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People v. Stout

OPINION FILED FEBRUARY 21, 1984.

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

v.

WILLIAM R. STOUT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of McLean County; the Hon. Luther H. Dearborn, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE GREEN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied April 6, 1984.

On April 18, 1983, following a jury trial in the circuit court of McLean County, defendant, William R. Stout, was convicted of felony murder resulting from a robbery, involuntary manslaughter, robbery, aggravated battery, and battery. He was subsequently sentenced to concurrent terms of 30 years' imprisonment for murder, 10 years for robbery, and 10 years for aggravated battery. The court did not impose sentences for involuntary manslaughter and battery, because they were included offenses.

On appeal, defendant first contends that the evidence was insufficient to prove his guilt of robbery, involuntary manslaughter or felony murder beyond a reasonable doubt because: (1) No showing was made of the element of robbery which requires that the victim be deprived of property; (2) even if the robbery were proved, defendant was not proved guilty of felony murder by robbery, because no showing was made that the killing of the victim took place in the course of the robbery; and (3) even if the foregoing were shown, the murder and involuntary manslaughter convictions must be set aside, because no showing was made that any acts attributable to defendant were a contributing cause of the death of the decedent. Defendant also maintains that the convictions for battery, robbery, and involuntary manslaughter should be vacated, because they were included offenses of the felony murder or arose from the same act. Finally, he argues that the court abused its discretion in imposing extended-term sentences for the robbery and aggravated battery convictions.

The evidence at trial indicated that the body of the victim, William Spates, was found at approximately 2 p.m. on November 21, 1982, lying face down and fully clothed in his apartment in Bloomington. A pathologist, who performed an autopsy the next day, testified that the body was then in an advanced stage of decomposition which prevented him from obtaining blood or urine samples for toxicological examination and prevented him from determining whether any evidence of exterior trauma had existed. The pathologist testified that X rays taken indicated the victim had suffered no bone fractures or gunshot wounds. He gave an opinion that the victim suffered from coronary arteriosclerosis and pleuralfibrosis. He estimated that the death occurred between five and ten days prior to the autopsy.

Much of the State's case came from evidence of admissions made by defendant to Detective Charles Crowe of the Bloomington Police Department. Crowe testified that on December 21, 1982, defendant admitted to him that he and Emil Wieland were in the victim Spates' apartment on the evening of November 15, 1982. Crowe testified that defendant then related the following occurrence. Wieland hit Spates in the area of the head four or five times with a closed fist with such force that Wieland "could have broken his arm." Defendant was crouched over Spates' legs while Wieland was striking the blows. Defendant also hit Spates a few times around the mouth. A fracas had started earlier in the kitchen when defendant wanted a drink of liquor from a bottle in Spates' possession, and Spates would not give defendant a drink. While Spates was on the floor, defendant took off Spates' watch. Defendant did not know why, because he did not want the watch. When defendant and Wieland left, Spates was partially lying and partially sitting with his head against the wall, but he was alive.

Crowe testified that defendant had previously given him a statement in which defendant said that before he left, three black males had come into the victim's apartment, and that defendant and Wieland left before the other three. At trial, defendant admitted that statement was false but said he made up the statement (1) to negate implication that he and Wieland were the last persons to be with Spates while Spates was alive, and (2) in order to get Crowe to leave him alone. At trial defendant also denied taking Spates' watch off Spates' wrist but said that he had his hand on the watch which was on Spates' arm when Spates jerked his arm causing the watch to break in defendant's hand.

• 1 We consider first the question of the sufficiency of the evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a robbery occurred. That offense takes place whenever one "takes property from the person or presence of another by the use of force or by threatening the imminent use of force." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 18-1(a).) Defendant maintains there was no evidence that property was taken from Spates.

Evidence was presented that defendant had several hundred dollars in his possession just prior to the occurrence. The officer viewing the body testified that, at the time he viewed the body, one of Spates' pants' pockets was turned inside out and Spates' wallet was next to the body connected by a chain to the belt. The wallet contained $84. In one of the statements defendant gave to Detective Crowe, he admitted that he and Wieland questioned Spates at the time of the beating about the proceeds of a check belonging to Spates. According to this statement, he asked Spates about the proceeds, because Spates usually gave away some money when, as then, he was intoxicated. The State maintains that this evidence would, of itself, be sufficient for the jury to have inferred that Spates was robbed. We need not decide whether this evidence was sufficient, because we agree with the State's alternate contention that evidence that defendant removed Spates' watch was sufficient to support a determination that robbery occurred.

In People v. Gaines (1981), 88 Ill.2d 342, 430 N.E.2d 1046, the evidence showed that when an accused pointed a pistol at a victim and announced that a holdup was taking place, the victim removed two $1 bills from his pocket and dropped them to the floor. Proof was not made that the accused or anyone acting in his behalf ever took possession of the bills. The supreme court held that the robbery was complete when the possessor of the bills gave up possession, and another did not have to gain possession of the bills for the offense to have occurred. Under the evidence there, the victim gave up possession because of the threat of force by the accused. Here, according to defendant's statement, possession of the watch was taken from the drunken victim, Spates, by the actual use of force. Defendant had no right to forcefully remove the decedent's watch. The jury could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant did so. Such a determination would have been a sufficient basis for finding that defendant robbed Spates of his watch even though neither defendant nor Wieland ever took possession of the watch after laying it on the floor.

The question of whether the evidence was strong enough to support a determination by the jury that Spates died as a result of a beating administered while defendant and Wieland were in the apartment is involved in both the issue of whether the killing was shown to have taken place in the course of the robbery, and the issue of whether any acts attributable to defendant were a contributing cause to Spates' death. We address the question of the time of Spates' death.

The evidence indicated that Spates' body was found on the floor. By defendant's admission, Spates was lying partly on the floor when he and Wieland left the apartment. Evidence also indicated that the body was clothed in the same apparel he was wearing at that time. The pathologist had estimated the time of death to have been five to ten days prior to the autopsy on November 22, 1982. November 15, 1982, when defendant and Wieland were in Spates' apartment, was seven days prior to the autopsy. Spates' landlord testified that he knocked on Spates' door approximately ten times in the week after November 15 and received no answer. A friend of defendant's who lived in the same building as Spates, testified she saw Spates on November 17, 1983, but the jury could have determined she was mistaken as to the date or making an untrue statement to protect her friend, the defendant. Moreover, she testified that she saw defendant alive at 10:30 p.m. on November 17, a time which was less than five full days before the autopsy and thus not within the five- to ten-day span estimated by the pathologist. The testimony fully supports a determination that Spates died shortly after being beaten by Wieland and defendant.

Because of the lapse of time between Spates' death and the autopsy, the pathologist's testimony as to cause of death was of limited significance. Nothing that he found indicated that death resulted from a beating. However, the doctor did testify that a number of blows to the head could cause death in a person in Spates' physical condition and age. Moreover, any beating Spates received could have been more than defendant admitted. The police officer investigating at the scene where the body was found testified that blood stains appeared on the rug near the body and on the walls of the apartment. Anthony Johnson testified that at the time Wieland and defendant were with Spates, Johnson saw two men through a window, who appeared to be fighting while standing over another person who must have been on the floor. The pathologist testified Spates could have died from causes unrelated to any blows he received. The pathologist admitted that prior to hearing of any scuffle ensuing, he had made out a report indicating that Spates died from natural causes, specifically coronary arteriosclerosis, pleuralfibrosis, and pulmonary congestion. Nevertheless, after hearing the testimony that Spates was struck several times, the jury could have determined that it would have been extremely unlikely for Spates to have died at a time in close proximity to his receiving the blows without the blows having been at least a contributing cause to Spates' death. People v. Martin (1983), 112 Ill. App.3d 486, 445 N.E.2d 795.

Defendant argues that the instant case is similar to People v. Brown (1978), 57 Ill. App.3d 528, 373 N.E.2d 459, and People v. Kent (1982), 111 Ill. App.3d 733, 444 N.E.2d 570. In both cases, the defendant's murder conviction was reversed because the evidence was insufficient to prove ...


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