he was 61 years old, had retired in 1968, and supported himself with a disability pension. He testified that on December 24, 1972, Hill came to his apartment, and asked where Otis was; he stated he had a present of a Christmas drink for both of them. Defendant told him Otis was at his aunt's house, and they picked him up in Hill's car. The three then returned to defendant's, where they each had a drink. Defendant stated Hill took off his coat and hat and laid them on a chair. Otis and Hill left sometime later, and he did not know what happened after that; he thought they went out to get more to drink. He denied they shot dice, stating he had no money.

Shortly thereafter, he was looking out the window and saw the police arrive. He thought Mrs. Ridley, who was ill, was being taken to the hospital. He went downstairs and saw Hill lying on the porch. He told the police he knew the man but told them nothing more. Subsequently, John White and Bill Harper came into his apartment. When they walked into Otis Harper's apartment, he told them to come out because Otis did not want anyone in there, and they left. He denied dragging Hill to the porch and stated he was not physically capable ...


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