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People v. Johnson

OPINION FILED MARCH 13, 1984.

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

v.

ISSAC JOHNSON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Romie Palmer, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE PERLIN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied April 10, 1984.

Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County, Issac Johnson, defendant, was found guilty of unlawful restraint (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 10-3) and murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 9-1). He was sentenced to an extended six-year term for unlawful restraint and an extended 80-year term for murder, the sentences to run concurrently.

Defendant appeals, presenting the following issues for review: (1) whether the trial court erred in ordering defendant to remain present during jury selection; (2) whether the prosecutor's comments to the jury during closing argument were improper; and (3) whether a proper foundation was laid for the admission of tape recordings of conversations made between defendant and police.

For the reasons hereinafter set forth, we affirm.

On the first day of trial, prior to the selection of a jury, defense counsel advised the trial court that defendant wished not to be present at voir dire because he considered himself to be improperly attired. The State argued that the defendant could not waive his right to be present. The trial court upheld the position of the State and ordered defendant to remain while the jury selection process proceeded. On all five subsequent days of trial the defendant wore appropriate clothing.

At trial, Dr. Stein, Chief Medical Examiner of Cook County, testified that his autopsy of the deceased showed the cause of death to be asphyxiation due to manual strangulation.

Luis Ortiz, who resides in the front building at 3338 North Southport, in Chicago (the murder occurred in the rear building at 3338 North Southport), testified: on July 15, 1981, the day of the murder, the defendant knocked on Ortiz' door to inquire whether the Jackson family (defendant's "wife" *fn1 and "children") resided there. He told defendant that the Jackson family did not live there. At a lineup held on July 18, 1981, Ortiz identified defendant as the man who came to his door.

Officer Prunicki, a dispatcher for the communications center of the Chicago police department, testified: on July 17, 1981, at approximately 6:28 p.m., he received a "911" call from a male caller who identified himself as Frank Coban and told him to send "a police over to 3338 North Southport" because "a girl had been murdered over there, they got her down in the basement."

Police officer Nelson, also a dispatcher for the communications center, testified: on July 17, 1981, at approximately 10:28 p.m., he received a "911" call from an unidentified male caller who told him to "send a police car to 3338 North Southport. The back, rear. This girl named Juanita Jackson murdered a white girl there."

Officers Prunicki and Nelson took no action in response to these calls.

Sergeant O'Connor testified: on July 18, 1981, at approximately 7:45 a.m., while on duty at Area 6 Police Headquarters, he received a call from a male caller who identified himself as Willie Lee. The caller stated "he was wanting to inform the police department of a dead body at 3338 North Southport." Sergeant O'Connor and other officers proceeded to the rear building at 3338 North Southport where Juanita Jackson (defendant's "wife") and Renaldo Rounds resided. They were cooperative in permitting the officers to search the apartment. The police found the body of 15-year-old Christine Jordan in a large box in the basement.

Wesley Calhoun, a friend of the deceased, testified: on July 15, 1981, while visiting a friend at 3316 North Southport, several doors from the Jackson apartment, he saw defendant talking with Christine Jordan on the street. At the lineup held on July 18, 1981, he identified the defendant as the man he saw talking with Christine Jordan.

Juanita Jackson testified: she knew defendant for two-three years, at one time had lived with defendant and had a child as a result of that relationship. *fn2 She notified the police that while cleaning her attic on July 27, 1981, 12 days after the murder, she found books and papers belonging to Christine Jordan. She listened to the "911" tape containing the calls received by Officers Prunicki and Nelson and identified the voice of the male caller on the "911" tape as that of defendant.

Officer Patterson, a latent print examiner who examined the books and papers found in Juanita Jackson's attic, testified that one of the fingerprints taken off the books matched that of the defendant.

The State introduced defendant's oral confession taken by Detective Kajari on July 18, 1981, following the lineup. Kajari testified to the following: defendant told him that he went to visit his "wife," Juanita Jackson, on July 15, 1981, the day of the murder, in hopes of "getting back together" or to get his "children" back from her. Since there was no one in the Jackson apartment, he broke through a window and entered the apartment. Later that afternoon at approximately 4 p.m., he left to get a can of "pop" and met Christine Jordan on the street. He told her someone in the apartment wanted to speak with her and she went there with him. According to Kajari, defendant stated that inside the apartment he attempted to have intercourse with Ms. Jordan. She tried to fight off his efforts, and to prevent her from screaming, he strangled her.

Marie Whitehead, the landlady at 3338 North Southport, testified: on July 15, 1981, at approximately 5 p.m., she saw defendant coming down the stairs of the rear apartment at 3338 North Southport. She identified defendant in the lineup held at police headquarters as the man she saw coming down the stairs.

John Rimicci, an electronic maintenance technician employed by the Chicago police department, testified for the State regarding the recording process used when "911" emergency calls are received. Rimicci testified that during July 1981, the tape machines were in good working order and that a malfunction in a recorder would be immediately noticed by the user.

John Bittenbinder, a violent-crimes investigator for the Chicago police department, testified: on July 18, 1981, he went to the communications section of the Chicago police department and obtained tapes from the previous day's "911" recordings. He then made a copy of the two "911" calls received by Officers Prunicki and Nelson.

Defense counsel objected to the introduction of the "911" tapes on the grounds that a proper foundation had not been laid. The State argued that a foundation had in fact been laid because the entire tape was not being offered; only the tape recordings of conversations between Officers Prunicki and Nelson and defendant were being offered into evidence, and these conversations had previously been authenticated in court by Officers Prunicki and Nelson.

The trial court agreed that the testimony of Officers Prunicki and Nelson laid a foundation for the admission of the tapes. The tape recordings of the "911" conversations made between defendant and police were admitted into evidence and played for the jury.

Defendant did not testify nor did the defense call any witnesses.

During closing argument, defense counsel objected to the State's reading of excerpts written by the victim in one of her books. Defendant's objection was overruled. Defense counsel also objected to the State's vouching for the credibility of State's witnesses and to the prosecutor's expression of her opinion that defendant was guilty. These ...


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