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People v. Brown





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EARL STRAYHORN, Judge, presiding.


This is an appeal from the judgment of the circuit court, sitting with a jury, convicting the defendant, Joe Willie Brown, of the crime of murder.

The issues presented for review are: (1) whether the defendant was denied a fair trial when the court denied defendant's request to add a witness to his list of witnesses at the close of the State's case; (2) whether the defendant was denied a fair trial due to the prosecutor's comments during closing argument; and (3) whether the defendant was denied a proper sentencing hearing.

At trial, Elijah Scales testified that on May 18, 1978, he saw James Stamps in a parking lot at 2450 W. Monroe at about 8:30 p.m. He noticed that Stamps had a can of beer in his hand. He saw the defendant, who was also a friend of his, walk up to Stamps and ask him for some beer. Stamps and Scales walked a short way from the area and they were again approached by the defendant asking for some beer. When Stamps refused, the defendant walked away.

Scales and Stamps then returned to the area where they originally saw the defendant and where the defendant's brother was working on his car. The defendant again asked Stamps for some beer and was refused. According to Scales, Brown grabbed Stamps by the collar, swore at Stamps for refusing him some beer, stabbed Stamps in the stomach and then repeated stabbing Stamps as he fell to the ground.

Scales stated he first saw the knife, which he described as a foot-long kitchen knife, when the defendant began stabbing the victim. Scales stated the victim was trying to avoid being stabbed by turning his body and using his hands to catch the defendant's hands. Scales saw the defendant stab the victim three times in the stomach. When the victim fell to the ground, the defendant squatted next to the victim and used the knife like a dagger to repeatedly stab the victim. Scales estimated the defendant stabbed the prone victim more than five times. When he finished stabbing the victim, the defendant walked toward the building at 2450 West Monroe, with the knife in his hand. Scales also testified that he did not see the defendant drink anything that day, but stated that the defendant's eyes did not look the same when he started to stab the victim.

Billy Stigler, the defendant's brother, testified that he was working on his car in the parking lot at 2450 West Monroe. Stigler had his head under the hood of his car when he heard the victim and the defendant "rumbling" behind the car. He looked up and saw the victim falling and the defendant stabbing the victim. Stigler stated that the defendant "kept on stabbing." Stigler also testified that while he was in the parking lot he did not see the defendant drink anything, but that the defendant looked "like a drunk man should."

A Chicago police officer testified next, that he and three other officers went to 2450 West Monroe at about 11:25 p.m. on May 18, 1978. The officers knocked on the door of apartment 101, and were admitted into the apartment by a woman. Upon entering the apartment, the officers saw the defendant asleep on a couch. The witness testified that he shook the defendant's shoulder and the defendant awoke immediately. The officer asked the defendant if his name was Joe Willie, and when the defendant replied that he was, the officer placed the defendant under arrest. The officer stated that although the defendant's hands were handcuffed behind his back, he did not have any difficulty getting into the back seat of the squad car.

The witness stated that the defendant's motor coordination was normal, that the defendant did not fall down or need assistance while walking and that the defendant did not stumble while walking up two flights of stairs at the police station, while handcuffed. The witness further testified that the defendant had an odor of alcohol on his breath, but he gave coherent answers to questions and did not slur his words. The witness stated that it was his opinion, based upon his experience, that the defendant, at the time of his arrest, was not intoxicated.

Dr. An testified that he examined the body of James Stamps in the early morning hours of May 19, 1978, and found 11 stab wounds. He determined that death was caused by a stab wound to the heart and one of the intestines. After this testimony the State rested.

In a sidebar, after the above testimony, the following colloquy was had between the trial judge and defense counsel:

"COUNSEL: I'd like one other addition. I apologize to the court because of the type of witnesses.

THE COURT: You want to amend your witness list? Make your offer. I'm going to deny it.

COUNSEL: I would like to add one witness, Eloise Grant, who will also testify to the condition of the defendant prior to the occurrence, and I just found out her name.

THE COURT: Your motion to amend your list of witnesses will be denied for the reason that we are now in the middle of the trial. You have had ample opportunity to have these witnesses and have complied with the ...

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