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People v. Gordon





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Peoria County; the Hon. CHARLES M. WILSON, Judge, presiding.


The defendant, Floyd Gordon, appeals from a judgment of conviction entered on a jury verdict finding him guilty of the offense of burglary. He was sentenced to a determinate term of six years imprisonment.

The issues raised by the defendant on review are several and concern the propriety of certain statements made by the prosecutor during his opening statement and his rebuttal argument, and the admissibility of certain identification and expert witness opinion testimony.

At trial the prosecutor informed the jury during opening argument that the defendant was arrested because his fingerprints matched those found at the scene of the burglary. Referring to the investigation of the burglary scene by police officer Walt Krummel, who had noticed fingerprints near a broken window as well as shoeprints in the snow, the prosecutor stated:

"He [Officer Krummel] had the lab called and they compared the fingerprints of the defendant. Found out it was in fact the defendant's fingerprints that was found on the scene.

Officer Walt Jatkowski will testify to that. That the defendant's fingerprints was found on the inside of the window. * * *

* * * He [the defendant] was placed under arrest based on the fingerprint identification. * * *"

At the conclusion of the State's opening argument, the defendant's trial counsel moved for a mistrial on the basis that the prosecutor had informed the jury that the defendant's fingerprints were on file with the Peoria police department prior to his arrest and that the jury could thus infer that the defendant had committed other crimes. Following a discussion outside the presence of the jury, the defendant's motion was denied on the grounds that reasons aside from prior criminal activity exist for the keeping of fingerprint records by the police and that the prosecutor had made no references to any prior arrests or convictions of the defendant.

In response to a motion in limine made by defense counsel to exclude testimony by police witnesses as to why the defendant was arrested because such testimony was irrelevant and would bring out the fact that the defendant's prints were on file at the police station, the trial judge agreed with the defendant's position. The prosecutor subsequently stated that he would not elicit testimony that the police compared the latent print with the defendant's print on file, because the State did not intend to introduce the old print into evidence.

Laura Russell was the State's first witness. She testified that on February 19, 1980, she and her six-year-old daughter left their apartment at approximately 7:45 a.m. to take her nephew to school. All the doors and windows leading into the apartment were locked. Upon returning home some 15 minutes later, Ms. Russell noticed that a shade had been removed from a window in the living room. A pane of glass was broken, although the window itself was latched. A decorator telephone and a cassette tape player were missing.

Officer Walt Krummel testified that he arrived at the Russell apartment at approximately 8:15 a.m. Krummel examined the broken window and followed the shoeprints found in the snow outside the window to two nearby apartments. The first apartment, number 645, was approximately a half block away from the Russell apartment. From there, Krummel followed the prints to apartment 667. Over a hearsay objection, Krummel testified that a Mrs. Gordon lived there. Later, Officer Norm Green testified that the Mrs. Gordon living in apartment 667 was Georgia Gordon, the defendant's sister. This information was given to Officer Green by the defendant.

The defendant was arrested by Officers Krummel and Green at approximately 10:30 a.m. on February 19, 1980, in apartment 480, located about a block away from the Russell apartment. Officer Krummel testified that he observed shoeprints in the snow outside apartment 480 similar to the prints outside Russell's apartment. At the time of his arrest, the defendant put on a pair of brown suede shoes that were wet above the soles. The soles of the shoes were similar to the prints found outside both the Russell apartment and apartment 480.

Officer Walt Jatkowski, a physical evidence expert, was the State's final witness. He explained how fingerprint and shoeprint comparisons were made. In processing the area surrounding the broken window in the Russell apartment, Officer Jatkowski developed a latent fingerprint on the left hand side of the window frame inside the apartment. Jatkowski testified that he made a comparison of the defendant's known prints and the latent fingerprint he developed on Russell's window. In his opinion, the defendant's left ring finger made the latent impression on the window frame. Over defense objection, Jatkowski gave his opinion that the print was made when the defendant grasped the window with his left hand and pulled himself through the window.

Officer Jatkowski further testified that a visual comparison of the shoeprint on the windowsill and the soles of the defendant's shoes indicated that both the prints and the soles had similar class characteristics. He was unable to make a ...

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