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People v. Castro





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Robert J. Sulski, Judge, presiding.


Following a jury trial, defendant Rodolfo Castro was convicted of theft (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 16-1(a)(1)) and sentenced to 18 months' probation.

On appeal he contends that: (1) he was denied a fair trial by the prosecutor's improper cross-examination concerning his use of an interpreter and ability to speak English; (2) the trial court erred in denying defendant's IPI jury instruction on prior inconsistent statements and prior inconsistent conduct; (3) the theft count upon which he was convicted was fatally defective; (4) his right to a speedy trial was violated; and (5) his conviction for felony theft was improper where there was insufficient proof that the stolen snowblower was worth over $150.

The following pertinent evidence was adduced at trial.

John Andrews testified for the State that on June 25, 1980, he owned a storefront used for storing equipment at 1342 North Western Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. At approximately 2 a.m., a police officer came over to his residence, woke him, and informed him that his storefront had been burglarized. He accompanied the police to the storefront where he observed that the front door had been forced open and shattered, and the inside had been ransacked.

Andrews identified a snowblower and a bicycle recovered by the police as belonging to him. He testified that he had bought the snowblower used for $300 although it would probably cost $600 new. He had used it for five years and it had a broken handle.

Officer Oscar Martinez testified for the State that he and his partner, Officer Jose Salazar, were patrolling southbound on Western Avenue on June 25, 1980, at about 1:45 a.m., when he saw three individuals run across Western Avenue carrying objects, including a snowblower and a bicycle. The officers proceeded to block defendant, who was holding the snowblower, with the squad car whereupon defendant let go of it and began to run away from them. Officer Salazar got out of the squad car and grabbed defendant about 10 feet from the car; however, Officer Martinez was unable to apprehend either of the other men.

Martinez further testified that shortly after his arrest, defendant stated that he was "helping one of the other individuals move some stuff," while in custody at the 13th District police station. Upon cross-examination, Martinez stated that he did not include this statement in the police report.

He further testified in response to cross-examination:

"Q. You had occasion to speak to me yesterday in the hallway right over there, isn't that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. And the State's Attorney, Mr. Kopec, was there, at that time?

A. Yes.

Q. I asked you if Rodolfo Castro made any statements to you on the evening he was arrested?

A. Yes.

Q. You told me he didn't, is that correct?

A. I told you I did not remember."

Officer Jose Salazar testified for the State that he had caught the defendant 10 to 15 feet from the squad car, and when he asked the defendant what he was doing, defendant responded, "Nothing," in English.

Defendant testified on his own behalf through an interpreter that he was 21 years old at the time of trial and had lived in Chicago for the past five or six years. He had come to the United States at the age of six or seven; had returned to Mexico for five years at one time; and currently was working as a waiter at the Knickerbocker Hotel in downtown Chicago. He stated that he spoke mostly Spanish at home although he spoke English at work, which he understood better than he could speak.

He further testified that on June 25, 1980, at 1:45 a.m., he was walking alone on Western Avenue toward a bar to buy some drinks to take home. He saw a machine in the middle of the street and was pulling it towards the sidewalk when the police arrived. At that time, he turned and saw "many guys" running behind him.

Although he was running a little due to traffic on Western Avenue, he had let go of the machine and was standing still when the police arrived. He further stated that he did not tell the police that he was helping a friend.

Upon cross-examination, the prosecutor questioned him regarding his ability to speak English instead of Spanish. Illustrative of this ...

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