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People v. Scott

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 24, 1980.

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

v.

EDWARD SCOTT, III, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOHN A. NORDBERG, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE LORENZ DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Following a jury trial, defendant was convicted of the offense of armed robbery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 18-2) and sentenced to four and one half to nine years in the penitentiary. On appeal, he raises the following issues: (1) that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress identification testimony resulting from an impermissibly suggestive showup procedure; (2) that the State failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; and (3) that the prosecutor's comments in closing arguments denied him a fair trial.

On November 21, 1975, at about 7:15 p.m., Beatrice Adams was on her way home from work. After alighting from a bus, she walked east on 84th Street toward her home at 8358 S. Aberdeen in Chicago, Illinois. As she crossed an alley about one block from her home, a man armed with a revolver confronted her and demanded her purse which contained $40, credit cards and other personal effects. At this time, the assailant stood within a few feet of her. Due to the illumination provided by street and alley lights, she was able to observe his face during the one minute confrontation. He then grabbed her purse and fled down the alley. Adams cried for help, but after receiving no assistance, she ran to her home and called the police.

Fifteen minutes later, the police arrived at her home. She described the robber to them as a light complected black man, 17 or 18 years old, thin, slightly taller than she, with "funny eyes." He was wearing a stocking cap, a short-waisted jacket and dark pants. In addition, she recognized him as a resident of the neighborhood. After cruising the neighborhood with the police in an unsuccessful attempt to locate the assailant, she returned to her home at about 8 p.m.

Later that evening, Chicago police officer Duigman spoke with the officers who initially interviewed the victim. Then, upon receiving a description from her, he and his partner also toured the area. Because the description she gave fit defendant, with whom Duigman was previously acquainted, he was specifically searching for him as a possible suspect. Shortly thereafter, the two officers spotted defendant on a street corner about three blocks from the victim's home. Defendant, who was accompanied by two other men, was placed under arrest. At this time, he was dressed in dark pants, and a light-colored shirt, but wore neither a jacket nor a cap. No gun was found in his possession.

Duigman and his partner returned to the victim's home with defendant at about 10 p.m. Leaving defendant in the back seat of the car, Duigman entered Adam's home and spoke with her. She told him that she now remembered that the name of the person who robbed her was "Mo-toe." After being requested to view the suspect that the police had handcuffed in the back seat of the car, she went outside, looked into the car and exclaimed, "That's him, that's Mo-toe." Defendant responded by placing his hands on his head and stating, "Oh, my God."

Defendant presented an alibi defense which consisted of his testimony along with that of Warren Mack and Orlando Shufford. Mack and Shufford, who were defendant's friends, stated that at the time of the robbery, they, along with Stanley Spurlock, another friend, were with defendant at Mack's home. Defendant, known to his friends as "Mo-toe," arrived there with Shufford and Spurlock at about 6:30 p.m., and remained in Mack's bedroom listening to records and talking for the next 1 1/2 hours. At about 8 p.m., Mack's mother asked the four if they would purchase some beer and cigarettes for her. As they returned from the store, defendant was arrested by the police.

OPINION

Defendant first contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress identification testimony resulting from an impermissibly suggestive showup procedure. Specifically, he asserts that the identification procedure used by the police, in displaying defendant, a single, handcuffed suspect held in a police car, to the victim denied him due process of law. U.S. Const., amend. XIV.

• 1 A defendant has a right to a full and fair pretrial hearing to determine whether a witness' identification of him was based solely on the witness' independent observation of the crime or whether it was influenced by unnecessarily suggestive police procedure or other extraneous factors which may have unduly affected the judgment and conclusion of the witness. (People v. Robinson (1970), 46 Ill.2d 229, 263 N.E.2d 57.) In order to suppress identification evidence, a defendant has the burden of proving that the identification procedures were so unnecessarily suggestive as to give rise to a very substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification. (Simmons v. United States (1968), 390 U.S. 377, 19 L.Ed.2d 1247, 88 S.Ct. 967.) Where the pretrial identification is found to be inadmissible, an in-court identification will be admitted if the State can prove by clear and convincing evidence that the in-court identification had an independent origin arising from other uninfluenced observations of the defendant. (People v. Lee (1973), 54 Ill.2d 111, 295 N.E.2d 449.) In Manson v. Brathwaite (1977), 432 U.S. 98, 53 L.Ed.2d 140, 97 S.Ct. 2243, the Supreme Court rejected a per se rule of exclusion of identification evidence following unnecessarily suggestive confrontation procedures. The Manson court stated:

"We therefore conclude that reliability is the linchpin in determining the admissibility of identification testimony * * *. The factors to be considered are set out in [Neil v. Biggers (1972)], 409 U.S., at 199-200. These include the opportunity of the witness to view the criminal at the time of the crime, the witness' degree of attention, the accuracy of his prior description of the criminal, the level of certainty demonstrated at the confrontation, and the time between the crime and the confrontation. Against these factors is to be weighed the corrupting effect of the suggestive identification itself." 432 U.S. 98, 114, 53 L.Ed.2d 140, 154, 97 S.Ct. 2243, 2253. Accord People v. Manion (1977), 67 Ill.2d 564, 367 N.E.2d 1313, cert. denied (1978), 435 U.S. 937, 55 L.Ed.2d 533, 98 S.Ct. 1513.

• 2 In the instant case, we find that the circumstances of the pretrial identification did not involve a constitutional violation, as it occurred under reliable conditions. The victim observed the assailant at the time of the crime at close range for a period of about one minute under ample lighting conditions. The descriptions she gave of the assailant to the police on two separate occasions were detailed and consistent. Adams indicated a high level of certainty in identifying defendant as the man who robbed her at the time of the confrontation and at trial. Finally, less than three hours transpired between the time of the crime and when she confronted him as he was handcuffed in the squad car. Although our supreme court has recognized the suggestiveness inherent in one-man showup procedures (see People v. Blumenshine (1969), 42 Ill.2d 508, 250 N.E.2d 152), it has also upheld on several occasions a prompt identification of a suspect by a witness or victim near the scene of the crime. (People v. Manion (1977), 67 Ill.2d 564, 367 N.E.2d 1313; People v. Bey (1972), 51 Ill.2d 262, 281 N.E.2d 638; People v. Young (1970), 46 Ill.2d 82, 263 N.E.2d 72.) These procedures tend to insure accuracy, not bring about misidentifications, because they "fosters the desirable objectives of fresh, accurate identifications which may lead to the immediate release of an innocent suspect and at the same time enable the police to resume the search for the fleeing offender while the trial is fresh." (People v. Elam (1972), 50 Ill.2d 214, 218, 278 N.E.2d 76, 78.) Because the victim's identification of defendant was reliable, the trial court properly denied defendant's motion to suppress the identification testimony.

Defendant next contends that the State failed to prove him guilty of the crime of armed robbery beyond a reasonable doubt.

• 3 A verdict of guilty will not be set aside unless the trial evidence is so improbable as to raise a reasonable doubt as to defendant's guilt. (People v. Yarbrough (1977), 67 Ill.2d 222, 367 N.E.2d 666.) Identification by a single witness who had the opportunity to observe defendant is sufficient to support a guilty verdict. (People v. Butler (1976), 41 Ill. App.3d 750, 354 N.E.2d 568.) There is no obligation on the trier of fact to believe alibi testimony over the positive identification of an accused, even ...


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