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People v. Lark





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. George M. Marovich, Judge, presiding.


Following a jury trial, defendants George Lark and Tommie McKinnie were each convicted of three counts of armed robbery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 18-2), and sentences were imposed on all three counts. Lark challenges his conviction on grounds that a suggestive lineup led to his mistaken identification in court, improper testimony concerning his criminal record deprived him of a fair trial, and the trial court erred in dealing with a juror who dissented from the verdict. McKinnie joins in the last of Lark's contentions, and claims further that improper comment in closing argument denied him a fair trial and that multiple convictions violated the one-act one-crime principle. The following facts are relevant to our decision.

At about 2 p.m. on February 4, 1982, two men entered Helen's House of Fashion located at 13301 South Brandon in Chicago. The men browsed for a short while, then produced guns and forced the store's proprietor, Helen Zajac, along with two job applicants, Gail Pazour and Connie Tabor, to crawl to a dressing room. The men took Zajac's purse and ring as well as money, clothing and jewelry from the store. During the robbery, Nancy Fitzpatrick entered the store; one of the robbers held a gun on her, took her purse, and ordered her to join the others in the back of the store. Another prospective customer, Marian Harter, encountered similar treatment when she entered the store several minutes later.

Meanwhile, John Davy, who had driven Pazour and Tabor to Helen's, was waiting for them in his car, which was parked in front of the store. Davy became suspicious when he observed two men carrying clothes from the store to a light blue 1973 Ford station wagon with no license plates. As Davy approached the store's entrance, Pazour and Tabor emerged and announced that they had been robbed. Davy pursued the station wagon in his car until he saw a Chicago police squad car on 130th Street, at which time he flagged down Officer Mary Puchalski and told her that the men in the station wagon had robbed Helen's House of Fashion. Officer Puchalski then took up the chase, lights flashing and siren sounding, and Davy followed.

Officer Puchalski pursued the station wagon from 130th and Torrence to 108th and Hoxie, where the station wagon collided with a parked car. The two occupants fled on foot while police converged on the accident scene. By this time, police responding to a call from Helen Zajac had obtained descriptions of the perpetrators. The police sought two black males: one, five feet 10 inches, 170 pounds, wearing a black leather jacket over a sweatshirt, with the hood of the sweatshirt hanging out from the collar of the jacket; the other six feet, 180 pounds, wearing blue jeans and a three-quarter length brown leather coat over a waist length black leather jacket.

Chicago Police Sergeant O'Hara apprehended Tommie McKinnie and brought him back to the accident scene, where John Davy positively identified him as one of the robbers. Sergeant O'Hara testified that he recovered a right hand glove from McKinnie's pocket and found a matching left glove in the station wagon. In addition to the stolen clothing, jewelry and purses in the station wagon, Sergeant O'Hara observed license plates under the seat which were registered to George Lark, but which belonged on another car. He also noticed a three-quarter length brown leather coat.

Approximately two hours later, after residents of the 107th block south on Torrence reported a man moving in and out of back yards, Chicago Police Officer Charles Springer arrested defendant George Lark. During cross-examination of Sergeant O'Hara, defense counsel initiated the following dialogue:

MR. PRIDE: Did you have an occasion to have a radio communication with an officer named Springer on that date?

SERGEANT O'HARA: I imagine I did, yes, sir.

Q. Did you tell Officer Springer that George Lark was the man who was wanted?

A. I told him that we were looking for George Lark in connection with this robbery.

Q. No one on the — no one who had been a victim of the robbery or present when the robbery took place knew George Lark's name, did they?

A. No, sir.

Q. And you gave Sergeant Springer George Lark's name before you even saw George Lark on that date, didn't you?

A. Yes, sir.

MR. PRIDE: I have no further questions. By the way, just one further question. You knew George Lark ...

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