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People v. Young





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County; the Hon. Paul W. Schnake, Judge, presiding.


The defendant, Dexter James Young, was convicted of robbery after a jury trial in Kane County, and sentenced to three years' imprisonment. He appeals, raising two assignments of error: (1) whether the defendant was proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; and, (2) whether the defendant was afforded a fair trial (a) because of unresponsive answers given by the State's principal witness, (b) because police officers' testimony corroborative of the State's main witness was improperly admitted, and, (c) because the State's Attorney attempted to dilute the State's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt during closing rebuttal argument.

The defendant was charged by indictment with the offense of robbery in violation of section 18-1 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 18-1). The indictment alleged that on April 26, 1982, the defendant "took property, being United States currency, from the person of Jose Martinez Garcia, by the use of force."

The defendant entered a plea of not guilty, and the case proceeded to trial on September 27, 1982. The testimony at trial revealed the following facts.

At 1 a.m. on April 26, 1982, Jose Martinez Garcia, a Mexican citizen unlawfully in the United States, was accosted by a black man and a white woman and robbed of $500 while on a riverbank behind the Rivoli Tavern in Aurora. Through the aid of an interpreter, Garcia testified that at 11 p.m. on April 25, 1982, he went to the Rivoli Tavern carrying a little more than $500 in $100 bills in his wallet. While at the tavern Garcia consumed four drinks but was not highly intoxicated. Garcia purchased a couple of drinks for Robin Gayle Honn at her request. She was the defendant's live-in girlfriend. The defendant was in the tavern at the time playing pool.

Garcia testified that Honn asked him to leave the tavern with her to find a quiet place to talk. Prior to leaving the tavern, Garcia transferred the $500 from his wallet to his right front pants pocket because he did not know what Honn had in mind. As he left the tavern at 1 a.m., Honn followed him. Honn eventually caught up to him and the two went down to the riverbank "looking for an outing." As they reached the riverbank, Honn asked Garcia where he lived, at which time the defendant approached, grabbed Garcia and "started feeling him on his side." With Honn's assistance, the defendant tore Garcia's right pant leg, stole the money, and pushed Garcia down. As the two ran away, Honn dropped her purse, which was retrieved by Garcia.

Garcia ran to street level, where he stopped police officers Puscas and Hoffman. Since Puscas and Hoffman did not speak Spanish, they radioed fellow officers Gould and Koehnke for assistance in interpreting. The officers observed Garcia's pants were ripped and muddy, his shirt was in disarray, and he carried the purse; his speech was excited but coherent. Garcia told the officers he had been robbed and described his assailants as a tall black man and a short, stout white woman; he indicated that one of the two people who robbed him dropped the purse. A search of the purse revealed the defendant's and Honn's unemployment compensation cards and a snapshot of the defendant.

Officers Gould and Koehnke testified they knew where the suspects might be located, because minutes before being called to the scene to interpret, they saw two individuals in the parking lot near the Rivoli Tavern who met Garcia's description. They testified that at approximately 1:20 a.m. on April 26, 1982, after hearing a scream in a parking lot, they drove to the lot to investigate. The officers overheard the people say they were going to LaRoca Restaurant.

In search for the suspects, the officers traveled to the LaRoca Restaurant with Garcia. Upon arriving, the suspects, a tall black male wearing blue jeans and a vest, and a short, heavy-set white woman, were identified by Garcia, placed under arrest for robbery, and searched. A search of Honn produced two $100 bills and some change in her rear pocket. The officers observed nothing unusual about the condition of defendant's clothes, noting that they were neither disheveled, torn nor covered with dirt.

The robbery scene was damp, muddy, well lit and approximately 50 to 60 feet away from where the officers first observed the people in the parking lot. Officer Gould testified that to get from the scene of the robbery to the parking lot, one had only to walk along the riverbank and up into the parking lot.

Robin Honn testified that she arrived at the Rivoli Tavern at approximately 9 p.m. on April 25, 1982, accompanied by two girlfriends. The defendant arrived shortly thereafter. She testified that Garcia arrived at approximately 10 p.m., approached the girls' table and offered them all a drink. They accepted, and Garcia gave Honn $100 to pay for 12 drinks. Honn admitted drinking 12 Scotch and sodas that night and smoking two marijuana cigarettes. Honn indicated that Garcia was drunk and spoke sloppily; she commented that Garcia followed her around and repeatedly propositioned her while she told him to go away. She testified that the defendant shot pool during this time and had no contact with Garcia. When the tavern closed, Honn indicated that she and her friends went into the parking lot and rolled a joint while they waited for the defendant to complete his pool game. Minutes after the defendant arrived, police officers stopped in front of the group to observe them. The group then walked to the LaRoca Restaurant, where Honn and the defendant were arrested and searched. Honn testified that the $240 in her possession during the search was received from the defendant. However, impeaching evidence revealed that on the morning of the occurrence she stated, "I have no idea how the $100 got in my pocket."

Honn admitted that neither she nor the defendant was working at the time but that the defendant picked up an occasional construction job. Honn also admitted that on the evening she was arrested, she had carried a purse, and first discovered it missing when she was at the police station; she last remembered seeing the purse when she was at the Rivoli. She further testified that when she left the Rivoli, she carried her jacket on her arm and "that [was] it, I guess." She stated that she, as opposed to Garcia, had her purse, and that Garcia did not have any identification taken from it.

Paul Smith, a contractor for whom the defendant occasionally worked, testified that on the morning of April 25, 1982, he paid the defendant $250 for roofing work completed the previous week. He stated that he paid the defendant one $50 and two $100 bills. The defense rested.

The jury found the defendant guilty of the offense of robbery, and the trial court entered judgment on the conviction, sentencing the defendant to three years' imprisonment. The defendant ...

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