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People v. Beto

OPINION FILED JULY 14, 1980.

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

v.

JOSEPH ANTHONY BETO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. FRANK W. BARBARO, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE CAMPBELL DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is an appeal from a conviction for the crime of murder and a sentence of 200 to 300 years in the State penitentiary, after defendant's jury trial by the circuit court of Cook County.

The issues presented for review are: (1) whether the police had probable cause to arrest the defendant; (2) whether the prosecutor's closing arguments denied the defendant a fair trial; and (3) whether it was reversible error for the trial court to admit hearsay testimony concerning auto registration.

The defendant, Joseph Beto, was charged by indictment with the murder of Dr. Hans Wachtel occurring on February 2, 1977, in Hyde Park, Chicago, Illinois. A co-defendant, Jerome Zamp, was tried by a separate jury during the same proceeding as agreed to by all parties.

Prior to trial, the defendant filed a motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence and a motion to suppress statements.

Investigators John Markham and Robert Strahlman testified at the hearing. Investigator Markham said that Investigator Copple told him to contact Gwendolyn Gilbert as she had information regarding the homicide of Dr. Wachtel in Hyde Park. Investigators Markham and Strahlman went to her apartment on May 8, 1977. She told Markham that a friend, Jerome Zamp, had visited her in early January and said he was in Chicago to fulfill a contract on a doctor. Zamp showed her a piece of paper with the name, Hans, and several sets of numbers written on it. Zamp also showed her a .32-caliber revolver with two bullets in it and said this was the gun that was going to be used. Zamp said that he was doing this for a "J.P." who lived at 707 North Sheridan Road, on the second floor.

She also told Markham that she met the defendant through Jerome Zamp in February of 1977 and that she and Beto were good friends who had been going out daily. She said she had a conversation with Beto in March in which he told her that Zamp had run out on him and left him holding the bag, and that Beto was the one that pulled the trigger. She said that the defendant had her drive around every day looking for J.P. to get more money for the contract because J.P. did not pay him in full. Ms. Gilbert asked Markham if she would be entitled to the reward and he said he would check on it.

Investigators Markham and Strahlman had a second conversation with Ms. Gilbert on May 10 or 11 at her apartment. She described a piece of paper with the name, "Dr. Hans Wachtel," and several sets of numbers written on it. Markham had a third conversation with Ms. Gilbert on May 13 about one hour before the defendant was arrested. She said Beto was staying at 5550 North Kenmore. The reward was not discussed at either of these conversations.

At 12:55 p.m. on May 13, 1977, Investigators Markham and Strahlman arrested the defendant without an arrest warrant. They informed the defendant that he was being arrested for murder and transported him to the police station homicide office in a squad car. They arrived at the station at about 2 p.m. and placed the defendant in a room by himself. At about 2:45 p.m. Markham advised the defendant of his rights from a preprinted card. The defendant said that he understood his rights and wished to answer their questions. Markham informed the defendant that he was accused of murdering Dr. Wachtel. The defendant denied any involvement in or knowledge of the murder and said he did not know Gwendolyn Gilbert or Jerome Zamp. Markham told the defendant that Ms. Gilbert made a statement implicating him in the murder. The investigators left the room and contacted Ms. Gilbert. They asked her to come to the station. At about 6 p.m. the defendant asked to speak to the investigators, and in their presence he gave an oral statement. When an Assistant State's Attorney arrived at 8 p.m. the defendant refused to speak to him.

The defendant testified at the hearing on his motions. He said he was arrested and taken to the police station at about 2 p.m. At about 4 p.m. Officers Markham and Strahlman spoke with him for an hour but did not advise him of his rights. The defendant denied knowing anything concerning a murder he was asked about, although he admitted knowing Jerome Zamp and Gwendolyn Gilbert. When the investigators told him that Zamp had implicated him as the shooter, the defendant said he did not know anything about it. At a second conversation 1 to 1 1/2 hours later, the defendant said he was advised of his rights. The investigators asked him to make a statement but he told them he had nothing to say. He was permitted to make a telephone call at about 3 that afternoon.

After arguments by counsel were heard, the trial court denied the defendant's motion to quash arrest and to suppress statements. As to the motion to quash arrest, the court found that Ms. Gilbert was a citizen informant, not a professional informant, and that the police had probable cause to arrest.

At the trial, Lillian Wachtel testified as to the circumstances surrounding her husband's death on February 2, 1977. Mrs. Wachtel also said that her husband had a patient, Mary Hart, who had a stillbirth. Dr. Wachtel later received threatening telephone calls from the patient's husband and reported the matter to the police. As far as she knew, her husband was not acquainted with John Peters.

Lillian Russell testified that on February 2, 1977, she left the apartment building at 5000 South East End Avenue at 7:20 a.m. and proceeded to the parking lot across the street. She noticed a car backed in next to her own car. This car was unusual to her since the rules required that cars be parked facing into the stalls. The car next to hers was an older model, green in color, dirty and dented, with two male persons sitting in it.

Harry Hyman testified that on February 2, 1977, he left the apartment building at 5000 South East End Avenue at 7:25 a.m. and went across the street to the parking lot. While going to his car, he noticed Dr. Wachtel sitting in his own car. Mr. Hyman started his car, scraped the snow off, and saw that Dr. Wachtel had not moved. He went over to the doctor's car and observed Dr. Wachtel slumped over the steering wheel with blood streaming from his head. The driver's door window was half ...


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