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03/30/94 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. OLIVER SIMS

March 30, 1994

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
OLIVER SIMS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Dennis A. Dernbach, Judge Presiding.

Greiman, Tully, Cerda

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Greiman

JUSTICE GREIMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

Following a jury trial, defendant Oliver Sims was convicted of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 38, par. 24-1.1(a)), and sentenced to five years' imprisonment. Defendant now urges this court to reverse his conviction on grounds that: (1) he was improperly seized without a warrant or probable cause, or reasonable suspicion that he had committed a crime; (2) the State failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; (3) the State improperly cross-examined a defense witness; (4) the trial court improperly limited the duties of the court-appointed standby counsel; and (5) the trial court improperly allowed the State's chief witness to give his opinion as to the meaning of defendant's statements.

We affirm the trial court.

Defendant was charged by information with unlawful use of a weapon by a felon (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 38, par. 24-1.1(a)), and two other offenses which were tried separately and are not a part of the present appeal.

Prior to trial on the unlawful use of a weapon charge, defendant requested that he be allowed to serve as co-counsel with an attorney appointed by the court. The trial court advised defendant that if he decided to proceed pro se, the court would appoint standby counsel to answer questions at trial but would not permit defendant to proceed as co-counsel with the attorney. The court repeatedly explained this matter to defendant, and defendant insisted that he wished to represent himself. After the court determined that defendant understood his rights and made a knowing waiver of counsel, the case proceeded to trial.

The events leading to defendant's conviction occurred on February 11, 1991 at approximately 9 p.m., when Chicago Police Officers Herman Vazquez, David Hernandez and Anna Gall were assisting Officers Francis Higgins and James O'Grady apprehend a homicide suspect believed to be at an apartment owned by Betsy Ford. Officer Higgins testified that he had been to the apartment several times before and that each time Ford had allowed him to enter and, on this occasion, Ford had allowed the officers to enter after responding to their knock at the door.

Ford testified that she opened the door only after the officers had broken the windows and then kicked on the door. However, at a previous suppression hearing, Ford testified that anyone could enter her apartment since the windows did not lock.

After the police entered the apartment, they attempted to detain and identify the approximately nine adults and several children discovered on the premises. Two of the men inside the apartment, Tony Robinson and Warren Watkins, later testified for the defense that after the police entered the apartment they began to destroy Ford's furniture including her television. Officer Higgins denied that the officers harmed Ford's property.

Shortly thereafter, Officer Hernandez, who was dressed in plain clothes, responded to a knock at the door and, after opening the door, observed defendant with a woman later identified as his girl friend, Carla Crenshaw. Defendant testified that Hernandez' gun was drawn when he opened the door; however, Hernandez denied this allegation. Defendant began to run from the apartment, and Hernandez followed him on suspicion of defendant's possible involvement with the homicide under investigation. Defendant continued running despite Hernandez' several calls of "police, stop" until he attempted to hide behind a utility shed. When Hernandez located defendant behind the shed, he drew his gun but then replaced the weapon in its holster as soon as he realized that defendant was unarmed. Hernandez then led defendant back to Ford's apartment where the other officers would have an opportunity to discuss the ongoing homicide investigation with defendant.

Defendant testified that he ran from the apartment because he believed Hernandez was a Hispanic gang member robbing Ford's apartment. Defendant stated Hernandez threatened to shoot him during the chase, and that he stopped running and raised his hands in the air when he realized that he was being pursued by a police officer. Defendant also asserted that, upon being detained, Hernandez struck him in the face, held a gun to his head and forcibly escorted him to the apartment. This instance of violence is not corroborated. Moreover, Officer Higgins testified that he saw Officer Hernandez' gun in its holster when Hernandez and defendant returned to Ford's apartment.

During defendant's absence, Officer Gall detained Carla Crenshaw in the apartment when she exhibited signs of fleeing the scene. Officer Gall performed a protective pat-down search on Crenshaw and discovered a loaded .38 caliber revolver tucked into her waistband. Warren Watkins testified that he heard Crenshaw inform the officers that the gun belonged to defendant. Crenshaw testified that she purchased the gun for $100 from a female friend but did not receive a receipt, and never registered the weapon.

Officer Gall recovered the gun from Crenshaw and then placed her under arrest and handcuffed her. Shortly thereafter, Officer O'Grady searched Crenshaw's apartment, located in the same building as Ford's apartment, and found defendant's briefcase containing an ...


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