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People v. Travis





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. WILLIAM COUSINS, JR., Judge, presiding.


Defendant, Lawrence Travis, was convicted of murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)(1)) in a jury trial and was sentenced to serve a minimum of 100 and a maximum of 200 years' imprisonment. From that judgment and sentence, defendant appeals and we affirm.

The issues presented for review are (1) whether defendant was denied a fair trial because of the prejudice to the jury which resulted when the prosecution twice disregarded the trial judge's ruling and asserted to a witness that defendant had shown the witness a handgun a few days before the decedent was found shot; (2) whether the trial judge committed reversible error when he refused to give Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions, Criminal, No. 3.17 (1968) (hereinafter IPI) with respect to the testimony of Millicent Walker when there was more than sufficient evidence to create probable cause to believe Walker was an accomplice; and (3) whether the trial judge committed reversible error when he refused to give instruction on concealment of a homicidal death when the evidence so warranted.

The evidence and testimony disclosed that on Wednesday, July 20, 1977, at approximately 11 p.m., Frank Lee, a 17-year-old, was home when Billy Poole and defendant came to visit Frank's sister, Dale Lee. In his testimony, Frank stated that he was introduced to defendant, and, after learning that he was unemployed, defendant asked the witness to work with him the next day. The following morning, he and defendant, who was driving a white hearse belonging to the G.W. O'Bee Funeral Home, went to pick up a body which was then transported to the O'Bee Funeral Home, located at 51st Street and Indiana Avenue, in Chicago. The witness stated that he did not go into the funeral home because defendant informed him that Mr. O'Bee, the owner, would become angry. The witness stated he then left defendant and went home.

Millicent Walker testified that on Friday, July 22, 1977, at 11 p.m., she and her girl friend, Diane Brooks, went to visit defendant at the O'Bee Funeral Home. She had first met defendant about 3 weeks previously in a drugstore at 51st and Wentworth. According to the witness, defendant later told her that Mr. O'Bee loved him like a son; that if something happened to O'Bee, defendant would inherit everything, including the funeral home, provided defendant was married. Defendant asked her to marry him and they discussed the idea. The witness stated she had visited defendant at the funeral home on four occasions. When she and Diane arrived there on July 22, defendant led them into the lobby. Defendant indicated he had found a car for her. They went downstairs to defendant's bedroom where there were two beds, a dresser, a television set, and a telephone. Diane had a headache and fell asleep on one of the beds.

Further testifying, the witness said defendant asserted to her that he was authorized to take care of office paperwork, since O'Bee had suffered a stroke and could not sign checks for himself. Defendant then instructed her to write out two checks, one for the car he had found for her, and the other for $200 which, he stated, was a loan to Dale Lee. She prepared the checks, signed Mr. O'Bee's name as drawer, gave the checks to defendant and never saw them again. The witness stated that while writing the checks she told defendant that, since she did not have any furniture, she would rather have a less expensive car and buy some furniture. Defendant told her that she could have everything because O'Bee "would come up missing." She replied that she did not want to "hear anything about somebody coming up missing * * *." While she and Diane were still in his bedroom, defendant placed a telephone call and asked to speak with Mr. "M" After a brief pause, defendant stated he would call back and hung up the telephone.

In further testimony, Millicent stated that around midnight she, Diane and defendant went up to the lobby of the funeral home where defendant received a telephone call. Defendant conversed with the party, calling him "Mike," and indicated to the caller that she, the witness, had agreed to write out the checks and "Everything's set up for in the morning." After defendant completed his telephone conversation, he told her he would call her at 8 the next morning and they would purchase the car and the furniture. The witness stated she then went home and slept until 11 a.m. Upon awakening, she called defendant who stated that "something had come up" and he would come by for her later. That afternoon, between 3 and 3:30, defendant arrived at her apartment. He brought with him a checkbook and a check-writing machine. They issued four checks: one for $178 and some cents, payable to defendant; one for either $1000 or $1100; one for $40; and one in an amount she could not remember. She stated she signed the name, George W. O'Bee, Jr., as drawer on all four of the checks.

The witness went on to testify that she, her baby, defendant, and Diane then drove in a green Cadillac, which defendant said belonged to him, to a currency exchange. Defendant was unable to cash the $178 check at that currency exchange or at the next one they visited. Thereafter, they proceeded to Nelson Brothers, a furniture store located at 2750 West Grand Avenue. The witness stated that on the way to the furniture store defendant remarked that O'Bee had planned to go to Jamaica; that he called O'Bee that morning, but it sounded as though someone had slapped the telephone out of O'Bee's hand. Also, defendant said (referring to O'Bee) that the "m____ f____ was going to come up missing."

Jay Wigoda, a salesman for Nelson Brothers furniture store, testified that Millicent and defendant purchased a color television set and stand, end tables, lamps, a washing machine, and a dryer. Defendant offered him a check for $1,150 as payment for the purchases. Defendant had indicated to the witness that the check was a wedding present to him from O'Bee. The witness said he refused to accept the check because of an apparent discrepancy in the amounts shown on the face of the check. Defendant next offered to pay for the purchases with a Bankamericard bearing the name, G.W. O'Bee, Jr.; this, too, was refused due to the mutilated condition of the credit card. According to the witness, defendant then handed him a check in the amount of $156, which was made payable to defendant and which he endorsed over, as a down payment on the purchase price. This check was accepted by the witness and defendant was given a receipt for the purchases.

In additional testimony, Millicent stated that after leaving the furniture store she, her baby, Diane and the defendant drove to a gasoline station at 103rd and Halsted Street. Defendant purchased gas with a Standard Oil credit card bearing the name, G.W. O'Bee, Jr. Thereafter, they drove to the home of Diane's boy friend at 116th and Yale. From there, they drove back toward the O'Bee funeral home, making one stop at a drugstore. The witness stated that before defendant went into the drugstore he gave her $20, placed the Standard Oil credit card in the glove compartment of the car, and took the $40 check with him. She further testified that defendant asked her whether she would go with him to Indiana that night to drop off a package. She answered that she could not accompany him because she had not arranged for a babysitter. According to the witness, defendant told her she could keep the Cadillac so long as she did not drive it over to the funeral home. At 9 p.m., she returned to the funeral home and rang the doorbell, but no one answered.

Frank Lee testified that at 9 that same evening defendant came to his home and offered him $10 if he would accompany the defendant to the airport. After obtaining his mother's permission, the witness left for the airport with defendant in a black Cadillac. Defendant drove to the Dan Ryan Expressway and headed in a southerly direction. The witness stated he slept during the drive and until the car stopped. Upon awakening, he looked around and realized they were in the country. Defendant instructed him to stay in the car. At that point, defendant turned the car lights off, got out of the car and walked to the trunk compartment. The witness stated he saw defendant open the trunk door and that defendant "throwed out a body." Defendant closed the trunk door and got back into the car, remarking to the witness that his leg and hand were hurting. When the witness asked defendant what was the noise he heard, defendant told him to "shut up and forget about it." Thereafter, defendant drove the witness home where he had a conversation with his mother and then went to bed.

Earnese Lee, the mother of Frank and Dale, testified that after defendant brought her son home she talked briefly with Frank and returned to the living room. There, she saw and heard defendant talking to himself; he was saying, "I killed a man; I killed a man." The witness asked defendant who was the man, but defendant did not reply.

Cornelia Redding, a girl friend of George O'Bee, testified that she had spoken with O'Bee early on Saturday, July 23, 1977. She called him later, at 5 p.m., but received no response. Thereafter, she called continually until 3 Sunday morning, July 24. The witness stated she never reached Mr. O'Bee.

Millicent, in continued testimony, stated that defendant called her at 8 on Sunday morning, July 24. He told her "something had come up" and he would talk with her later. Sometime after 5 p.m., defendant called her again and said he was in Joliet; that he had been arrested, but the matter would be cleared up. The witness stated that while she was talking with Sergeant Bennett on the telephone, the police came to her house. She gave them the checkwriting machine, the checkbook, and the car keys to the green Cadillac.

Richard C. Alexander, a part-time police officer for the village of Monee, testified that he responded to a radio message to go to Monee-Manhattan Road immediately west of the I-57 interchange. Upon arrival, Officer Alexander parked his car and walked down the road. There, on the left side of the road, he saw the body of a black male lying in a ditch. The victim was wearing a white T-shirt and blue pants. The body wounds indicated that the man had been shot. On the ground north of the body was a coat with a wallet protruding from the pocket. The wallet contained identification of George O'Bee.

Mandel Durrah, O'Bee's nephew, testified that after receiving a telephone call from Redding at 11:30 on Sunday morning, July 24, he immediately went to the funeral home. He was unable to enter and called the police. After the police arrived, they checked O'Bee's house to see whether he was there. The witness stated he then returned to the funeral home where defendant arrived sometime later. They entered the funeral home. Thereafter, the witness stated, he received a telephone call from the Will County sheriff's office. Defendant then drove him to Will County in a black Cadillac. The witness further testified that when they arrived at the Will County sheriff's office he talked with two policemen. Defendant gave one of the officers the keys to the black Cadillac. When one of the officers left, defendant asked the witness whether he thought the police were going to look in the trunk compartment of ...

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