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People v. Frazier





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Vermilion County; the Hon. James K. Robinson, Judge, presiding.


Following a bench trial, defendant Lucille Frazier was found guilty of theft of a typewriter having a value in excess of $300. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 16-1.) Judge Robinson sentenced her to one year's probation and ordered that she pay court costs. Defendant appeals from the judgment of the circuit court of Vermilion County. We reverse.

The single issue raised on appeal is whether defendant was proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The facts may be summarized as follows. Defendant was a receptionist for the Vermilion County State's Attorney's office. In February 1982, she began looking for a typewriter for her son Paul. Defendant had a typewriter from her office at her home for the purpose of doing office work. Paul Frazier worked at the Urbana Nursing Home in Urbana, Illinois. He asked defendant if he could take the typewriter she had at home to his place of employment. She said that he could not, but he removed the typewriter from the house when his parents were not at home. He returned it after several weeks of cajoling by his parents; and to avoid his father's threatened visit to Paul's employer. Defendant and her husband agreed among themselves to look for a typewriter for Paul. Defendant's daughter, Lori Tucker, mentioned her mother's interest in buying a typewriter to her 16-year-old brother-in-law, Mark Tucker. Defendant subsequently purchased a typewriter which Mark had removed from Ridgefarm High School. She was charged with theft of the typewriter.

Mark Tucker, testifying under a grant of immunity, stated that in February 1982, he told Lori Tucker that he had found a typewriter. This was not true. Toward the end of February, Lori told him that her mother was looking for a typewriter. He told Lori that he would sell the typewriter he had for $40, and until he obtained a machine to sell her, he told Lori that the typewriter was in the trunk of his brother's car.

On March 6 or 7, 1982, he broke into the Ridgefarm High School and removed an IBM Selectric II typewriter with a 13 1/2-inch carriage — the only unplugged typewriter in the typing classroom. He placed the machine on his bedroom dresser and told Lori that night that she could pick the typewriter up from his room. He returned to the Arcade in Ridgefarm, Illinois, later that evening and Lori gave him $40; when he went home the typewriter was gone.

Lori and her husband lived behind the Tucker home in a trailer. Mark testified that his family frequently had items for sale; and that, in fact, his brother had a typewriter and his family had two typewriters.

Lori Tucker testified but was uncertain about the dates surrounding the inquiries about the typewriter and its purchase. She knew that her mother had spoken to several persons in trying to locate a typewriter; she told Mark that her mother was looking for a typewriter. A few weeks later, Mark told her he had a typewriter and would sell it for $40. Between that day and the date of the purchase, he told her that the typewriter was in the trunk of his brother's car.

On the night of the purchase, she was with her parents at the Arcade in Ridgefarm. After being told by Mark that she could pick up the typewriter from his bedroom, she and her mother did so. No one was at home that evening and only the light in the front room was on. The machine was sitting openly on Mark's dresser. They placed the typewriter in the truck and returned to the Arcade. Defendant gave Lori $40 to pay Mark; thereafter, defendant and her husband left the Arcade. Lori gave Mark the money when he returned to the Arcade several hours later.

On the way home from the Arcade, defendant's husband, John Frazier, Jr., told defendant that the typewriter looked like it was a good deal but, at that price, it would probably need repairs. On the following day Mr. Frazier took the typewriter to the apartment of another daughter, Diana McDaniel to keep Paul from taking it before he had repaid his parents.

On March 8, 1982, the burglary at Ridgefarm High School was discovered and reported to police. The police report described the typewriter as a dark brown IBM Electric typewriter with a serial No. 26-1685702. The report was turned in at the Public Safety Building on March 8, for transmittal to the State's Attorney's office.

In the normal course of events, that report should have been at the State's Attorney's office on the morning of March 9. One of defendant's responsibilities was to organize police reports and log them into a ledger book as they were delivered to the office. Defendant had apparently established this ledger system because the office staff had difficulty locating police reports within the office. Defendant had tried several systems but the problem of getting the police reports entered into the ledger system before the attorneys took them continued.

The police report regarding the burglary at Ridgefarm High School had an identification number of V82-1952; this report was not found in the ledger for the month of March 1982. Examination of the ledger book at trial showed that some of the entries were started and not completed; several pages carried dates but no entries; and there were loose sheets in the book carrying different names and numbers which seem to coincide with case numbers. Another secretary occasionally assisted defendant ...

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