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People v. Spurlark





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ROGER J. KILEY, Judge, presiding.


After a jury trial, defendant was convicted of murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 9-1) and sentenced to a term of 15 to 25 years. On appeal, defendant contends that: (1) he was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the trial court erred when it allowed his 1961 robbery conviction to be admitted into evidence; (3) the trial court erroneously denied his petition for discharge under the Fourth Term Act; (4) he was denied a fair trial when the State withheld an oral statement made by defendant; and (5) he was denied a fair trial when the State withheld the victim's clothing. We affirm as to all issues raised.

At approximately 3 p.m. on December 18, 1976, defendant stabbed James Green with a knife. Green died from wounds caused by the stabbing about nine hours later. The pertinent testimony follows.

State's Case-in-Chief

Officer Lawrence Thomas testified that at about 3 p.m. on December 18, he was sitting in his squad car which was parked on the north side of Madison Avenue, at about 2150 Madison; the car was facing westward and the window on the driver's side was partially opened. While finishing up a burglary report, he noticed two men, identified as defendant and Green, and a woman having a conversation on the south side of the street in front of 2151 Madison. The three of them were about 40 feet from Thomas. Thomas could see that defendant was wearing a three-quarter length coat and Green was wearing only a T-shirt, despite it being cold outside. Initially, Thomas did not pay too much attention to them. Shortly, however, he heard them arguing and began paying more attention. During the argument, defendant and Green were facing each other, with defendant facing west and only two feet separating them. The woman was standing about a foot behind defendant. While the two men argued, Thomas spent his time, alternately, filling out his report and watching the two men. He spent most of his time watching them. When the argument grew louder, he noticed defendant move his right hand to his left waistband and remove a hunting-type knife with a four-inch fixed blade. While defendant was taking out the knife, Green stood with his arms to his sides. Thomas stated that all during the incident he never saw Green reach out toward defendant. After defendant had removed the knife, he swung his right hand in an upper diagonal motion across Green's body. The knife struck Green and he "doubled over." As Green was falling, defendant again swung his right arm across Green's body. Thomas then left the squad car, drew his pistol, and radioed for assistance. He ran across the street to defendant. Defendant dropped his knife and started to turn toward his left, but he stopped when Thomas told him to halt. Defendant then assumed a search position, was handcuffed, and turned over to another policeman. When Thomas turned to Green, he noticed his guts hanging out of his lower abdomen. He also noticed that the woman who was with defendant and Green was "highly intoxicated."

On cross-examination, Thomas testified that cars were passing on Madison Avenue while he was observing the argument. He said that while defendant and Green were arguing, he could not make out the subject of their argument. He admitted that at a preliminary hearing he had testified that he had heard no conversation. Thomas said that when defendant swung his right hand at Green on the second occasion, defendant struck Green in the right bicep. His report of the incident, however, indicates that Green was wounded in the stomach and the left thigh. After the incident, defendant made no attempt to run away or to resist arrest. Later in the day, Thomas attempted to interview the woman, Anette Terrones, but she was incoherent because of her intoxication. Thomas said that he did not know if Green was intoxicated too. He stated that he never inventoried any of Green's clothes.

On redirect examination, Thomas testified that although there was traffic on Madison at the time of the incident, traffic was light and no cars were obstructing his view. Thomas noticed an odor of alcohol on defendant's breath, but he said that he thought that he had not been drinking heavily. He stated that although he noticed some blood by Green's bicep when he was on the ground, he never observed Green's actual injuries when he was unclothed. On recross examination, Thomas stated that his police report was in error and that he saw wounds in Green's stomach and his right bicep. He further stated that he had seen a laceration on Green's right bicep.

Johnnie Mae Brown, James Green's sister, testified that she saw her brother on December 12, 1976, and that he was in good health. On December 20 she identified the body of her brother in the Cook County Morgue.

Doctor Yuksel Konacki, a physician at the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office, testified that he conducted an autopsy on James Green on December 20. During his examination, he said that he saw Green's pants and shoes. His external examination revealed that Green was 5'9" tall and weighed 177 pounds. He had several "suture incisions" on his stomach and elbows. Konacki said that the incisions to the elbows were probably surgically related, but he did not rule out the possibility that they could have been caused otherwise. One of the incisions to the stomach was surgically related. Another incision was a stab wound located on the right side of the abdomen. This wound was two inches long and three inches deep and penetrated the abdominal wall into the abdominal cavity. An internal examination revealed that there were several wounds in the small intestines and the mesentery, the membrane which holds the intestines together. Konacki indicated that Green had died from the stab wound to the abdomen. He also indicated that Green's blood had been examined and a small amount of alcohol was found in his blood.

Stipulations were entered that Green was 49 years old and defendant was 54 at the time of the incident.

Defense Case

Emmitt Goodloe, Green's roommate, testified that on December 17 he, Green, another man, and a woman were all drinking almost all night in their apartment at 2155 Madison. On December 18 the woman continued to drink, but Goodloe was not sure if Green had anything more to drink. Between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., defendant had twice come to the apartment and on both occasions he was refused entrance by Green. Five minutes after the last refusal, Willie Bland came into the apartment and told Goodloe that Green had been stabbed.

Goodloe stated that he had known defendant for 10 years and Green for six years. During the time that he had known both of them, he had never heard them argue. Goodloe also stated that Green was unemployed at the time of the incident.

Willie Bland testified that he saw defendant, whom he had known for 10 or 12 years, walking eastward on Madison sometime in the afternoon on December 18. At the time, Bland was standing behind a parked police car in which a police officer was seated. Bland said that as defendant was walking, a woman came out of a storefront and joined him. After defendant had passed 2155 Madison, Bland saw Green, whom he had known for 7 or 8 years, come out and walk quickly after defendant. Green eventually caught up with defendant, grabbed him by the back of his collar, and began talking to him. Bland could not hear any of the conversation. Eventually, defendant spun loose, but Green regained his grip on defendant's front collar. After Green had secured his grip, defendant unsuccessfully tried to hit Green in the head. Green then hit defendant in the side of his face. While this was going on, Bland did not notice which way the police officer was looking. After Green had hit him in the face, defendant hit Green in the stomach and Green fell to the ground. Bland then saw Green's guts on the ground. At that point, the police officer left his car and told defendant to drop his knife or "he'd blow his brains out." Bland said that after the incident he got drunk and he did not stop at Emmitt Goodloe's apartment. Although he did not like to say things about people he liked, Bland said that he understood that Green was a violent person. He also said that defendant had the reputation of being a peaceful man.

Defendant testified that he stood 5'10 1/2" tall and weighed 140 pounds. He was suffering from spinal arthritis and had been a patient at the Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium for about seven years. He had been supporting himself by doing odd jobs.

On December 18 defendant was working at a tire shop at 2132 Madison. At about 2:30 p.m., he left the tire shop and went to a grocery store at 2208 Madison to purchase lunch. On the way back to the tire shop, a woman ran up to him and began walking with him. Then someone else ran up to him, grabbed his left wrist from behind, and held him in a "half nelson" type hold. Defendant managed to spin around and saw Green clutching his wrist. He noticed that Green was highly intoxicated and was wearing only a T-shirt, despite the cold weather. Green demanded that defendant give him a couple of dollars to buy another drink, but defendant told him that he did not have any money. Green then struck defendant on the side of his face and again demanded money. When defendant again claimed that he had no money, Green threatened him saying, "I know you got some money and you're going to give me some or else." Because he was scared, defendant reached his right hand into his jacket, pulled out a knife, and stabbed Green in his lower right abdomen. After the stabbing, Green attempted to turn but, instead, he fell to the ground. When defendant turned north, he saw a police officer and he immediately dropped his knife and assumed a search position.

Defendant said that he had known Green for three or four years and that Green had a reputation in the community for being hostile and belligerent. He said that he was definitely afraid of Green. On two occasions prior to December 18, Green had demanded liquor money from him. On both previous occasions, he had given Green the money. Defendant admitted that in 1961 he had pleaded guilty to a charge of robbery.

On cross-examination, defendant testified that he used to see Green anywhere from two to five times a week over a period of four years. He used to see him at his apartment. He regarded Green as no more than a social acquaintance. He said that he never had any quarrels with Green and that there was never any physical violence or threats between the two of them.

Defendant also denied on cross-examination that he reached over to his left side to get the knife. He said that he pulled the knife out of the right pocket of a jacket which he was wearing under his three-quarter length coat. He denied that he made a sweeping motion with his arm across Green's body. He said that he only stabbed Green once and that he did not intend to stab him deeply. He only stabbed Green so that he would release him. Defendant claimed that he carried the knife with him because he used it to pull tires off rims at work. When he was arrested after the stabbing, he told the police that he stabbed Green out of self-defense. He did not tell the police officers that Green tried to get money from him. He did not recall if he told the police that he saw Green threaten the woman ...

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