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People v. Fletcher





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. RICHARD J. FITZGERALD, Judge, presiding.


Defendant Silas Fletcher was convicted of the aggravated kidnapping and murder of Hillside police officer Anthony Raymond. The evidence indicated that someone matching the defendant's general description robbed the Swedish Manor Restaurant. Minutes later, someone matching defendant's description was also stopped on the Eisenhower Expressway at Mannheim Road, for an apparent traffic violation. Officer Raymond was identified as the arresting officer.

Officer Raymond was never seen or heard from again. His abandoned squad car was found on the Eisenhower Expressway at Mannheim Road. One year later, his body was found buried on the property of defendant's brother-in-law, in Rhinelander, Wisconsin.

During the jury trial, the People introduced into evidence Officer Raymond's radio transmission, made just before the traffic stop on the expressway. It was the People's theory that defendant robbed the Swedish Manor Restaurant and abducted and killed Officer Raymond during the escape, in order to avoid capture. The People argued that at least one stolen auto was used during the robbery/abduction-murder and during closing arguments, noted defendant's prior Indiana conviction for armed robbery.

During the conference on instructions to the jury, it was agreed that Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions, Criminal, No. 3.02 (hereinafter IPI Criminal) would be read to the jury. During trial, however, the trial judge failed to read the second paragraph of the instruction to the jury.

The jury subsequently found the defendant guilty of aggravated kidnapping and murder. He was sentenced to serve 100 to 200 years in prison.

On appeal, defendant argues that (1) evidence of the radio transmission was hearsay and inadmissible; (2) evidence of other crimes was inadmissible because of their prejudicial effect; (3) failure of the trial judge to read the second paragraph of IPI Criminal No. 3.02 was reversible error; and (4) defendant was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

We affirm.

On October 1, 1972, Hillside police officer Anthony Raymond disappeared. His empty squad car was found on a ramp to the Eisenhower Expressway at Mannheim Road. In August 1973, his body was found buried on a farm in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. The cause of death was determined to be a number of stab wounds in the back.

One of the persons charged with Officer Raymond's kidnapping and murder was defendant Silas Fletcher. After hearing all of the evidence, a jury found Fletcher guilty of murder and aggravated kidnapping. He was sentenced to serve 100 to 200 years in the penitentiary.

During the trial, it was the People's theory that Fletcher abducted and later killed Officer Raymond in order to avoid being apprehended for a robbery committed moments earlier.

Lawrence Thomas, manager of the Swedish Manor Restaurant in Hillside, Illinois, testified that on October 1, 1972, at approximately 10 p.m., the restaurant was robbed by two armed men. His son testified that as he left the restaurant a few minutes before 10 p.m., he noticed a full-sized, dark-colored automobile in the employees' parking lot. He did not recognize the auto as one belonging to any of the employees.

After his son departed, Mr. Thomas went outside to move his own car. When he re-entered the restaurant, he was confronted by a man with a gun. The man was only a couple of feet away and he forced Mr. Thomas to lie on the floor while he went through his pockets, taking money. The man also went through Mrs. Thomas' purse and asked for jewelry.

Mr. Thomas was ordered to open the safe and did so. The robber then removed the "microphone" from the telephone receiver and took it with him. He ordered Mr. Thomas and the others to stay in the office for five minutes. The robber then left. In all, close to $5,000 was taken.

During the robbery, Mr. Thomas saw only the man with the gun, who spoke to an accomplice in the other room whom he called "Kid." Mr. Thomas described the man he saw as white, about 28 to 30 years old, about 5 feet, 8 inches tall, and weighing about 165 or 175 lbs. He was well built and looked very athletic, with broad shoulders and narrow hips. Mr. Thomas estimated the man's waist size as approximately 30 or 32 inches. The man wore something resembling a dirty undershirt over his face; however, Mr. Thomas could see that he had light skin and hazel or blue eyes. He wore a short levi, "Eisenhower-type" jacket, that was faded blue. His matching "levi" pants were not flared and his shoes were a brownish-gray suede. He also wore a multicolored hat that a golfer or fisherman might wear.

The testimony at trial indicated that Officer Raymond was abducted shortly after 10 p.m. on October 1, 1972. The People produced a number of witnesses who testified concerning this point.

Herbert Wessler, an employee of a Shell gas station on Mannheim Road, near the Eisenhower Expressway, testified that he was playing football with some other employees on the evening of October 1. He saw a black-over-red 1968 to 1970 Cadillac screeching around the corner of Harrison and on to Mannheim. The auto was being pursued by a police car. The cars stopped on the westbound ramp to the expressway. When Mr. Wessler looked again, 10 or 15 minutes later, only the police car remained.

Lawrence Zuley, a radio operator for the Hillside Police Department, was on duty the evening of October 1, 1972. He testified that at approximately 10:15 p.m., he received a communication from Officer Raymond. When evidence of this communication was presented during trial, the jury was instructed that it was admissible, not for the truth of the statement, but for the fact that the statement was made.

The radio transmission was:

"[Car] 406, Hillside, traffic stop, Mannheim and the I-90 double "L", Lincoln."

The number of the license plate was inaudible, due to another transmission received at the same time. Repetition of the message was requested, but none was received. It was later established that a 1968 Cadillac, with 1972 license plates LL 781, was registered to defendant's wife.

Robert Eaton, Jr., was riding in a car at approximately 10 p.m. on October 1. He was traveling eastbound on the Eisenhower Expressway, exiting northbound on Mannheim Road. He observed a Hillside squad car on the westbound ramp, along with another large car, a Cadillac or an Electra, that appeared to be goldish-brown in color. The car had at least two passengers. Because he and his girlfriend were playing a game that required thinking of people whose initials matched the prefixes of license plates, he noticed that the license prefix on the Cadillac or Electra was "LL", the same as his girlfriend's initials. Mr. Eaton, however, could not be sure of the color of the car.

Michael Sangiacomo testified that he observed the auto at approximately 10:15 p.m. He stated that the civilian auto was a 1970 Cadillac Coup de Ville, burgundy with a dark brown or black top. He recognized Anthony Raymond standing in front of the squad car and walking toward another man. Sangiacomo described the other man as being 5 feet, 10 inches tall, weighing 210 lbs., about 32 to 37 years old, and being muscular, with a flat stomach and tapered waist. The man had brownish, wavy hair and wore a turtleneck sweater with straight-leg slacks.

Finally, Marvin Canniff testified that he observed a Hillside squad car and a two-door Cadillac Coup de Ville on the expressway ramp. He described the car as being a 1969 or 1970 model, brown in color. Standing near the car were two men; one was a police officer, the other was a white male, about 5 feet 9 inches tall. The white male weighed about 180 lbs. and had a muscular build. He wore a turtleneck sweater and dark clothes.

Mr. Canniff testified that he also saw another man in the car. This man was described as having a pug nose and blondish hair.

During the trial, the People argued that defendant used a stolen car during the robbery of the Swedish Manor Restaurant and thereafter switched back to his own auto. Several witnesses testified on this matter.

Jack Pryor and Timothy Hinsdale testified that they drove to Hillside on the evening of October 1, 1972. They were to visit a friend. They parked their car on Oak Ridge Avenue, behind a burgundy Cadillac with a black vinyl top. The car was described as a 1968 to 1970 model. Neither one had seen the Cadillac before and Jack Pryor testified that he had previously seen very few Cadillacs in that area.

The two youths arrived at their friend's home at approximately 9:55 p.m. and stayed somewhere between 3 and 10 minutes. When they ...

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