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12/10/87 the People of the State of v. Lawyer Pace

December 10, 1987

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

LAWYER PACE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT. -- THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

CHRISTOPHER



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FOURTH DISTRICT

ROBINSON, Defendant-Appellant

517 N.E.2d 299, 163 Ill. App. 3d 1012, 115 Ill. Dec. 97 1987.IL.1821

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Livingston County; the Hon. William T. Caisley, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE McCULLOUGH delivered the opinion of the court. KNECHT and SPITZ, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE MCCULLOUGH

On March 14, 1986, Philip Wilken, a correctional officer at Pontiac Correctional Center, was stabbed by inmates, receiving serious injuries. Selwyn Page and Selma Geder were indicted on various counts of attempt (murder), aggravated battery, and armed violence. Their cases were consolidated for trial. Defendants Lawyer Pace and Christopher Robinson were charged with various counts of conspiracy to commit murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, pars. 8-2(a), 9-1(a)(1)), conspiracy to commit aggravated battery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, pars. 8-2(a), 12-4(b)(6)), solicitation to commit murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, pars. 8-1(a), 9-1(a)(1)), and solicitation to commit aggravated battery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch, 38, pars. 8-1(a), 12-4(b)(6)). The jury returned verdicts of guilty and the court entered a judgment of conviction on one count of conspiracy to commit aggravated battery for each defendant. The defendants were each sentenced to a term of six years to be served consecutively to their current prison terms.

The defendants appeal their conviction and in support thereof argue: (1) they were not proved guilty of conspiracy to commit aggravated battery beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) they were denied effective assistance of counsel; (3) the trial court improperly excluded identification testimony; and (4) the prosecutor committed reversible error by commenting on witnesses' fear of retaliation. We affirm.

As the facts of this case were discussed at great length in the Disposition of co-defendants Selma Geder and Selwyn Page (People v. Page (1987), 163 Ill. App. 3d 959), only those pertinent to this Disposition shall be reiterated. Additionally, issues (3) and (4) were disposed of in the codefendants' Disposition. Consequently, we shall only address defendants' arguments concerning reasonable doubt and ineffective assistance of counsel.

REASONABLE DOUBT

The defendants Pace and Robinson maintain their convictions were based upon the uncorroborated testimony of Wilbert Cooley, an accomplice, and thus cannot stand.

A criminal conviction will not be set aside on appeal unless the evidence is so improbable or unsatisfactory that it creates a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt. (People v. Collins (1985), 106 Ill. 2d 237, 261, 478 N.E.2d 267, 278.) The Illinois Supreme Court has adopted the standard enunciated in Jackson v. Virginia (1979), 443 U.S. 307, 319, 61 L. Ed. 2d 560, 573, 99 S. Ct. 2781, 2789, which provides that evidence must be viewed "in the light most favorable to the prosecution" and if "any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt" the conviction must be affirmed. (443 U.S. at 319, 61 L. Ed. 2d at 573, 99 S. Ct. at 2789; Collins, 106 Ill. 2d at 261, 478 N.E.2d at 278.) Additionally, upon review, "'all of the evidence is to be considered in the light most favorable to the prosecution.'" (Emphasis omitted.) Collins, 106 Ill. 2d at 261, 478 N.E.2d at 278, quoting Jackson v. Virginia (1979), 443 U.S. 307, 319, 61 L. Ed. 2d 560, 573, 99 S. Ct. 2781, 2789.

The testimony of an accomplice, either corroborated or uncorroborated, can be sufficient to sustain a conviction if the jury is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. (People v. Newell (1984), 103 Ill. 2d 465, 469 N.E.2d 1375; People v. Wilson (1977), 66 Ill. 2d 346, 362 N.E.2d 291.) Whether such testimony forms a sufficient basis for conviction goes to the weight of the evidence. As such, it is properly a function within the province of the jury. Newell, 103 Ill. 2d 465, 469 N.E.2d 1375; Wilson, 66 Ill. 2d 346, 362 N.E.2d 291.

Although accomplice testimony is competent, it is often fraught with serious problems. The accomplice may have been promised leniency or harbor ill will towards the accused. Consequently, it only should be accepted with the utmost caution and subjected to the highest scrutiny. Newell, 103 Ill. 2d 465, 469 ...


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