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March 21, 1996


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 91-CR-0193. Honorable James A. Zafiratos, Frank DeBoni, Judges Presiding.

The Honorable Justice Theis delivered the opinion of the court: Cahill and S. O'brien, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Theis

JUSTICE THEIS delivered the opinion of the court:

Following a jury trial, the defendant, Alonzo Bryant, was found guilty of armed robbery. At sentencing, the trial court determined that he was an habitual criminal and sentenced him to natural life in prison. See 720 ILCS 5/33B-1 (West 1992). The principal issues presented for our review are: (1) whether the trial court's response to a jury note requesting all written reports entered as evidence by the defense constitutes reversible error; (2) whether allowing the State, under the Habitual Criminal Act ("Act") (720 ILCS 5/33B-1 (West 1992)), to present verified written statements concerning the defendant's former convictions in cases transferred from juvenile court constitutes a violation of the separation of powers clause of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. II, ยง 1); (3) whether the trial court erroneously determined that two of the defendant's convictions, resulting from guilty pleas entered in cases that had been transferred from juvenile court, qualified as one former conviction under the Act; and (4) whether the State sustained its burden of proving that the defendant was eligible for sentencing as an habitual criminal. For the reasons which follow, we conclude that the trial court did not commit reversible error by accurately responding to the jury's request. We further hold that no violation of the separation of powers doctrine occurred by virtue of the State's decision to present evidence of the defendant's convictions in cases originating in juvenile court. Also, the trial court properly considered the defendant's transferred cases in sentencing him as an habitual offender. Finally, we find that the State met its burden of establishing the defendant's eligibility to be sentenced as an habitual offender. The remaining issues raised by the defendant are controlled by the Illinois Supreme Court decision in People v. Dunigan, 165 Ill. 2d 235, 650 N.E.2d 1026, 209 Ill. Dec. 53 (1995).

At trial, the victim, Jennifer Artis, testified on behalf of the State. She stated that on December 3, 1990, at 10:30 p.m., the defendant accosted her as she walked towards her apartment building. She testified that the defendant pointed a gun at her and said, "Stop, lady, I'll kill you." Artis testified that another man approached her from behind and she attempted to hit him. At that point, Artis heard a gun fire and the defendant say, "Let go, lady." The defendant then grabbed her briefcase and purse, and ran away. Later that night Artis positively identified the defendant.

Melody Whitaker also testified on behalf of the State. She stated that she was returning home at about the same time as Artis. Whitaker testified that she saw the defendant and another man accost Artis and point a gun at her. She then left the parking lot and drove to a gas station where she called the police. Later, Whitaker identified the defendant as one of the individuals who robbed Artis.

Officer Frank Michalek testified that around 10:35 or 10:40 p.m. on December 3, 1990, he pursued a speeding car for about three blocks before it went out of control and struck a mailbox. As he ordered the occupants to exit the car, he heard a police radio broadcast describing two individuals involved in an armed robbery. The defendant fit the description of one of the individuals involved in the robbery. Upon searching the car, Officer Michalek discovered a briefcase, a purse, an envelope containing cash, a beeper, a .38-caliber gun with four live rounds and two empty casings. Artis later positively identified the briefcase, purse and envelope as hers.

Assistant State's Attorney Steven Krueger testified that on December 4, 1990, he met with the defendant. The defendant told Krueger that his codefendant Sidney Horton planned the robbery. The defendant further stated that Horton carried the gun, approached the victim and threatened to kill her if she did not give him her belongings.

Sidney Horton testified on behalf of the defense. His account of the robbery differed from that presented by the State. Horton stated that another man who had been riding in his car, Steve Spurgins, robbed Artis with him. He testified that the defendant had fallen asleep in the car before the robbery and did not awaken until the car crashed into the mailbox.

In rebuttal, the State presented the testimony of Steve Krueger who interviewed Horton on December 4, 1990, and Officer Barry Williams who was present during the interview. Both testified that Horton did not mention the name Steve Spurgins during the interview. Krueger testified that Horton told him that the defendant wanted to commit the robbery and Horton merely agreed to go along.

After closing arguments, the court gave the jury its instructions and the jury commenced deliberations. During deliberations, the jury wrote a note to the court asking to see "all written reports entered as evidence by the defense." Throughout the trial, the defendant had marked several exhibits for identification, including police reports, arrest reports, police-generated computer printouts and the State's felony review file folder. These exhibits were used to impeach witnesses and never were entered into evidence.

Counsel for the defendant suggested that the court instruct the jury that "there are no reports of the defense in evidence, but you may consider any and all testimony concerning those reports." The State did not object to the defendant's proposed response. Nonetheless, the court found the defendant's proposed response too confusing and instead told the jury that "there are no reports for the defense."

The jury rendered a verdict finding the defendant guilty of armed robbery. Thereafter, the State petitioned the court to have the defendant sentenced under the Habitual Criminal Act.

During the habitual criminal sentencing hearing, the State presented seven witnesses and several exhibits to prove that the defendant had two prior convictions within a 20-year period as required by the statute. 720 ILCS 5/33B-1 (West 1992). The evidence presented by the State included certified copies of conviction for two cases stemming from armed robberies committed by the defendant in 1976, when he was 16 years old. The State also offered a transcript of the 1978 pleas relative to the 1976 indictments. Additionally, Officer Jude Evans and Officer John Rawski gave detailed testimony concerning the 1976 armed robberies. The defendant was sentenced to concurrent prison terms ...

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