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People v. Schwartz





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. DANIEL J. RYAN, Judge, presiding.


Defendant, Robin L. Schwartz, was charged with the involuntary manslaughter of Anthony Kallas. After a trial without a jury, he was found guilty of that crime and was sentenced to one to 10 years. On appeal defendant contends that the trial court committed reversible error in admitting into evidence testimony regarding other crimes committed by defendant; that the trial court erred in admitting the gun into evidence; that the court erred in failing to strike testimony about the pellet recovered from the decedent's body; and that he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The pertinent evidence is as follows.

Stephan Jacobs and defendant lived together in a four-bedroom apartment in the city of Chicago. Jacobs testified that at approximately 10 p.m. on April 19, 1974, he was in the apartment preparing food. A young lady named Taylor Scobie, defendant, and decedent all entered the apartment and went to the dining room. Defendant stood nearby while the others, including the witness, sat at the dining room table.

According to Jacobs, decedent took out a plastic bag containing cocaine. Defendant took a piece, stating: "This is what I am keeping and it is part of what I am going to buy." The decedent replied: "You know last time you took all the rock and left the powder." The decedent proceeded to weigh some powder on a scale. Defendant left the room and returned about 30 seconds later. Jacobs was watching decedent weigh the powder while defendant stood between them. Jacobs testified: "I heard a click, I looked up. Tony looked up, and bam, the gun went off."

Jacobs saw blood coming from the decedent's eye. Defendant dropped the gun, stepped back and said, "Oh, my God." Jacobs flushed the cocaine down the toilet, ran down the stairs and threw the scale away. When he returned to the apartment, the police were talking to defendant.

Jacobs testified that he heard no argument before the shooting, and that the conversation was friendly. The gun belonged to Jacobs. Some two weeks before the present incident he showed the gun to defendant. When asked if he had any conversation with defendant, Jacobs testified:

"I mentioned to Robin that I wanted him aware that I had owned a gun; that it was legally registered, and that I brought it into the apartment, and that I showed it to Robin. When I showed it to Robin it was unloaded, and that it would remain in my part of the apartment."

When Jacobs heard the click at the time of the occurrence, he started to tell defendant the gun was loaded.

Dr. Pascual Culala of the Cook County coroner's office performed an autopsy on the decedent. He testified that the cause of death was a bullet wound to the head causing laceration of the brain.

Officer Benedict Pfaller of the Chicago Police Department testified that when he arrived at the scene the decedent was slouched over a chair. A pistol with powder marks and one spent cartridge was on the table. No fingerprint tests were run on the gun or cartridge.

Officer Burt Nielsen of the ballistics division testified as to a trigger pull examination. He believed the gun could not be fired without the trigger being pulled, although the force required was a little less than normal. No comparison tests were conducted because the pellet recovered from the decedent's body was mutilated. The pellet had the same general class characteristics as a bullet fired from the recovered weapon.

Taylor Scobie testified that she was seated at the table with the three men who were talking, laughing and joking. As she read a newspaper, decedent weighed cocaine. Defendant and decedent had a conversation about cocaine. She next noticed defendant standing five to eight feet in front of decedent. Defendant was pointing a gun at decedent and the latter was looking up at defendant. After the shot was fired, defendant said, "Oh my God, I shot Tony." Defendant then told the witness to leave the apartment.

Defendant did not testify.

Defendant initially contends that it was reversible error for the State to introduce evidence of other crimes allegedly committed by him when said crimes had not been charged or proved and the evidence was solely for the purpose of prejudicing the court against ...

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