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People v. Miller

OPINION FILED AUGUST 30, 1979.

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

v.

RICHARD A. MILLER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon. JOSEPH J. BARR, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE KARNS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant Richard A. Miller appeals from a judgment of the Circuit Court of Madison County finding him guilty of the crime of reckless homicide.

• 1, 2 Defendant first contends that the two-count indictment filed against him is insufficient to state an offense. We disagree. Count I of the indictment reads as follows:

"Count I

Richard A. Miller on the 17th day of August, 1977, at and in the County of Madison, in the State of Illinois, committed the offense of reckless homicide in that said Defendant acting in a reckless manner, did perform acts likely to cause death or great bodily harm to some individual in that he recklessly operated a motor vehicle in a southerly direction along and upon North Drive, Southern Illinois University, at Edwardsville, a two-lane roadway, near the main entrance to the Mississippi River Festival Site, at a speed which was much greater than reasonable and proper with regard to the existing traffic conditions and the safety of persons properly upon the roadway and further recklessly pass the vehicle of John Foster at an excessively high rate of speed and at a time unsafe for passing and did thereafter run off the roadway on the right side of the road, cross over the north-bound lane of traffic, run off the road on the oncoming lane side and cause his motor vehicle to crash into a vehicle wherein Wayne Dickenson was the driver, thereby causing the death of Wayne Dickenson, in violation of Section 9-3(a) of Chapter 38 Illinois Revised Statutes."

Count II is substantially identical, the only difference being that the name of the second victim, Marjorie Wilson, is substituted for the name of Wayne Dickenson. Defendant asserts that this indictment did not fully advise him of the nature and elements of the offense of reckless homicide. We believe this assignment of error to be without merit. A charge is sufficient if it states the elements of an offense with enough specificity to notify the defendant of the crime charged, enables the defendant to prepare a defense, and permits a judgment on the charge to act as a bar to further prosecution for the same offense. (People v. Walker (1977), 52 Ill. App.3d 510, 367 N.E.2d 723.) The elements of reckless homicide are that the defendant unintentionally killed a person while driving a motor vehicle by recklessly performing acts which were likely to cause death or great bodily harm. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 9-3.) These elements are set forth in the indictment with sufficient specificity. Furthermore, the indictment is rather explicit in describing the particular acts which are alleged to have been performed by the defendant.

The State's evidence disclosed that on August 17, 1977, defendant was driving a blue Dodge Demon in a southerly direction on University Drive on the campus of Southern Illinois University. He overtook a red Pinto driven by John Foster. Foster estimated that defendant was traveling at a speed of approximately 70 miles per hour when defendant pulled into the northbound lane to pass Foster. Foster's automobile was going about 40 miles per hour. Defendant passed and pulled back into the southbound lane, coming within less than a foot of Foster's left front fender. Foster was crowded off the road and onto the gravel shoulder. Defendant's automobile hit the southbound gravel shoulder, veered across both driving lanes, hit the opposite shoulder, then went into the northbound lane. His automobile collided with a Volkswagen which was stopped or nearly stopped in the northbound lane, pushing the Volkswagen south a distance of approximately 80 feet, into an oncoming northbound Firebird. The Firebird sustained $250 in damage from this collision. The two persons in the Volkswagen were killed.

The State claimed that the accident occurred because defendant attempted to pass Foster at an excessive speed while under the influence of alcohol. Defendant claimed that his steering assembly was defective, and that the car went out of control because he could not steer it.

Defendant next contends that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of his intoxication, because the indictment did not charge him with the crime of driving while intoxicated. We disagree.

• 3 Clearly, evidence of intoxication is probative on the issue of recklessness. (See People v. Dietschweiler (1974), 21 Ill. App.3d 707, 315 N.E.2d 585; People v. Chambers (1972), 8 Ill. App.3d 430, 289 N.E.2d 476; People v. Coolidge (1970), 124 Ill. App.2d 479, 259 N.E.2d 851.) That defendant was not charged with driving while intoxicated and that no allegation of intoxication was contained in the indictment is irrelevant in this case, as the defendant knew well in advance of the trial that such evidence would be introduced. In denying defendant's motion for a bill of particulars, the trial court noted that defendant had received extensive discovery. Defendant made a motion for a protective order to bar the State from raising the issue of intoxication at trial. Clearly, then, defendant was not in the least surprised by this evidence. Under these facts we believe that the trial court properly admitted the evidence of intoxication.

Defendant's trial began on March 20, 1978. It is uncontroverted that the State had been aware of defendant's intention to call an expert witness for about three months prior to trial. However, it was not until March 23, 1978, after the State had rested its case-in-chief and defense counsel had made his opening statement, that the State's Attorney informed defense counsel and the court that he intended to call Ken Wagner as an expert witness to rebut the testimony of defendant's expert witness. Over defense counsel's objection, the court recessed until March 28, 1978, to allow Wagner to examine the allegedly defective automotive parts. Wagner's report was delivered to defense counsel's residence at 11:40 p.m. on Friday, March 24, and actually received on Saturday, March 25. However, defendant's expert witness was present during Wagner's examination of the parts.

On March 28, before the State presented its rebuttal evidence, defense counsel made a motion to exclude Wagner's testimony, alleging that the use of the witness by the State without prior notice to defendant as required by Supreme Court Rule 412 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 110A, par. 412) surprised defendant and was prejudicial to his defense. The trial court overruled the motion.

Defendant's expert stated that the damage was the result of a mechanical failure caused by a pre-existing defective condition. Wagner testified that the damage was probably the result of Miller's collision with the Volkswagen, rather than the cause of it. Defense counsel told the court that had he been aware of the evidence presented by Wagner prior to trial, certain stress tests could have been conducted on the parts in question. However, defendant had ample time to have these tests performed prior to trial if he believed such tests were warranted, a decision which would seem apparent.

• 4 We do not believe that the trial court committed an abuse of discretion in allowing the prosecution's expert witness to testify as the defendant was not unfairly prejudiced thereby. The prosecution's lack of diligence is not to be commended; however, of necessity, the allowance of such testimony where there has been literal noncompliance with Rule 412 must be left to ...


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