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People v. Morissette





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Thomas A. Hett, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied December 29, 1986.

Following a bench trial, defendant, Sherman Morissette, was convicted of armed robbery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 18-2(a)) and armed violence (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 33A-2). Morissette represented himself pro se at trial. At sentencing, Morissette was adjudged an habitual criminal and, pursuant to the Habitual Criminal Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 33B-1), was sentenced to the Illinois Department of Corrections for a term of life imprisonment without parole.

On appeal Morissette contends that the cause should be reversed and remanded for a new trial, or alternatively, that the cause be remanded for resentencing. Morissette bases his contentions on his belief that the trial court prejudicially erred by: (1) failing to suppress evidence concerning a lineup at which he was identified by the victim as the victim's assailant (Morissette contends the lineup was suggestive); (2) denying his motion to appoint a bar association attorney and subsequently allowing him to represent himself at trial; (3) denying him his sixth amendment rights of compulsory process and production of documentary evidence helpful to him; and (4) sentencing him pursuant to the Habitual Criminal Act where the habitual-criminal statute (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 33B-1) is unconstitutional.

We affirm the decision of the trial court.


Sherman Morissette was found guilty of stealing a taxicab in the course of committing an armed robbery against the taxicab driver. The facts adduced at trial indicate that during the evening hours of December 24, 1983, Charlie Adams, the complaining witness, was working as a taxicab driver for Yellow Cab Company. Sometime that evening, Adams picked up a passenger, later identified by Adams as Morissette, at or near the intersection of 87th Street and Stony Island, in Chicago. Morissette was wearing a cap and scarf but removed the scarf once inside the cab. After driving Morissette to his destination of 91st Street and East End, Adams stopped his cab and turned on the inside light in order to collect Morissette's fare. When Adams turned around to collect the fare, Morissette pointed a black pistol at Adams' head, demanding all of Adams' money. Adams replied that he had no money, and Morissette ordered Adams out of the cab. Morissette allowed Adams to retrieve his coat from the cab before Morissette drove the cab away, leaving Adams in the street.

After Morissette drove away, Adams hailed a different cab and rode to a drug store where he telephoned the police, informing them of the armed robbery. The police directed Adams to come to the station to file a report of the incident. Adams left the drug store and hailed another cab to take him to the police station at 71st and Cottage Grove. On the way to the station, Adams noticed a police paddy wagon parked in front of Jackson Park Hospital, and he asked his cab driver to stop there.

Upon entering the hospital, Adams spotted and approached two police officers to whom he reported the incident. Adams testified that one of the police officers called in over the police radio and related both Adams' description of Morissette and the number (726) of the stolen taxicab. Adams then returned home where he contacted Yellow Cab Company, reporting to the dispatcher that his cab was stolen. The dispatcher later testified that he had received such a call and that he made a notation of it for the cab company manager, although the Yellow Cab Company records did not evidence such a report of the armed robbery.

Chicago police officers James Vellehas, Steve Kubiak, and Louis Velez testified for the prosecution as to the events leading up to Morissette's arrest and subsequent lineup identification. Vellehas and Kubiak were working together on the night of the armed robbery and monitored a message over their police radio regarding an incident in which Yellow Cab number 726 was stolen at gunpoint. The "flash" message also described the suspect as a male black in his early thirties. Vellehas and Velez were working together on December 27, 1983, and they arrested Morissette that night after an automobile and foot chase.

According to Vellehas and Velez, they noticed Yellow Cab number 726 proceeding eastbound on 92nd Street on December 27, 1983. The driver was a male black in his thirties. Vellehas noted that he recalled the flash message that he and Kubiak heard three nights earlier, so he positioned his squadrol behind the taxicab and began to follow Morissette as he drove. Although a radio check on the status of the cab came up clear, Vellehas attempted to curb the cab by activating the siren and flashing lights on his vehicle. Morissette responded by immediately accelerating the taxicab, giving way to the car chase. When Morissette stalled the cab in an alley, a foot chase ensued. Morissette was apprehended after an altercation in which he resisted the police. Morissette identified himself as Charles Adams and asserted that the cab belonged to him. The officers transported Morissette to the Fourth District police station.

On the following evening, Morissette was placed in a lineup where the real Charles Adams identified Morissette as the armed robber who stole his cab from him on the evening of December 24, 1983. Because Morissette had been injured while trying to resist police prior to his arrest, Morissette appeared in the lineup with bandages on his head. He also wore a trench coat and was asked to speak while being viewed by Adams.

Morissette was represented by the public defender on his motion to suppress the above identification. After a hearing, the trial court denied the motion. During the hearing on the motion to suppress, Morissette moved the trial court to allow him to proceed pro se. The record indicates that the trial court proffered to Morissette, as prescribed by Illinois Supreme Court Rule 401(a) (87 Ill.2d R. 401(a)), the proper admonishments concerning self-representation. Subsequently, Morissette was allowed to proceed pro se on the balance of the hearing on the motion and later at trial, where the witnesses named above testified as indicated.

The trial court, after reviewing all of the evidence presented by the State and by defendant, found Morissette guilty of armed robbery and armed violence. Pursuant to the Habitual Criminal Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 33B-1), the State then petitioned for imposition of a natural-life sentence on the basis that Morissette had prior armed-robbery convictions and was therefore subject to sentencing as an habitual criminal.

At the sentencing hearing, the State offered evidence of Morissette's prior armed-robbery convictions. The record discloses that in 1979, Morissette was convicted on two counts of armed robbery after pleading guilty to stealing a cab after robbing the driver at gunpoint, and for later robbing at gunpoint a passenger he picked up while driving the stolen cab. He was sentenced to two concurrent terms of eight years. In 1976 Morissette also pleaded guilty to two armed-robbery counts and was convicted and sentenced to two concurrent terms of four years to four years and a day. In mitigation, Morissette stated that he had served in the military and was a licensed cosmetologist. He also argued that the Habitual Criminal Act was unconstitutional.

The trial court, after reviewing the evidence presented at trial and at sentencing, noted Morissette's extensive criminal record, which included eight felony convictions in all. The trial court concluded that Morissette was an appropriate candidate for a natural-life sentence and thereupon sentenced Morissette to the Illinois Department of Corrections ...

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