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People v. Morris





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. GEORGE M. MAROVICH, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied January 4, 1980.

Following a bench trial, defendants Ronald Morris, Willie Pridgett and Arthur Jones were each found guilty of armed robbery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 18-2), and were each sentenced to a term of from four to six years' imprisonment. On appeal they raise the following issues: (1) they were not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; and (2) the State's use of their post-arrest silence as impeachment deprived them of due process at law. In addition, Jones and Pridgett contend their sixth amendment right to confront witnesses against them was violated. Morris contends that (1) the State's eliciting his use of an assumed name was prejudicial error; (2) the State's cross-examination of him insinuating, without proof, that he confessed to this crime was prejudicial error; and (3) that the State's eliciting testimony allegedly occurring during plea negotiations was prejudicial error.

The following pertinent evidence was adduced at trial.

For the State

Dick Cozad, Ford City Police Officer

On March 23, 1976, he and his partner, Craig Carney, were patrolling the parking lot of the Ford City Shopping Center (Ford City). At about 5:15 p.m., they received a radio communication from Ford City police officer Brad Williams of roof patrol. Williams directed them to an area of the parking lot where they observed a white Oldsmobile containing four black men. Within an hour, they received a second communication from Williams informing them of an armed robbery taking place in a 1973 Cadillac. He pulled their unmarked car in front of the Cadillac. Inside the Cadillac were Flora Collins, her brother Clayton Collins, and defendants Morris, Pridgett, and Jones. Flora Collins got out of the car on the passenger side and told Officer Carney that she was being robbed. Carney relayed the information to him, and he then ordered Jones to get out from behind the wheel. While he was handcuffing Jones, Carney removed Morris and Pridgett from the back seat. Chicago police officers Toomey and O'Connor arrived at this time. Cozad searched the car and found money and postage stamps on the floor of the back seat. Carney turned over to Officer Toomey a knife found at the scene.

On cross-examination, he stated he was parked about a half-block away from the white Oldsmobile for 45 minutes before receiving the radio communication of an armed robbery in progress. Officer Carney's conversation with Flora Collins on the passenger side of the car was outside of his hearing. He did not hear Flora Collins scream when she got out of the car.

Flora Collins

On March 23, 1976, she went to Ford City with her seven-year-old brother Clayton. After completing her shopping, she left the Wieboldt's department store and walked toward her car in the parking lot. Defendants were standing by her car and, as she approached, Morris walked to the front of the car and the other two moved to the back. Clayton was walking to the passenger side when Morris grabbed him. When Morris held a knife to Clayton's throat, Clayton screamed. At the same moment, Jones pushed her into the passenger side of the front seat and when Jones threatened Clayton, she told her brother to stop screaming. Morris and Pridgett sat in the back seat of her car with Clayton between them. After everyone was inside the car, Jones tried to start the car, but was unable to do so without her help. She told them they could have her car, keys, and money, if they would let her and her brother go. When Pridgett demanded her wallet, she threw her red coin purse into the back seat. The purse contained $24 and some postage stamps. At that moment, a car pulled in front of hers, and Morris said: "Look out. Here comes the police." A police officer came to her window, and she stepped out of the car. Holding a shopping bag to the side of her face, she whispered to the officer that she was being robbed. The officer, apparently not hearing what she said, asked for her license. She said her brother had it and then asked Morris if her brother could get out of the car. When Clayton got out of the car, she yelled, "I'm being robbed."

On cross-examination, she stated it was daylight and the parking lot lights were off when she left Wieboldt's. The doors to her car were locked, but she opened them as her brother walked to the passenger side. She put the keys into the ignition on her own initiative. They were inside the car about four or five minutes when the police arrived. While inside the car, she lighted a cigarette. She testified that the defendants were strangers and that she never saw the knife held by Morris after entering the car. On redirect, she explained that because she felt the defendants were going to take her car, she put the keys in the ignition.

James Andrew O'Malley

At approximately 6 p.m. on March 23, 1976, he was in the Ford City parking lot on his way to a bowling alley. After parking his car, he saw Morris, Jones, and Pridgett walking in the parking lot. He then went into the bowling alley to change clothes and, five minutes later, returned to his car with his clothes. Walking back to the bowling alley he heard screams; he turned and saw the defendants forcing two people into a car. He began to walk toward the scene when he saw a Chicago police car and another car moving toward this car. When he reached the scene, he saw defendants being taken from the car.

On cross-examination, he stated the parking lot lights were off and it was dusk when these events occurred. He saw the faces of the defendants for about 30 seconds before going into the bowling alley. Although he stated two of the defendants were on one side of the car and one on the other, he could not remember the exact position of each defendant. The Chicago police car was the second car at the scene and arrived approximately three to five minutes after he heard the screams.

Edward Toomey, Chicago Police Officer

On March 23, 1976, he and his partner James O'Connor were patrolling the Ford City parking lot. They received a radio communication from Ford City police officer Brad Williams of an armed robbery in progress. They proceeded to the Wieboldt's parking lot where they encountered Ford City officers Cozad and Carney taking defendants into custody. Cozad and Carney turned over a knife, $24, and postage stamps found at the scene. On cross-examination, he stated it took them approximately three to four seconds to reach the scene after they received the radio communication. At the scene, he noticed Officer Carney had a red coin purse in his possession, but it was not turned over to him.

Brad Williams, Ford City Police Officer

On March 23, 1976, he was working roof patrol in the shopping center. Using a pair of binoculars, he observed a suspicious group of men and relayed this information to Officers Carney and Cozad. These men were the defendants. He later observed the defendants standing by a 1973 white Cadillac. As Clayton Collins approached the passenger side of this car Morris stopped him; held a knife to his throat; and forced him into the back seat. At the same time, Jones, on the driver's side of the car, pushed Flora Collins into the front seat of the car. Pridgett, also on the driver's side, got into the back seat of the car. After seeing this, he told Officers Carey and Cozad what happened and directed them to the scene. Shortly after Cozad and Carney arrived at the scene, Chicago police officers Toomey and O'Connor arrived.

On cross-examination, he explained that his observation position was approximately 50 feet from the scene and the parking lot lights were off at the time. He heard Clayton Collins scream at the time of the incident. He estimated that Officers Carney and Cozad arrived at the scene 10 seconds after Flora and Clayton were forced into the car.

For the Defendants

Ronald Morris on his own behalf

Prior to March 23, 1976, he knew Flora Collins and had purchased marijuana from her on three or four occasions at the gas station where he worked. On March 23, Dwayne Mitchell drove him to Ford City where he met Flora Collins. She offered to sell him $10 of Columbian marijuana, and he agreed. He paid her the $10 and she told him she would deliver the marijuana in 30 minutes at the gas station where he worked.

He then went into a bowling alley and met Pridgett and Jones. Since Mitchell had left him at Ford City, he asked them for a ride home, and they agreed. He told them he was buying some Columbian marijuana.

With Pridgett and Jones, he went out to the parking lot and waited for Flora at her car. Flora returned to the car, and they sat inside her car. He did not hold a knife to the throat of Clayton Collins or force him into the car. Flora lighted a joint of marijuana which everyone smoked. Jones was in the driver's seat because Flora said she couldn't drive and smoke marijuana at the same time. After smoking the marijuana, he told Flora it was not Columbian and asked for his money. She said she didn't have it. At that moment, the police arrived.

On cross-examination, he stated Flora met them at her car approximately three minutes after they left the bowling alley. When they got into the car, Clayton did not scream. He never saw Flora Collins' little red purse. They were in the car approximately five minutes before the police arrived. He denied telling any police investigators at the police station that he held a knife to Clayton's throat or that he robbed Flora. He also denied telling a probation officer that he, Jones, Pridgett, and a Johnny McCrae were at Ford City to rob Flora Collins.

Willie Pridgett on his own behalf

At about 4:45 p.m. on March 23, 1976, he, Arthur Jones and Johnny McCrae drove to Ford City. At a bowling alley in Ford City he met a man known to him as Andre Swift. Andre Swift is also known as Ronald Morris. He, Jones, and Morris left the bowling alley and walked to a car in the parking lot where Morris was to buy marijuana. They met Flora Collins and her brother at the car, and everyone got into the car. Jones and Flora were in the front seat and Morris, he and Clayton were in the back seat. Neither Flora nor Clayton was forced into the car. Clayton did not scream when they got into the car. Once inside the car, Flora started the car because Jones, seated at the wheel, was unable to do so. They smoked a joint of marijuana which Flora had lighted. When the police arrived, they took $27 from him. He told the police that he was buying marijuana.

On cross-examination, he denied telling a probation officer that he was involved in an armed ...

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