Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Fourth District; heard
in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Morgan County,
the Hon. Howard Lee White, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE MORAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Morgan County, defendant, Glenn Sullivan, was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to the penitentiary for a term of 8 to 20 years. The appellate court reversed the defendant's conviction and remanded the cause for a new trial. It did so on grounds that certain errors committed during the trial, although not preserved for purposes of appeal, did, when considered together, constitute reversible error under the plain error doctrine. (48 Ill. App.3d 787.) We granted the State leave to appeal.
On May 29, 1975, at approximately 5 p.m., two masked men entered a liquor store in Meredosia, Illinois, and, at gun point, robbed the store's cashier of a reported $179. The store cashier was unable to identify the faces of her assailants, but she testified that the man armed with the gun was thin and wore plaid pants and that the other man was heavy set and wore a Levi jacket and pants. The two men fled the store in the cashier's blue and white Chevelle.
Two witnesses testified that, while driving on a country road outside of Meredosia at approximately 5:30 p.m. on May 29, they observed a car, fitting the description of the cashier's car, parked along the road; two men were standing near the trunk. These witnesses also testified that they observed a late-model grayish car, which had been tailgating their car, turn into a side road near the parked auto. Another witness, who lived in the vicinity of the parked car, stated she observed a "funny colored" Oldsmobile leave the area with three or four occupants.
A late-model green Oldsmobile with three occupants was subsequently apprehended by sheriff's police on Roegge Lake Road, outside of Meredosia. When the auto was stopped, the three occupants (Albert Matthews, Clarence Armstrong, and the defendant) were arrested. Deputy Sheriff Ryan testified that, at the time of the arrest, defendant was wearing plaid pants and no shirt. The three men were taken to jail, where a search of their persons and the car revealed a sum of money totaling $179; no gun was found. On the following day, police searched along Roegge Lake Road and found a blue denim jacket, a partially filled box of .32-caliber revolver shells and a fully loaded, six-shot .32-caliber revolver.
Douglas Quinn testified that, on the day of the robbery, he had loaned Armstrong a .32-caliber revolver to use in target practice. Quinn stated he had accompanied Armstrong, Matthews and defendant to a sporting goods store in a large, gray car, and that he had purchased a box of .32-caliber shells for the revolver.
Over objection, the sheriff was permitted to testify that defendant had escaped from jail while awaiting trial and was later apprehended in Florida.
Prior to defendant's trial, Matthews and Armstrong had pleaded guilty to armed robbery and were serving their sentence at Menard.
During opening statements, the prosecutor outlined for the jury the facts he intended to prove, and then stated:
"We also, I believe, will have the opportunity of hearing from the other two convicted armed robbers in this same instance, Clarence Armstrong and Albert Matthews, as to their being brought here this afternoon to testify what they know about Mr. Sullivan's participation in this act."
No objection was made to the prosecutor's remark.
Later, the prosecution called the two alleged accomplices as its witnesses. Before permitting the witnesses to take the stand, the court ordered the guard to unshackle them.
Matthews then took the stand and refused to testify on the grounds that it would incriminate him. After the prosecutor's repeated but unsuccessful attempts to elicit answers, the trial court ruled that Matthews was entitled to invoke his fifth amendment privilege.
Armstrong, called by the State, testified that he and Matthews were serving time in Menard for an armed robbery involving a liquor store in Meredosia. No objection to this testimony was made. Armstrong then testified that he was with the defendant on May 29 and that they rode together in Armstrong's car to Meredosia. Upon being asked if anyone else was in the car, Armstrong stated he did not ...