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People v. Abrams





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Will County; the Hon. Michael A. Orenic, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied November 16, 1982.

The defendant, Alvin Abrams, was convicted of murder, felony murder and armed robbery following a jury trial in Will County. He was thereafter sentenced to a term of 20 years' imprisonment on the felony murder conviction and a concurrent term of 10 years as a result of the armed robbery conviction. No sentence was imposed on the murder conviction.

On appeal, the defendant contends he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, that the trial court erred in refusing to give certain tendered instructions, that the prosecutor made an improper and prejudicial closing argument and that the convictions for murder and armed robbery should be set aside as lesser included offenses of felony murder.

With respect to defendant's first issue raised on appeal, which challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions, we note that the evidence at trial established the following sequence of events.

On Octrober 20, 1979, Edward Dorris, Jon Smith, George Norris and Walter Richardson were going to meet at an abandoned residence in Joliet, Illinois, where they regularly met to gamble. This particular evening the group was joined by a newcomer, the defendant.

Dorris arrived at the house approximately 9 p.m. Smith, Norris and defendant were already present. Defendant arrived with Norris in a light-colored station wagon. Defendant asked Dorris where the gambling was and when it would start. Dorris said that not everyone had arrived but that the game would start soon. Walter Richardson had not yet arrived. However, defendant was anxious to start and so they eventually went inside and began to gamble. Defendant and Smith started to shoot craps. Dorris ran the game while Norris just watched.

Smith and the defendant had been gambling for approximately 10 minutes when Richardson walked in. Richardson had driven to the house accompanied by Rosemary Durham, who remained in the vehicle. Eventually, Richardson asked Smith to let him gamble. After Smith let Richardson take his place at the table, Smith went out to the car and coaxed Durham to come inside. Richardson proceeded to shoot craps with the defendant.

Defendant and Richardson gambled for awhile with defendant winning at first and then Richardson. According to Dorris, defendant ran out of money and he then reached into his pocket as if to get more money, but instead defendant brandished an automatic weapon. Smith had not been paying much attention to the game, but when he looked up, defendant was holding a 9mm Browning automatic handgun and pointing it at him. Defendant told them to raise their hands and to put their money and car keys on the table. Everyone complied with defendant's demand except for Norris. Defendant then specifically asked Smith, "Where are all your $100 bills?" Smith told him that he put all the money he had on the table. Defendant told Smith, "If I don't get them $100 bills, I am going to blow you away." Sometime after defendant had pulled the gun and the time that the shooting began, Norris told the defendant to "Hurry up, man!"

In searching Smith, defendant discovered two guns, a .25-caliber automatic and a .357 magnum. He took both guns from Smith. The .357 magnum was either in the defendant's hand or on the table in front of the defendant. After the guns had been taken from Smith, Richardson placed about $200 on the table. Overall, the witnesses estimated that about $300 to $400 had been placed on the table. Most of the money that was used to gamble with was in denominations of $5, $10 and $20 bills.

After the money had been placed on the table, according to Dorris, defendant was going to search him. Smith testified that defendant looked towards the door and when the defendant turned his attention away from Richardson, Richardson pulled a .25-caliber automatic pistol similar to the one that defendant had taken from Smith. Richardson directed an obscene remark to the defendant and then shot him at least three times. Just prior to the commencement of the shooting, Dorris and Durham began to run out of the room. After Richardson shot at defendant, Smith upended the table and ran out of the room. More shots were heard by Dorris and Smith after leaving the house. Based on the reports, Dorris testified that two different types of guns had been shot, one sounded louder than the other. Dorris then went to a neighbor that he knew in the vicinity and used the telephone to call the police. Smith ran out of the home, stopped and looked back and observed a long white car pull away. He had earlier seen it with defendant and Norris in it, but was unable to see who was in the vehicle at the time it was driven away.

Smith then returned to the house and reentered the room where the shooting occurred. He saw Richardson lying on the floor, checked his pulse and determined that he was dead. Smith found a .25-caliber automatic pistol lying on the windowsill. He did not know if it was Richardson's or his. Smith took the gun and threw it in the woods to the east of the house. He later informed the police of what he had done, and although efforts were undertaken to recover the gun, it was never found.

Rosemary Durham also reentered the room and Smith told her that Richardson was dead. After throwing the gun into the woods, Smith took Durham to town in Richardson's car. Smith took Durham to town because he did not want her to become involved in the shooting. All of these events took place in about 20 minutes.

When Smith returned to the scene, he attempted to call the police from a home directly across the street; however, the police arrived as he was on the phone and he returned to the scene. When Dorris called the police, he told them that Norris had shot someone because he did not know the defendant's name.

After the police arrived certain physical evidence was recovered, including a projectile from a door jam just above the strike plate on the kitchen door and a .38-caliber spent projectile from the basement of the residence. Also recovered were six spent .25-caliber shell casings, a copper jacketed bullet from just inside the left leg of the victim, a nickle-plated 9mm Browning automatic pistol, some loose change and a wristwatch. Outside the home, officers recovered two $1 bills and some broken car glass with blood on it.

An autopsy revealed that the decedent, Richardson, died of multiple gunshot wounds and three .38-caliber projectiles were ...

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