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06/28/88 the People of the State of v. Harry L. Wright

June 28, 1988





525 N.E.2d 1165, 171 Ill. App. 3d 573, 121 Ill. Dec. 858 1988.IL.1012

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Richland County; the Hon. Laurence L. Arnold, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE KARNS delivered the opinion of the court. WELCH and LEWIS, JJ., concur.


Defendant, Harry L. Wright, was convicted in a jury trial of attempted murder and sentenced by the circuit court of Richland County to serve a 30-year sentence consecutively to two 15-year sentences imposed in another proceeding. Defendant appeals. We affirm.

In the early afternoon of June 13, 1984, Ernest Johnson, a State policeman, was patrolling the Clay County area. He heard a dispatch that Marion County authorities were seeking a green or blue Plymouth, with rear end damage, that was being driven by a tall, gray-haired man wearing a blue shirt and cap. At about 1:30 p.m., Johnson spotted in the Flora area a man wiping off the rear of a car similar to the one described in the dispatch. Johnson noted the license number on the car, but when he circled back to check for rear end damage, the car was gone. Johnson stopped at a gas station and told Sergeant Norman Rinehart, a State trooper on duty in Flora, about the car. The two officers began searching for the car. Rinehart located the car at a Wal-Mart parking lot. When Johnson reached the lot, he saw a green Plymouth driving out at a high speed pursued by Rinehart. Johnson activated his siren and the red lights on top of his car and followed Rinehart. The green Plymouth went south to U.S. Route 50 and headed east. During the chase, the three cars drove at speeds up to 100 miles per hour.

At one point during the chase, Johnson saw the driver of the green Plymouth stick a rifle out his car window. The wind, however, kept catching it until the driver pulled it back inside the car.

At about three-quarters of a mile west of Illinois Route 130, the Richland County deputies set up a roadblock. The driver of the Plymouth swerved through the roadblock and stopped approximately 200 feet down the road. Apparently one of the deputies' shots severed the battery cable on the car, thereby disabling it. The driver, defendant, stepped out of the green Plymouth with a pistol, a rifle, and a red object in his hands. Johnson and Rinehart, who had stopped next to defendant's car, ordered defendant to place the weapons back in his car. After about 15 seconds of looking back and forth from Rinehart to Johnson, defendant put the weapons on the seat of his car and went over to the curb and sat down. On his way to jail, defendant stated, "It is a shame a man has to make a living with a gun, but the law makes me do it."

Rinehart testified when he found the green Plymouth in the Wal-Mart parking lot, he pulled in front of it, opened his car door, partially stepped out and said to the driver, "Sir, I need to talk to you." The driver, dressed in a blue or green shirt and wearing a cap, did not answer. Instead the driver started his car, backed up and drove out of the lot. Rinehart followed in his car. By the time the cars reached U.S. 50, Rinehart had activated his siren, alternating headlights and alternating red lights in the grille.

About 1 1/2 miles west of Clay City, Rinehart saw the driver point a silver-colored automatic pistol out the window at him. Rinehart was then 50 to 75 feet behind the Plymouth. He heard three shots. Further down the road, the driver fired two more shots at Rinehart. The driver then stuck a rifle out the car window, but was unable to control it because of the high speed. After the chase had ended, Rinehart inspected his car and found a perfectly round indentation with the paint chipped away above one of the headlights. Rinehart also testified that during the chase, an object struck his windshield which had a greater velocity and more of a "dead" sound than a rock striking a windshield.

Defendant testified at trial on his own behalf and painted a very different picture of the incident. According to defendant, during 1979 and 1980, he tried to help the Salem police apprehend a drug pusher. The pusher turned out to be a psychiatrist who could not be arrested because he was authorized to write prescriptions. The psychiatrist let defendant know he was aware that defendant had turned him in and began to watch him. In March of 1984, the psychiatrist no longer came to defendant's neighborhood. Defendant became apprehensive because he realized that if he were to be harmed, it would occur after the psychiatrist left town. Defendant believed the psychiatrist might be connected to the Mafia.

On June 13, defendant decided to go to Wal-Mart to buy a shirt. On the way, he stopped to check his laundry in the trunk of the car. As he was looking through his laundry, he spilled some oil from a can onto his bumper. He was wiping off the bumper when Johnson drove by. Defendant then proceeded on to the store.

Upon returning to the parking lot from inside Wal-Mart, defendant noticed a car stop in front of his. Because of a glare on his windshield, defendant could not see the car very well. He thought he saw, however, a man slumped over the steering wheel, fumbling with something on the floor. He also noticed the driver's door open about one inch. Defendant realized he did not know this man who called out to him. According to defendant, the word "dope" screamed in his mind and he decided he had to get out of the lot. Defendant knew he was being chased, but did not see any emergency lights or hear any sirens. He thought the man in the car was going to shoot him. Defendant began shooting at the car, trying to hit the car's radiator to make it stop. He also tried to use a rifle, but was unable to control it. At this point, defendant noticed a second car, which to him appeared to be a station wagon with luggage racks on top, chasing him. As defendant approached Olney, Illinois, he saw a line of cars ahead of him. Defendant believed an accident had occurred although he saw no police cars or uniforms as he went around the scene. Defendant decided to stop to see if he could be of assistance when he heard gunfire. His car went dead and coasted to a stop. Defendant got out of the car and found two officers with drawn weapons facing him. He was stunned and could not ...

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