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People v. Webb





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Richard J. Petrarca, Judge, presiding. PRESIDING JUSTICE MEJDA DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied May 29, 1984.

A jury found defendant, Cedric Webb, guilty of the offense of murder. The trial court entered judgment on the verdict, denied defendant's post-trial motion, and sentenced defendant to a term of 50 years in the custody of the Department of Corrections. Defendant appeals, raising four issues for review. First, defendant asserts that the trial court erred in admitting certain statements of the murder victim, John Griffis, concerning the identity of his assailant. Second, defendant contends that he was denied his constitutionally protected rights to due process of law and to confront the witnesses against him. Third, defendant argues that he was not proved guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt. Fourth, defendant raises another due process argument. For the reasons which follow, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

The nature of the defendant's contentions requires a rather extensive factual recitation. Before trial defendant made a motion in limine seeking to preclude the prosecution from introducing extra-judicial statements made by the victim. A hearing on the motion was conducted over several days and various witnesses testified. The testimony pertinent to our decision is recounted here.

Michael Magliano, a Chicago police officer, testified that he talked with Griffis several times in the emergency room of the hospital where Griffis had been taken after he was discovered in an alley with numerous bullet wounds. Magliano testified that he spoke with Dr. Parsis, who told him that "it didn't look good for John" and that he was being prepared for surgery. Magliano told Griffis that it didn't look good for him and that he had about a "50-50" chance of survival. Magliano stated that although Griffis did not know his assailant's real name, he did identify him as "Little Gage." At Griffis' instance, the police brought a friend of Griffis' to the hospital. Griffis, according to Magliano, told that person, "Chris, man, help them. Little Gage did me [sic] in."

Dolores Griffis testified that she is the victim's sister. She visited him at the hospital on May 21, 1982, which was two days after the shooting. Griffis could not talk at that time but could communicate by hand signals and nods. About 11 a.m. the witness and Griffis' estranged wife were trying to talk with him when he began to gesture with his hands. The witness stated that he looked as though he were pulling the trigger of a gun, inasmuch as his index finger was straight out and his thumb was up. The trial court struck the witness' interpretation of the gestures but allowed the description to stand. The witness indicated that Griffis gestured three times, each time turning his head on the pillow and closing his eyes. His wife asked him whether he felt he was going to die, and Griffis nodded his head affirmatively and began to cry.

Daniel Swick testified that he is a detective with the Chicago police department. He visited Griffis about 5 p.m. at the hospital on May 21, 1982. The witness asked Griffis whether the latter was able to talk and Griffis replied with a negative shake of the head. Swick asked whether Griffis could answer "yes" or "no" and Griffis nodded affirmatively. Swick had five photographs with him and showed three of them to Griffis.

John Ryan, a detective with the Chicago police department, testified that he was with Swick at the hospital and that Griffis nodded his head up and down when he was shown the third photograph. Ryan asked whether he was positive that it was the man who shot him and Griffis nodded his head up and down.

The trial court allowed the defendant's motion in limine with respect to one specified statement and denied the motion otherwise.

The evidence at trial established that on May 19, 1982, at about 11:15 p.m. John Griffis was shot six times in the back and side in an alley behind 132 West 103rd Place in the city of Chicago. Ronald Redmond testified that he was on a nearby sidewalk at the time and heard five or six gunshots in rapid succession. He observed the defendant, whom he knew only as "Gage," walk out of the alley, where he was met by a grey and black automobile driven by another man whom the witness knew only as "Jungle Bunny." Upon entering the vehicle, the defendant bent down so that he could no longer be seen. The vehicle then drove away. On cross-examination Redmond testified that the area was well illuminated by street lights. He admitted that he did not report any of his observations to the police until the next night, when the police came to question him about the shooting. On redirect examination Redmond stated that he was appearing pursuant to a subpoena and in exchange for an airplane ticket to Los Angeles.

Stan Salabura testified that he is a patrolman with the Chicago police department and was on duty at 11:15 p.m. on May 19, 1982. He indicated that along with Officers Magliano and Van Dixon, he responded to a call concerning the shooting. When Salabura arrived at the scene, an elderly man motioned to him to show where the injured man could be found. Salabura discovered Griffis in the alley. He was bleeding and moaning and calling for help. In answer to the officer's inquiry, the victim stated that his name was John. The policeman asked him "John, do you know who shot you?" Salabura testified that the man responded, "Little Gage." After an ambulance arrived, Salabura once again asked who had shot him and again received the reply, "Little Gage." In an unsuccessful search for the murder weapon, Salabura discovered seven spent .380 shells and one spent bullet.

Officer Michael Magliano testified that he went to the alley and observed two blood stains on the pavement and several expended .380 casings. He and Officer Salabura went to the Roseland Community Hospital emergency room and spoke to Griffis. He was conscious at the time but was bandaged and attached to IV's. Salabura was not present for the entire conversation with Griffis but did ask Griffis who had shot him and was told "Little Gage." He asked Griffis why he had been shot and Griffis replied that Little Gage had tricked him in the alley and that it had something to do with Griffis' girlfriend. Magliano asked whether there was anyone who could help the police to find Little Gage and Griffis referred them to Chris Taylor. Magliano found Taylor and brought him to the emergency room. There Magliano talked with a doctor and informed Griffis that he had about a "50-50" chance of survival and that "[it] doesn't look good for you." At this point, Magliano testified, Griffis raised himself up on the gurney and said to Taylor, "Chris, Little Gage did me, man, help him out. Help me get him." Taylor took two officers to Cedric Webb's house, but Webb was not there. Magliano testified that he arrested Webb at the courtroom located in the police headquarters building the following day and identified defendant in the instant trial as the man he arrested.

On cross-examination defense counsel asked Magliano whether he thought that it was odd that a person who shot someone not 12 hours previously would appear at a police headquarters. Magliano indicated that he did not. On redirect examination, Magliano stated that the reason that defendant was arrested at the courtroom at police headquarters was that defendant had accompanied "Jungle Bunny" to his court date. Magliano identified "Jungle Bunny" as James Jenkins.

John Burt testified that he lives in the same neighborhood as Griffis and defendant and that he knew defendant as "Little Gage" and did not know his real name. On cross-examination, he stated that he knows some people by their real names, some people by nicknames, and some by both.

Dr. Tae An testified that he is a pathologist and the parties stipulated that he is an expert in that field. He testified that on May 28, 1982, he performed an autopsy on John Griffis and determined that death was caused by various ...

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