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People v. Watkins

OPINION FILED MARCH 27, 1981.

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

v.

ROBERT WATKINS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Will County; the Hon. ANGELO F. PISTILLI, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE HEIPLE DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

After a jury trial, Robert Watkins was convicted of armed robbery, occurring in Joliet, Illinois, on September 15, 1978. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 18-2(a).) He was sentenced to the penitentiary for 18 years. This is his appeal.

The facts unfold as follows: On September 15, 1978, at three o'clock in the afternoon, Sophie Hanson was working alone at the Iverson Florist Shop. A man entered and conversed with Mrs. Hanson for 10 minutes about flowers for a funeral. Indicating that he was unable to decide, he left, saying he would return. Later, Mary Gramera, the delivery girl, returned to Iverson's. At about five o'clock, the store closed for business. Shortly thereafter, when Miss Gramera was about to leave, she met two men at the rear door. One, the man who talked with Mrs. Hanson earlier, insisted on making a purchase. Mrs. Hanson recognized him and both men were allowed entry.

Mrs. Hanson went to the front of the store followed by the prospective customer, whom she later identified as Robert Watkins. Mary Gramera stayed in the back room with the other man, who was Larry Cowans. There was no conversation between the latter two persons. On leaving the back room, Mrs. Hanson was grabbed by Robert Watkins, and she felt a "hard object" by her neck. She was threatened. Mr. Watkins relieved the store's register, cash box, and Mrs. Hanson of money. Next, he forced both employees to go into the basement. The men exited. The entire episode lasted 10 minutes. The police arrived shortly thereafter.

In its case-in-chief, the State presented three occurrence witnesses: Larry Cowans, Sophie Hanson, and Mary Gramera. Cowans was an accomplice to the crime. He shared in the robbery's proceeds. He testified that on September 15, 1978, after drinking beer most of the day, he went for a ride with "James Watkins." They ended up at Iverson's. On October 5, 1978, Cowans identified Watkins as the robber in the photographic show-up. He also identified him in court.

Mary Gramera and Sophie Hanson both identified Robert Watkins in court as the robber. Previously, both had identified him at a photographic show-up on September 21, 1978. Mrs. Hanson testified she never saw a weapon in Watkins' hand. Mary Gramera stated that when Watkins was in the front room of the store she noticed a metal object in his hand. On cross-examination she said that before entering the basement, at the top of the stairwell, she stood face-to-face with Mr. Watkins, who had a knife pointed at her. She said the blade looked tarnished. Then, the following exchange occurred:

"Q. It could have been plastic, could it not have been?

Mr. Reich [State's Attorney]: Objection.

The Court: Objection sustained.

Mr. Goldstein [Defendant's Attorney]: Could you describe the difference between a plastic and what you observed that day?

Mr. Reich: Objection.

Mr. Goldstein: I am trying to find out what he had in his hand, Judge.

Mr. Reich: Judge, if Mr. Goldstein wants to state where he's getting it [sic] I'd appreciate it, before there ...


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