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People v. Lindgren





Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Fourth District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Macoupin County, the Hon. John W. Russell, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied March 28, 1980.

A jury empaneled in Macoupin County convicted the defendant, Charles Lindgren, of the robbery, armed robbery and murder of Arthur Lewis, age 75. The defendant was sentenced to concurrent prison terms of 6 to 12 years for robbery, 25 to 75 years for armed robbery and 85 to 135 years for murder. He appealed his robbery conviction because it was a lesser included offense in the armed robbery conviction. He also appealed his armed robbery and murder convictions, alleging that two evidentiary errors prevented him from receiving a fair trial. The Appellate Court for the Fourth District vacated the robbery conviction, reversed the convictions for armed robbery and murder because of erroneous evidentiary rulings, and remanded the cause for a new trial. (68 Ill. App.3d 141.) The appellate court held that the trial court erred in admitting into evidence certain photographs of the victim and evidence that defendant committed an arson after the murder and armed robbery. We agree as to the arson and disagree as to the photographs.

Criminal cases often turn on their particular facts. Accordingly, a summary of the evidence introduced at trial follows. The State's primary witness was Ina Lewis, the defendant's 17-year-old girlfriend of 3 1/2 years. She was the granddaughter of the victim and the niece of the defendant's ex-wife, who also figured prominently in this trial. Ina Lewis originally was charged as a co-defendant. After defendant's trial, however, she pleaded guilty to a lesser offense and was given a substantially reduced sentence.

Miss Lewis testified that on April 17, 1977, the day of the murder, she and the defendant had dinner at his mother's house in Virden at approximately 1:30 p.m. After dinner, at approximately 2:30 p.m., she left with the defendant, who drove to Otter Lake. They arrived around 6 p.m. She said the defendant bought a fishing license there but that they stayed only 15 minutes before going to Girard, in accordance with the defendant's stated desire to visit his children. The defendant's ex-wife had retained custody of his children after their divorce. Girard is located three miles from Virden.

Miss Lewis testified that the defendant dropped her off at a laundromat in Girard at an undetermined time, but returned five minutes later, saying his ex-wife was not at home and that his children were being watched by his ex-wife's sister and mother. The defendant and Miss Lewis then drove to her mother's house in Virden and arrived between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m.

The defendant then announced that he was "going somewhere" and left, telling Miss Lewis she could not accompany him and that he could not tell her his destination. She went to sleep. Between 12:30 and 1:30 a.m., she heard a car horn, went outside and found the defendant all bloody and crying. He told her, she said, that he had "killed Pappy," meaning Arthur Lewis. According to Miss Lewis, an argument ensued between them as to whether she knew where the victim kept his money. He grabbed her arm, she said, and put her in his car, a maroon 1968 Chevy. He was wearing a black jacket, a striped shirt, blue jeans, boots and gloves. These items all had blood on them. They drove to the victim's house in Girard, he pushed her into the house, forced her to look at the victim and accompany him while he searched for money. He used a flashlight in this search. The search was unsuccessful so they left. The defendant stomped the body on the way out. She said the body was very bloody and cut up.

Miss Lewis then testified, over objections, that they left the victim's house at 2 or 2:30 a.m., proceeded to the defendant's ex-wife's house (no one was there), where he again forced her inside. The defendant went to the kitchen, obtained matches, lit a blanket and threw it on the living room couch. He then grabbed a radio and left the house in flames, saying he had informed his ex-wife that he would burn her house down if she was not at home that evening. During the drive back, their car got stuck in a ditch. Passing motorists gave them a ride to Miss Lewis' mother's house. Her mother gave them a ride to Miss Lewis' grandmother's house. (Her grandmother was separated from the victim.) Defendant threatened Miss Lewis if she breathed a word of these crimes. She said they arrived at her grandmother's house in Virden at 3 or 3:30 a.m. Still under his compulsion and pursuant to his orders, she burned the defendant's shirt and pants and the victim's wallet in a trash barrel outside her grandmother's residence. She also put his boots in the sink and washed them and saw the defendant wash his hands and chest. At this time, they had words over whether she had dated someone else. The defendant also said that he "couldn't live with it," meaning that he could not live with his commission of these crimes. He noted, while pointing to some cuts on his chest, that the victim had put up a fight. He also stated that he had taken $300 from the victim. At that time she saw a blank gun in the defendant's pants.

They both slept until approximately 7 a.m. Then the defendant asked Miss Lewis' mother to take them to a gas station in Girard in order to get his car towed from the ditch. At the second gas station visited, the appropriate arrangements were made. While they were waiting near his incapacitated car, the police arrived and arrested Miss Lewis and the defendant. Just before the arrest, the defendant asked Miss Lewis to "ditch" the blank gun and his own wallet. She put them in a boot underneath the seat in Miss Lewis' mother's car.

On cross-examination, Miss Lewis admitted that after she was arrested she had maintained her and the defendant's innocence until she "became smart" and decided he should not be allowed to get away with it. She said she had never asked her attorneys about the outcome of her own case and that her change in testimony had nothing to do with the disposition of her case. She said that the steering wheel of the defendant's car was never washed although he had driven the car while wearing bloody gloves; that the car keys had no blood on them because he had left the car running during the commission of the crimes and, therefore, had never touched them; and that his speech was slurred because he was intoxicated from drinking peppermint schnapps.

The defendant's mother corroborated their eating dinner at her home at the approximate time Miss Lewis mentioned. It also was established that the defendant did buy a fishing license at Otter Lake at approximately 6 p.m. In addition, the defendant's ex-wife said she had seen the defendant briefly in a tavern in Girard late that evening and that he was in a bad mood. Miss Lewis' mother agreed that the defendant and Miss Lewis had visited her home around 8:30 p.m. and that the defendant left soon thereafter. She said she heard a car horn at approximately 12:30 a.m. and that Miss Lewis left the home at that time.

A blood specialist testified that the defendant's jacket had blood stains which matched the blood, by grouping and type, of the decedent. This blood type is the same as that of 8.4 percent of the population. The blank gun, recovered by Miss Lewis' father from a boot under the seat of his car, also had this same type of blood on it. Further testimony established that this gun was kept in the defendant's ex-wife's home in their son's room. Only the defendant and his son knew where this gun was kept. Human blood of an indeterminate type was present on some of the $399 found in the defendant's wallet, also recovered from the boot. One $5 bill was stained with blood dissimilar to the defendant and similar to either Ina Lewis or the victim. No blood was found on defendant's boots, car carpet, upholstery, accelerator or steering wheel. Neither Miss Lewis' mother nor the motorists who gave Miss Lewis and the defendant a ride that evening noticed any blood or clothing dishevelment, but the lighting conditions were poor and the hour was late on both occasions.

Several persons had seen a fire in the trash can outside Miss Lewis' grandmother's house at approximately 3:30 a.m. The police recovered the victim's wallet, a brass Levi blue ...

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