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People v. Jenkins





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. FRANK W. BARBARO, Judge, presiding.


Defendant, Harry Jenkins, was charged by indictment with the attempt murder, aggravated battery and attempt armed robbery of Nicholas Comito. Pursuant to a jury trial defendant was convicted of the offenses but judgment was entered solely upon the attempt murder. Defendant was sentenced to a term of 100-200 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Defendant appeals from this conviction, raising for our review issues relating to (1) his competency to stand trial, (2) his statement given to a police officer, and (3) his lengthy sentence.

On May 10, 1976, Nicholas Comito arrived home from work and then went outdoors to cut his lawn. After doing so he proceeded to the back yard and prepared to empty the grass-catcher attachment to the lawnmower. At this time Mr. Comito noticed an individual standing next to him. Mr. Comito observed this individual and was then told to relinquish his wallet or be killed. Mr. Comito, at trial, described this individual in detail. The individual was described as a male Negro, about six feet tall, slim or lanky, with straight black hair containing a golden tint on the left side. Mr. Comito also indicated that the individual had a horizontal scar on his nose, wore a gold earring in his right ear and was attired in a white shirt, blue denim pants and a wide brown belt.

Mr. Comito refused to relinquish his wallet and began to walk away from his attacker. Mr. Comito was then shot in his right side. Mr. Comito fell back, stating "he shot me, he shot me," and prevented himself from landing on the ground. He began moving away (backwards) from his attacker but the attacker walked closer, pointing the gun at Mr. Comito. Another shot was fired. Mr. Comito was struck in the left eye. This gun shot caused the permanent blinding of Nicholas Comito.

The defendant, Harry Jenkins, was subsequently arrested in his home on May 11, 1976. Chicago Police Officer McMahon, in searching for defendant, found defendant hiding in a cabinet in the basement laundry room. A gun was visible to Officer McMahon and when defendant reached for the gun the officer called for assistance and pulled defendant's arm.

Subsequent to the arrest of defendant by the Chicago Police, Officer Gryncewicz of the Oak Park Police arrived at the Area 5 Chicago Police Station. In the presence of Officer Gryncewicz and after a reading of defendant's rights, defendant gave an oral statement. Defendant indicated that a man started hollering at him. Defendant walked over to the man and stated "This is a stick up" or "Shut up." Defendant stated that the man pushed defendant, defendant returned the push, pulled a gun and fired two shots at the man. Defendant's statement, therefore, contained admissions of attempt robbery and the shooting of the victim.

Prior to trial, defendant moved the trial court to suppress his statement. Defendant did not testify at the hearing on this motion. The defense offered the testimony of defendant's sisters, Mary Ann and Valerie, and defendant's mother, Hattie Mae. Mary Ann testified that she and defendant were called names by the arresting officer. She further stated that defendant, while in the basement, was hit in the head with his gun and was beaten and kicked by 10 officers. She stated that she noticed blood on defendant's head. Valerie indicated that she saw no blood on defendant. She further testified that she saw police officers hitting defendant in a squad car. Defendant's mother testified that there was blood in the house, including the basement.

After hearing the testimony and arguments of counsel, the court found that defendant's inculpatory remarks were voluntarily given. Defendant's motion to suppress was denied.

Also prior to trial defendant moved the court for a psychiatric examination. This motion, which we will subsequently analyze in depth, was denied.

A trial ensued at which defendant did not testify. The prosecution offered the testimony of, among others, Elvin Webster, defendant's 15-year-old accomplice, Lionel Watson, the victim's next door neighbor and the victim, Nicholas Comito. The defendant offered the testimony of his sisters, his uncle, Officer Ralph Stork and defendant's mother.

We believe it particularly important to summarize the testimony of Elvin Webster and Lionel Watson. Webster testified that he was with defendant on the afternoon of May 10, 1976 and at that time defendant had, in his possession, a pistol. They proceeded to Mr. Comito's residence and upon viewing Mr. Comito defendant stated "Let's stick him up." Webster objected but remained with defendant. Webster testified that defendant, with pistol in hand, announced "Stick up," and shot Mr. Comito. Webster heard but did not see the second shot.

Lionel Watson, Mr. Comito's next-door neighbor, testified that he was at home on the afternoon of May 10, 1976. Watson was working in the garden. Watson stated that after hearing a firecracker-like sound he saw Mr. Comito. Mr. Comito was looking at Watson and stated "They shot me." Watson subsequently heard a second shot and saw Mr. Comito grabbing his bleeding face. Watson testified that he never saw anyone run from Mr. Comito's yard.

At the conclusion of the trial, defendant was found guilty of attempt murder, aggravated battery and attempt armed robbery. Sentence was imposed upon the attempt murder conviction. It is from this conviction that defendant appeals.

While defendant was in the custody of the Oak Park Police Department, defendant admitted shooting Nicholas Comito. On appeal, defendant contends that such confession was not voluntarily given and therefore was admitted into evidence in violation of Miranda v. Arizona (1966), 384 U.S. ...

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