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People v. Gardner





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. RICHARD L. SAMUELS, Judge, presiding.


After a bench trial, defendant Zlager Gardner was convicted of the robbery of Howard Alexander and sentenced to a term of one to three years imprisonment. On appeal he argues that he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

We affirm.

The victim, Howard Alexander, testified that he and his girl friend drove to the Eagle Liquor Store at approximately 10 p.m. on the evening of May 5, 1976. As he returned to his auto after purchasing a six-pack of beer, a stranger seated in a tan automobile asked him if he wanted to buy five cases of Coor's beer for $10 a case. Seated in the auto were three men, including defendant Gardner, who was driving.

When Alexander accepted the offer, the men instructed him to accompany them. Alexander then entered the auto and rode with the men to Larry Wade's apartment at 1108 Wentworth, Chicago Heights. In the meantime, Alexander's girl friend, Miss Bartolini, remained in his auto at the liquor store. She wrote down the license number of defendant's auto as the group departed.

The group arrived at Wade's apartment at 10:20 p.m. According to Alexander, everyone got out of the auto and walked into the entrance of the apartment building. They were greeted by a man who told Alexander that the beer was now $15 a case. Alexander testified that when he refused this offer, the group gathered around him and told him to "Give the money up." When he refused, the group knocked him to the ground and beat him. The defendant then reached into Alexander's front, right pocket and pulled out $120 in cash. As the assailants fled, Alexander ran out of the building and unsuccessfully attempted to get their license number. Several people came out of another building and one of them drove Alexander back to the liquor store.

Miss Bartolini testified that when Alexander returned to the liquor store his face appeared bruised. The couple then drove to Miss Bartolini's apartment and summoned the police.

During the trial, defendant gave a different account of the facts. He testified that Mr. Alexander originally approached him at the liquor store and inquired about purchasing marijuana. Defendant stated that he did not have any but knew where some could be purchased. At this point Alexander offered to ride with the three men.

When the group arrived at Wade's apartment defendant allegedly broke from the group and went across the street to visit his girl friend, Miss Phylisstine Greene. He testified that he spoke with her for 10 minutes about resuming their relationship. During the trial, Miss Greene took the stand and corroborated this point. Defendant stated that when he returned to his auto, he did not see Alexander. The three men then drove away, during which time defendant's friends admitted robbing Alexander.

During the trial, Mrs. Ora Lee Gardner, defendant's mother, testified that on the day of the bond hearing, she was visited at her home by Alexander. She stated that she was standing on her front porch with Phylisstine Greene. Mr. Alexander approached and allegedly stated that if his money was returned, he would "forget about everything against him [defendant] because he didn't do it."

Doretha Gardner also testified. She stated that she was present when Alexander made his offer to withdraw the charges against defendant and further, that defendant was not involved. She also stated that at no time was defendant present during this conversation with Alexander.

Phylisstine Greene testified to a different account. She stated that she was in Mrs. Gardner's living room when Alexander arrived. Alexander was looking for the defendant and was told that he would return in a few minutes. When defendant returned, Alexander told him that the charges would be withdrawn if the money were returned. When defendant refused, Alexander departed.

During the trial, Alexander denied going to Mrs. Gardner's home on the day of the bond hearing, but admitted going there on a previous occasion. He admitted offering to withdraw the charges if the money were returned, but denied ever stating that the defendant was not involved.

At the conclusion of the trial, the defendant was convicted of robbery and sentenced to serve from one to three years ...

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