APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ROBERT
J. SULSKI, Judge, presiding.
MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE SULLIVAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
In this appeal from an armed robbery conviction after a jury trial, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying defendant's motion in limine to prohibit the use, for impeachment purposes in the event defendant elected to testify, of two prior convictions for possession of a controlled substance; and (2) whether certain remarks made by the prosecutor in closing argument deprived defendant of a fair trial.
Defendant was charged by information with the armed robbery of a grocery store and, prior to trial, his attorney filed a motion in limine to preclude his impeachment on the basis of his prior convictions for burglary, criminal trespass, battery, and possession of a controlled substance. The trial judge reserved ruling but indicated that he would grant the motion as to the criminal trespass and battery charges. Our examination of the record reveals, however, that no ruling was ever in fact made on the motion.
At trial, Martha Collins testified that she and her husband, Percy Collins, Jr., were the owners of a grocery store which was robbed in August 1976; that she was in the store with Percy Collins, Sr. (her father-in-law) and Bernice Richardson (a friend) when, at about 5:20 p.m., a man she later identified as defendant entered the store; that he was walking with a limp and accompanied by an unidentified woman; that Percy Collins, Sr., then left the store, following which defendant drew a pistol from under a tan jacket he was carrying, pointed it at Martha and said, "This is a hold-up"; that defendant searched her and removed a .32-caliber pistol from her smock; that during this time the woman accompanying defendant took some food stamps and approximately $10 to $15 in currency and change from the cash register; and that the woman then left the store, followed by defendant who walked backwards while still pointing the gun at her. She also said that immediately after this incident, Bernice Richardson "was sitting here in hysterics."
Martha additionally testified that about one week later, while driving in her car, she observed defendant and his female companion standing on a street corner about one block from the store; that she notified the police but no arrests were made at that time; that about three weeks later she again observed defendant in front of a pool hall and telephoned the police, and she told two officers who came to the store what she had seen; that the officers left but returned shortly thereafter with defendant who was wearing a tan jacket and walking with a limp; that she identified defendant as the robber; and that later she went to the police station accompanied by Bernice Richardson and signed a complaint against defendant. Martha's testimony concerning her identification of defendant was corroborated by the testimony of investigator John Schaefer, one of the arresting officers.
Defendant chose not to testify, and Bernice Richardson, who was the sole defense witness, testified that defendant was not the person who committed the robbery. On cross-examination she related that she saw defendant for the first time at the police station when she went there with Martha; that the robber had been accompanied by a 15- or 16-year-old boy not a woman; that the robber wore blue jeans and a blue leather jacket and was not carrying a tan jacket on his arm; and that she did not notice anything unusual in the robber's manner of walking. When the prosecutor asked her address, she answered, "I'd rather not give my address because he already knows where I live at," and defense counsel's objection as to the relevancy of her exact street address was sustained. Later, the following exchange took place between her and the Assistant State's Attorney:
"Q. Were you crying [at the police station]?
A. No, I wasn't crying. I had asthma, because I didn't want to I told her in the first place I didn't want to get involved identifying nobody.
Q. And you still don't want to get involved?
A. No. I wan't [sic] going to come down and pay nobody for no reason to come down, and for what?
A. I didn't have no way to get to court. I wasn't going to borrow no money to pay somebody to bring me down here. I said, `For what?'
A. I'm a sick person, my asthma is bothering me now."
Bernice also testified that she told the police at the station that defendant "wasn't the one." However, on rebuttal, Officer Schaefer denied this, stating that Bernice said only that she was not sure whether defendant was the perpetrator. Schaefer also testified that Bernice "stated that she did not want the defendant to see her and [that] she did not really want to get involved in the case." Earlier, during the State's case-in-chief, Schaefer had testified that Bernice was "shaking and appeared to be crying" at the station.
Defendant first contends that the trial judge abused his discretion in denying the motion in limine to prohibit the use of two prior convictions for possession of a controlled substance to impeach him if he elected to testify. He argues that the danger of unfair prejudice which would have resulted had these ...