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People v. Schreiber

OPINION FILED MARCH 4, 1982.

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

v.

DAWN LEE SCHREIBER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JAMES M. SCHREIER, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE ROMITI DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

After having been convicted of the murder and robbery of Vito Falcone in a jury trial, defendant Dawn Lee Schreiber was sentenced to concurrent terms of 20 years and 7 years for those respective crimes. On appeal defendant contends: (1) certain statements she made following her arrest should have been suppressed because the arrest itself was illegal; (2) her guilt was not established beyond a reasonable doubt; (3) she was deprived of a fair trial by the prosecutor's final argument.

We affirm.

The evidence presented by the State at trial established the following pertinent facts. Vito Falcone lived on the first floor of a two-flat building at 1749 North Mayfield Avenue in Chicago. The building also contained a finished basement. At about 10 a.m. on June 5, 1978, Falcone's sister went to this home and discovered Falcone's body, bound hand and foot, gagged, and lying under a mattress. The first-floor apartment was ransacked and two television sets were missing. Police summoned to the scene were informed by a next-door neighbor that Falcone had been seen the afternoon before parking his car in the area in the company of a woman the witness had never seen before. The police were given a detailed description of this woman. According to the police the bindings on the body were so tight as to be imbedded in the skin. Bruises were visible on the victim's face and right elbow. No wallet or money was found in his clothes. About two feet from the bed was a hammer. In another room of the basement police found a bag containing women's clothing and various papers. Included in those papers were a photograph of a woman, two envelopes, and a letter, all bearing the defendant's name.

It was ascertained that defendant lived at 4727 North Malden Street in a hotel called the New Malden Arms. Half a block from that establishment police found the victim's Cadillac. Its tires, wheels, and interior had been stripped.

Police Investigator James Sesso went to the hotel and knocked on the door of Room 416, which he had learned was defendant's room. No one answered, and after the hotel manager let him into that room he proceeded to Room 421, registered to James Jackson. Sesso knocked and a woman opened the door. He identified himself as a police officer and asked the woman if she was the defendant. She said she was, and Sesso told her she was under arrest. During this conversation at the door Sesso had observed in the apartment, sitting on top of a television set, another television set which resembled one missing from the victim's home. After placing defendant under arrest and informing her of her rights, Sesso moved defendant into the apartment. In response to questioning she stated that her boyfriend, James Jackson, lived in the apartment but was out of town for a week. At that time a man entered the apartment with a key. Sesso learned that he was James Jackson and arrested him.

Defendant was transferred to the police station where Sesso again questioned her. After reading her her rights and informing her of the incriminating evidence the police had, Sesso elicited from defendant the following account of the occurrence. Defendant had known the victim for two weeks; during the last week she had been living on and off in the basement apartment of his house. On June 4 she had gone to a carnival. At about 1 a.m., while in the company of James Jackson, she called Falcone to get a ride home. Falcone drove her to his house and after watching television with him she retired to the basement. Later Jackson and a man she knew as Terry Ellis knocked on her door, and she let them in.

About 15 minutes later Falcone came downstairs and objected to there being two black men in the apartment. When he told defendant to "get the niggers out of my house" Jackson and Ellis became enraged. They knocked him to the floor, tied and gagged him, and put him on the bed. Ellis gave defendant a hammer and told her to watch Falcone while they went upstairs to see what they could find. When Falcone began to struggle defendant hit him on the side with her fist and then hit him on the head with the hammer. During this time Jackson and Ellis were removing televisions and other items from the first floor and placing them in Jackson's car. Ellis drove that car to the New Malden Arms and defendant drove with Jackson in Falcone's Cadillac. Jackson parked that car in a lot near the hotel and stripped it of its wheels, tires, and interior parts. Later that morning defendant carried the black and white television from Jackson's car to his apartment.

Except for some details which we will set out, defendant repeated substantially the same account later that evening to an assistant state's attorney in a statement which was transcribed by a court reporter and then signed by defendant. In that statement, however, defendant said Ellis was also with her at the carnival. She saw both Jackson and Ellis strike Falcone before they bound and gagged him in the bathroom where they had chased him. She maintained that she did not intend to strike Falcone with the hammer, but had attempted to throw it at the wall. She also stated that she did not know if the man accompanying Jackson was Ellis because he wore sunglasses and a straw hat. Finally she also added that Jackson had told her he was going to call an ambulance for Falcone.

Defendant's fingerprints were found in the apartment where the events took place.

Dr. Lee F. Beamer was the pathologist who performed the autopsy on the victim June 6, 1978. However the files on the autopsy were subsequently lost. In order to refresh his memory, Beamer testified that he performed a second autopsy on September 21, 1978. Beamer recalled that at the first autopsy the victim's arms were bound behind his back with cord and the legs were bound with a thicker electrical cord. The victim was gagged with intertwined towels and a glove. Beamer recalled that the bindings were tight; he also remembered observing contusions on the head and body.

For the second autopsy the victim was disentombed. Beamer observed some 20 contusions on the body, a laceration of the lip, and three contusions on the skull. He testified that those all were consistent with having been inflicted by the hammer found at the scene. The victim had been embalmed following the first autopsy and Beamer conceded that this process could cause the outlines of the contusions to be more easily discernible but he denied that embalming could actually change the form of the contusions.

Upon examination of the organs of the body and slide sections taken from them Beamer determined that the victim had moderate to focally severe coronary artery disease, also known as arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease. He had reached this same conclusion after the first autopsy.

Beamer explained that one with this condition could suffer a heart attack because of it. When stress occurred the heart and respiratory rate increase; adrenalin is also released which also increases those rates. The heart can become unable to meet the increased demand of the body for oxygen, causing cardiac stoppage. In this case Beamer believed that mechanical stress had resulted from the victim having been bound, gagged, and having received numerous injuries to the body. Beamer testified that there was also psychological stress associated with this. It was his opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the cause of Falcone's ...


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