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03/31/87 the People of the State of v. David B. Pruitt

March 31, 1987

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

DAVID B. PRUITT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF MADISON COUNTY; THE HON. CHARLES

v.

ROMANI, JR., JUDGE, PRESIDING. APPELLATE JUDGES:



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIFTH DISTRICT

506 N.E.2d 696, 154 Ill. App. 3d 22, 106 Ill. Dec. 896 1987.IL.399

JUSTICE JONES delivered the opinion of the court. KASSERMAN and HARRISON, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE JONES

At trial witnesses for the State testified that the body of the victim, Bryan Keeney, a police officer with the Fairmont City police department, was found at 6:30 a.m. on November 4, 1984, lying on its back beside his squad car on the grounds of the Cahokia Mounds State Park (park). The squad car was facing south, its lights on and engine running. The door on the passenger's side was open, whereas the door on the driver's side was closed. The body of the victim was lying parallel to the squad car with its head to the south and feet to the north. A spent projectile that had, according to the ballistics expert, been fired from the gun borrowed by the defendant on the date in question was found on the ground about 202 feet south of the squad car at about 3:47 p.m. that same day. The projectile, which was "jacketed" with copper and tested positive for the presence of blood, could not, according to the expert, have been fired from any other weapon. The ammunition found in the victim's service revolver, still in its holster, was not jacketed. The victim's service revolver was a Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum, Model 66. The victim's uniform was orderly. Blood matching that of the victim was found on the inside of the door on the driver's side of the squad car and near the edge of the driver's seat next to the door on the driver's side; some blood had run onto the floor of the backseat on the driver's side and had pooled there. There was a large amount of blood on the pavement near the victim. Spots and streaks of blood were found on the outside of the door on the driver's side and on the roof and trunk of the car. Analysis of the blood of the victim, the defendant, and the defendant's wife revealed that the blood on the roof of the car was consistent with that of the victim but could not have come from either the defendant or his wife. There was no testimony concerning the source of the spots of blood found on the trunk of the squad car. No blood was found on the front seat on the passenger's side or on the backseat of the squad car. The fingerprints of the defendant were found on the outside of the squad car, and those of his wife were found on both the inside and the outside of the car.

The pathologist who performed the autopsy stated that the entrance wound was located slightly to the left of the midline of the victim's forehead and the exit wound was in the left occipital area at the back of the head. The path of the bullet that caused the victim's death was from the left forehead "slightly downward" and to the left. Three small metal fragments were found in the brain of the victim. The cause of death was a "contact gunshot wound to the forehead and damage to the brain." A contact wound is one in which the barrel of the weapon is in contact with the skin of the victim. The site of the entrance wound of the victim here was devoid of powder residue, and the entrance wound was star-shaped with irregular edges, indicative of a "tight" contact wound, in which no powder residue is present on the skin about the wound, the powder residue having been carried under the skin.

On the date in question the defendant was employed as a nighttime security guard working in East St. Louis. For purposes of his employment he carried a Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum, Model 586, revolver, borrowed from his father, David J. Pruitt, who at the time was employed as a police officer by the Fairmont City police department. No ammunition was in this weapon when it was seized by police from the defendant's father on the morning of November 4, 1984, after the defendant's wife had returned it to his father. Lt. Salvador Mora, who had worked with the victim as a policeman for three years, testified that he had never known the victim to carry any weapon other than his service revolver.

The defendant called as a witness his wife, Sharon Pruitt, who testified on direct examination that she and the victim had had an ongoing sexual relationship since May of 1984 and that after midnight on November 4, 1984, while driving she met the victim on the parking lot of the Venture store in Fairmont City. The two drove in separate cars, he being in his squad car, to the park, which was, the testimony showed, outside of the jurisdiction of the Fairmont City police department although the victim was on duty at the time. At the park they talked while still in their cars. The witness stated that her car was about a foot from the squad car, facing in the opposite direction; the window of the door on the driver's side of each car was down so that the two could converse. After about 20 minutes, she got into the front seat of the squad car on the passenger's side. He placed a revolver, which he had on his person at his back, and a flashlight on the dashboard. The victim remained fully clothed, although the witness was in a state of partial undress when she observed her husband drive into the park, stop his car, and approach the squad car on foot. The victim got out of the squad car and closed the door; she opened the door on the passenger's side. She indicated that when her husband got out of his car, she "grabbed the gun that was on the dashboard to prevent anything -- try to prevent anything from happening." She said the defendant "grabbed my right arm" and the victim "grabbed for the gun with -- and he had my hand." The victim and the defendant were, she said, both pulling on her. The dome light was not on. "The gun went off and I dropped it and Bo [defendant] continued to pull me out of the car," whereupon she landed on the ground. She described the victim as having "both arms in the window." He was, she said, "leaning into the car" and had "slumped on the open window of his car." She stated that the defendant touched the victim on the shoulder and told him to get up and that the body then slumped to the ground. She got into her car through the open window, the defendant lifted the victim's arm with his foot so that she could drive away, and she did so. She said that after washing her car at her home, she returned to the scene at about 3 a.m. to retrieve her coat, which she had left in the squad car. When she took the jacket, she said, she took the gun that had been placed on the dashboard as well and, while driving over a bridge, threw the gun out the window on the passenger's side into the Mississippi River. After her husband finished working at 6 a.m., they returned to the scene at about 6:30 a.m. and arrived home at about 7 a.m., where her husband removed the bullets from the gun, placing them in a cup. She attempted to return the gun to his father, but, finding that his parents had not yet arisen, she washed her car at a car wash, returning the gun to his father later that morning. She said that after having spent three days in jail concerning the homicide, she removed the bullets from the cup at her home and took them to the defendant's father.

On cross-examination the witness stated that she had given the police three statements under oath in the case: "I gave one when I was arrested. I gave one to get out of jail. And I gave the truth, the last one." On November 4, 1984, at about 12:15 p.m. she gave a signed statement under oath to police in which she said, inter alia, that about a month earlier her husband had found her and the victim together at the park. She stated that she had met the victim at the Venture store in Fairmont City at about 12:15 a.m. and had talked with him in his squad car until about 12:45 a.m., when she left. According to that statement, she had not seen the victim thereafter. She was arrested around midnight on November 5, 1984, for obstructing Justice and was transported to jail by Deputy Arnotti of the Madison County sheriff's department. Asked, "And you don't remember telling him that they were trying to pin a murder on me that my husband committed?" she answered in the negative. The witness testified that, in the presence of her lawyer, she had given another written statement under oath on November 6, 1984, in exchange for immunity from prosecution on charges related to the homicide. In this statement the witness said that she had followed the victim in her own car to the park, arriving there at about 12:30 a.m. She was in a state of partial undress when her husband approached in his car. Her husband stopped his car in front of the squad car, and she got out of the car. Her husband, she said,

"grabbed me by the hair of the head and threw me on the ground. He was calling me all kinds of names like slut and whore. I have never seen him like that before. He was very hostile. He had his gun out of his holster and in his hand. Bo walked around the back of Bryan's car and came up to him on the driver's side. Bo still had the gun in his hand. I could see Bo from his hips up but could only see Bryan from the neck up because of the car."

She continued her account in this statement by saying:

"I heard Bo tell Bryan to take his gun belt off. Bo was yelling at Bryan about us being together. Bryan was trying to calm him down. I heard Bryan tell Bo there was no need for a gun and to put it away. Bo still had the gun in his hand. I was looking at Bryan. I heard a shot. I didn't see Bo pull the trigger. Bryan fell into his car, and when Bo touched him, he fell to the ground. I started screaming. Bo told me to get in my car."

At trial the witness asserted that this account was false, given for the purpose of obtaining her release from jail. She admitted that on January 14, 1985, during a conversation with Agent Bivens of the Illinois Division of Criminal Investigation, she had stated that she had not removed any weapon of any kind from the scene or seen anyone else remove one. At trial she stated that she had not been truthful on that occasion or in the giving of the prior statements set forth above.

On March 20, 1985, the witness gave another written statement under oath concerning the events of November 4, 1984, given, she indicated, in order to clear her conscience. In this statement the witness said that she and the victim had driven to the park, where she got into the squad car. While they were fondling one another, she said, he "took his service revolver and flashlight and put them on the dashboard." At trial she said that it was not his service revolver that he placed on the dashboard but another gun that he was carrying, which he removed by reaching behind himself with his left hand. She testified at trial that the part of the statement referring to the service revolver was not true. His service revolver remained in its holster on his person, she said at trial. About 2:15 a.m., according to the statement, her husband drove into the park. The account she gave in this statement of how the shooting occurred was essentially like the one she gave on direct examination at trial. She said that she reached for and clasped the gun on the dashboard because she "wanted to keep the gun away from Bryan because I was afraid he would use it to shoot Bo." She said the victim "reached inside and grabbed my left hand. I had the gun in that hand holding it by the butt. Then Bryan reached in with his other hand. He was inside the driver's side window up past his shoulders. His head was inside, too." She stated further, "Bryan kept pulling on my hand and the gun went off. Bryan was hanging inside of the car." When he fell his head was inside the car; when the defendant touched his body, he fell to the ground. She drove from the scene to her home, where she washed blood from her car. At about 3 a.m., according to the statement, she returned to the scene for her coat, which she retrieved from the squad car. In this statement the witness said, "When the gun went off, I dropped it on the seat. I heard a clunk noise. I don't know what happened to it after that." She testified at trial that she had not told anyone she had thrown the gun in the river until "[a] couple of days" earlier and indicated that she had forgotten to include in the statement of March 20, 1985, the fact that she had disposed of the gun. In the statement of March 20, 1985, she said, "Later that morning, Bo made a statement that he had fired his gun but he didn't say where." On redirect examination she seemed to indicate that six bullets were removed from the defendant's gun. She maintained that the account given by her at trial was the true account of the circumstances of Bryan Keeney's death.

Robert Stephenson, who is a private investigator and an acquaintance of the victim and friend of the defendant's family, testified for the defendant that the victim carried a snub-nosed .357 Magnum in his belt at the back and that the ...


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