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People v. Griffin





Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County; the Hon. John J. Hoban, Judge, presiding.


Following a jury trial in the circuit court of St. Clair County, defendants were convicted of three counts of murder and one count of armed violence. Defendant Griffin was sentenced to three concurrent terms of 40 years for the murder convictions, and one concurrent term of 30 years for the armed violence conviction. Defendant Smith received three concurrent life sentences, and one concurrent 60-year sentence. A partial summary of the testimony presented at trial follows.

Charles Kellick testified that on February 5, 1981, he went with his friend, Charles Sims, to an apartment inhabited by Ronald Walker and Christi Smith. Velma Robinson accompanied Kellick and Sims, but remained in Kellick's truck and did not enter the apartment building. Upon entering the unlocked apartment and proceeding to the bathroom, Kellick and Sims encountered Christi Smith in the company of defendant Griffin. Ms. Smith was crying. As Charles Sims stepped into the bathroom, defendant Griffin shot him. Kellick turned and observed two other men. He ran to the front door of the apartment, and was shot in the back of the head. Defendant Smith then approached Kellick and shot him in the face. Feigning death until his assailants departed, Kellick hid himself under a stairway until police arrived. Kellick testified that he had observed defendant Griffin on two prior occasions. The first occasion was when Kellick patronized a furniture store owned by Griffin. The second occasion was when Kellick and Sims had given Christi Smith a ride to an apartment where Griffin and defendant Smith were present. This was apparently the only time Kellick had observed defendant Smith (known to Kellick by the nickname "Rush City Jimmy") prior to the shooting.

Velma Robinson testified that she met Kellick and Sims at approximately 5 p.m. on the day in question. Following a discussion, she accompanied Kellick and Sims to the apartment building. Immediately after Kellick and Sims entered the building, she observed two other men (one of which she identified as defendant Griffin) exit a parked car and enter the same building. Within seconds, she heard a shot. The two men emerged from the building and drove away. Several minutes later, she observed Ronald Walker enter the building. After Walker's arrival, the same two men she had observed previously reentered the building. Upon hearing a shot, she drove away to find a policeman.

Lionel Settles, an East St. Louis police officer, testified that he was working as a security guard at the National Food Store on the evening of February 5, 1981. A person subsequently identified as Ronald Walker ran into the store, bleeding profusely from bullet wounds. Settles testified as follows concerning Walker's subsequent statements:

"I had a conversation as I was saying with the subject as to what had happened. And when he said he walked into his apartment and saw the two people on the floor, one of which was his girl friend, they were — he just mentioned they, were standing inside of the door, and told him to come inside. And as he made a couple of steps forward, he was shot.

Q. Did he tell you who shot him?

A. Yes, he did.

Q. What did he say?

[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Continuing objection.

THE COURT: Note the same objection. Same ruling.

A. He said a subject by the name of Lee had shot him.

Q. Did he say anything more to identify Lee?

A. Yes, he said the subject named Lee that owns a used furniture store in the outer State Street area.

Q. Did you ask him who had shot his girl friend?

A. Yes, I did. His reply was a subject only known to him as Rush City Jimmy."

Darrell Rice, an Illinois State trooper, testified that he was off duty on the evening in question, and purchasing groceries at the National Food Store. At approximately 6:30 p.m., Trooper Rice was engaged in informal conversation with Officer Settles. At that time, Ronald Walker entered the store. Trooper Rice's account of Walker's statements concerning his assailant was as follows:

"Q. Did anyone ask who shot him?

A. Yes, we asked him who shot him, and he stated that a fellow by the name of Lee, his friend shot him, Lee's friend shot him, and he also stated that a fellow they called Rush ...

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