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People v. Craig





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Clinton County; the Hon. BILL J. SLATER, Judge, presiding.


The defendant, Donald Craig, appeals from a judgment of the circuit court of Clinton County entered on a jury verdict finding him guilty of the offense of burglary. Defendant was sentenced to a term of three years imprisonment following a sentencing hearing at which arguments in aggravation and mitigation were considered. On appeal defendant contends (1) that possession by him of property removed from a nearby garage was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) that the trial court improperly excluded the second paragraph of Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions, Criminal, No. 3.02 (1968), (hereinafter cited as IPI Criminal); (3) that his non-IPI Criminal instruction was erroneously denied submission to the jury; and (4) that the scope of cross-examination by defense counsel directed toward demonstrating police bias and investigatory insufficiency was improperly restricted. We affirm.

On the night of June 12, 1978, an outboard boat motor was taken from an unlocked garage on the premises of Arnold Abel in Trenton, Illinois. Evidence at trial tended to establish that the detached structure, situated at the rear of the Abel home, at the intersection of Illinois Highways 160 and 50, had been entered at approximately 10 p.m. in order to effect the theft.

Sometime between 9:45 p.m. and 10:15 p.m., Joseph Kulbrecher, a neighbor residing two doors to the south of the Abel residence, was returning to his home. As Kulbrecher turned into his driveway he spotted the defendant lying face down beneath a lawn swing in his yard approximately 15 feet away. The motor lay on the ground beside Craig. As the witness stepped from his car, the defendant jumped up and inquired as to the location of a street. According to Kulbrecher, without receiving an answer, the defendant proceeded to a pickup truck parked on the adjacent street and drove off, leaving the motor behind. The witness then unsuccessfully attempted to pursue the truck in his own vehicle. However, as he approached his home, he again saw the truck passing slowly in front of his yard. He honked at it as he drove up. The truck resumed speed and proceeded west on Illinois 50 with the witness following. A short time later Kuhlbrecher flagged down a patrolling police officer who apprehended the suspect without incident.

• 1 As his first assignment of error appellant contends that he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt because his possession of the stolen motor was not conclusively demonstrated by evidence of his presence next to it shortly after the perpetration of the crime. It is well established that recent, exclusive and unexplained possession of the proceeds of a burglary by an accused in and of itself gives rise to an inference of guilt. Such an inference may be sufficient to sustain a conviction where there are absent other facts which indicate, in the mind of the jury, a reasonable doubt as to guilt. (People v. Woods (1963), 26 Ill.2d 557, 188 N.E.2d 1, cert. denied (1963), 373 U.S. 945, 10 L.Ed.2d 699, 83 S.Ct. 1555; People v. Pride (1959), 16 Ill.2d 82, 156 N.E.2d 551.) Possession is, under these circumstances, a determination for the jury to make as a question of fact. That determination will not be disturbed unless there are facts and circumstances present which create a reasonable doubt as to the appellant's guilt. (People v. Espero (1978), 65 Ill. App.3d 133, 382 N.E.2d 542.) As we indicated in People v. Rogers (No. 79-19, filed Oct. 15, 1979), 77 Ill. App.3d 989, 397 N.E.2d 28, the trier of fact is not required to elevate to the status of reasonable doubt any shred of evidence compatible with innocence. Neither is the State required to establish guilt beyond all possibility of doubt.

• 2 In reference to the issue of possession, it is not essential that the appellant actually be physically holding or touching the stolen property. (People v. Colby (1963), 27 Ill.2d 273, 189 N.E.2d 317; People v. Bivens (1970), 123 Ill. App.2d 79, 259 N.E.2d 607.) He is deemed to be in possession where, as here, close proximity shortly after the commission of the theft, under circumstances which make it appear that the accused was attempting to conceal his presence, can lead the trier of fact to no other reasonable conclusion. In Colby, a case factually similar to ours, the accused was discovered in the early morning hours near the rear entrance of the burglarized store. Stolen property was found lying three feet away from him when apprehended.

• 3 We do not find the cases cited by the appellant on the issue of possession to be persuasive. For instance, in People v. Calhoun (1977), 46 Ill. App.3d 691, 361 N.E.2d 55, dominion and control by the defendant was the gravamen of the State's case concerning constructive possession of a controlled substance. The issue was one of accountability for the crime where the defendant was not a tenant of the apartment in question but merely a visitor. In People v. Thruman (1977), 52 Ill. App.3d 13, 367 N.E.2d 379, the suspect was likewise only present in the home of another subsequently charged with burglary. Proof of sufficient connection with stolen goods was not provided by the State.

• 4 The appellant next objects to the failure of the trial court to allow the second paragraph of his proposed instruction No. 4, IPI Criminal No. 3.02 (circumstantial evidence), to be submitted to the jury. That instruction provides:

"Circumstantial evidence is the proof of facts or circumstances which give rise to a reasonable inference of other facts which tend to show the guilt or innocence of a defendant. Circumstantial evidence should be considered by you together with all the other evidence in the case in arriving at your verdict."

And its second paragraph reads:

"You should not find the defendant guilty unless the facts and circumstances proved exclude every reasonable theory of innocence."

This second paragraph is optional and should not be given unless all the evidence presented is circumstantial in nature. Indeed, the Committee Note to IPI Criminal No. 3.02 reads: "The second paragraph should be given only when the proof of guilty [sic] is entirely circumstantial." (People v. Panus (1978), 62 Ill. App.3d 177, 379 N.E.2d 319, rev'd on other grounds (1979), 76 Ill.2d 263.) The appellate court has commented in the past on the problems of distinguishing circumstantial from direct evidence in the context of reviewing IPI Criminal No. 3.02 and has noted the reluctance of courts> to rule that failure to submit the second paragraph is reversible error. (People v. Jackson (1976), 37 Ill. App.3d 279, 345 N.E.2d 509; People v. Hammers (1976), 35 Ill. App.3d 498, 341 N.E.2d 471, cert. denied (1976), 429 U.S. 1002, 50 L.Ed.2d 614, 97 S.Ct. 534.) Indeed, it has been noted that the present second paragraph misstates the law and revision has been suggested. See People v. Godsey (1978), 57 Ill. App.3d 364, 373 N.E.2d 95, rev'd on other grounds (1978), 74 Ill.2d 64, 383 N.E.2d 988.

In the instant case direct evidence was offered by a witness as to the possession of stolen property and flight from the scene. There is no intervening process involved since that testimony applies immediately to the facts to be proved. We therefore hold that the trial court did not err in deleting the second paragraph of IPI Criminal No. 3.02.2

The appellant also contends that the court erred in refusing to give defendant's instruction number 7. That instruction, which is ...

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