Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County. No. 93CF0746. Honorable Sue E. Myerscough, Judge Presiding.
Honorable Frederick S. Green, J., Honorable James A. Knecht, P.j., Honorable John T. McCULLOUGH, J., Concurring.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Green
JUSTICE GREEN delivered the opinion of the court:
On January 28, 1994, following a jury trial in the circuit court of Sangamon County, defendant Kevin D. Armstrong was convicted of the offense of robbery (720 ILCS 5/18-1 (West 1992)). He was acquitted of a charge of armed robbery. He was subsequently sentenced to a term of three years' imprisonment. Defendant maintains on appeal he was denied his right to a fair trial when the prosecution made improper comments about the defendant during closing argument. We affirm.
As no question is raised as to the sufficiency of the evidence to support the verdict, we discuss the evidence only in a very summary fashion. Perry Dalsin testified that on the evening of November 11, 1993, at about 9:45 p.m. as he was approaching his home, a man with a hood over his head approached him, drew a gun and demanded his money. Dalsin stated that he gave the man his wallet. Others testified they saw the episode, came to help Dalsin, chased a person they had seen pushing Dalsin to the ground, and lost sight of him. They then came upon defendant, who appeared to be out of breath, stopped him, and the police came and took defendant into custody. Defendant testified that he was on his way home from playing basketball when he was stopped. He denied committing the robbery. Evidence was introduced in rebuttal to show that defendant had been convicted of two prior felonies.
The first sequence of allegedly improper closing argument made by the prosecutor occurred during the prosecution's first portion of closing argument as follows:
"Finally, we need to consider the credibility of the defendant himself who has two prior felony convictions. Now, that--Judge Myerscough will instruct you the evidence that a witness has been convicted of an offense may be considered by you only as it may affect the believability of the witness. Ladies and gentlemen, what motive will the defendant have for not telling the truth today? The defendant has every motive in the world for not telling the truth. He is facing felony charges. He has every motive to lie. Ladies and gentlemen, the evidence is compelling. The evidence is--
MR. MILLER: Your Honor, I'm going to object to this statement that my client has every motive to lie. I think that that is beyond reasonable argument; and it's prejudicial and inflammatory; and it's not proper to make that kind of comment.
THE COURT: Your objection is overruled. You may continue.
MR. PAGE: Thank you, Your Honor.
Ladies and gentlemen, the evidence is compelling. The evidence is conclusive against the defendant Kevin Armstrong. Therefore, we would ask that you do justice in this case and you find the defendant guilty as charged. Thank you.
THE COURT: Thank you, Mr. Page."
The second passage occurred during the rebuttal portion of the State's closing argument. The State argued as follows:
"The question is who did it? Was it this defendant? The evidence leaves no doubt whatsoever that Kevin Armstrong is the man, is the robber who robbed Perry Dalsin. We have the two positive, positive I.D.s from Dawn Leutenmayer and Larry Ritz. Were they ...