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April 19, 1996


Appeal from Circuit Court of Macon County. No. 94CF222. Honorable James A. Hendrian, Judge Presiding.

Released for Publication April 19, 1996. As Corrected August 26, 1996.

Honorable James A. Knecht, J., Honorable Frederick S. Green, J., Concurring, Honorable Robert J. Steigmann, J., Specially Concurring. Justice Knecht delivered the opinion of the court:

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Knecht

The Honorable Justice KNECHT delivered the opinion of the court:

After a jury trial, defendant, Brian Jennings, was convicted of burglary (720 ILCS 5/19-1 (West 1992)), in Macon County circuit court. He was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. Defendant appeals, contending the trial court committed reversible error by allowing his impeachment with evidence of a prior conviction. Defendant further claims the trial court failed to rule upon his motion for reduction of sentence. We affirm.

On the night of February 23 and 24, 1994, Wendell Austin was visiting his girlfriend, Angela Cook, sister of defendant, with whom defendant lived. Austin was in the business of buying and selling cars and had left a recently purchased 1987 Nissan parked at the back of Cook's house. Austin sometimes kept a briefcase with cash in his purchased cars but did not do so on that particular day. Austin never locked his cars. This was common knowledge among his acquaintances, including defendant.

Cook testified she locked her doors after midnight with a dead bolt lock. Defendant had a house key but not a key to the dead bolt. On the night of February 23, Cook and Austin retired for the night about midnight. Cook locked the dead bolt and took the telephone off the hook because they did not want to be disturbed. Cook testified it was very cold and snowing that night.

Defendant had gone out earlier in the evening of February 23 and returned to the residence around midnight. Stephanie Weissel, a neighbor whose apartment looked out over the parking lot behind Cook's house, saw two men enter the parking lot area around midnight on February 23. She described the clothing they were wearing and stated one man carried what looked like a tarp. One man went to the window of Cook's house and looked inside. The other man went over to Austin's Nissan and made what she described as a prying motion with what she thought was a crowbar. She saw the tarp lying on the ground in the snow. The man entered the car and rummaged around in the front seat and the glove box. Then the two men changed places and the first man in the car looked in the house window while the other man entered the car and was in both the front and back seats. Weissel testified she saw the car the next day in the parking lot and did not see any pry marks or scratches on the car.

Weissel's roommate, Jamison Gray, also testified he saw essentially the same things as Weissel except for a short period of time when he telephoned the police. Gray stated he never saw or heard either man knock on the door or window of Cook's house or call out to the occupants of the house.

When a white car pulled into the driveway of Cook's house, Weissel and Gray stated the two men initially walked away from the car and then toward it. Then the police arrived and arrested the men in the parking lot.

The police officers found two pry bars and a jacket by the rear window on the driver's side of Austin's car. The rear window was broken and there was damage to the backseat. The back of the seat was bowed out to provide access to the trunk. There was broken glass on the backseat of the car and on the freshly fallen snow which indicated the window was freshly broken. Defendant and his brother were the two men arrested at the scene wearing the clothes described by Weissel and Gray.

Defendant testified he had been locked out of Cook's house before and had always knocked on a window to gain her attention. However, when Austin came to visit her, defendant was locked out and could not gain Cook's attention because she and Austin did not like to be disturbed. Defendant returned to Cook's house around midnight and when he found himself locked out he became angry. He walked to a nearby relative's house and called Cook only to find the phone was off the hook. He became even more angry, blaming Austin rather than his sister. He grabbed a tire iron and returned to Cook's house with his brother. He wanted to damage Austin's car to gain his attention.

When defendant arrived at the parking area behind Cook's house, his brother went to the window of the house while defendant broke the window on Austin's car. He then entered the car. Defendant admitted damaging the car but denied intending to burglarize the car. He stated there was nothing in the car to take and he had a pocketful of money. Defendant also stated he knew the car was unlocked and there was no need to break a window to get in. He admitted intending to damage the car and this act was wrong but denied the burglary charge. Defendant also admitted he went to the window of Cook's house and his brother entered the car.

In rebuttal and over defendant's objection, the State introduced evidence of defendant's prior conviction for armed robbery for purposes of impeachment. Defendant was convicted and ...

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