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People v. Edwards





Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Third District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Peoria County, the Hon. Ivan Yontz, Judge, presiding. MR. JUSTICE CLARK DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied December 1, 1978.

The defendant, Ronald E. Edwards, was found guilty of unlawful possession of a weapon, in two counts (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 38, par. 24-1(a)(7)), and of burglary (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 38, par. 19-1(a)) by a jury in the circuit court of Peoria County. The appellate court, with one justice concurring in part and dissenting in part, finding the State's Attorney had made prejudicial comments during closing arguments, reversed and remanded for a new trial. (49 Ill. App.3d 79.) We granted leave to appeal. 58 Ill.2d R. 315.

The defendant argues that his motion for mistrial due to improper closing arguments should have been granted by the trial court. He also contends, as he did before the appellate court, that the trial court erred in not declaring a mistrial because the prosecutor had called to the attention of the jury, on cross-examination of the defendant, the guilty plea of a co-indictee who was not called to testify; and that an arguably unlawful search of the defendant's car occurred which uncovered two sawed-off shotguns. (In this court, the defendant also asserts ineffective assistance of counsel due to counsel's failure to challenge the lawfulness of the search.) We agree with the appellate court that the defendant failed to preserve these contentions for appeal because they were not cited as the basis for his motion for a new trial. (49 Ill. App.3d 79, 81-82.) "Where the grounds for a new trial are stated in writing," as is the case here, "the accused is limited on review to the errors alleged therein and all other errors are deemed to have been waived." (People v. Hairston (1970), 46 Ill.2d 348, 367.) The only error alleged as justifying a new trial, other than the customary reasonable doubt issue and catchall language regarding "any error which may appear from a reading of the entire transcript of this matter," was that of improper closing arguments.

The defendant and Robert Sneyd, who was a prosecution witness, were arrested near the Lipsett Steel Company in Peoria County after midnight on July 11, 1973, for burglary of the company. Police had arrived at the company in response to a burglar alarm, and found entry into the office had been through a hole in the roof and ceiling, plaster and other debris had been strewn about the area, and the safe had been tampered with. The clothing of the defendant and Sneyd was kept as evidence. The clothing thought to be the defendant's was sent to the FBI Crime Laboratory to be tested for the presence of plaster particles. The results were negative and given to defense counsel. Sneyd's alleged clothing was not sent. At trial, Sneyd, who had prior felony convictions and had pleaded guilty to the burglary here, testified that the defendant lowered himself through the hole they cut in the roof of the company, while he remained outside. The defendant testified that he and Sneyd, having left Frank Larsen in the defendant's car which was parked in the lot at the company, took Sneyd's car and parked it elsewhere, and went fishing. At the beginning of the third day of trial, before the jury appeared, the State moved for leave to reopen its case. The evening before, after the State closed its case, the prosecutor had the clothes labeled Sneyd's sent to the Joliet Crime Laboratory on the hunch that these clothes might actually belong to the defendant and contain plaster. The test results showed the presence of plaster. Defense counsel objected and the trial court denied the State leave to reopen its case to admit the new results into evidence. However, the trial court, over objection, did permit the State to reopen its case to permit Sneyd to testify that the set of clothing, first identified as the defendant's and lacking plaster particles, was his.

In his closing arguments, defense counsel made the following comments:

"MR. BLOOM [defense counsel]: I want you to also remember when Mr. Sneyd was brought back to testify that the State now had a negative finding on particles of his clothing that was Ron Edwards. Suddenly, this morning Mr. Sneyd said, `Hey, fellows, those are mine.' Didn't do such a hot job yesterday, so we'll just — this is just icing on the cake. Oh, yeah, these are my clothes that were negative for Edwards and Edwards' clothing that are not yet forthcoming. So there we have it. It's up to you in your deliberations. If there was a reasonable explanation as to where Mr. Edwards was or what he was doing, you have to say it was, and you can examine the reasonableness of the other man's testimony."

During the State's rebuttal arguments, the following was recorded:

"MR. INMAN [prosecutor]: Now, in the area of serious misrepresentation, Defense Counsel has told you and I quote him, `I want it and the State has yet to produce it — the clothing of the Defendant.' We attempted to this morning and it was kept out upon the objection of the Defendant's lawyer. We had evidence concerning that clothing.

MR. BLOOM: I'll object. I want an instruction to the Jury and I want this man cautioned never to do that again in his closing argument.

THE COURT: Sustained. Strike that from your memories.

MR. INMAN: There is no clothing to show you. It's sitting out there in that room behind you.

MR. BLOOM: Objection. He's saying exactly the same thing.

MR. INMAN: I said, your Honor, that the clothing of the Defendant is available and could be brought if it was wanted.

MR. BLOOM: That is wholly objectionable; wholly without — Your Honor, I want to make a motion ...

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