APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY, COUNTY DEPARTMENT, CRIMINAL DIVISION. THE HONORABLE THEMIS N. KARNEZIS, JUDGE PRESIDING.
The Honorable Justice Scariano delivered the opinion of the court: Burke, J., concurs. DiVito, J., dissents. Justice DiVITO, dissenting:
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scariano
The Honorable Justice SCARIANO delivered the opinion of the court:
On June 20, 1993, William Kramer ("defendant") and Seth Dahm, were travelling in a Chevrolet Blazer owned by defendant's parents. A high speed chase of the Blazer by police officers ended in a collision killing Dahm and injuring defendant.
The Blazer was first observed travelling north on Indianapolis Boulevard at "an extremely high rate of speed" by East Chicago police officer Lopez. While he attempted to curb the vehicle, it "ran" between 10 and 12 red lights, and continued to pick up speed until it was travelling at a rate of "at least a hundred miles an hour."
After being ordered to terminate his pursuit and to allow Whiting police officers to take over, Lopez continued north, and while looking for a place to turn around, he saw that the Blazer had been overturned and was on fire. Both occupants were on the ground but he was unable to tell which of them had been the driver.
Whiting police officer Semancik was on Indianapolis Boulevard when he received a dispatch that a vehicle was being pursued in his direction. He saw the Blazer pass by at a high rate of speed, but was unable to observe anything inside the vehicle. He began pursuit, allowing Whiting police officer Trojnar to proceed ahead of him. Semancik estimated that the Blazer was travelling at "well over a hundred miles an hour" as it continued through Hammond into Chicago.
As Semancik slowed down, looking for a place to turn around, he saw two men ("Chavez" and "Jiminez") signalling for him to stop. They told him that there was an accident under the Skyway, and after proceeding to the vacant lot they had indicated, Semancik saw the Blazer lying on its side and someone lying on the ground. He radioed for emergency help and found that the individual, later identified as defendant, had a pulse and was breathing, but unconscious and "pretty messed up." Trojnar arrived next, and began putting out the fire.
Trojnar testified that upon being radioed that a vehicle was entering the city limits at a high rate of speed, she went down a side street to Indianapolis Boulevard and waited, looking south. As she saw the Blazer approach, she kept her eyes on the vehicle and was able to see that there were two occupants. When the Blazer was only five to ten feet away, she observed that the passenger had a long, blond ponytail (Dahm had long blond hair; defendant has dark hair.) She estimated that the Blazer was travelling at over ninety miles an hour.
As the vehicle passed her and continued north on Indianapolis, Trojnar began pursuit. She was forced to slow down, however, upon encountering another vehicle in her lane, and Semancik passed her. After losing sight of the Blazer and Semancik, she began to turn around, when "an unknown vehicle" pointed for her to continue north on Indianapolis. Looking for Semancik, she followed an individual pointing into a vacant lot, and saw the Blazer lying on its side.
Upon seeing that the Blazer had caught fire and that Semancik was rendering aid to one of the occupants, Trojnar extinguished the fire and began looking for the other occupant. She found an individual with blond hair in a ponytail, who she determined to be the passenger of the vehicle, located near a pillar of the Skyway. She admitted at trial that although the accident occurred on June 20, 1993, she did not tell anyone about seeing the blond ponytail until one month prior to the May 1994 trial, after being told that there was a problem of identification in this case.
Jiminez testified that he was stopped at a red light, with Chavez and his brother as passengers, when a "speeding truck" went by. The truck passed within two feet of Jiminez's car, and he claimed to have seen a heavyset passenger hanging on to the dashboard. The truck then crashed through a fence and a tree and turned over. Jiminez and Chavez went to the vacant lot where the truck had crashed and found one man without a pulse and another man screaming "my head, my head."
Police officers on the scene had told Jiminez and Chavez that they were attempting to determine which occupant had been the driver, and when they questioned him about "the violator", Jiminez stated that he was wearing a white tee shirt, admitted that he could not identify the driver, but indicated that the man who had been found near the cement pillar was the passenger. Chavez told the officers that he had not been able to observe anyone when the Blazer passed by him.
Both Trojnar and Jiminez were cross-examined regarding the circumstances affecting their ability to observe the passenger of the speeding Blazer and their failure to report their observations at the time of the accident. Chavez testified that he was in the back seat when the vehicle came "flying from the left side," causing Jiminez to slam on the brakes; that after seeing the Blazer crash and explode, he and ...