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People v. Bragg

OPINION FILED JANUARY 26, 1979.

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

v.

LARRY BRAGG, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOHN A. NORDBERG, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE WILSON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant was charged with armed robbery and unlawful restraint. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 38, pars. 18-2, 10-3.) A jury found him guilty of both charges and the trial judge sentenced him to 5 to 10 years for armed robbery, and 1 to 3 years for unlawful restraint, the sentences to run concurrently. On appeal, defendant contends that (1) he was deprived of his right of cross-examination due to the court's failure to appoint an interpreter and (2) he was denied a fair trial since the prosecutor repeatedly stated his personal belief in defendant's guilt. We affirm.

STATE'S CASE

Rosemary Young testified that she was born in China, came to the United States in 1948 and is now a citizen of this country. On September 25, 1975, at approximately 2:30 p.m., she was sitting in a car owned by her cousin, parked in front of 230 South LaSalle. Her cousin had driven, and left her sitting in the car with the keys, on the west side of the street. She noticed that a police officer, whom she recognized as Officer Fiore, was standing on the east side of the street. A black man, carrying a gun, entered the car on the driver's side and sat behind the wheel. She asked him what he was trying to do. She attempted to get out, but another man, whom she identified as defendant, entered from the passenger's side, pushed her into the middle of the seat, and closed the door. The man behind the wheel passed the gun over her, and into the hands of defendant. Defendant pointed the gun into her lower right side and told her not to scream, because if she did, he would kill her. She could not scream because she was "too scared."

The driver started the car and proceeded south, passed where Officer Fiore was standing, and turned left on Jackson. He continued to Clark Street, turned right, and proceeded to Van Buren Street. He again turned right, whereupon one officer jumped on the hood and four or five policemen stopped the car. Between the time the car first pulled away, until the police apprehension, Young told defendant to stop and let her out of the car. He told her to keep quiet if she did not want to get killed.

When the police stopped the vehicle, defendant threw the gun on the floor on the passenger's side. Defendant and the other man exited and she remained in the car, shaking. Officer McCarthy asked her to come out but she could not move. She told him that there was a gun on the floor and she pointed to it.

Although Young often stated that she did not understand certain questions, and needed them repeated or rephrased, the substance of her testimony during cross-examination was as follows:

It was one block or less after the car pulled away from 230 South LaSalle that she asked them to stop the car. She first saw the man who eventually drove the car, and he approached from the north side of the vehicle. He never said anything. Neither man took anything from her or asked her to give him anything. She did not tell Officer McCarthy that the person seated on the passenger side had a gun but she gave this information to Officer Fiore, whom she talked to on Van Buren. She could not answer at trial that the person who entered on the passenger side had a gun.

When she tried to get out of the car, she did not see a gun in defendant's hand, and she did not tell the police that she saw a gun in his hand at that time. The driver entered the car with a gun and pointed it at her. As soon as defendant "pulled her over," the other man handed the gun over to defendant. She was told to "shut up" about three times, presumably by defendant, since the driver said nothing. It was not the driver that said "don't scream," and she did not tell the police that the driver said that. During the time when the car was in motion, she was looking straight ahead, but had turned toward the passenger side when defendant first came in. When she saw Fiore, he was standing, facing the street, and talking to someone.

During the course of Young's cross-examination a sidebar was held during which defense counsel requested the appointment of a translator, which was denied. At the conclusion of Young's testimony, defense counsel made a motion for a mistrial, based on the failure to appoint a translator resulting in the frustration of her attempts to effectively cross-examine the witness. The trial judge stated:

"I'm going to deny the Defendant's motion for a mistrial and indicate that I find that the witness has not in the Court's opinion has not sought to evade or avoid any question. As we previously indicated the witness does have some difficulty with the English Language although she speaks clearly and can understand simply [sic] questions, but I believe that the difficulty that the witness had was in the form of the question put to her as opposed to seeking to evade or avoide [sic] any answers. On that basis I feel that there was adequate opportunity for cross examination and she could be recalled if you wish for further examination. Should the matter be relevant I'm concerned that some of these matters are in the form of collateral impeachment which is not admissible. You have had ample opportunity to test her recollection and have developed some minor discrepency [sic] between what she testified today on [sic] may or may not have said at a previous time and on that basis I'll deny the motion for a mistrial."

The State then called Officer Fiore who testified that on September 25, 1975, he was assigned to three-wheel traffic duty in the area bounded by Harrison to Adams and Wacker Drive to Michigan Avenue. At 2 p.m. he was standing in front of the Continental Bank at 231 South LaSalle when he observed two black men cross the street and head towards a 1975 Lincoln Continental. He estimated that he was standing 30 feet away and his view was unobstructed. There was a woman, later identified as Rosemary Young, seated in the car on the passenger's side. He had seen the vehicle before and knew it to be owned by Mory Shu because he had issued him parking tickets in the past.

The taller of the two men, now known to him as Ronald Ruff, held a gun in his hand and walked to the driver's side of the car and entered. The shorter man, whom he identified as defendant, entered the passenger's side and he did not see anything in his hand. Young looked startled and made an attempt to get out, but defendant pushed her in. Fiore observed Ruff lean over and hand the gun to defendant.

Ruff started up the motor, pulled away, and headed south down LaSalle Street. Fiore got on his three-wheeled vehicle and pursued them. The car turned left on Jackson and proceeded east. Fiore gave a "flash message" on his radio regarding an armed robbery and abduction and gave a description of the car. He continued following the car down Jackson and at Clark Street the vehicle turned right and proceeded south. He stated that the car switched from the right to the left lanes and continued hurriedly to Van Buren Street. Ruff then attempted to make a right turn from the left lane, across the traffic waiting at a red ...


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