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People v. Robinson





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Robert L. Sklodowski, Judge, presiding.


After a jury trial, defendant was convicted and sentenced to concurrent, extended terms of 60 years for attempted murder, armed robbery, and armed violence. On appeal, he contends that (1) he was denied a fair trial by the prosecutor's (a) insinuation during cross-examination that he committed other crimes, and (b) improper comments during closing arguments; (2) he was improperly convicted of multiple crimes arising from a single act; and (3) the sentences imposed are excessive.

At trial, Ronald Stearney testified that he was in the men's room near his law office at 180 North La Salle Street on January 29, 1982, when defendant emerged from one of the stalls, and his attention was drawn to defendant because he was poorly dressed. Stearney watched him walking across the room and as they stood side by side at the sinks where defendant washed his hands and brushed his hair. Upon leaving the sink defendant walked behind him in the direction of the door, and Stearney suddenly felt a terrific blow to his head. He turned and began struggling with defendant, pushing him against the wall. Defendant then struck him several more times about the head and face. After he fell to the floor and began calling for help, defendant continued striking him, saying "I'm going to kill you, ____." Defendant struck him eight or nine times and then fled, taking his wallet and watch. Stearney also testified that immediately after undergoing emergency surgery for his injuries, he identified defendant as his attacker from a photographic array of five pictures shown to him by police officers.

Arthur Engelland testified that when he entered the washroom he saw Stearney lying on the floor, covered with blood, and noticed a cap and gloves on the floor. Stearney was coherent and described his attacker as a black man, approximately six feet tall, weighing 180 to 190 pounds, and wearing a dark jacket.

Cassandra Allen testified that she was in the hall outside the washroom when she heard a man screaming for help and, upon looking in, she saw Stearney lying on the floor. A black man in a dark coat, who was bending over him, then ran past her in the hall carrying a plastic bag under his arm. Allen identified the coat and plastic bag, which were State exhibits, as the same coat and bag she saw at the time of the incident.

Cedric Wright testified that upon entering an elevator at 180 North La Salle Street on the afternoon in question, he found a coat and a hammer wrapped in a plastic bag on the floor. Both items were covered with blood, and he turned them over to a building security officer.

Further testimony from other witnesses established that there was human blood, Type O, the same as that of the victim, on the items found by Wright, as well as the cap and gloves found in the washroom, and that a letter written by defendant and bearing his name and address was in the pocket of the coat found by Wright in the elevator. It was further established that the victim's wallet was recovered shortly after the incident from a trash basket at Lake and Clark, one block from the scene of the crime.

Assistant State's Attorney Susan Fleming testified that she interviewed defendant at approximately 9:10 p.m. on February 4, 1982, in the presence of Detectives Glynn and Reagan. After he was read his Miranda rights and acknowledged his understanding of them, defendant agreed to give a statement. He then told her that he went downtown on January 29 to "do some stealing." After taking two calculators from an office building on Monroe Street, he proceeded to 180 North La Salle Street, where he found a claw hammer near a construction area in the lobby. He took the hammer and placed it in a plastic bag because "it might come in handy for some stealing," then went to an upper floor and entered a washroom. When he emerged from one of the stalls where he had gone to examine the stolen calculators, he noticed a man standing at the sink. He walked a few steps past him, then turned and hit him three or four times with the hammer in order to rob him. They struggled and, when the man passed out, he took his wallet and watch. He left his hat and gloves in the washroom and abandoned his coat and the plastic bag containing the hammer on the elevator because they were bloody. Once outside the building, he discarded the wallet and took a bus to 47th Street where he sold the watch. Fleming acknowledged that shortly after the interview began, defendant appeared to be in pain, and when asked what was wrong, stated that he was injured at the time of his arrest. She asked if he wanted to see a doctor or go to the hospital, but he refused. She did not notice any blood or bruises on him at that time.

Officer Posilovich testified that on February 4, 1982, he and three other officers proceeded to an address on South Federal with a warrant for defendant's arrest. They found him hiding under a cot in a rear bedroom and, when they moved the cot, defendant bolted for the door. The officers tackled him, handcuffed him, and transported him to the police station where they arrived at approximately 6:30 p.m.

Detective Glynn testified that once at the station and after being informed of his Miranda rights and acknowledging understanding of them, defendant agreed to answer questions when he learned that the victim had identified him. Glynn related the substance of defendant's statement, which was substantially the same as the statement later given to the assistant State's Attorney. On cross-examination, Glynn stated that he went to the address shown on the letter and interviewed the resident of that apartment, Kathleen York. She told him that defendant had been living with her, and she recognized the letter because she helped him write it. However, she had not seen defendant for approximately one week prior to the incident because they had a disagreement. Over the State's objection, Glynn further testified on cross-examination that York told him she asked defendant to leave because she believed that he had stolen some property from her.

Dr. Gutierrez, a neurosurgeon who treated the victim, testified that Stearney suffered two depressed skull fractures, a fractured nose, and multiple lacerations on his head and face. Surgery was performed immediately to remove two pieces of bone in order to relieve the pressure on his brain caused by the depressed fractures. Further surgery would be necessary to replace the fragments removed with pieces of bone taken from the victim's rib or hip; however, Stearney suffered no permanent neurological injury as a result of the incident.

Defendant testified that he had five prior felony convictions for burglary — two in 1975 and one each in 1976, 1979 and 1980. When he was paroled in June 1981, he went to live with his girl friend, Kathleen York. She knew that he was married, but did not know that he was still corresponding with his wife. When she found the letter he had written, they argued, and he left the apartment after placing the letter in another room. When he returned the next day, he discovered that York had thrown out all of his clothes and wanted him to leave. Among the items she discarded was the coat which was later found in the elevator at 180 North La Salle Street.

Defendant further stated that he did not commit the crimes charged; however, he panicked when he learned that the police were looking for him and decided to hide at a friend's apartment. When officers came to arrest him, he hid under a bed, but emerged when ordered to do so and did not try to escape. Those officers handcuffed him and took him to the police station where he was placed in an interview room and handcuffed to the wall. Officer Glynn entered and asked him what he knew about the robbery; when he denied any knowledge, Glynn and another officer kicked and hit him repeatedly about the face, stomach, chest and genitals. This went on for over an hour before he finally confessed to what they said he did. By that time he was bleeding from the mouth, nose, and ears and was in a great deal of pain. Later, when he spoke to the assistant State's Attorney, he merely repeated to her the details which the officers supplied when questioning him, and refused her offer of medical treatment because he was afraid the officers would beat him again. After giving the statement, he was placed in the lockup and several hours later was taken to the hospital where he was examined and released after 45 minutes. Defendant denied that York asked him to leave because he was stealing from her. He stated also ...

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