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People v. Siler





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Coles County; the Hon. THOMAS M. BURKE, Judge, presiding. MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE MILLS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This was the nightmare of any trial judge: A felony tried pro se before a jury.

A circus!

But properly tried, and we affirm.

Siler was convicted by a jury of burglary, aggravated battery, and battery. He was sentenced to four years' imprisonment for the burglary with no sentence being imposed on the other convictions.

But, first, let us look at the facts.

Defendant's trial commenced on March 27, 1979, with defendant appearing pro se after refusing appointed counsel. Prior to opening statements, defendant presented the trial court with an incomplete list of witnesses that he desired to call and asked the court to subpoena the witnesses and for a short continuance so that he could look their names up in the phone book. The trial court denied both requests.

The victim — Marsha Klimes — was a school teacher in Charleston, Illinois. On the evening of December 15, 1978, she left her apartment on her way to a faculty Christmas party. As she was entering her automobile, she was approached by the defendant, who had apparently mistaken her for someone else. After informing defendant of his error, Klimes attempted to enter her automobile, at which time defendant forced his way into the vehicle. When she began screaming, defendant put his hand over her mouth and lifted her dress. Klimes was able to open the passenger door and exit the vehicle as defendant was pulling on her hair.

Upon escaping, Klimes ran into the street and stopped a passing automobile. As she turned back towards her automobile, she observed defendant exiting the passenger side. She pointed defendant out to Benjamin Laxton, a passing motorist, and following a chase, Laxton subdued defendant. As Laxton was bringing defendant back to the automobile, he questioned defendant concerning the occurrence. Defendant responded, "Nothing was going on. I was just trying to talk to her. I didn't mean to hurt her."

During cross-examination, defendant attempted to ask Laxton on at least four occasions if Laxton was being held on pending drug charges in Florida on a date after the occurrence. The State's objections to these questions were sustained. (The record on appeal indicates that there was a governor's warrant for Laxton from the State of Florida. On January 8, 1979, the trial court released Laxton on bond pending his testimony in this case. On April 12, 1979, the bond was dissolved.)

The State rested, and Siler presented the court with a list of 21 witnesses he wanted to call on his behalf and requested that he be given time to telephone or subpoena these individuals. This list included police officers, medical personnel, inmates of the Coles County jail, attorneys, the defendant's mother, and four individuals who defendant asserted could offer alibi testimony. Because the defendant had neither subpoenaed these individuals nor indicated to the State that he intended to rely on the defense of alibi, the trial court did not allow Siler to call any witnesses except those present in the courtroom.

Donald Jenkins, a Coles County deputy sheriff, testified that he had occasion to escort defendant to a local health center for the purpose of obtaining a back brace. On cross-examination, Jenkins noted that he had seen Siler walk normally on several occasions prior to the time defendant obtained the brace.

Siler testified on his own behalf and stated that he had been drinking in a tavern that was located near the parking lot where victim Klimes was attacked. At approximately 6:30 p.m., he fell ill as a result of his drinking and walked to his car. When he reached the car, he heard someone yell for help. He looked up but was unable to determine the origin of the screams. Still feeling the effects of his drinking, Siler entered his car and reclined in the front seat. A short time later, he heard someone running by his automobile and felt someone bump the car. Siler looked up and within moments someone grabbed him by the neck. Siler further stated that he hurt his back in an industrial accident in August of 1977. He stressed that his physical condition was such that he did not think he was capable of attacking or overcoming Klimes.

The jury found defendant guilty of burglary, aggravated battery and battery. The trial judge imposed sentence only upon the burglary conviction.

Five issues are now presented for our consideration. Defendant claims (1) it was error for the trial court to preclude him from questioning Laxton concerning the pending extradition warrant; (2) the trial court improperly prevented him from calling 20 witnesses; (3) it was error for the court to allow testimony concerning defendant's attempt to lift up Klimes' dress; and (4) the State failed to prove that defendant had the requisite intent for burglary. The State also ...

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