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People v. Sievers





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. ROGER H. LITTLE, Judge, presiding.


The prime issues: modus operandi and identification.

Do they permit evidence of other offenses committed by the defendant?

We hold in the affirmative.

Terry Sievers was charged by information with the September 21, 1975, rape of Terri Lee Scott in Champaign, Illinois. He was convicted by a jury and sentenced to serve 5 to 15 years' imprisonment.

Under a subsequent information Sievers was charged with the November 30, 1975, armed robbery and armed violence of Marcia Elble. After another jury trial, he was convicted and sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison for armed robbery, to run consecutively to his prior rape sentence.

(On our own motion these cases have been consolidated for opinion as our cases numbered 14196 and 14097, respectively.)

RAPE CASE. At the first trial, Terri Lee Scott (age 16) testified that on the Sunday morning of September 21, 1975, she was visiting friends in Champaign and was out walking in search of a grocery store. On several occasions she noticed a blue Chevy Nova following her. As she approached the IGA store, she observed the Nova park in the store's parking lot. A man she recognized as the driver of the car then approached her, grabbed her by the arm, drew a knife and pulled her away from the street toward an adjoining cornfield. In a grassy area between the field and the street he threw her down, sat on her and held his hand over her mouth to muffle her screams. The man ripped off her clothes and fondled her breasts and crotch. The man forcibly had intercourse with the prosecutrix for about 30 seconds. He then got up and told her to walk south while he walked north towards the IGA.

Miss Scott started south but turned and headed toward the IGA when she heard the man's car leave. At the store, she called the police, made a complaint, and gave a description of her attacker. While scanning a group of photos during her second trip to the police station, she identified Sievers as the man who raped her.

ARMED ROBBERY CASE. Marcia Elble, a University of Illinois student, testified at the second trial that she was attacked on Sunday, November 30, 1975, shortly after 11 a.m., while walking between Weston Hall and Garner Hall dormitories. A man came up behind her, grabbed her arm, stuck a sharp object in her back, and told her it was a holdup. She was then backed up against the Garner cafeteria doors and faced the man as he held a knife to her ribs. After giving him $9, Elble pushed the man and tried to get away. The man grabbed her once again, said he wanted her body, put his hand up her skirt, and told her if she cooperated it would not be so hard. Elble pushed him again and ran toward the intramural building. There she reported the attack and was taken by the police to the police station where she drew a sketch of her attacker.

In both cases the trial court admitted testimony concerning attacks on other University of Illinois students expressly for consideration on the issue of defendant's identification and design. Sievers asserts this testimony was erroneously admitted because the character of these assaults was not sufficiently similar to the offense against the complainants to establish modus operandi.

• 1 Although evidence of extra-indictment offenses is not generally admissible, evidence of other crimes which goes to show motive, intent, identity or modus operandi is an exception. (People v. McDonald (1975), 62 Ill.2d 448, 343 N.E.2d 489; People v. Palmer (1970), 47 Ill.2d 289, 265 N.E.2d 627.) In McDonald our supreme court found there was no error in admitting a prosecution witness' testimony that she had experienced an attack similar to the one encountered by the complainant. Similarities in the two attacks in McDonald included the early morning time, the entrance gained by removing a window screen and standing on an overturned refuse basket, the manner of attack upon a female victim, and the intruder's apparel of gym shoes, khaki pants, and gloves.

In all four attacks allowed into evidence in the rape case before us, the assailant was a tall, thin young man with long blonde hair. He approached the young female victim on foot while they were walking down a sidewalk and began the sexual assault by fondling or attempting to fondle the victim. Similarities between the attack on the Scott girl and two of the other attacks are that the attacks occurred on a Sunday morning and the attacker used a knife.

In addition to the similarities shared by all four attacks, the attack in our armed robbery case and the two other attacks allowed into evidence all involved a robbery preceding a sexual assault, an attacker announcing his sexual intent, and attacks occurring on the University campus during a two-week span. Similarities between the attack on Miss Elble and one of the two other attacks are that the ...

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