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People v. Cooper

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 5, 1978.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

BERNARD COOPER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Jackson County; the Hon. RICHARD RICHMAN, Judge, presiding.

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE GEORGE J. MORAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied January 4, 1979.

Defendant Bernard Cooper, appeals his conviction of armed robbery from the circuit court of Jackson County, where following a jury trial, he was sentenced to 6 to 20 years imprisonment.

In the first day of trial, defendant moved for a directed verdict which was denied. As defendant was about to present his defense, the matter of impeachment by prior conviction arose. The State informed the court that assuming defendant testified, it was prepared to impeach him by offering a record of a 1973 Indiana felony conviction for robbery. Defense counsel objected, arguing the State's documents did not meet the proof of a prior conviction requirement under Illinois law. The trial court sustained the defendant's objection.

Following this ruling, on the same day, the defendant testified in his own behalf. He explained his presence in Carbondale on that day, accounted for his activity and behavior at the time of arrest, denied wearing clothing on April 20 which the victim stated he wore, denied carrying a gun, and denied committing the offense in question.

On the second day of trial, the State again moved for the introduction of defendant's Indiana conviction as an impeachment exhibit. Immediately preceding arguments on the admissibility of this evidence, the court stated:

"We have previously discussed this to some degree, Mr. Jochums, I assume you are still objecting to the introduction of this?"

This time with each party citing one case for its position, the argument concerning the form with which such impeaching documents must conform continued. Defense counsel additionally argued that it was improper for the jury to be informed of the sentence imposed on the Indiana conviction. The exhibit was introduced in its entirety.

The State also presented evidence in rebuttal which contradicted a substantial portion of defendant's testimony.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty of armed robbery.

On appeal defendant contends: (1) It was fundamentally unfair for the trial judge to allow impeachment of the defendant by prior conviction because the defendant had taken the stand subsequent to the court's initial ruling to exclude such evidence; (2) the trial court deprived the defendant of a fair trial because it erroneously allowed the State to prove defendant's prior conviction upon insufficient documentation and permitted the State to introduce the detailed circumstances of and the sentence imposed for defendant's prior robbery conviction.

We reverse and remand for a new trial directing our attention only to defendant's first contention.

After the State's evidence was in, the record discloses that the trial court made a definitive ruling that defendant's prior conviction would not be admitted and that this ruling was based on the assumption that the defendant would testify. After defendant's ...


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