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People v. Stokes

OPINION FILED JANUARY 12, 1984.

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

v.

CHARLES STOKES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County; the Hon. Paul W. Schnake, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE UNVERZAGT DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Charles Stokes, the defendant, was convicted by a jury of forgery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 17-3) and sentenced by the court to probation for 18 months, the first six months of which to be imprisoned.

On appeal, the defendant contends that he was prejudiced by the State's failure to provide him with requested discovery material relating to the prior criminal record of a key State's witness. The defendant also claims that he was prejudiced by the alleged ineffective assistance of his trial counsel. The defendant's first claim of error is meritorious, and accordingly, we reverse and remand for a new trial.

The State's case hinged upon the testimony of two witnesses: Betty Barnes and James E. Bullard.

Barnes testified that on four occasions, the defendant came to her house with checks payable to her, and drawn on the account of "All American Publishing." The defendant asked her to cash the checks and threatened to damage her car if she did not. Four times Barnes allegedly drove the defendant to area stores or banks to cash the checks. The first three times, Barnes was successful. Barnes testified that the defendant kept the proceeds of all the checks. On her last attempt, Barnes was arrested and charged with forgery. The defendant was not found in her car when the police arrived.

Barnes' testimony was significantly impeached in several respects. Her testimony that the defendant received all of the proceeds of the first three check cashing attempts was impeached by her post-arrest statements to police that she received a total of $375 in such proceeds. It was further stipulated that from the two checks involved in Barnes' unsuccessful, fourth cashing attempt, she requested the cashier to pay her gas bill from the proceeds, and also to issue her a money order in the amount of $150.

Barnes was temporarily disabled at the time of these incidents, and her income was limited to $25 weekly alimony, and sums earned baby sitting. She told the police that she cashed the checks because she needed money.

It was also shown that Barnes lied to police regarding how she obtained the checks. Initially, Barnes told the police that she obtained the checks while employed as a housekeeper in a Barrington residence.

On cross-examination, Barnes could not recall whether she had been offered leniency on forgery charges arising from her check cashing incidents, in exchange for her testimony against the defendant. It was stipulated that Barnes was offered probation on those pending forgery charges, in exchange for her testimony.

After the testimony of witness Barnes was concluded, the circuit court entertained an oral defense motion in limine to exclude testimony by James Bullard, relating to certain admissions allegedly made by the defendant in the presence of Bullard. When it became apparent that the State failed to disclose the existence of those statements in its answer to the defendant's discovery request, the circuit court granted the motion in limine.

James Bullard thereafter testified on behalf of the State that he observed the defendant forge seven different All American Publishing checks on seven occasions. On cross-examination, Bullard admitted his involvement in the cashing of yet another All American Publishing check. Bullard gave that check to Denise Darst, drove her to a store where she could cash it, and thereafter kept the proceeds.

Bullard admitted his involvement in the cashing of two forged checks drawn on the account of Velma Rolling, the mother of Bullard's child. It was disclosed that Rolling was the complainant in a misdemeanor battery charge brought against Bullard. The jury was apprised, over the State's objection, that Bullard was placed on supervision for that offense.

It is unclear from the record whether Bullard was charged with forgery in connection with either the All American Publishing check he gave to Darst, or for the forged Rolling checks he gave to other women. It was Bullard's understanding that no charges would be placed against him regarding those offenses. Bullard denied that the State's failure to charge him with those incidents was related to his willingness to testify against the defendant.

The defendant testified on his own behalf, denying involvement in the offense. Denise Darst testified on behalf of the defendant that Bullard gave her an All American Publishing check, drove her to an area ...


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