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People v. Rockman





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Kenneth L. Gillis, Judge, presiding.


Following a jury trial, defendant, Clayton Rockman, was found guilty of the murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 9-1) of Alfonso Ayala and sentenced to an extended term of 75 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. On appeal, defendant contends that: (1) the trial court improperly denied: (a) his motion to suppress the anticipated eyewitness in-court identification; (b) his motion for a continuance; and (c) his hearsay objections to admission into evidence of the license plates and temporary registration application registered to defendant and taken from the alleged getaway car; (2) the trial court erred when it admitted testimony as to defendant's presence in California at the time of his arrest; (3) the trial court prejudiced defendant by allowing a portion of the transcript to be amended; (4) defendant was denied effective assistance of counsel; and (5) the State's comments during closing and rebuttal arguments denied defendant his right to a fair trial. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The record presents the following facts pertinent to this appeal. On the afternoon of January 25, 1981, Super Bowl Sunday, Alfonso Ayala was shot and killed in Bonnie's Tavern, located at 27th and Karlov in Chicago. Based upon a photo identification by Gustavo Medrano and Juan Saucedo as well as the identification and location of the automobile seen speeding away from the tavern, defendant was arrested for Ayala's murder.

Prior to trial, defendant moved to suppress both Medrano's lineup and anticipated in-court identifications of defendant. With respect to the lineup identification, defendant argued that: (1) he was denied his right to have counsel present during the lineup; (2) Medrano's identification was improperly induced by a detective; and (3) the lineup was held in contravention of a court order that stated the lineup was not to be conducted until defendant had been presented in open court and tendered a copy of the written charges against him. Following testimony in support of defendant's allegations with no contrary evidence presented by the State, the trial court granted defendant's motion to suppress the lineup identification.

Once the lineup identification was suppressed, defendant argued that the lineup identification irreparably tainted Medrano's anticipated in-court identification and, thus, the latter should not be allowed. In response, the State claimed that there was an independent basis for Medrano's in-court identification. In this regard, Medrano testified that on January 25, 1981, approximately 1:15 p.m., he went to Bonnie's Tavern to watch the Super Bowl football game. Alfonso Ayala, two other patrons and the bartender were also present. Approximately 2:30 p.m., two black men, one of whom Medrano identified as defendant, entered the tavern. Defendant entered through the side door and the other man entered through the front door. Initially, defendant asked directions to the washroom, then he and the other man pulled out guns and began shooting in the direction of the bar.

When the shooting started, Medrano dove under the pool table which was located several feet behind where he had been sitting and positioned himself so that he was facing Ayala who was then lying on the floor, wounded, next to the pool table. While in that position, Medrano saw defendant walk up to Ayala and start shooting at him from close range. Medrano stated that the lighting in the tavern was very good because nearly one entire wall was built of glass blocks through which the sun was shining. In addition, there was artificial lighting in the tavern.

Medrano further stated that approximately one month after the shooting, the police showed him a group of photographs from which he identified a photograph of defendant as the man who had shot Ayala. Following arguments on the motion to suppress the anticipated in-court identification, the trial court denied the motion on the ground that it was adequately based on Medrano's independent ability and opportunity to see defendant at the time of the shooting.

Thereafter, defendant moved in limine to bar any testimony with respect to defendant's extradition from California on the ground that the prejudice to him as a result of the suggestion of flight would outweigh any probative value. The court denied the motion with respect to testimony that defendant was in California at the time he was arrested, but allowed the motion with respect to the term "extradition" and the facts of any legal proceedings necessary to transfer defendant from California to Illinois.

At trial, Medrano testified to essentially the same occurrence facts that he had stated at the pretrial motion hearing and identified defendant as the man who had shot Ayala. Furthermore, Medrano added that after defendant and his companion had left through the side door of the tavern, he went to the side door and saw a white car with a dark red top speed away. Approximately one month later, the police showed Medrano a group of photographs from which he identified a photograph of defendant, and stated to the police officer that he wanted to see that man. Within the same time period, the police also took Medrano to the police auto pound where he identified the car he had seen speeding away from the tavern.

Juan Saucedo testified that he lived approximately three doors south of Bonnie's Tavern. Approximately 10:30 a.m. on the morning of the shooting, Saucedo left his home to buy a newspaper. While walking south on Karlov toward 27th, he noticed two black men walking behind him. The men were particularly noticeable because the neighborhood was predominantly white and hispanic. When Saucedo returned to his home after buying the paper, he turned around and saw the two men standing at the corner diagonal from the tavern. He dropped the paper at home and went back outside to see if the men were still there. On his way toward the tavern, Saucedo saw the two men standing near the tavern's side door. A few minutes later, while walking back toward his house, Saucedo saw one of the men standing by himself near the tavern. Saucedo identified defendant as the man he had seen. When Saucedo approached defendant and asked him what he was doing there, defendant said that he was waiting for a friend. As the second man approached them, one of Saucedo's neighbors walked up to Saucedo and asked him what was happening. While Saucedo and his neighbor were talking, the other two men walked away, got into a white Pontiac with a dark red top, and drove away.

Later that afternoon when Saucedo returned home from shopping, he saw police cars and a paddy wagon in front of the tavern. Approximately one month later, the police drove Saucedo and Medrano to the police auto pound where Saucedo identified the car in which he had seen defendant and his companion drive away. After identifying the same car identified by Medrano, Saucedo was taken to the police station where he viewed a photo array from which he identified defendant as the man with whom he spoke outside the tavern.

Edward Stringer then testified that approximately 2:30 p.m. on January 25, 1981, he was shoveling snow in front of his house one-half block west of Bonnie's Tavern when he heard gunshots coming from the direction of the tavern. He then saw two black men run out of the tavern's side door and get into a white car with a purple or dark red top. As the car drove down the street toward Stringer, he saw the front license plate number. He immediately ran upstairs and wrote the license plate number on his hand. When the police arrived approximately five minutes later, Stringer gave them the license plate number.

Detective Thomas McCarthy of the Chicago police department testified that he had been given information that the car used to flee the scene of Ayala's murder was an older model, white full-sized car with the license plate number "OZ 6001," "OZ 6110," or "CZ 6001." On February 23, 1981, McCarthy located a white 1973 Pontiac with a red top and license plate number "OZ 6001," parked, unoccupied in a parking lot. A license plate check revealed that the plates were registered to defendant for a different car. While he was watching the car, McCarthy observed two individuals, later identified as Willie Porch and Marve Turner, enter the car and drive away. McCarthy stopped the car, removed the license plates and an Illinois registration transfer application from the windshield and drove the car to police headquarters from where it was towed to the police auto pound.

Subsequently, McCarthy drove Medrano and Saucedo to the police auto pound and asked each one, individually, to walk around the pound and see if they could locate a car that looked like the one that they had seen speeding away from Bonnie's Tavern. Medrano located the car within 10 minutes. Saucedo also picked out the same car. McCarthy then drove Medrano and Saucedo to police ...

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