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12/28/88 the People of the State of v. Herman Lincoln Huffman

December 28, 1988





532 N.E.2d 556, 177 Ill. App. 3d 713, 126 Ill. Dec. 871 1988.IL.1902

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. Robert J. Steigmann, Judge, presiding.


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


Following a jury trial held on October 19 through 21, 1987, defendant Herman Lincoln Huffman was convicted of two counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 56 1/2, par. 1401(b)(2).) He was sentenced to concurrent eight-year terms of imprisonment on each count, ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $320, and fined $340. Huffman appeals, contending (1) evidence of his possible involvement in prior drug dealings was improperly admitted; (2) the circuit court improperly denied his motion for directed verdicts; (3) the circuit court improperly refused to instruct the jury concerning the possible impact of the drug addiction of an informant, who was one of the State's key witnesses, on the informant's credibility as a witness; and (4) the circuit court abused its discretion in imposing sentence.

The events which culminated in Huffman's arrest began when Christopher Ferguson, an airman at Chanute Air Force Base, got into trouble with the military authorities as a result of cocaine usage, writing insufficient funds checks, cashing stolen checks, and going AWOL. In the hope of obtaining a lesser amount of punishment for his misconduct, Ferguson agreed in the early part of 1987 to make undercover purchases of illegal drugs in cooperation with the military authorities and the Champaign police department.

The charges against Huffman stem from two controlled drug purchases which Ferguson made from Huffman at the Blue Island Tavern, following an unsuccessful effort by Ferguson to purchase drugs from Huffman at the same tavern on March 11, 1987. The first controlled purchase occurred on March 16, 1987, in a closed rest room stall in the tavern; the second occurred on the evening of April 8, 1987, beside a pinball machine in the pool table area of the tavern. Special agent Joseph Bates of the division of criminal investigation of the Illinois State Police accompanied Ferguson to the Blue Island Tavern on the evenings of both of the controlled drug purchases and posed as a fellow airman. While at the Blue Island Tavern, Bates and Ferguson made an effort to appear as normal customers of the tavern, and they danced and consumed alcoholic beverages.

According to the testimony of Ferguson and Bates, at the time of the first controlled drug purchase Ferguson and Huffman exchanged $160 for a substance which laboratory tests later established was cocaine behind the closed door of a rest room stall, and Ferguson handed Bates the cocaine which he had just purchased immediately upon exiting the stall. On the second occasion, Ferguson and Huffman exchanged $160 for a substance later identified as cocaine while standing on the other side of a pinball machine from Bates. Bates testified that at that time, he could see only the portions of Ferguson's and Huffman's bodies which were below their knees and above their waists. It appeared to Bates the two men were exchanging something at the time, but he could not tell what it was. Upon completion of the transaction, Ferguson returned directly to Bates from behind the pinball machine and handed him six packets of cocaine.

While testifying on his own behalf, Huffman acknowledged he and Ferguson were together in the rest room stall and beside the pinball machine at the times in question, but his testimony as to what transpired on those occasions conflicted with that of Ferguson. Huffman stated that in both instances Ferguson requested Huffman sell him cocaine, but he refused to do so. Huffman testified he became increasingly perturbed by Ferguson's repeated requests he sell Ferguson cocaine and stated that while standing by the pinball machine, he said to Ferguson, "I would appreciate it if you would get the fuck out of my face."

Huffman first asserts he was denied a fair trial because the circuit court erroneously admitted testimony which created the certain inference he was a drug dealer. Huffman contends admission of this evidence violated the principle that evidence of other crimes is generally inadmissible. This contention is based on the following portion of the State's redirect examination of Ferguson:

"Q. Airman Ferguson, you testified on cross examination that you did not list the Defendant's name when you originally reported whom you bought drugs from, is that correct?

A. That's correct.

Q. If that's the case, how did you know to approach him on March 11?

[Huffman's attorney]: Objection. [Proceedings out of presence of jury.]

Q. Airman Ferguson, on cross examination, [Huffman's attorney] asked you about a list that you gave OSI [the Air Force Office of Special Investigation] in November of '86, that contained the names of persons whom you had purchased drugs from directly, is that correct?

A. That's correct.

Q. And, you indicated that the Defendant, Herman Lincoln Huffman, was [not] on that list, is that correct?

A. That's correct.

Q. Were there other names mentioned in November of '86?

A. Yes.

[Huffman's attorney]: Objection. It exceeds the scope of cross examination.

THE COURT: Well, no, I don't believe so. Overruled. You may answer, or the answer may stand. You may continue.

MS. HIRSCH: I didn't hear the answer.

A. Yes.

Q. Were there names of persons whom you had seen sell narcotics to others?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you tell OSI about those people?

A. Yes."

(Huffman asserts the omission of the bracketed word "not" from the above portion of the transcript of the proceedings at his trial was an error on the part of the court reporter. The State does not dispute this contention.)

The State contends that it was properly permitted to introduce evidence which created an inference Ferguson had engaged in prior drug dealings, because otherwise the jury would have been left with an uncontested inference Ferguson and Bates selected Huffman at random as a person to be charged with illegal drug dealing. The State contends adequate precautionary measures were taken to ensure Huffman was not unduly prejudiced by this testimony, since no evidence was admitted which specifically named Huffman as an individual who had engaged in prior illegal drug transactions. The State concludes the testimony at issue could have benefited and harmed each side equally and, therefore, the circuit court's admission of this evidence was proper or was at least harmless error.

In his reply brief, Huffman asserts the circuit court granted a motion in limine to exclude any testimony regarding Ferguson's knowledge of prior drug sales on the part of Huffman. Huffman contends (without citation of authority) exceptions to the rule barring the admission of other ...

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