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02/20/87 the People of the State of v. Robert Byron Et Al.

February 20, 1987





506 N.E.2d 1247, 116 Ill. 2d 81, 107 Ill. Dec. 192 1987.IL.197

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. James M. Bailey, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE GOLDENHERSH delivered the opinion of the court. JUSTICE MORAN, Dissenting.


An indictment returned in the circuit court of Cook County charged Robert Byron (hereafter defendant), Harold Bean, Ann Walters, and Wayne Walters, with the murder of Dorothy Polulach (three counts, Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, pars. 9-1(a)(1), (a)(2), (a)(3)), armed robbery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 18-2), home invasion (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 12-11(a)(2)), and conspiracy (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 8-2(a)). Bean was also charged with solicitation. For reasons not relevant here, the Walters were granted a severance. The circuit court denied defendant's pretrial motion for severance, and thereafter in a jury trial Bean and defendant were found guilty of each of the offenses charged. In a hearing requested by the People, the jury found that there existed one or more factors set forth in section 9-1(b) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 9-1(b)) and that there were no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude a sentence of death. Bean and defendant were sentenced to death, and their sentences were stayed (87 Ill. 2d R. 609(a)) pending appeal to this court (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, sec. 4(b); 103 Ill. 2d R. 603). Because of the denial of his oral motion for severance, Bean's conviction was reversed. People v. Bean (1985), 109 Ill. 2d 80.

Defendant's contention that his conviction must be reversed because the People failed to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt requires that we briefly review the evidence. Many of the facts are stated in People v. Bean and will be supplemented here only to the extent necessary to discuss the issue. The People's principal witnesses were Wayne Walters, Robert Daniel Egan, and Debra Youngbrandt. Walters testified that the charges against him were to be reduced in exchange for his cooperating with the People. During 1979, he and his wife, Ann Polulach Walters, resided in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Ann's mother, Gracie Polulach, who was divorced from Ann's father George, lived with them. George lived in Chicago with his wife Dorothy, the deceased, whom Ann hated, often referring to her as the "black widow." Ann blamed Dorothy for George's suicide in December 1979.

The night after George's wake in Chicago, the Walters, Bean, and Geri Smith, who was Bean's former wife and a friend of Ann's, were gathered at Smith's home in Chicago. Ann expressed her suspicions that Dorothy was in some way responsible for George's death. Bean suggested that, for money, he would kill Dorothy. In May 1980, Smith and Bean visited the Walters at their home in Florida, and the killing of Dorothy was discussed again. In June 1980, at the Walters' request, Bean traveled to Florida to discuss his suggestion that he would kill Dorothy. The Walters gave Bean $2,500 in cash for expenses.

Robert Daniel Egan, charged with the offense of armed violence for conduct at the Polulach home at the time of the homicide, admittedly cooperating with the People in exchange for a reduced sentence, testified that in February 1981 he discussed with Bean and defendant a possible killing for money. Defendant was Egan's ex-brother-in-law. After this Discussion, which took place in defendant's home, Egan, Bean, and defendant left defendant's home in Bean's car to burglarize the Polulach home. As a disguise, Bean wore a priest's cassock and was carrying a briefcase. At approximately 6:45 p.m., Egan dropped Bean and defendant off a few blocks from the Polulach home, and, pursuant to Bean's direction, drove to a nearby roller-skating rink and waited. Later, defendant appeared and removed a gun hidden underneath the front seat of Bean's car, explaining that they forgot the gun and might need it. Defendant told Egan that 15 minutes later he was to drive down the street. Defendant left, and after waiting 15 minutes Egan started down the street as instructed. He picked up Bean and defendant, who were walking. The three returned to defendant's home, where they sorted out jewelry which defendant had removed from the briefcase which Bean had been carrying. The three then left defendant's home and drove to a bridge over the Cal-Sag River where Bean left the car and threw the gun into the water. Despite repeated efforts, this gun was never found. The next day defendant, Egan, and Bean drove to an alley behind a restaurant and Bean disposed of the priest's clothing.

Wayne Walters testified that Bean returned to Florida on February 18, 1981. He told the Walters that he had killed Dorothy and described to them how the murder occurred. He said he needed $10,000 immediately in order to pay off his two "partners," one of whom had helped him in the Polulach home while the other had waited in the car. In response to Bean's request for payment, Wayne gave Bean $50.

Egan testified further that, when Bean returned to Chicago, Egan and defendant picked Bean up at the airport. On the way to the airport, at defendant's request, Egan threw a bag of costume jewelry into a river. On the return trip from the airport, Bean told Egan: "You can add another round to our bag of tricks. . . . Murder." In defendant's presence, Bean then related how he entered the Polulach home, fought with Dorothy, and slapped her. After she fell down, he handcuffed her hands behind her back and handcuffed her legs together. He then shot her twice in the head.

Walters testified further that Bean returned to Florida at the Walters' expense in March 1981. Because she was "terrified" that Bean's partners might injure her if she did not pay them, Ann borrowed $5,000 from two friends. Wayne gave this money to Bean, and Bean indicated that the money would "keep them [his partners] quiet" and that they "won't hurt you . . . because they know they have me to deal with and I would kill them."

After Dorothy's body was discovered by a friend, upon being interrogated, the Walters confessed their participation in the crime.

Defendant was taken into custody on April 6, 1981, at his home. Detective Duffin testified that, when questioned at the police station, defendant replied that he had just "shot up" with heroin, and upon investigation, needle marks were found on ...

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