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People v. Martin






A jury in the circuit court of Cook County found the defendant, Michael Martin, guilty of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of George Obee, the owner of a funeral home in Chicago. He was sentenced to an extended term of 10 years, and he appeals.

On appeal the defendant contends that the trial court erred (1) in denying his motion to quash his arrest; (2) in barring certain testimony of a defense witness; (3) in allowing the State to cross-examine a defense witness about a prior conviction; (4) in allowing the State to introduce extensive evidence concerning the homicide investigation; and (5) in imposing an extended term sentence.

Prior to trial a hearing was conducted on defendant's motion to quash his arrest and suppress certain evidence. At the hearing Sylvester Martin, the defendant's father, testified that on August 1, 1977, he was sitting in his car in front of his residence. The defendant approached him and stated that he wanted the car. When he refused to give the car to the defendant, an argument ensued. The defendant struck Sylvester, and Sylvester struck the defendant. Subsequently, the police arrived and arrested the defendant. Sylvester neither asked the police to press charges nor signed a complaint.

The defendant testified that he was arrested for disorderly conduct. Two police officers took him to a police station where he remained overnight. The following morning the defendant was taken to a holding room to appear before the judge. Before he appeared in court, the defendant was taken downstairs and interrogated concerning another matter.

Counsel asked the defendant whether at the time of his arrest he had any money on his person to make bond. The State's objection to this question was sustained.

Officer Artis Jenkins of the Chicago Police Department testified that on August 1, 1977, at approximately 5:15 p.m., he and his partner observed a fight involving the defendant and his father in the vicinity of 4700 S. Wabash Avenue. A group of people had gathered on the corner. Jenkins saw the defendant throwing punches at his father. The officers intervened and separated the two men. Sylvester Martin signed a disorderly conduct complaint against his son; however, Jenkins did not know where the complaint was at the time of the hearing. An unidentified man on the street corner told Jenkins that the defendant "was wanted on something big that happened on Indiana near 51st Street." Obee's funeral home was located at 5039 S. Indiana.

Jenkins and his partner took the defendant to the police station, and Jenkins contacted homicide investigators. Jenkins testified that the court call on the charge against the defendant was set for 9:30 a.m. the following morning.

After hearing the evidence, the trial court held that the arrest was legal, that the detention and interrogation were permissible, and that the evidence seized was admissible. Accordingly, the court denied the defendant's motion.

At trial, Richard Alexander, a part-time police officer for the Village of Moline in Will County, Illinois, testified that on July 24, 1977, he and his partner met with a local resident at the intersection of the Manhattan-Monee Road and Interstate Route 57. The resident directed the officers to the body of an elderly man located in a ditch alongside the road. A wallet in a suit coat found near the victim contained cards and papers belonging to Obee.

Sergeant John Watters of the Will County sheriff's police was assigned to the homicide investigation. On July 24, 1977, he and Investigator Robert Pedersen went to the area where Obee's body was lying. Watters noticed severe abrasions on the forehead and face of the victim.

Later that afternoon Watters interviewed Lawrence Travis and Mandell Durell, a nephew of the decedent, at the Joliet police station. Watters obtained from Travis keys to a limousine which was parked in the police parking lot. He noticed a red fluid substance on the taillight assembly and inside the trunk of the vehicle.

Subsequently, Watters spoke to Investigator Laverty of the Chicago Police Department. Then, he placed Travis under arrest. Watters and Pedersen escorted Travis to Chicago that evening. Watters conducted several interviews and again spoke to Travis at 4:30 a.m.

On August 1, 1977, at approximately 6:30 p.m., Watters received a phone call from Laverty. The following morning he and Pedersen went to Chicago and spoke to Laverty. They subsequently went to a branch court lockup and interviewed the defendant. After the defendant was advised of his constitutional rights, he made the following oral statement.

On July 20, 1977, the defendant met Travis at the home of Ike Lee. Travis told the defendant that he had worked for Obee since he was 14 years of age, that Obee considered him "like a son," that Obee was extremely wealthy, and that Travis was dissatisfied with the manner in which Obee had been treating him. Travis told the defendant that he would inherit all of Obee's money. ...

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