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People v. Trolia





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. LOUIS B. GARIPPO, Judge, presiding.


Following a jury trial, defendant was convicted of murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 9-1) and sentenced to 25 to 75 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. On appeal he contends that he was deprived of a fair trial by the State's failure to disclose a witness' statement which was in police possession during the trial. He also contends that he was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the trial court erred when it: (1) allowed the introduction of irrelevant scientific evidence; (2) allowed a rebuttal witness to contradict him on a collateral matter; (3) prevented him from adequately cross-examining two of the State's witnesses: and (4) prohibited defense counsel from personally conducting his own voir dire examination of prospective jurors.

The following pertinent evidence was adduced at trial.

For the State

Richard "Animal" Maskas

On August 30, 1974, at approximately 5 p.m. he saw defendant John Trolia in the On the Rocks Lounge at 63rd and Narragansett. He had known him for six to seven months, and also knew him as "Wolfman Jack." Trolia said that some people were looking for him and asked if he "had something he could use." He gave Trolia a small loaded four-shot derringer which he said he wanted back. Trolia gave the empty gun back to him a couple of days later and told him that he blew the shells off in the parking lot and that the gun could be hot. Several nights later, Trolia approached him in the On the Rocks Lounge and told him that he had used the gun to shoot a girl and a guy. When Maskas was arrested on September 8, 1974, in Chicago on a battery charge, he threw the gun out the window so he "wouldn't get busted with it." On September 19, 1974, he went to the Homewood Police Station with Investigator Leubscher and signed a written statement.

On cross-examination he admitted that he carried the loaded weapon he gave to Trolia concealed in his shirt pocket and that he knew that this was illegal in the City of Chicago. He acknowledged that he has been convicted of the possession of marijuana and currently has pending against him charges of theft and possession of drugs and mace. He acknowledged that after the police told him that they thought the gun was used in the killing of Paula Popik, he decided to tell them about Trolia because he "wasn't going to take the beef for someone else." He denied being under arrest for the murder of Paula Popik.

Richard Mariscal — an employee of the Godfather Lounge

On the evening of August 31, 1974, he saw Paula Popik working as a bartender at the lounge. She was wearing a dark halter top and dark "hot pants." At approximately 10:30 or later that evening he served her a hot dog on a sesame seed bun. He last saw her there at approximately 3:30 a.m.

On cross-examination, he testified that he did not notice a butterfly decal on Popik's stomach, that he did not see her dancing with anyone and that he did not see Mike McNichols or John Trolia in the lounge that night.

Maria Sizemore — a part-time bartender at the Godfather Lounge

She arrived at the lounge on August 31, 1974, at about 8:30 p.m. She and Paula Popik worked the same bar that night. She corroborated Mariscal's testimony concerning Popik's clothing and eating of a hot dog between 9:30 and 10. She noticed that during the course of the evening Popik spoke to a man named Mike, and danced with him while on break. Popik was standing at the door talking to Mike when she left at approximately 3:30 a.m.

Michael Herman McNichols

On August 31, 1974, he arrived at the Godfather Lounge between 11:30 and 12. While there he talked and danced with Paula Popik, who wore black "hot pants," a halter top, lacy sleeves, black high-heeled shoes, a small black purse and a butterfly decal on her waistline. He later saw her receive her wages in cash. Between 3:45 and 4 a.m. he escorted her to her car, a late model Chevrolet Nova which was parked in front of the lounge. She entered the car and drove down 111th Street until Harlem Avenue, where she turned right, going north.

On cross-examination he acknowledged that he had been drinking beer that evening, but did not know if Popik had been drinking and stated that she appeared to be sober.

Robert Sizemore, Maria Sizemore's husband

Between 4:30 and 5 a.m. on September 1, 1974, he saw Paula Popik sitting with another girl and two or three men at a club on 63rd Street called On the Rocks. The men were Caucasian with medium build and hair length, and one of them may have had a mustache.

On cross-examination he admitted that he did not see Popik sitting at the bar with one man, nor did he see her leave the premises.

Robert Shanklin — a doorman at the On the Rocks Lounge

At close to 5 a.m. on September 1, 1974, he saw defendant John Trolia at the lounge with a girl he had never seen before. The girl was a brunette, a little taller than Trolia, wore dark clothes and "had nice legs." As she left, he said to Trolia "John, it looks like you have a live one." Trolia did not answer him. He did not see Richard Maskas in the lounge that evening.

Linda Szilagyi — waitress at the On the Rocks Lounge

She is a divorcee and she and her three children have been living with Thomas O'Neill for four years. At approximately 5 a.m. on September 1 while working at the lounge, she saw John Trolia with Paula Popik. At about 5:30 a.m. Szilagyi returned home and went to sleep. About an hour later, Trolia knocked on her door. He seemed nervous and upset, and asked if he could come in. She let him in and went back to sleep. When she awoke at 9 a.m. O'Neill, Maskas, Trolia and her children were all there. They all had breakfast and then drove to the north side. John Trolia was her friend and often baby sat for her children. When the police asked her on December 10th whether she saw Trolia with the murder victim, she lied and said that she couldn't remember him being with any girl in particular, because she "didn't want to get Johnnie in trouble." She first told someone in authority that she had seen Trolia with Popik on February 13, 1975, when she talked to Assistant State's Attorney Michael Ficaro.

On cross-examination she denied being afraid of "Animal" Maskas and denied that he had pointed a gun at her children. She admitted that O'Neill and Maskas wanted to go to the north side on September 1 to get a ...

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