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People v. Armstrong

OPINION FILED NOVEMBER 5, 1979.

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

v.

HATTIE ARMSTRONG, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Peoria County; the Hon. STEPHEN J. COVEY, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE SCOTT DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied December 3, 1979.

Hattie Armstrong, the defendant, was charged with two counts of aggravated battery and of cruelty to children. After a stipulated bench trial she was found guilty of all three offenses by the circuit court of Peoria County and concurrent sentences were entered on all three convictions. She was sentenced to a term of 30 months probation and this appeal ensued.

To determine the issues presented in this appeal it is necessary that there be a recitation of the events and facts that ultimately resulted in this appeal.

On June 13, 1977, at approximately 8:30 p.m., John Rodgers, a police officer in the city of Peoria, was dispatched to the defendant's apartment to investigate an anonymous child abuse report. When the officer arrived at the apartment he encountered on a sidewalk the defendant's six-year-old son, Maurice Armstrong. In reply to his inquiry the officer was informed by the lad that his younger sister was at home. The anonymous tipster had informed the police radio dispatcher that the subject of alleged child abuse was a female. The officer, proceeding with his investigation, knocked on the back door of the defendant's apartment. It is clear that the officer was not acting pursuant to authority granted by either a search warrant or arrest warrant. The defendant came to the apartment door and what transpired thereafter is for the most part disputed. At a suppression hearing it was the officer's testimony that the defendant opened the door and allowed him to enter into the kitchen area of the apartment. The in-trial testimony of the defendant at the hearing was to the effect that the officer was never freely admitted into any portion of the apartment. There is no disagreement concerning the fact that the defendant, upon being informed that she had anonymously been accused of abusing her daughter, responded by stating to the officer that the child was at her (the child's) grandmother's house. At the suppression hearing the officer testified that he informed the defendant that he would like to verify her statement by calling the grandmother. It was the officer's further testimony that the defendant gave him permission to make the call on her phone located in the living room and that as he entered the living room with the defendant accompanying him, he observed the child victim standing in a darkened adjoining bedroom and that his flashlight revealed "marks," "welts," and a "black eye" on the girl's body. The child was Aronna Armstrong, approximately four years old, the daughter of the defendant.

Officer Rodgers had previously testified before a grand jury and his testimony before that body differed from his subsequent testimony concerning his entry into the living room, to-wit, it was his testimony before the grand jury that he had obtained the grandmother's number from the defendant so that a police officer, not he, could make the call. The pertinent testimony of the officer before the grand jury pertaining to what occurred in the living room is as follows:

"[The defendant] told me that the daughter wasn't at the house at that time; that the daughter was at her mother's house * * * So I got the telephone number from her and I was going to have the police operator contact the mother by telephone to confirm that the child was down there and while I was in the process of doing this Hattie Armstrong ran into the front room which was not lit with any light and I followed her in there and she was telling me as she was running in there she will call her mother on the telephone, so I followed her in there. While she was picking up the telephone and started to dial, I saw the little girl standing off in a bedroom right off the living room."

Certain testimony of the defendant at the suppression hearing will be set forth verbatim and in context as it becomes pertinent to any issue raised in this appeal.

The defendant's first contention is that an improper search was made of her apartment and that any information obtained from that search should have been suppressed.

We have set forth the substance of the testimony of the investigating officer, given by him before the grand jury and during the hearing to suppress. It has also been noted that on direct examination in the hearing to suppress the evidence, the defendant's testimony was that the officer was never freely admitted into the apartment. When called in rebuttal the defendant gave a different version as to what transpired when the officer called at her apartment. The rebuttal testimony of the defendant was as follows:

"[By counsel for defendant]: Now Hattie, directing your attention to the, you understand you are still under oath?

A. Yes.

Q. Directing your attention to the conversation that you had with the officer, you heard the officer testify today, is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Would you tell us what you recall as being said between the 2 of you from the time he reached your apartment to the time that you were arrested? In particular — Well, just leave it at that.

A. He knocked on my door and I — Well I was cleaning my house at the time and he knocked on the door and I asked him, could I help him or something, and he asked me did I have a daughter by the name of Aronna and I said, yes.

And we was talking at the door, he was in the door and he was outside the door and he said is she, is she here and I said, no, ...


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