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People v. Mckibbins





Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. James M. Bailey, Judge, presiding.


A jury in the circuit court of Cook County found the defendant, Johnny McKibbins, guilty of murder, armed robbery, and armed violence in connection with his participation in the armed robbery and murder of a parking lot attendant which occurred on February 14, 1979. The appellate court reversed and remanded for a new trial (100 Ill. App.3d 787), holding (1) that detailed testimony and argument concerning a subsequent armed robbery should not have been admitted into evidence, since it confused the issue and deprived the defendant of a fair trial, and (2) the trial court erred by admitting for impeachment purposes evidence of all of the defendant's 20 prior misdemeanor theft convictions. We granted the People's petition for leave to appeal, and we now reverse the appellate court.

The evidence introduced at trial indicates that on February 14, 1979, Clinton Hutchinson went to work at a parking lot located on Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago. When he left his home at approximately 5 a.m., he had in his possession a French coin dated 1811 with a hole in the center.

At approximately 11 a.m., Dennis Murphy, an investigator with the Chicago police department, found Hutchinson's body in a small shack in the center of the parking lot. The victim was handcuffed with handcuffs which were made in Taiwan and had "STOP" imprinted on them. Investigator Murphy observed that Hutchinson had been shot in the right temple, his pockets had been reversed, and the knees of his pants were dirty.

At defendant's trial, detailed evidence of another offense was introduced by the State. In summary, it showed that on February 16, 1979, defendant, Johnny McKibbins, James Matthews and John Brown robbed Phillips Jewelers, which is located in the same area of the city of Chicago as the parking lot. At about 10:50 a.m., one of the three men walked up to Harold Phillips, the proprietor of the jewelry store, and announced a robbery. McKibbins and the other man went behind the counter to collect the merchandise.

In response to a telephone call informing the police a robbery was in progress, Officer William Jaconetti went to Phillips Jewelers. He saw Officer Louis Trafillio entering the store. He also saw James Matthews, one of the three robbers, remove a revolver from his waistband and point it at Officer Trafillio's head. Jaconetti, who was approximately 10 paces behind Trafillio, told Matthews to "[h]old it." Matthews fired a shot at Jaconetti. The shot removed the zipper from Jaconetti's jacket. Jaconetti fired back, wounding Matthews, who dropped to the sidewalk. The three robbers were then arrested.

Another officer, James Kehoe, searched Brown and found a French coin dated 1811 with a hole in it. He also found two pairs of handcuffs lying on the floor with the letters "STOP" imprinted on them.

Investigator Murphy, who had also been assigned to investigate the jewelry store robbery, interrogated McKibbins about his possible participation in the murder of Hutchinson. The defendant then confessed his involvement in the robbery of the jewelry store. Also, he later gave a statement concerning his involvement in the robbery and murder of Hutchinson. He told Officer William Baldree and, on different occasions, Assistant State's Attorney Magnuson and Investigator Murphy, that on February 14, 1979, he and John Brown drove to the Federal Correctional Center in Chicago. They picked up James Matthews and purchased some revolvers. The three men then drove to the parking lot on Milwaukee Avenue where Hutchinson worked. Carrying the revolvers and a pair of handcuffs with them, Matthews and Brown entered the shack while McKibbins stayed in the car. When they returned, Matthews instructed McKibbins to drive away fast because they had just "burned a guy." Brown then produced a rare coin with a hole in the center which was taken in the robbery and remarked they could get some money for it, although the hole would diminish its value. Matthews complained that they had not obtained as much cash from their crime as they had hoped.

At defendant's trial for the murder of Hutchinson, other evidence concerning the jewelry store robbery was introduced in addition to that stated above. It was shown that during the robbery the proprietor of the store and several others were forced to lie on the floor. Pictures of the interior of the store were introduced. The proprietor identified these photographs and described how the three robbers had come into the store and described their conduct during the course of the robbery. He also testified as to the amount of money that had been taken and the merchandise that was missing, which was later returned to him by the police.

Generally, evidence of other crimes is inadmissible if relevant merely to establish the defendant's propensity to commit crime. (People v. Lindgren (1980), 79 Ill.2d 129.) Evidence of the commission of other crimes is admissible, however, when such evidence is relevant to prove modus operandi, intent, identity, motive, or absence of mistake. (People v. Baptist (1979), 76 Ill.2d 19; People v. Gonzales (1978), 60 Ill. App.3d 980; see generally 2 Wigmore, Evidence sec. 304 (Chadbourn rev. ed. 1979).) In fact, this court has held that evidence of other offenses is admissible if it is relevant for any purpose other than to show the propensity to commit crime. People v. McDonald (1975), 62 Ill.2d 448, 455; People v. Dewey (1969), 42 Ill.2d 148, 157.

The appellate court relied upon People v. Diaz (1979), 78 Ill. App.3d 277, in holding that a limited amount of evidence of the jewelry store robbery was admissible but that the detailed evidence of the robbery was error. In Diaz the defendant was tried for an armed robbery of a tavern, during which he had taken a gun from the tavern owner. The next day two women were robbed as they were emerging from their automobile. They notified the police, who later arrested three people for this offense. The gun taken in the tavern robbery was found on one of the persons arrested. At the defendant's trial for the robbery of the tavern, detailed evidence was given concerning the robbery of the two women, including threats that were made to them and their children. The court held that evidence of the subsequent offense would have been admissible to show the circumstances of defendant's arrest and the recovery of the gun. However, the court held that the detailed evidence concerning the subsequent robbery of the women was error.

In Diaz, the defendant was not arrested during the robbery of the two women but after that robbery had been completed as a result of a report by the two women to the police. The court in that case held that although the evidence that the women had been robbed was relevant to show the circumstances of the defendant's arrest, details concerning the robbery of the women and the threats made to them were not. The robbery of the women had been completed and the robbers had left the scene of the crime before they were arrested. The relevant part of that crime to show the circumstances of their arrest would therefore be very limited.

In the case now before us, the robbery of the jewelry store was in progress when the arrests were made. It would be difficult to explain or describe circumstances surrounding the defendant's arrest without introducing a substantial amount of the evidence concerning the jewelry robbery. The facts in this case more ...

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