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People v. Cramer





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. HOWARD LEE WHITE, Judge, presiding.


Defendant appeals his convictions of conspiracy to commit murder (three counts), and solicitation to commit murder (six counts), entered upon jury verdicts.

Defendant's post-trial motion alleged some 70 errors, most of which are argued in defendant's brief. Upon pro se oral argument it is contended that the cause should be reversed for accumulated error and the argument was directed to the several errors discussed severally hereafter.

The sum of the allegations of the indictment is that between February 1974 and December 13, 1974, defendant conspired with a client, Weathington, to murder defendant's wife and that within such period defendant agreed and requested and encouraged Weathington to commit murder. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 38, pars. 8-1 and 8-2.) On November 18, 1974, Weathington advised both the police and the State's Attorney of the schemes which are the subject of the prosecution and cooperated with them in the recording of certain conversations between the conspirators. He testified in behalf of the prosecution, both before the grand jury and at trial. Defendant's wife testified in behalf of the defendant. Defendant did not testify.

The trial court instructed the jury upon the issues of conspiracy in the language of IPI Criminal No. 6.04. The operative words considered here are, "Third. That an act in furtherance of the agreement was performed by any party to the agreement."

Defendant objected to the giving of the instruction for the reason that it failed to set forth the specific acts alleged in the indictment, and that it failed to require that one or more of the overt acts so alleged be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The testimony includes and concerns acts of defendant and Weathington, any one of which may be deemed overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy but which are not actually charged or alleged in the indictment.

The defendant also tendered an instruction which modified IPI Criminal No. 6.04, by stating in such third paragraph the overt acts which the indictment alleged were performed by defendant. The indictment did not allege any overt acts performed alone by the co-conspirator, Weathington. Defendant's tendered instruction was refused.

Section 8-2 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 38, par. 8-2) defines the elements of conspiracy. That definition concludes with the sentence:

"No person may be convicted of conspiracy to commit an offense unless an act in furtherance of such agreement is alleged and proved to have been committed by him or by a co-conspirator." (Emphasis supplied.)

During the period when the co-conspirator, Weathington, was cooperating with the police, certain telephone conversations of the alleged conspirators were recorded. The recordings were played before the jury during the course of the trial.

Shortly after retiring the jury requested a transcript of the several recordings. The trial judge concluded that such transcripts were not offered into evidence and could not be sent to the jury. The jury then requested that the tapes and a machine to play them be provided. The request was denied because of the judge's concern that the tape recordings might be damaged or erased.

After the jury had deliberated some 20 hours, the trial judge and counsel conferred on the record. At that time the judge stated that he would ask whether or not the jury was making progress, saying:

"I propose to take the jury into the courtroom and inquire if they are making progress and if he says no, the foreman, and I propose to inquire of the foreman if playing the tapes would be helpful in arriving at a verdict. If he says yes, I then propose to ask each of the jurors as well. If each member of the jury says yes, I'm going to play the tapes for them in camera in the courtroom with only the defendant, his attorney, attorney for the people and the court being present."

Defendant's counsel objected to the playing of the tapes at such time after the prior jury request had been refused, asserting such to be an abuse of discretion and argued that playing the recording at that time would be a prejudicial emphasis upon the testimony. He also asked that certain defense cross-examination and evidence be reread to the jury. The court advised that he would not allow such defense testimony to be reviewed unless the jury asked for it.

The jury was returned to the courtroom and, upon inquiry, the foreman advised that he was of the opinion that the jury was progressing in its deliberations. The judge then asked:

"Would it help, in your opinion, in this case if you were to hear the tapes played here in the courtroom?"

The foreman responded affirmatively as did each juror upon individual inquiry. The recordings were again played and the defendant's objections, together with a motion for a mistrial, were denied. The jury returned a verdict within 45 minutes. The issue is preserved in the post-trial motion.

The prosecution argues that there was a proper exercise of discretion in suggesting the replay of the recording because the previous denial may have discouraged renewal of the request although the jury may have continued to be uncertain or confused.

Certain other issues preserved in the post-trial motion and briefed and argued on appeal are noted.

Defendant argues that the issues instruction, IPI Criminal No. 6.04, was erroneous in that, while it required the prosecution to prove that the conspirators agreed to commit the crime, it did not require the State to prove that they intended to agree. The words "intended to agree" appear to be directed to the notion that they agreed to conspire. Thus, defendant alleges that the trial court erred in denying his tendered instruction, IPI Criminal No. 6.03, modified to read, "intends to, and does agree with another." He cites P. Marcus, Criminal Conspiracy: The State of Mind Crime, 1976 U. Ill. L.F. 627.

We find that the study is directed toward the law required in Federal convictions. 18 U.S.L.A. § 371 (1966) provides, "If two or more persons conspire * * * to commit any offense * * *." We note that the former Illinois statute (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1961, ch. 38, par. 139) defined conspiracy in the language "[i]f any two or more persons conspire or agree together * * *."

The present statute defining conspiracy uses different language. Section 8-2 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 38, par. 8-2) provides, "A person commits conspiracy when, with intent that an offense be ...

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