Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County; the Hon.
John J. Hoban, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE WELCH DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Defendant, Charles Franklin, was indicted for concealment of homicidal death (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 9-3.1). Following a jury trial in the circuit court of St. Clair County, he was convicted and sentenced to a three-year term of imprisonment. Defendant contends on appeal that he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and that he was denied his right to a fair trial when the trial court precluded him from presenting evidence as to the State's chief witness' motivation to testify falsely.
The testimony shows that on Sunday, December 5, 1982, at approximately 1 p.m., Aileen Johnson was riding in East St. Louis in a car driven by George Stallion. When Mr. Stallion stopped the car next to a field at McCasland and 15th streets, Ms. Johnson saw a tennis shoe sticking up in the weeds. Mr. Stallion approached the shoe and discovered that it was attached to a body. An East St. Louis patrolman, a detective and an evidence technician were dispatched to the scene, where they observed the body of a Negro male lying face down in the trash and weeds with his hands and feet tied behind him and with a gag in his mouth. The body was inside what looked like some kind of bedcover or furniture cover. Because of the way the victim was bound and gagged and because no signs of struggle were seen, the detective and the evidence technician testified that it appeared to them that the crime had occurred elsewhere and the body was then dumped where it was found. The area where the body was found was described as being a trash dump in an empty field in an out-of-the-way area. Two bullet slugs were recovered when the clothing and cover were removed. When the body was discovered, there was a large amount of blood on the victim's jacket and some blood on the cover, although the blood had not soaked through the cover. Later, through fingerprints, the body was identified as that of Stephan Rollins.
The coroner's pathologist who conducted an autopsy on the body about 8 a.m. on December 6, 1982, concluded that the cause of death was seven gunshot wounds to the chest which had entered from behind between the shoulder blades, penetrating the heart, and then exiting the chest wall. The pathologist testified that Rollins would have died instantly and in her opinion had been dead about 24 hours at the time of the autopsy. In addition to the wounds, she discovered a large bump or abrasion on Rollins' forehead.
Steven Griffin testified that he had known Rollins, the victim, since he (the victim) was a child. He knew that Rollins had broken into a van belonging to someone named Breadman because Griffin bought the stereo equipment taken out of the van. Breadman worked at Conrad's Tavern in East St. Louis (about five blocks east of where the body was found) as a disc jockey, and his van was parked at the tavern at the time of the theft. Griffin saw Rollins on the evening of December 4, 1982, at Griffin's cousin's house, when Rollins, who was perspiring and breathing heavily, said that somebody had just shot at him. Griffin told him to leave the area, which Rollins did, telling Griffin he was going to the house of his girlfriend, Rokeena Wright. Sometime after Rollins left, another person came to Griffin's cousin's house and told Griffin to go to Conrad's Tavern. Griffin did so, and when he walked inside the tavern, he saw the tavern owner, Lloyd Conrad, and his cousin, Larry Hicks, standing behind the bar. Conrad called Griffin over and took him to his office, a back room, inside which Griffin saw the defendant, whom he called "Butch," and Rollins, who was "laying on the floor hog-tied with a rag in his mouth and ropes tied around his arms and legs." Griffin could tell that Rollins was still breathing because he could still see his chest moving up and down. While Conrad, Hicks, and Griffin were standing in the doorway, Hicks started asking Griffin about the stereo equipment, to which Griffin responded that he had given it to his brother in Decatur. The defendant then pulled a pistol out of his back pocket and said, "This boy is going to die tonight." When Griffin asked why, the defendant told him to shut up, at which point Griffin backed out of the office door, left the tavern, and went home. Griffin testified that he did not call the police that night because he feared for his own life. He learned the next afternoon that Rollins had been found in some weeds somewhere shot seven times. Griffin identified Rollins from pictures of the scene where the body was discovered, stating that Rollins had been wearing the same clothes and had been bound and gagged in the same manner when he last saw Rollins alive at Conrad's. Griffin finally told the police about what had occurred when he decided to leave town because defendant was threatening to kill Griffin's cousins and Rollins' friends. At the time he made the statement Griffin was in the East St. Louis jail, having been arrested for allegedly carrying an unregistered gun. Griffin admitted that he did not leave the East St. Louis area for Florida until March 1984 because he was waiting for his divorce to be final.
Rokeena Wright testified that between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. on December 4, 1982, Rollins came into her apartment in East St. Louis. He was breathing heavily and appeared nervous and excited, saying that someone had been chasing him and trying to shoot him. He told her that he was in trouble for having stolen some equipment from Conrad's Tavern. Wright testified that Rollins left her apartment about 12:30 a.m. after she cautioned him to stay away from Conrad's.
Officer Marion Hubbard testified that between 10 and 11 p.m. on December 4, 1982, he answered a "fight in progress" call at Conrad's Tavern. The place was crowded, with music playing, and after talking with the owner and a few patrons, he concluded after only checking the front room of the bar that there was no disturbance and left.
Goldie Truss, a regular at Conrad's, testified that on the evening of December 4, 1982, she saw defendant leave the tavern between 10 and 11 p.m. carrying something. She just glanced at the back of his head as he left and could not remember how big the bag was other than he carried it in his hands; it was larger than a grocery bag and could have been the size of a garment bag. Truss remembered that she told the grand jury that two people could have been carrying the bag and that it appeared to be heavy and pretty large and that whatever was inside was balled up. On cross-examination, Ms. Truss explained that she had tried to tell the grand jury that she could not clearly remember anything because she was intoxicated from drinking for five or six hours at the tavern.
Daphne Truss, Goldie's daughter, testified that she dropped by the tavern between 10:30 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. on that evening to talk to her mother. As she was getting into the car to leave, she glanced back and saw defendant coming out carrying something that looked like a trash bag. She thought just one person put the bag in the back of a pickup truck but she recalled telling the grand jury that she saw the defendant and Conrad carrying a large green clothing bag. She conceded on cross-examination, however, that she was not really sure of anything that she saw.
Ponce Weston testified that he arrived at Conrad's about 10:30 p.m. on December 4, 1982, and stood outside drinking with his friend, Charles Hicks. He saw the defendant come out of the tavern carrying a large bag. He could tell that the bag was not empty because it made a sound when it was thrown on the back end of the pickup truck. The defendant then got in the back end of Conrad's truck with the bag, and Conrad drove away. He recalled telling Charles Hicks afterward that they should go get another drink, but Weston agreed that he might have told the police on April 30, 1983, that he had said to Hicks, "Let's get the hell out of here." Weston stated on cross-examination that he had been drinking throughout the afternoon of December 4. He also stated that he gave the police the statement he gave because they scared him and made him feel that he had done something wrong.
Charles Hicks, who recalled arriving between 11 and 11:30, corroborated Weston's account. Hicks described the bag as a "traveler's bag" and stated he just glanced at the defendant with the bag because it was normal for people to take things in and out of the place. Hicks did not think the bag was empty because of the way defendant was carrying it.
A police search of Conrad's Tavern, conducted six months later, on May 3, 1983, found only a single hole in the paneling, but it could not be determined if it was made by a bullet.
The defendant presented no evidence. After deliberation, the jury found defendant guilty of concealing a homicidal death.
• 1-5 Defendant's first contention on appeal is that he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the offense of concealing a homicidal death (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 9-3.1), where the State's evidence was wholly circumstantial and where important corroborating evidence was missing. Defendant further argues that there was no ...