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People v. Coleman





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County; the Hon. Richard Richman, Judge, presiding.


Following a jury trial, the defendant, Joe Coleman, was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced under the statute relating to habitual criminals (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 33B-1) to life imprisonment without parole. On appeal, the defendant contends (1) that he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt because of the insufficiency of evidence linking him to the crime charged and the lack of evidence of use of a deadly weapon, (2) that the trial court erred in allowing the prosecution to impeach defense witness Sandra Coleman with her prior inconsistent statement, and (3) that the statute mandating life imprisonment for habitual criminals violates due process and is unconstitutional under article I, section 11, of the Illinois Constitution. We affirm.

The defendant was charged with the armed robbery of James Clough, an attendant at Lyerla's Texaco Station in Murphysboro, which occurred on November 24, 1981. At trial, Clough testified that on the evening in question he closed the Texaco station at about 7 p.m. and went to his car. He was carrying a bank bag containing $640. He opened the car door, threw the bank bag on the seat and started to enter the car. He heard a noise at the front of the automobile and got out of the car, at which time he saw a black man standing on the other side of the open car door. The man was facing Clough, with the car door between them, and was a foot and a half to three feet away.

Clough testified that the man "had something orange in his hands," which Clough thought was "either a can of mace or a pistol or some type of weapon." The man pointed this object at Clough's face and said, "Hey man, be cool. Stay here." At that time Clough turned and ran to some gasoline pumps about 50 to 100 feet from the car. Clough stated that he did this because he "figured that [the robber] had a weapon and that he would shoot me or spray me, cause some type of harm to me." When Clough reached the pumps, he glanced back and saw the man bending over in Clough's car. When he returned to his car later with a police officer, the money bag was missing.

Clough stated that during this confrontation he was able to view the robber's face for at least 10 seconds. There was light in the alley where the incident occurred from a streetlight across the street on the corner and from the lights of the Dairy Queen across the street from the station. In addition, a little light came from the windows of a trailer located on the edge of the parking lot and from a couple of lights that were left on in the station itself.

Later that night, Clough gave a statement to the police in which he described the man who had confronted him at the station as being about 22 years of age and a little taller than 5' 7". Clough further stated that the robber had "a little bit of a beard" and was wearing a red or orange sock-hat and bluish-gray mechanic's overalls. Clough also told the police that the man had something orange in his hands that "could have been a can of mace or a pistol."

On November 27, three days after the incident, Clough selected the defendant's picture from an array of five photographs shown him by the police. At that time, he commented that "it looked like the person [who had robbed him] but [that he] wasn't absolutely sure." Clough explained at trial that the reason for his hesitancy was that he "was still scared that the person would come after [him], that he would still try to kill [him] or seek revenge in some way." Later that same evening, Clough called the officer who had shown him the photographs and, after viewing the photographs again, positively identified the defendant's photo as that of the man who had robbed him. At trial, Clough again identified the defendant as the perpetrator of the robbery.

Another witness for the State, Trace Brown, testified that at about 6:40 p.m. on November 24, he saw two "average" size black men run to a 1979, 1980, or 1981 "rusty red" AMC Spirit automobile that was parked in the vicinity of the robbery in Murphysboro. The car's license plate number was tentatively noted by Brown as UB 1995. The two men entered the vehicle and drove off rapidly without turning on the car's headlights. Brown could not identify the two men but stated that he could tell by the way they were running that they were not old. At least one of the men was carrying a paper bag, and one of them had a "stocking" hat on.

Later that evening, Brown reported what he had seen to the police because he thought it "looked funny." While driving around with a Carbondale police officer at about 10 that night, he again saw this AMC Spirit automobile parked on Washington Street in the northeast part of Carbondale. At trial, Brown identified photographs of the defendant's AMC Spirit automobile as the car he had seen in Murphysboro on the evening of the robbery.

Carbondale police detective Don Strom testified that at 7 p.m. on November 24 he received a radio dispatch relating that an armed robbery had just occurred in Murphysboro. The suspects' getaway car was described as a dark-colored AMC Spirit, possibly bearing Illinois registration of UB 1995. Strom proceeded to the 200 block of North Washington Street in Carbondale, an area known as the "Square," in search of the described vehicle. He remained in that vicinity until about 8:10 p.m. without seeing the car. Strom then left the area and returned at 8:22 p.m., at which time he saw a car matching the description he had been given sitting at 211 1/2 North Washington Street.

Strom parked his car nearby and kept the AMC Spirit under observation. About 11:15 p.m., a black male entered the car and drove away. After stopping the car, Detective Strom arrested the driver, whom he identified as the defendant. After a search, three 12-gauge shotgun shells were found and removed from the defendant's jacket pocket.

En route to the Carbondale police station, the defendant stated that he had been in the Palms Lounge on the Square since about 6 that evening. Upon further questioning at the police station, the defendant stated that he had given his car keys to a friend during the course of the evening but that the keys had been returned to him at most 12 minutes later. He also stated that when he went to his car at 11:15 that night, it was parked in the same spot where he had parked it earlier.

The defendant's car was towed to the police department and searched with his consent. On the floor in front of the passenger seat, the police found an orange and white towel with a 12-gauge sawed-off shotgun in it. A loaded revolver was found inside the pouch of the door on the driver's side of the defendant's automobile.

Strom testified further that the defendant was 42 years of age and 5' 10" tall. At the time of his arrest, the defendant had a beard and was wearing a blue shirt and blue pants, a tan leather jacket and a cowboy hat. Strom stated that the defendant told him he was carrying the three shotgun ...

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