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People v. Thomas

OPINION FILED FEBRUARY 10, 1984.

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

v.

CARL THOMAS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Theodore M. Swain, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE SULLIVAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

After a jury trial, defendant was convicted of aggravated battery and sentenced to a term of four years. On appeal, he contends that (1) he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) his sixth amendment right to cross-examine State witnesses was erroneously restricted; and (3) he was denied a fair trial by improper prosecutorial comments.

At trial, complainant testified that she was the office broker at 135 South LaSalle Street and, at about 2:45 p.m., she went to Suite 1230 to prepare it for a prospective tenant. Although it was daylight, as was her habit when showing an office she turned on all the lights, including one directly in front of the storeroom. When she reached in to turn on the storeroom light, someone from within grabbed her right wrist and tried to pull her inside. When she resisted, her assailant pulled a carpet knife about six or seven inches long from his belt and slashed at her head. She pulled back into the hallway, but the man held onto her wrist and slashed at her repeatedly. In the struggle, she fell on top of him, causing his grip to release, and she fled to the suite next door. The attack lasted at least two minutes, throughout which she maintained face-to-face contact with the attacker, whom she described as a well-groomed male Negro, about 5 feet 11 inches tall, with a moustache and beard, high cheekbones, almond-shaped eyes, wearing a blue shirt and a utility belt. When the police arrived, she gave them a description of the offender and was then transported to the hospital, where she was treated for multiple lacerations. Later that day, she identified defendant as her assailant from a police lineup in which five men were seated behind an upturned table so that only their heads were visible. She also identified defendant in court.

Officer Weaver testified that he and another officer responded to a call concerning a stabbing at 135 South LaSalle Street, and as they exited the elevator on the 12th floor, he observed defendant walking toward them. When defendant saw them, he abruptly turned down another hallway. They continued to Suite 1230 where complainant, who was very bloody, described her attacker as a "black guy with a beard, a blue shirt and a work belt." They immediately returned to the hall in pursuit of defendant, who matched that description, and saw him running toward a stairway door. They ordered him to stop, but he ran down the stairwell where they subsequently arrested and handcuffed him. Their search revealed that one of the two pouches on his work belt contained a pen, but the other was empty with an open snap. On cross-examination, Weaver stated that defendant did not run away when he and the other officer left the elevator, and that he did not see any blood on defendant or on his clothing. He denied recovering a small pocket knife from defendant, but acknowledged that the empty pouch on defendant's belt would not snap closed when a knife identified by complainant as having been used by defendant in the attack was inserted in it.

Laurie McConaughy testified that she was working that afternoon at her desk when she saw defendant, who was wearing running shorts and a blue vest, walk past her office from the direction of Suite 1230. He stopped, looked in, and then turned down the hallway toward the elevators.

Nancy Martin, an assistant State's Attorney, testified that on the evening of the offense she was present at a lineup in which five black men were seated behind a table which had been turned on its side. She further stated, without objection, that when the lights were turned on, but before the actual lineup began, complainant, who was viewing the lineup through a one-way mirror in an adjoining room, said, "It is number four [defendant]. I would never forget that face. I would never forget those eyes."

Officer Roberts testified that after he and his partner went to Northwestern Hospital and obtained a description of the offender from complainant, he arranged a lineup in which defendant and four other men with similar features were seated behind a table so as to obstruct any view of their clothing. He then heard a knock, indicating that he should begin the lineup, but before he could instruct the men to turn their heads to provide a profile view, his partner — who had been in the adjoining room with complainant — informed him that an identification had been made.

The parties stipulated that complainant had been treated for 22 superficial lacerations and that no fingerprints suitable for comparison were obtained at the scene or on the knife found there.

Ira Block testified for the defense that he was the dispatcher for Fast Messenger Service, where defendant had been employed as a messenger for about four months preceding the day of the offense, and during that period defendant had a reputation for peacefulness and lack of violence. He further stated that although his company had no regular customers at 135 South LaSalle Street, defendant had been sent there to deliver packages twice on the day of the occurrence — first at 11:42 a.m. and again at 2:13 p.m., and that the second package was not delivered but was picked up from the police lockup later that evening.

Defendant testified that shortly after 2 p.m. on the day in question, he called his office and received three messenger assignments, and at about 3 p.m., after making two other deliveries, he arrived at 135 South LaSalle Street, where he consulted the building directory, which indicated that Investment Dealers Digest (I.D.D.), the company to which he was delivering the package, was located on the 12th floor. He did not recall looking on the directory for a specific room number nor did the package indicate such a number. Once on the 12th floor, he walked up and down the corridors looking for I.D.D. and passed Room 1225 where a person inside looked up at him. As he approached Room 1230, he realized it was not his destination and turned back up the hallway, when two police officers "came charging from the elevator" and ran past him in the direction from which he had just come. He turned another corner and "walking at a brisk pace" continued to look for I.D.D. When he reached the end of that corridor, the police came running toward him and ordered him to stop, which he did. Officer Weaver then knocked the package out from under his arm, pushed him up against the wall, frisked him, and removed a small pocket knife from the pouch on his belt. As the police led him down the crowded hallway toward the elevators, a stretcher was wheeled up alongside of him and, when it stopped, Officer Weaver grabbed him and lowered him slightly toward the victim. Someone then asked, "Is this the guy?" and although she looked up, she did not respond. He also stated that he did not attack the complainant.

The parties then stipulated that a letter addressed to I.D.D. was returned to Fast Messenger Service by the Chicago Police Department on the evening of the offense; that Suite 1230 remained vacant for at least one week thereafter; that a microanalysis of sweat pants taken from defendant revealed no recent damage or blood; and that the police dispatch records indicated that the call concerning the incident was received at 2:53 p.m.

On rebuttal, William Bowden, former manager of I.D.D., testified that the firm had been located in Room 1216 for about 10 years and was so designated on the building directory under both "I.D.D." and "Investment Dealers Digest"; and that both those names, as well as the room number, were also printed on the office door.

Beatrice Wilson then testified that on the day in question, she worked as the building nurse and that she accompanied complainant from the 12th floor to the ambulance. She never saw defendant or any other male Negro being placed in view of the stretcher, anywhere in the hallway, or in the vicinity of the ambulance. She said that she had not seen defendant in the hallway or near the elevators, although there was a "normal amount" of people in the ...


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