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People v. King





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. ROGER H. LITTLE, Judge, presiding.


Following a jury trial, defendant Clarence King, Jr., was convicted of the offenses of rape, burglary, and robbery, and was subsequently sentenced to concurrent terms of 10 to 30 years on the rape conviction, 3 to 9 years on the burglary conviction, and 2 to 6 years on the robbery conviction.

On appeal, the defendant argues that he was denied a fair trial because of the prosecutor's prejudicial closing argument, that he was not proved guilty of robbery beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury with a proper robbery instruction.

At trial, the complaining witness, Susan Johnson, testified that at approximately 3 a.m., on March 22, 1976, she was awakened by a man who was lying on top of her, with his hands around her throat. She noted that he was a large, black male with dark brown skin, and that he was approximately 5 feet 11 inches tall, weighed about 180 to 190 pounds, had a stocky build, was probably in his early 20's, and had a low voice. Other than this description, she was unable to identify the man. She stated that this individual removed her underwear and raped her. He then pulled out a telephone cord in the bedroom, made Johnson turn over and threw a quilt and blanket up over her head, and told her not to move. After he had left the house, Johnson went to another phone and called the police and told them that she had been raped.

Before going to the hospital, Johnson checked her apartment and found that her purse, which had been on a chair in the kitchen, was missing. She stated that this purse contained a wallet and a checkbook. She was thereafter examined at a local hospital and it was stipulated at trial that the doctor would testify that she appeared withdrawn, was crying quietly, and had complained of being raped.

Other testimony at the trial revealed that on March 22, 1976, the defendant cashed a check for $65 at the Busey National Bank in Champaign. The check was made out to Clarence King and purportedly signed by Susan Johnson. That check was identified as an exhibit at trial by both the defendant and Johnson. Johnson noted that the signature on the check was not hers and that she had signed an affidavit of forgery at the bank on March 30, 1976. The defendant thereafter cashed a second check for $65, which purportedly had been signed by Susan Johnson. Johnson noted in her testimony that she had not signed this check and that on April 7, 1976, she had signed an affidavit of forgery.

At trial, it was stipulated that a handwriting comparison had been made between the writing on the first check and the defendant's handwriting. The results of this comparison, however, were inconclusive. In addition, it was noted that no handwriting samples had been taken from Susan Johnson for comparison purposes.

An FBI fingerprint specialist testified that the fingerprints of the defendant were found on the bottom and top portions of the front side of the first check. Palm prints were located on the reverse side of the check in the lower right-hand corner.

The defendant testified in his own behalf and stated that he had prior convictions for rape, robbery, and burglary. He noted that he had met Susan Johnson in the early part of March 1976, and that he often saw her and had short conversations with her while she was standing in her front yard. He stated that these conversations would concern when Johnson might be available to go out.

The defendant testified that on March 21, 1976, he accompanied Johnson home from a nightclub and that she had asked him to protect her from her boyfriend. According to the defendant, Johnson stated she was willing to pay him for protection, and she wrote him a check for $65. Defendant noted that the handwriting on the back of the check was his handwriting and that he had placed his license number on the check. He further testified that Johnson had given him a second check the same evening, and stated that she had done so because she felt the first check wasn't enough. Following this conversation, the defendant stated that Johnson invited him to come into the bedroom where they had consensual sexual intercourse.

On cross-examination, the defendant was asked if he had done anything to earn the money that Susan Johnson had paid him for protection, and he stated that he had stopped by her residence the next day and spoken with her. He noted, however, that he did not see her again until the day of the trial. In addition, the defendant stated that he recalled telling a police officer who was investigating the rape that he knew a girl named Susan only on a casual basis.

During closing arguments, the State's Attorney made the following comments to the jury:

"Finally, ladies and gentlemen, the Judge will instruct you that you may consider the prior convictions of the defendant for a limited purpose and a limited purpose only, that of impeaching his credibility. Now what does that mean? Well, ladies and gentlemen. When the defendant takes the stand in this Courtroom, he takes an oath, just like every other witness that sits on that stand, and that oath means that you swear to tell the truth in this Courtroom, that you will respect the law as it applies here in this Courtroom.

And why are prior convictions relevant as to that? Well, ladies and gentlemen, they show what respect he's had for law and the dictates of our society as they're mandated by our laws, on prior occasions, and ...

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