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People v. Wright

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 15, 1982.

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

v.

SAMUEL LEE WRIGHT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kankakee County; the Hon. John F. Michela, Judge, presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE BARRY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied October 15, 1982.

The defendant, Samuel Lee Wright, was charged in an indictment with the offenses of murder, armed robbery, theft, and concealment of a homicidal death. Following a jury trial, the defendant was acquitted of all charges except the theft charge. A two-year term of imprisonment was imposed.

Only one issue is raised on appeal: whether the defendant's theft conviction must be reversed where the State's evidence was allegedly insufficient to show that the property taken by the defendant was from an individual legally capable of owning property. We affirm.

The evidence adduced at the defendant's trial revealed the following sequence of events. In the afternoon of February 9, 1981, Robert Dover withdrew $2,000 from his savings account at the First Savings and Loan Association in Wilmington, Illinois. Testimony by Robert's brother, James Dover, indicated that Robert had received an insurance settlement check in the amount of $23,000 on February 5, 1981. Apparently, Robert intended to make a $1,400 loan to his brother-in-law, Lauren Tousignant.

The defendant met Robert and James Dover at the Nite Owl Tavern during the afternoon of February 9, 1981. Robert Dover and the defendant left the tavern together in James' car, a gold 1974 Volkswagen. According to the defendant's testimony, he and Robert went crow hunting. Because it was cold and they had only one pair of gloves between them, they agreed that each would shoot five shells apiece while the other waited in the car. After the weapon was exchanged several times, Dover reportedly opened the car door and slid the weapon, a .20-gauge Mossberg, toward the defendant. As he did so, the weapon discharged. The defendant testified that he felt the gun hit the back of his leg. As he turned, he saw that Dover had been shot in the head. Dover's body fell out of the car onto the ground.

The defendant further testified that he knew Dover was dead. He panicked because he was on parole for a burglary and pulled Dover's body towards a nearby ditch. Upon returning to the Volkswagen, he noticed Dover's wallet on the dashboard. He opened the wallet and discovered a large amount of money. Reasoning that if he left the money there someone else would take it, the defendant decided to take the money and throw the wallet away.

With the help of his cousin, Tim Brassard, the defendant ditched the Volkswagen and retrieved the gun and guncase from a ditch. He and Brassard drove around until 10:30 p.m. that night, when Brassard dropped him off at home. The defendant was arrested the following morning.

The defendant was indicted for theft under section 16-1(a)(1) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 16-1(a)(1)). The pertinent language in the statute reads as follows:

"A person commits theft when he knowingly:

(a) Obtains or exerts unauthorized control over property of the owner;" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 16-1(a).)

The term "owner" is defined in section 15-2 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 15-2) as:

"* * * a person, other than the offender, who has possession of or any other interest in the property involved, even though such interest or possession is unlawful, and without whose consent the offender ...


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