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People v. Hunt

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 9, 1981.

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

v.

RONALD HUNT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Tazewell County; the Hon. IVAN L. YONTZ, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE BARRY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Tazewell County, the defendant, Ronald L. Hunt, was convicted of armed robbery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 18-2(a)). He was subsequently sentenced to the Department of Corrections for a term of 30 years. On appeal, he raises four issues for our consideration: First, did the State fail to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; second, did the trial court commit reversible error when it refused to allow into evidence the allegedly exculpatory fact that defendant's fingerprints were not on a bag of marijuana seeds found on a driveway where the alleged getaway car backed up subsequent to the robbery; third, did the trial court err in refusing to give defense instruction IPI Criminal No. 3.14 (modified); and finally, did the trial court err in allowing an expert to testify regarding the comparison of two items of physical evidence.

We affirm.

Our disposition of this case requires a somewhat detailed recitation of the evidence adduced at defendant's trial. Seven eyewitnesses to the armed robbery, none of whom made an in-court identification of the defendant, testified for the prosecution. The first to testify was Delbert Callaway, the bartender at Ole' Dad's Place, 1010 South Second Street, Pekin. He stated that between 10:30 and 11 p.m., on June 13, 1980, he saw someone enter the tavern by the back door. Once inside, this person displayed a .12-gauge pump shotgun, which he banged on the bar. He then ordered everyone in the tavern to place their wallets on the bar and to get on the floor. At gunpoint, the robber directed Callaway to put the money from the cash register into a sack. After Callaway did so, he, too, got on the floor, and the robber left. Callaway described the robber as weighing between 145-160 lbs., and as having a stocky, muscular build. (The defendant presented evidence that his weight on June 14 was 120 lbs.) At the time of the offense the robber was wearing bib overalls, and was masked with a stocking. At a police lineup held June 16, 1980, Callaway was unable to identify any of the participants as the robber, although he had previously asserted that he would be able to identify the robber's voice.

The next witness for the prosecution was Donald Beeney, a tavern patron. He had been drinking for three hours before the robbery occurred, and admitted that by 10 p.m. his ability to observe had been affected by his consumption of alcohol. He testified that he first observed the robber from a distance of about 20 feet. Immediately after the robber ordered the people in the tavern to get on the floor, Beeney ran out of the building and made a futile attempt to locate a police car. He estimated that he was in the tavern with the robber for no longer than a minute. After failing to find a police car, Beeney went around a corner toward a side street where his own car was parked. At this time he saw the robber running in a southerly direction in the alley behind the tavern. As the robber ran into the next block Beeney apparently lost sight of him. He then heard a car "take-off."

Beeney described the robber as wearing overalls and a stocking hat over long, light colored hair. Shortly after the robbery, he told another tavern patron that the robber resembled Robert Hilst, an acquaintance of Beeney's. The defendant, however, did not resemble Hilst. At the June 16 lineup, however, Beeney identified the defendant, who was number three, with the notation "3?".

Oscar Mullinax was next to testify. He admitted that his recollection of the robbery was dim because he suffered a blackout during the course of the crime. The only thing he could remember was seeing a masked individual, whom he described as slightly taller and bigger than himself, leave the tavern by the back door. Mullinax is 5'7" tall.

Lloyd Earhart and his wife, Geneva, were the next tavern patrons to testify for the State. Their description of the robbery itself was similar to that given by Callaway. They both described the robber as between 5'8" and 5'10" tall, and stockily built. According to the Earharts, the robber was clad in bib overalls when the crime was committed. Although Geneva Earhart viewed the June 16 lineup, she was unable to identify the perpetrator. Lloyd Earhart did not view the lineup.

Mildred Hedge testified that the night of the robbery she was in Ole' Dad's Place with her husband who had been recently hospitalized for a back problem. After the masked robber entered and ordered everyone to get on the floor, she stood between her husband and the robber and told the robber that her husband was unable to get on the floor. The robber, addressing Hedge as "Ma'am," again told her to get on the floor. At this time she did as he told her. Hedge described the robber as 5'8" tall and slightly built, wearing olive green fatigue pants and a longsleeved green shirt. At the June 16 lineup, which Ms. Hedge attended, the participants were instructed to say "Ma'am, get on the floor." Ms. Hedge, who had previously informed the police that she would be able to recognize the robber if he said "Ma'am," wrote "2?" on her card. Later that same day, however, Hedge decided that it was really number three that was the robber, and so informed the police.

The final eyewitness to the crime was Dave Wagner. He testified that he was no more than five feet away from the robber when he was told to lie down. After the robber departed, Wagner ran out of the front door and down Second Street in an attempt to obtain a license number. He went for two blocks, but saw no cars. Wagner then returned to the tavern by way of Dell Street, passing by the home of Benny Hale at 1902 Dell. Wagner testified that he saw no cars in Hale's driveway, and did not enter the driveway at any time. There was some evidence, however, that Wagner was seen getting out of a car parked momentarily on Hale's driveway the night of the robbery, and that he had in fact walked across the driveway. Upon returning to the tavern, Wagner was questioned briefly, and then left.

Wagner described the robber as weighing between 160-165 pounds and having moderately long hair. He was unable to describe the robber's clothing. Wagner testified that he initially thought the robber was a South Pekin gas station attendant whom the defendant did not resemble. At the June 16 lineup Wagner, however, positively and unequivocally identified number three, the defendant, as the robber.

The testimony of the next four State's witnesses concerned the appearance of the alleged getaway car in Benny Hale's driveway the night of the robbery. Sue Thompson and Eileen Holman testified that the night of the robbery they were sitting in front of Holman's home at 1200 Dell. (Dell Street runs parallel to Second Street. The alley behind Ole' Dad's Place is parallel to and between both of these streets. Eads Street is a cross street between Dell and Second.) At approximately 11 p.m., Thompson and Holman observed a car with no lights on exit the alley behind the tavern, cross Eads, and enter the alley on the other side of the street. Both testified that this car was loud, and Holman further stated that the car sounded as though it was dragging a tail pipe. A short time later this same car reappeared. According to Holman and Thompson, the car parked momentarily on Benny Hale's driveway, backed up onto Dell, and then drove away. Thompson testified that the car, which she described as a large, light-over-dark-brown four-door, was dragging a muffler and had a broken tail light. Holman also stated that the right tail light was broken.

Kelly Pritchard and John Wyman testified that at approximately 11 p.m. on June 13, they were sitting in a pickup truck parked in front of 1202 Dell and observed a car with a loud muffler drive north on Dell into Hale's driveway. After about one minute, the car backed up out of Hale's driveway and drove away. Wyman testified he saw someone get out of the car when it was stopped on Hale's driveway, and thought this person might have been Dave Wagner. Pritchard stated at the trial he did not see anyone get out of the car, although he admitted that he had previously told defense counsel he saw Dave Wagner get out of the car and stand on the driveway. Pritchard described the car that stopped on Hale's driveway as dark in color. Wyman described the car as being large and either bronze or brown colored. He also testified that the right tail light was broken.

Other relevant testimony was given by Pekin police officer James Conover, Pekin police investigator Craig Salmon, and Joseph Bubonic, a forensic scientist and lab supervisor at the Bureau of Scientific Services. Conover testified that in response to a police dispatch he met Officer Salmon at 1909 Dell between 11:30 and 12 a.m. On Hale's driveway he observed a small plastic bag containing what ...


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