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06/16/88 the People of the State of v. James R. Johnson

June 16, 1988





525 N.E.2d 546, 170 Ill. App. 3d 828, 121 Ill. Dec. 488 1988.IL.944

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. John R. DeLaMar, Judge, presiding.


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


Following a jury trial, the defendant was convicted of driving while license was suspended (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 95 1/2, par. 6-303) and was sentenced to a term of 180 days' incarceration. The defendant appeals, arguing: (1) the evidence, which was purely circumstantial, was insufficient to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) he was denied due process of law where the State precluded evidence regarding lack of notice of the suspension of his driving privileges; and (3) the prosecutor committed reversible error by commenting on his post-arrest silence.

At trial, Robert Steer, deputy sheriff of Champaign County, testified that on April 12, 1987, at approximately 8 p.m., he responded to a radio dispatch of an accident with injuries. The accident had occurred at a T-intersection of two country roads located at 2400 N and 1300 E in Champaign County.

According to Steer, it was a clear night. As he approached the scene he witnessed a motorcycle lying in a field and three people standing nearby. One of the individuals was the defendant, who was covered with mud and blood. The remaining two individuals informed the officer that they had come upon the scene after the accident had occurred. They told Steer they found the defendant lying face down in the mud. The defendant had received minor injuries to his head. The keys to the motorcycle were still in the ignition.

Troy Daniels, deputy sheriff of Champaign County, arrived on the scene shortly after Steer. Shortly after Daniels arrived, an ambulance came and took the defendant to Burnham Hospital. Daniels proceeded to measure the scene of the accident. He described the ground as muddy and the area as rural. After completing the accident investigation, Daniels proceeded to the hospital to speak with the defendant.

As Daniels entered the hospital, the defendant was being released from emergency. Daniels approached the defendant and spoke directly to him. Daniels was in possession of the defendant's boots, which were in a plastic bag. As Daniels gave the defendant his boots, the defendant asked if he could put them on. Daniels stated that he looked at the boots and informed the defendant that they were very muddy. The defendant replied, "I just flipped my bike into a muddy field." At the time this conversation occurred, Daniels, who was in uniform, had identified himself as an officer of the law.

Daniels then placed the defendant under arrest for driving without a license, cuffed the defendant, and took him to his squad car. The defendant was taken to headquarters where he was given his Miranda warnings and questioned about the incident. The defendant, however, refused to answer any questions.

The State then introduced an abstract from the Secretary of State's office which indicated the defendant's license was suspended on April 12, 1987.

The defense presented Charlie Gaines, a friend of both the defendant and his girlfriend, Sheila Rosemeir. Gaines stated that he lives next door to Rosemeir and the defendant. According to Gaines, he had been at Rosemeir's residence on the evening of April 12 at approximately 7 p.m. At that time, Rosemeir received a phone call from the defendant. Rosemeir then informed Gaines that she needed to go to Rantoul to pick up the defendant. April Johnson, the defendant's sister-in-law, corroborated this testimony. Johnson was also present at Rosemeir's residence on the evening of April 12. Johnson stated that Rosemeir left after receiving a phone call from the defendant.

Murrell Heath, a friend of the defendant, testified that on April 12, 1987, the defendant was working at his home in Rantoul. At approximately 5:30 the men stopped working, and at 7 p.m. the defendant called Rosemeir to obtain a ride home. According to Heath, Rosemeir arrived shortly thereafter. She was driving a motorcycle. She picked up the defendant and the two left. According to Heath, defendant was riding on the back of the cycle.

Sheila Rosemeir testified that she has been living with the defendant for approximately one year. On April 12, 1987, at approximately 7 p.m., she went to Rantoul in response to defendant's request for a ride home. After picking up the defendant, they came upon an intersection where there was a T in the road. Rosemeir hit the brakes, slid in the gravel, and lost control of the motorcycle. The motorcycle went into the ditch and the defendant was thrown from the bike. Rosemeir stated that she was bruised, but received no other injuries. The defendant, however, was injured. As a result, Rosemeir went in search of help for the defendant. Rosemeir claimed she started walking westward and was eventually picked up by a middle-aged couple who drove her into town. Rosemeir admitted that she did not call an ambulance or the police, but proceeded home and then returned to the scene to retrieve ...

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