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People v. Mcclellan





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. FRANK J. WILSON, Judge, presiding.


This is an appeal from a criminal conviction of murder and armed robbery. For the reasons stated below, the judgment of conviction is affirmed.

The defendant, Ronald McClellan, was indicted jointly with Wilbur Cain for the September 12, 1974, shotgun murder and armed robbery of Robert Dietz, a mail carrier. After a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County, McClellan was found guilty of murder and armed robbery and was sentenced to concurrent terms of 200 to 600 years and 25 to 75 years. Cain was found guilty of armed robbery and sentenced to a term of from 10 to 30 years.

At McClellan's trial the defense presented no witnesses. Testimony for the prosecution included the following:

Robert Haas testified on direct examination that on September 11, 1974, he, Cain, Jim Price, Jody Akers and Glenn Nelson were on the front porch of Cain's apartment building at Sunnyside and Paulina in Chicago drinking beer and wine when McClellan approached. McClellan introduced himself and said he was staying with the family next door. McClellan and Cain then left the porch and the remaining men moved indoors. Subsequently Cain and McClellan returned. Haas then sat in a chair and fell asleep.

Around 9:30 in the morning, Cain woke Haas. Nelson was sleeping on a couch in the apartment and McClellan was also there. Cain told Haas he wanted to use Nelson's car to go to a liquor store. Haas had the keys to that car and said Cain could use the car if he went with him.

Cain drove with McClellan in the front passenger seat and Haas in the back seat. After 15 or 20 minutes Haas leaned forward to ask McClellan why they hadn't yet stopped at a tavern, and when he did so he noticed the barrel of a shotgun protruding from under the front seat. Haas asked McClellan why the shotgun was in the car and McClellan said he was going to drop it off at a friend's house. A short time later, McClellan began talking about wanting to do a stickup. Haas said he wanted no part of it and McClellan turned around and told him that if he wanted no part of it he should just lay back and be cool.

On Damen Avenue near Belmont Haas noticed a mail carrier's cart on the sidewalk and heard McClellan tell Cain to pull over, that he wanted to rob the mail carrier. When the car pulled over, Haas could see the upper part of the mail carrier's body in the hallway of an apartment building. Cain and McClellan got out of the car, and Cain stood on the sidewalk while McClellan took the shotgun into the hallway. Haas then heard a shot and McClellan came running out of the building with the shotgun in his hand. The two men got into the car and drove it away.

McClellan had a wallet in his hand, from which he took some bills. He then threw it out a window. Cain asked McClellan why he had shot the mail carrier and McClellan replied it was an accident.

They returned to Cain's apartment and parked the car in back. McClellan and Cain got out, McClellan carrying the shotgun, but Haas remained in the car, not wanting to be seen with them, and fell asleep. About an hour later, Haas went to Cain's apartment and there saw Cain waving the shotgun around in front of someone. Haas grabbed the weapon and threw it in a garbage can.

Later, Jody Akers and Glenn Nelson returned to the apartment, then Haas and Nelson left.

Haas also stated that he had been convicted twice of misdemeanor theft and that he had voluntarily been residing in protective custody since the shooting incident.

On cross-examination, Haas said he had been drinking beer and wine until about 4 a.m. on the morning of September 12 and that he did not remember telling two police officers on or about September 16 that he had been drinking until 9:30 a.m. He said the police officers did not tell him he was under arrest or investigation and that he "did not run" when the police came to arrest Cain.

When provided with a copy of the statement he had given to police at the police station, Haas said, "I guess that they told me I was under investigation for the crime," at the time the written statement was taken, September 16, but that on September 15 they had merely asked about the incident and he had said he knew nothing about it because he "did not want to be involved."

Haas also answered questions regarding the relative comfort of his witness quarters and said no promises had been made to him by the police and no deals were made with the state's attorney regarding his testimony. He added that he did not remember testifying at a preliminary hearing that he did not see McClellan take the gun with him after parking the car behind Cain's apartment.

Jim Price testified in substantial accord with Haas' testimony regarding events on the evening and early morning hours before the shooting incident. He also stated that, at 11 a.m. of the day of the shooting, Cain visited him at home and said he was in trouble. Cain was upset and said he went out to get some drinking money and that somebody got shot in the back. Cain left the apartment, saying he had to go get a gun before somebody else got hurt. Later, Cain returned and asked Price to come with him to see the shotgun. Price said he did not want to see it.

Jody Akers, who said Cain was her boyfriend, testified that she was at Cain's apartment around 11 a.m. on the day of the shooting and saw McClellan come in carrying a brown paper sack over his shoulder. After McClellan left, Cain told her he was really in trouble this time and took two $10 bills out of his pocket, saying it was all he had gotten. During that afternoon she went to the back porch of Cain's apartment, removed a shotgun from the garbage can, and placed it in a closet in her home. On September 15, police came to her home and removed the shotgun.

Akers said on cross-examination that the police had threatened her "with up to 20 years if I did not cooperate with them" and had told her they would give her money and move her out of the State if she did cooperate. She said, however, "they didn't put words in my mouth."

On redirect examination, she stated that the brown paper sack McClellan had been carrying ...

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