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12/04/87 the People of the State of v. A. C. Norwood

December 4, 1987





518 N.E.2d 246, 164 Ill. App. 3d 699, 115 Ill. Dec. 721 1987.IL.1788

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Arthur J. Cieslik, Judge, presiding.


PRESIDING JUSTICE SULLIVAN delivered the opinion of the court. LORENZ and MURRAY, JJ., concur.


Following a jury trial, defendant, A. C. Norwood, was found guilty of criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse and was sentenced to serve 12 years in the Department of Corrections. On appeal, he contends that he was denied a fair trial by the State's failure to produce before trial a note allegedly written by him to his daughter (complainant herein); that the court abused its discretion in denying him a continuance to have the note examined by a handwriting expert; that the court erred in denying his motion in limine to exclude evidence of his 14-year-old manslaughter conviction; that the court erred in admitting complainant's prior consistent statement and in ruling on various other questions of evidence; that the State engaged in improper cross-examination; and that his sentence was excessive.

Complainant, 14-year-old Latisha Norwood 1 of 11 children, testified that sometime between March 17 and March 25, 1985, her father, defendant, came into her bedroom while she was sleeping and put his fingers into her vagina. Upon awakening and seeing what her father was doing, she got out of bed and went into the bathroom, where she sat on the floor for 45 minutes. When she came out, defendant was downstairs sleeping. At the time of the incident, her sister Tammy and her 13-year-old nephew Ronnie were also sleeping in the same room. Neither awoke.

When Latisha went back to bed, she awakened Tammy but did not tell her what had happened. Two days later, she told a neighbor that her father had been "messing with her." The neighbor advised her to tell her sister (it is not clear which sister she was referring to) but the neighbor did not mention the complaint to any member of Latisha's family even though she often visited them. Latisha never told her sister what had happened.

Latisha also testified that on September 3, 1985, her father gave her a hand-printed note which apparently contained an obscene message. (The note, the second one she had received from defendant, was not included in the record on appeal.) She took the note to her neighbor, who told her to find her sister. Latisha gave the note to her sister Laverne, who promised to do something but did nothing. Six days later, Latisha called the DCFS hotline and the police arrested defendant the next day. In court, Latisha identified the note, which Laverne had given to the police, and her father's printing.

On cross-examination, Latisha admitted that she could not accept family discipline, that she stayed out late and did not come home on time, that she did not pay attention to her parents or older sisters, disobeyed them and lied to them. On redirect, Latisha admitted further that she frequently lied but stated that she was telling the truth in court.

After he was arrested, defendant admitted that he had sexually molested his daughter and had written the note. He said that he had been under great pressure taking care of his large family since his wife had been hospitalized for a stroke in January 1985 and that he had been drinking when the act occurred. He said that he was sorry about what had happened and that he needed help. Defendant signed a written summary of the interview prepared by an assistant State's Attorney.

At trial, defendant denied that he had touched his daughter or had written the note. According to defendant, the arresting officers took him to the police station for questioning and told him that it would take only a few minutes. Once there, they told him that his daughter had filed a complaint against him but they did not specify the nature of the complaint. Instead, they asked him if he had "a problem." Defendant told them that since his wife's stroke, he had been under a great deal of stress and pressure working and caring for his 11 children. Defendant admitted that he had a problem but explained at trial that he had been referring to a drinking problem, not a sexual one. Defendant stated that Latisha was the only one of his children who "didn't want to mind" and often violated his curfew.

Defendant testified further that one officer told him that he was going to prepare a statement for him to sign and that if he signed it, he could go home the next morning and a Judge would refer him for counselling or other help if he needed it. Defendant signed the statement without reading it. He was then shown the note, which he denied writing. On cross-examination, however, defendant admitted that he had told the police that he had written the note.

After the denial of his motion in limine to exclude evidence as to his 14-year-old manslaughter conviction, defendant testified on direct examination that he had been convicted of involuntary manslaughter upon a plea of guilty in May 1974, and had been imprisoned in the penitentiary until he was paroled in September 1974. The presentence investigation report discloses that in December 1971, defendant pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced ...

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