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People v. Rivers





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. FRED G. SURIA, JR., Judge, presiding.


After a bench trial, defendant was found guilty of murdering his wife, Christine Rivers, and was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 30 years nor more than 90 years. On appeal, he contends the trial court erred in (1) failing to conduct a full evidentiary hearing on his mental fitness to stand trial, and (2) imposing an excessive sentence after refusing to allow him to retain an attorney to represent him at the sentencing hearing. We affirm the judgment of the circuit court. The pertinent facts of this case are as follows.

Prior to trial, at defendant's request, the court ordered that defendant be examined by the Psychiatric Institute of the Circuit Court of Cook County. On July 20, 1972, a report was filed by Dr. Robert H. Reifman, a staff psychiatrist for the Psychiatric Institute, in which the doctor stated that he examined defendant on July 13, 1972, and found him competent to stand trial. He concluded that defendant "understood the nature and purpose of the proceedings and is able to assist in his own defense."

At trial, Patricia Young, niece of the deceased, testified that defendant was the husband of the deceased and that on July 10, 1971, she had helped the deceased move out of her marital household and into her family residence. Miss Young further stated that during 1971, defendant drove a gold Lincoln Continental and Christine Rivers drove a turquoise blue, 1964 Pontiac Tempest.

Herbert Stevens testified that he resided at 8108 South Blackstone in Chicago. On November 4, 1971, at approximately 6 p.m., he was sitting in his kitchen talking to his wife when he heard a loud crash. He went outside and heard someone running and hollering "Help me, help me!" On further observation he saw a man and a woman running. The woman hollered, "Help me, my husband is fixing to kill me." He watched them run toward him. The woman entered the gate to his back yard, ran to the steps of his back porch and then fell while attempting to ascend the staircase. The man was about three feet from her when she fell. He shot her five or six times, turned around, walked toward his car, entered and then drove down Harper Street, going southbound on the one-way northbound street.

After the shooting, the victim asked Stevens to call her sister. Even though the street lights provided illumination during the incident, Stevens was unable to obtain a good look at the assailant's facial features. He indicated, however, that defendant resembled the assailant with respect to height and weight.

Ivy Montgomery testified that at 6 p.m., on November 4, 1971, she heard and saw two cars turn onto 81st Street while she was walking on the 81st block of South Blackstone Street in Chicago. One of the cars was a Lincoln Mark III, the other was a little car. She watched the Lincoln cut off the smaller car. The cars then stopped, and the driver of the smaller car, a woman, jumped out of the driver's seat and screamed, "Help me * * *." Mrs. Montgomery went into her home and observed Stevens come out of his house. She saw the lady run past Stevens and onto his porch. She watched as a man got out of the Lincoln and walked toward Stevens. The man pulled out a gun and started shooting. She then observed the assailant put the gun back "where he got it from," fasten his coat, walk back to his car and drive down Harper Street going the wrong way. She noticed that the man's car had a flat tire and was missing a hub cap.

Ora Hayes testified that her sister, Christine Rivers, was alive and in good health prior to November 4, 1971. She stated that Mrs. Rivers was married to defendant at the time of her death but had not lived with him since the time of their separation in July of 1971. Decedent, at that time, moved into Mrs. Hayes' home. Mrs. Hayes further testified that her sister possessed and operated a 1964 "Pontiac [which was] blue with [a] convertible top." Defendant owned a gold 1969 Lincoln Mark III.

Doctor Enrique Steider testified that at approximately 6:30 p.m., on November 4, 1971, he gave surgical treatment to Christine Rivers. He stated that she had received eight gunshot wounds to her lower torso and they caused her a great deal of pain.

William Ross testified that at approximately 6 p.m. on November 4, 1971, he was driving his automobile north on Harper Street and while turning west on 81st Street he observed two automobiles approaching him at high speed. He curbed his car to avoid them. The two cars collided. He identified them as a Lincoln Continental and a Pontiac. He observed a male driving the Continental and a female driving the Pontiac. He proceeded west and then turned around and saw a lady run from one of the vehicles. Ross watched the man follow and fire a pistol at her five or six times. The man then lowered his gun, turned, walked back to the Lincoln and drove away southbound on one-way northbound Harper Street. Ross noticed that the Lincoln had a flat tire and was damaged on its right front fender.

Chicago Police Officer Gene Taylor testified that he and his partner arrived at the scene of the shooting and observed a female lying face down in the rear yard at 81st and Blackstone. She was bleeding from gunshot wounds. The victim told him she had run from her husband, Clarence Rivers, to the rear porch of the Stevens' home and was asking for help when her husband shot her.

Officer Taylor also observed a 1964 Pontiac Tempest convertible parked at the curb and a 1969 Lincoln Continental parked some distance from the Stevens' back yard. Near the corner of 81st and Harper he recovered a hub cap which matched the three hub caps on the Lincoln. The Lincoln had a broken tie rod and a flat tire.

Chicago Police Officer Thomas Beland testified that he took paint scrapings from the blue Pontiac convertible driven by the victim and the gold Lincoln Continental.

James E. Doran, an evidence microanalyst for the Chicago Police Department, testified that the blue paint samples from the gold Lincoln were "consistent" with the type of blue paint on the Pontiac. He also found that gold paint samples from the blue Pontiac were "consistent" with the gold paint on the Lincoln.

Chicago Police Officer John Ciszewski testified that on November 4, 1971, at approximately 6 p.m., he and his partner arrived at the rear of 8101 South Blackstone and observed a female lying face down on the sidewalk. He ascertained that the victim was Christine Rivers and he asked her what happened. She told him, "Clarence shot me." He asked who Clarence was and she said Clarence Rivers was her husband. Officer Ciszewski conducted a license number check on a blue Pontiac Tempest which was parked nearby and ascertained that the automobile was registered to Christine Rivers. He also checked the identification on a gold Lincoln Continental which was found only a short distance away from the crime scene and established that the vehicle was registered to defendant.

Mrs. Rivers died on November 13, 1971. Doctor Edward Shalgos, a forensic pathologist employed by the Coroner of Cook County, testified that on November 14, 1971, he performed an autopsy upon the body of Christine Rivers. He stated that decedent had suffered seven bullet wounds to her lower torso, "five being entries * * * indicating that two bullets had actually left the body." The cause of death was due to two bullet wounds of the left flank which produced internal lacerations, one of the internal lacerations led to a ...

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