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People v. Graves

OPINION FILED APRIL 11, 1986.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

TIMOTHY GRAVES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Christy S. Berkos, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE LORENZ DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant was charged with the offenses of murder and armed violence. Following a jury trial, defendant was found guilty of murder and sentenced to a term of 22 years' imprisonment in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Defendant appeals from the decision of the trial court alleging that numerous instances of prosecutorial misconduct and judicial error warrant the reversal of his conviction.

We affirm.

On November 7, 1982, George Grant was stabbed in the chest. Shortly thereafter he died as a result of the wounds received during the assault. The incident leading to George Grant's demise occurred on a street corner where the victim, defendant, and several of their friends had gathered after attending a party at a nearby residence. All were members of an inner-city gang known as the Black Disciples.

A follow-up investigation of the murder implicated defendant. The police issued a warrant for defendant's arrest upon failing to locate him for questioning. It was not until November 12, 1982, five days after the killing, that defendant was apprehended when he surrendered himself to the police.

While in custody, defendant confessed to the stabbing murder of George Grant. He also informed police that he had been "high" on alcohol and pills at the time of the stabbing. At his trial for murder, the defendant contended for the first time that the killing had been carried out in self-defense.

Following his conviction for murder, defendant was sentenced to 22 years' imprisonment. Defendant appeals from the decision of the trial court on the basis that the State impermissibly (1) used his post-arrest silence for impeachment purposes; (2) insinuated that his defense of self-defense was fabricated; (3) commented that its key witness, Christopher Bates, testified despite threats of violence; (4) commented on inadmissible evidence in order to bolster its key witness' credibility; and (5) misstated the law resulting in the reduction of the State's burden of proof. Additionally, defendant contends that the trial judge improperly (6) excluded evidence of the victim's prior conviction for burglary; and (7) allowed defendant's prior conviction to go to the jury as an aggravated battery, rather than an unspecified felony.

OPINION

Defendant initially contends that the State improperly cross-examined him regarding his post-arrest silence and commented upon the same in closing arguments all in contravention of the rule enunciated by the Supreme Court in Doyle v. Ohio (1976), 426 U.S. 610, 49 L.Ed.2d 91, 96 S.Ct. 2240. The State argues that no error was committed since (a) what defendant characterizes as post-arrest silence is in fact pre-arrest silence; (b) defendant failed to remain silent after arrested and advised of his rights; and (c) the prosecutor merely commented on the inconsistency between defendant's post-arrest statements and his trial testimony.

At the root of the controversy is the fact that defendant waited until trial to first relate to police authorities that he killed in self-defense. According to his testimony during direct examination, defendant was approached by George Grant while both were standing on a street corner and asked if he had any "reefer." Defendant answered in the negative, but then added that even if he had some, he would not give him any. Grant suddenly hit him "upside" his head with a piece of metal object in his hand. Defendant became scared and staggered back. When Grant allegedly came towards him to hit him again, defendant pulled out his knife and stabbed the victim in the chest.

The prosecutor's theory at trial was that the aforementioned exculpatory story was offered only after defendant realized that his post-arrest statements to the police about being under the influence of alcohol and drugs were not going to be enough to ward off his conviction. Accordingly, the prosecutor cross-examined defendant about his actions after the stabbing in the following manner:

"Q. You didn't go down to 7045 Normal and tell the police that George Grant had hit you in the head with a metal object, did you?

A. No, I didn't.

Q. And you didn't meet the police at 7101 South Normal and tell them that George Grant had hit you in the head with a metal object, did you?

A. No.

Q. And you didn't go ask the police to find that metal object, did you?

A. No.

Q. You didn't take that knife down to 7045 Normal and give it to the police and say, here, I stabbed a man, but I ...


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