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People v. Triplett

OPINION FILED OCTOBER 18, 1985.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLEE,

v.

JESSIE TRIPLETT, APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Donald E. Joyce, Judge, presiding.

CHIEF JUSTICE CLARK DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

On the morning of September 18, 1978, Alexander Nimoh, the manager of the Clark Oil Company service station located at 500 West Garfield Boulevard in Chicago (the service station), was robbed, shot three times in the head, and killed. The defendant, Jessie Triplett, was arrested in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on November 13, 1978, in connection with the murder and the armed robbery. Triplett was returned to Chicago and charged by information with three counts of murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, pars. 9-1(a)(1) through (a)(3)), one count of armed robbery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 18-2), and two counts of armed violence (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 33A-2). Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County, the defendant was convicted of murder and armed robbery. On appeal, the appellate court reversed the defendant's convictions, on grounds unrelated to this appeal, and remanded the cause for a new trial. People v. Triplett (1981), 99 Ill. App.3d 1077.

On remand, a jury in the circuit court of Cook County again found defendant guilty of murder and armed robbery. He was subsequently sentenced to concurrent terms of 60 years' imprisonment for murder and 40 years for armed robbery. He appealed and in a Rule 23 order (87 Ill.2d R. 23), the appellate court affirmed the trial court (122 Ill. App.3d 1159). The defendant then petitioned this court for leave to appeal, and we granted his petition.

Two issues are presented on appeal: (1) whether the defendant was deprived of his sixth amendment right to confront the witnesses against him when the circuit court refused to allow the defendant's counsel to cross-examine a juvenile witness regarding that witness' possible interest and bias; and (2) whether the circuit court erred when it failed to hold a suppression hearing to determine if bank records, which were admitted into evidence, were tainted.

Troy Whitmore, who was 11 years old at the time of the murder and armed robbery and 16 years old at the time of the defendant's retrial, was the State's sole occurrence witness. Whitmore testified that he knew both Nimoh and the defendant from occasionally working at the service station.

According to Whitmore's testimony, he played hooky from school on September 18, 1978, to go to a tavern next door to the service station. Whitmore testified that as he approached the tavern he saw the defendant pass by in a green station wagon, pull into the service station, and park the car. Whitmore stood behind a gas pump and watched the defendant walk to the passenger side of the car, reach into the car, pull out a gun from a coat in the car, walk into the service station building, and put the gun to Nimoh's back. Whitmore told the jury that the defendant and Nimoh then went into the back room and the defendant closed the door. After a few minutes Whitmore heard one gun shot. Shortly thereafter the defendant emerged from the back room carrying a pouch. After seeing the defendant come out of the back room, Whitmore ran away.

Whitmore testified that when he returned to the service station a few hours later the police were there. Whitmore was not questioned by the police at this time, nor did he tell the police what he had witnessed. Whitmore further testified that while he was at the service station he overheard conversations about Nimoh's murder.

The following day Whitmore returned to the service station and again found the police there. According to his testimony, and the testimony of the police, the police officers called Whitmore over to their car and asked him if he knew what had happened. At first Whitmore told them that he knew nothing about the murder. The officers then told Whitmore that he would go to jail if he did not tell them what he knew. Believing the police officers, Whitmore told them that "Eddie" had shot Nimoh. The police took Whitmore to the police station, where he was shown five photographs, and from these photographs Whitmore identified the defendant as "Eddie." (Whitmore testified that he called the defendant "Eddie" because the defendant looked like someone Whitmore knew whose name was Eddie.)

On cross-examination Whitmore stated, among other things, that he knew the defendant's car to be a green Lincoln Continental and not a green station wagon. He also testified that it did not rain the morning of September 18, 1978.

In addition to Whitmore, the State produced a number of other witnesses, two of whom were Clark Oil Company representatives. They testified that the defendant, whom they knew as "Jessie Adams," had been an employee of the company and in fact had worked for Nimoh at the service station until Nimoh fired him. Their testimony also established that the defendant was familiar with the service station's floor plan and procedure for making bank deposits.

Mark Sanders, a friend and neighbor of the defendant's, testified that on Saturday, September 16, 1978, the defendant came to his house. During this visit the defendant told him that he was planning to rob the service station and asked him to go with him to "check [it] out." He told the jury that he refused to accompany the defendant and that the next time he saw defendant was when he appeared at Sanders' home at about 1 p.m. on September 18, 1978. He said that at this time he and defendant had a conversation during which defendant showed him a brown bag containing money and offered him money to hold a gun for him but he refused. He testified that it was during this conversation that he saw blood on the defendant's pants and shoes, that the defendant was wet from the rain, and that the defendant said he had to shoot "the guy" in the leg.

Sanders also testified that several days after the murder and armed robbery the police came to his house to question him but that he did not give them any information at that time. However, he said that on a subsequent visit from the police he told them what he knew and that they took him to the police station, where he identified a photograph of the defendant. After identifying the photograph, he took the police to the defendant's bank.

An officer of the defendant's bank also testified. He identified the defendant's bank records which showed that on September 18, 1978, the day of the robbery, the defendant deposited $924 into his savings account. (A Clark Oil Company representative testified that according to his calculations $1,373.88 had been stolen from the service station on September 18, 1978.) The bank officer also identified the defendant's deposit slip for September 18, 1978. This slip indicated that the money had been deposited during the morning hours of September 18.

Other evidence introduced during the State's case in chief established that: (1) at the time of his arrest the defendant used the alias Johnny Burns and denied ever using the name Jessie Triplett or Jessie Adams; and (2) the defendant attempted to escape from the police while he was being transported from Milwaukee to Chicago.

After the State rested its case, the defendant presented an alibi defense. The defendant called a former girlfriend's mother and sister to testify. (Respectively, they were the grandmother and aunt of the defendant's child.) Both women testified that the defendant was at their house, located in the 8600 block of south Throop Street in Chicago, for most of September 18, 1978, including the morning hours. In addition, they testified that while the defendant was there he did not act in an unusual manner, he did not have a bag of money, and he did not have blood on his pants or shoes.

The defendant's mother also testified on her son's behalf. She stated that her son worked at a construction job and was paid in cash and that he kept this money as well as money won in gambling in a jar at home. The defendant's mother told the jury that she had constantly urged the defendant to place this money in a bank.

In addition to the witnesses mentioned above, the defendant also called a Chicago police officer to testify. The officer arrived at the service station at about 11:28 the morning of September 18, 1978. He told the jury that from observing the victim and from a comment that was directed to him from police laboratory technicians at the scene he concluded that the victim was shot only once.

Having set forth the general background of the case, we now turn to our analysis of the issues. The first issue which we have been asked to address is whether the defendant was denied his sixth amendment right to confront the witness against him when the circuit court refused to allow the defendant's counsel to cross-examine the juvenile occurrence witness regarding the witness' possible interest and bias.

At the defendant's retrial the State made a motion in limine asking the circuit court to prohibit the defendant from using Whitmore's juvenile record to show that Whitmore had a motive to be biased in his testimony. Defense counsel argued that the defendant had a right to confront Whitmore with respect to his contacts with the law. On the other hand, the State argued that the admission of a juvenile's record was within the discretion of the circuit court. Following two discussions, the circuit court ruled that it had the discretion to prohibit the type of cross-examination which the defense sought. Therefore, the circuit court prohibited the defendant from cross-examining Whitmore regarding his juvenile record.

On appeal from the defendant's retrial, in an unpublished Rule 23 order, the appellate court agreed with the circuit court and held that the circuit court had properly exercised its discretion in prohibiting cross-examination of Whitmore with respect to his juvenile record. 122 Ill. App.3d 1159.

As stated earlier, Troy Whitmore was the State's sole occurrence witness. His juvenile record reveals that he had "contacts" with the police prior to September 18, 1978, the date of the murder and armed robbery involved in the present case. However, no formal juvenile proceedings were initiated against Whitmore regarding these "contacts."

At the time of the defendant's retrial, September 30, 1982, Whitmore was in the custody of the Department of Corrections. His custodial status was the result of an adjudication of delinquency on August 24, 1981, which stemmed from a burglary charge filed against him on February 17, 1981. In addition to this petition, 10 other petitions were filed against Whitmore between October 23, 1978, and August 3, 1981. Two of these ten petitions resulted in adjudications of delinquency. On one of these two petitions, Whitmore was placed on a year's probation and in fact was on probation at the time he testified at the defendant's first trial. The other adjudication was vacated, and the appellate court upheld the ruling. Three of the ten petitions were dismissed without prejudice on the motion of the State. Another one of Whitmore's petitions resulted in a directed verdict. On four of the 10 petitions the State moved that the petitions be stricken with leave to reinstate, and these motions were granted.

The defense sought to cross-examine Whitmore with respect to: (1) Whitmore's "contacts" with the police prior to September 18, 1978; (2) the adjudication of delinquency which resulted in Whitmore's placement with the Department of Corrections; and (3) the 10 other juvenile delinquency petitions that were filed against Whitmore between October 23, 1978, and August 3, 1981. The defendant's proposed purpose for such ...


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