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People v. Beaston





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Carroll County; the Hon. F. LAWRENCE LENZ, Judge, presiding. MR. JUSTICE NASH DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant was found guilty by a jury of the offenses of perjury and subornation of perjury under sections 32-2 and 32-3 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 38, pars. 32-2, 32-3) and was sentenced to a term of four years probation and fined a total of $5,000. He brings this appeal contending (1) that he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) that the trial court admitted into evidence prejudicial hearsay testimony over his objection; and (3) that the trial court erroneously instructed the jury as to admissions allegedly made by him.

Defendant and Ruth Ann Wilcox were social acquaintances and had periodically lived together in his home since the summer of 1973. In October of that year Wilcox and her minor daughter, Velma, were involved in a collision with another vehicle while Ruth Ann was driving defendant's truck which she had borrowed from him. The insurance carrier for the driver of the other vehicle settled a claim for personal injuries made by Ruth Ann and Velma for $150 and two bank drafts drawn on the insurance company were sent to defendant's home where Ruth Ann and Velma then lived. One of these drafts was made payable to Ruth Ann Wilcox for $100 and the other to Velma Wilcox and Ruth Ann Wilcox, as her mother, for $50. In March 1974 defendant deposited both drafts in his personal bank account and they then contained the defendant's name typed on the face of each of the drafts as an additional payee. The reverse side of each draft contained defendant's endorsement together with those of Ruth Ann and Velma Wilcox.

In August 1974, defendant was charged with having committed forgery in connection with these drafts. The record is not clear as to who was the complainant or alleged to have been defrauded by a forgery, but it appears that the charge was based upon the fact defendant's name was added as a payee and that he then endorsed and deposited the drafts in his account. During the trial of the forgery case in August 1974, both defendant and Ruth Ann Wilcox testified that she had owed him more than $200 at the time she received the drafts, as he had advanced mortgage payments on her house, and she had partially repaid the debt by endorsing the drafts in blank and giving them to him. Defendant also testified he then typed his name on the face of the drafts as an additional payee so that they could not be stolen from him and further negotiated without his endorsement. Ruth Ann testified that defendant's name had not yet been inserted on the drafts at the time she had endorsed and delivered them to him. From this testimony, not unreasonably, the jury acquitted defendant of the forgery charges on the apparent premise no one had been defrauded.

At some time after his acquittal of forgery, defendant and Wilcox had a falling out and she then went to the State's Attorney of Carroll County and stated that Beaston had lied at the forgery trial and that she, Wilcox, had also lied at his insistence. Thereafter, in January 1975, the grand jury returned an indictment charging defendant with several counts of perjury and of the subornation of Ruth Ann Wilcox to commit perjury, based upon the testimony of defendant and Wilcox at the forgery trial. The statements alleged in the indictments to have constituted perjury consist of the following three answers to questions there asked of defendant by his attorney:

"Q. At that time [February 1974, when the drafts were mailed to defendant's house] did Ruth Ann Wilcox owe you any money?

A. Yes, she did.

Q. Did she voluntarily sign these two [drafts] over to you in payment of the debt?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you make any threats or promises or allegations to her concerning her signing these [drafts] over to you at that time?

A. None whatsoever."

The forgery trial testimony of Ruth Wilcox alleged in the indictment to be false statements made by her in the former trial at the request of defendant, was based upon her responses to questions propounded to her by defendant's counsel, as follows:

"Q. Did you sign those two [drafts] of your own free will and under no duress?

A. I sure did.

Q. Did you owe Harold Beaston anything at the time you ...

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