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07/27/89 the People of the State of v. Spencer Thomas

July 27, 1989

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

SPENCER THOMAS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT

FOLLOWING A JURY TRIAL, DEFENDANT WAS CONVICTED OF TWO COUNTS OF MURDER (ILL. RE

v.

STAT. 1983, CH. 38, PARS. 9-1(A)(1), 9-1(A)(2)) AND TWO COUNTS OF ARMED ROBBERY (ILL. REV. STAT. 1983, CH. 38, PAR. 18-2(A)). ON APPEAL, DEFENDANT ARGUES: (1) THE STATE FAILED TO PROVE HIM GUILTY BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT OF THE MURDER AND ARMED ROBBERY OF ONE OF THE VICTIMS;



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FOURTH DIVISION

542 N.E.2d 881, 186 Ill. App. 3d 782, 134 Ill. Dec. 535 1989.IL.1153

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. James M. Bailey, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE McMORROW delivered the opinion of the court. JIGANTI, P.J., and LINN, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE MCMORROW

(2) his post-arrest statements should have been suppressed because they were obtained as the result of an illegal, warrantless arrest;

(3) a conflict of interest arose where both defendant and his codefendant were represented by assistant Cook County public defenders;

(4) the trial court improperly questioned prospective jurors regarding their attitudes toward certain of defendant's basic constitutional protections;

(5) according to defendant's characterization of the record, the trial court improperly qualified its partial severance of defendant's trial from that of his co-defendant on the condition that, if defendant chose to testify at trial, defendant's jury would also hear his codefendant's testimony;

(6) prejudicial error resulted when a State's witness testified regarding a post-arrest statement made by defendant's codefendant, who did not testify at trial, to the effect that his codefendant's statement accused defendant of committing the crimes;

(7) prejudicial error resulted from the admission of State evidence to the effect that defendant committed prior criminal acts, when these acts were irrelevant to a material fact at trial;

(8) prejudicial error resulted from trial testimony that defendant's case was investigated by law enforcement officers of the gang crimes unit, since there was no evidence that defendant's association with his co-defendant or the victims was gang related and the critical issue in defendant's trial was his accountability for the acts of his codefendant;

(9) improper prosecutorial comments during closing argument deprived defendant of a fair trial; and

(10) the cumulative impact of these trial errors deprived defendant of a fair trial.

Finding defendant's arguments insufficient ground to disturb his convictions, we affirm.

Defendant and his codefendant, Edward Walker (hereafter Walker or codefendant), were tried in the same courtroom by separate juries, who heard only one defendant's statements but were otherwise present for the presentation of the remainder of the State's evidence. At defendant's trial, an officer of the Chicago police department testified that on December 15, 1983, he was assigned to check the well-being of residents at a single-family home located at 7720 South Luella in Chicago, Illinois. When the officer arrived, he entered the home through an unlocked back door to the house. In the kitchen, the officer found Frank Johnson (Johnson), who lived in the home with his wife, Evelyn. Johnson was clothed in pajamas and was apparently dead from gunshot wounds to the head and neck. A subsequent autopsy confirmed that Johnson died, probably immediately, from those wounds. The officer also found Evelyn Johnson in the basement of the home. She had been gagged and bound to a chair, was also clothed in pajamas, and was also apparently dead from gunshot wounds to the head. An autopsy subsequently confirmed that she had died from those wounds.

The officer discovered that various rooms of the house were in disarray and that a safe was open and empty. The Johnsons' automobile, a blue Lincoln, was not in the garage behind the home. A later search of the house by detectives of the Chicago police department revealed approximately six grams of cocaine in a cosmetic bag found in the dining room of the residence.

A few days thereafter detectives of the Chicago police department spoke to Charles Sajna (Sajna). At trial, Sajna stated that he had been friends with Johnson for approximately 10 years and that they "hustled" together, i.e., sold each other merchandise. Sajna stated that he also knew defendant's codefendant. Sajna testified that in 1983, Walker came to Sajna with some liquor that Walker wanted to sell. Sajna took Walker and the liquor to Johnson at the latter's warehouse at 79th and Essex. Johnson agreed to buy the liquor and drove with Sajna and Walker to Johnson's home at 77th and Luella. Johnson paid Sajna and Walker for the liquor at that time. Sajna testified that sometime in early or mid-December 1983, Johnson called Sajna and told Sajna that Johnson had "turned a tool deal" with Walker. During a later search of Johnson's warehouse, members of the Chicago police department discovered boxes of items that were determined to be the proceeds from robberies of a liquor truck and a Snap-On Tool truck.

Detectives of the Chicago police department also spoke to Billy Love (Love), who testified at trial that he knew Walker and had seen him a few weeks before Christmas in December 1983. Love stated that at that time, Walker was driving a blue Lincoln and wearing expensive jewelry, including a watch bearing the name "Frank Johnson." Love stated that Walker told Love that Walker had gone into a couple's home and taken the jewelry, "some powder and some money." A week later, Love testified, Walker picked up Love in the blue Lincoln and drove to an apartment at 65th and Lowe. Walker and Love took some stereo equipment from the apartment and transported it in Walker's car to the home of Walker's girl friend in Chicago Heights. A subsequent search of the apartment at 65th and Lowe by members of the Chicago police department revealed, inter alia, credit cards bearing the names of Frank and Evelyn Johnson.

Investigation by the Chicago police department detectives revealed that a document transferring title on the Johnsons' blue Lincoln from Johnson to Walker had been executed at a currency exchange in Chicago on December 14, 1983. An employee of the currency exchange testified at trial that Walker, whom she identified at trial, had executed the document in her presence at approximately 3 a.m. on December 14. The employee testified that she could not positively identify the person who had signed the name of Frank Johnson to the title transfer because this person was never clearly in her view during the transaction. A forensic document examiner of the Chicago police department testified at trial that, based on comparisons of handwriting samples of Frank Johnson and samples of handwriting given by defendant following his arrest, it was his opinion that defendant signed the name of Frank Johnson to the document executed at the currency exchange transferring title on the Lincoln from Frank Johnson to Walker.

Detectives of the Chicago police department obtained a warrant for Walker's arrest on January 4, 1984. Walker was arrested by officers of the Memphis, Tennessee, police department a few months later. While in custody in Memphis, Walker gave a tape-recorded statement regarding the Chicago incident to detectives of the Chicago police department. In that statement, Walker referred to defendant by a nickname, could not provide defendant's full name, and could give a description but no specific street address for defendant's residence. Based on Walker's statement, the detectives initiated further investigation which, on March 24, 1984, produced defendant's full name and specific home address. They arrested defendant that same afternoon in the backyard of his residence without an arrest warrant.

During a post-arrest interview following waiver of his Miranda rights at approximately 3:30 p.m. on March 24, Chicago detectives indicated to defendant that the detectives had spoken to Walker regarding the homicides. Defendant told the detectives that he knew nothing about the incident, that he did not know Walker, that he did not know the Johnsons, and that he had not been near the scene on the day of the incident. The detectives transported defendant to another police station and subsequently interviewed defendant again, following waiver of his Miranda rights, at approximately 6 p.m. The detectives told defendant that Walker had "made certain statements against him" regarding the incident. Defendant responded that he knew Walker, but that he did not believe Walker would make statements against him implicating him in the homicides. The detectives told defendant that Walker had "already told the whole story and he is applying [ sic ] that you [defendant] are part of it." ...


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