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People v. Miller





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. THOMAS P. CAWLEY, Judge, presiding.


Following a jury trial the defendant, Edward Miller, was convicted of murder and two counts of attempted murder. He received concurrent sentences of 50 to 100 years for murder and 10 to 20 years for each attempted murder. On appeal defendant contends: (1) a series of erroneous evidentiary rulings by the trial court deprived him of a fair trial; (2) prejudicial arguments by the prosecutor also deprived him of a fair trial; and (3) his sentences were excessive.

We affirm.

At trial Derrick Williams, 16 years old at the time of the incident, testified that on April 7, 1975, he lived with Vincent Reed and Sylvia Wells in a basement apartment at 5329 South Kimbark in Chicago. That evening defendant, whom Williams had known for five or six days, and a man termed by Williams as defendant's partner and described by him only as tall had a conversation with Reed and Williams at the apartment. Defendant told them that Deola Brown, a prostitute who lived on the second floor, had a customer in her apartment with $600. Williams obtained a .38-caliber gun from the defendant. He disguised himself as a woman, wearing Wells' white coat, a blond wig, and sunglasses. Thus attired he went to Brown's apartment, knocked on the door, and gained entrance, having called out a name in a disguised voice. Inside were Wells, Brown, and the customer. Reed and defendant remained on the stairway. Williams announced a robbery and took a watch and a little over one dollar from the customer. At trial Williams contended that Wells and Brown had not been involved in the robbery scheme. He escorted the three outside to the customer's car. The women searched the car but found nothing and the customer was then sent on his way.

Williams returned the gun to defendant and also gave him the watch. However defendant accused them of having hidden the money, and he and Williams got into what Williams termed a "light argument."

The next evening defendant, his tall partner, and a third man, whom defendant had seen before, returned to the apartment. The conversation initially was amicable but defendant then demanded his money. An argument ensued and defendant announced that if they did not produce the money he would kill them. He pulled out the same .38-caliber gun Williams had used the day before. Williams told him to put the gun away and to respect the "crib" (home). At this point defendant's tall companion was blocking the doorway. The other man turned up the volume of a record player in the living room. In succession defendant shot Reed, who was seated at a desk about one and a half yards away, then Wells, seated on a sofa about one to two yards away, and then Williams, from the same distance as Wells. He and his companions then left.

Williams first shook Reed to see if he was all right and then went up one flight of stairs, where he apparently collapsed. He saw Reed go by him up to the second floor.

Williams was taken to Billings Hospital where he was questioned that evening and again on April 13 by the police. He was shown five photographs and recognized one as that of the defendant. At trial he also admitted that he initially told the police that defendant had lived with Wells and the quarrel was about her. He admitted that this was a lie, told to avoid implicating himself in the armed robbery he had committed. Although Wells had not been living with Williams for the two and one half to three months he had known her, he did not know with whom she had been living before living with him. He had never known her to live with the defendant. But it was not until April 26 of that year that Williams admitted to the police that he had been lying about this. At trial Williams also admitted that he had been convicted of theft in January, 1976.

Sylvia Wells, 15 years old at the time of the shooting, testified to substantially the same facts concerning the shooting as had Williams, with the following differences and additions. At the time of the incident she was not living with Williams but was living "on the other side" at 5327 South Kimbark with an unnamed boyfriend. However she also testified she was Williams' girlfriend at that time although she had never lived with him. She had only known him then for about two weeks. Wells had known the defendant for about a year. She named his two companions that evening as Herman Samuels and "Richardson."

Immediately before the shooting, which Wells also recalled defendant accomplished with a .38-caliber revolver, defendant told her he would shoot her too and made her sit on the floor. He shot Reed at the desk, Williams on the couch, and then her. She passed out and awoke in the hospital.

Wells testified that the day before the shooting she was in Deola Johnson's apartment with Deola and Deola's "trick" (customer). Williams, armed with the same gun defendant used the next day and dressed like a lady, knocked on the door and said his name was Janice. On Deola's instruction Wells let him in. Williams forced the customer to undress and took a dollar and some change from him. He then told all of them to go downstairs where he ordered Wells and Deola to search the man's car. At this time Wells observed defendant standing outside with Herman Samuels. A week before she had seen defendant with the same gun he subsequently used to shoot her. Wells identified defendant in court as the man who had shot all three victims.

On cross-examination Wells admitted that during the period in which these events occurred she was a heroin user and at the time of the shooting she was "high off marijuana." She, Williams, and Reed had smoked three or four "joints" between 6:30 p.m. and when defendant came in. However she estimated she had smoked only half of one and testified she was able to see and hear everything going on in the apartment. Defense counsel also elicited from Wells an admission that she had been known by one other name.

Although Wells persisted in her identification of defendant's gun as a .38-caliber weapon, she admitted she did not know whether a .38 was smaller than a .45 and she generally admitted to not having a great degree of knowlege about guns.

Also testifying for the State were Chicago Police Officers Straza and Deacy. They were on patrol in the area the evening of April 8, 1975, when Kenneth Johnson stopped them and told them three people had been shot at 5329 South Kimbark. In the foyer of the building they found Williams lying in a pool of blood with a gunshot wound to the face. Following a trail of blood into the apartment Straza found Wells in a crouched position on the couch. She too had been ...

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