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People v. Curry

May 01, 1998


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. The Honorable David A. Erickson, judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hartman delivered the opinion of the court:

A jury found defendant Homer Curry guilty of two counts of aggravated kidnapping, armed robbery, and aggravated battery. Defendant appeals his convictions and concurrent 15-year sentences, raising as issues whether (1) the State proved the corpus delicti for aggravated kidnapping, armed robbery, and aggravated battery; (2) he was denied a fair trial where the circuit court failed to instruct the jury sua sponte as to the presumption of innocence and burden of proof; (3) imposition of his 15-year sentence was an abuse of discretion; and (4) the circuit court erred in entering judgment on both aggravated kidnapping counts and in sentencing him to 15-years' imprisonment for aggravated battery.

On March 14, 1994, defendant was arrested with nine other individuals and subsequently charged with the aggravated kidnapping, armed robbery, and aggravated battery of Rynalder Williams.

The State presented the testimony of several police officers and introduced defendant's written statement, given to police after his arrest. According to defendant's statement, on March 13, 1994, at 2:30 a.m., he and his friend, "Bobby," were driving in his uncle's Oldsmobile Toronado behind another vehicle containing three other men known to defendant, Darryl Banister, Brad Johnson, and Darnell Floyd. Using walkie-talkies to communicate between the two automobiles, Banister pointed out a white Mercedes driven by Rynalder Williams and told defendant to follow it. Although defendant had never seen Williams, he understood that he was following the Mercedes in order to rob Williams. To that end, the men in the other car proceeded to Williams' home, while defendant followed the Mercedes to a club called the "Godfather," which Williams entered. When Williams returned to his vehicle, defendant radioed the men waiting by Williams' garage and again followed the Mercedes.

As Williams drove into his garage, defendant and Johnson ran after him, while Banister and Floyd, armed with handguns, ordered him to lie on the floor. Williams was then handcuffed, a cap was pulled over his head, and he was placed in the Toronado's trunk. Taking both automobiles, defendant and the others then drove to Darren Streeter's house, where they brought Williams into the basement.

While in the basement, Streeter placed masking tape over Williams' eyes, covering the cap. He also took $1800 from him in addition to several business cards, which defendant burned. Streeter then struck Williams on his legs and head.

After moving Williams to the second floor of the house, defendant told him to call his cousin to ask for money. Initially asking for $100,000, Banister lowered the demand to $40,000; Williams' cousin was then told that if he did not provide the money he would never see Williams again. Asking for more time, Williams' cousin promised to call back. After several calls, it was agreed that the $40,000 would be brought to an Amoco gas station on Ashland Avenue in Chicago.

Defendant and Floyd followed in the Toronado, while Johnson and "Bobby" drove to the Amoco station. Parking the Toronado, defendant exited and walked to Johnson's automobile; using Williams' cellular phone, defendant and Johnson spoke to Williams' cousin and told him to drop off the money. Shortly thereafter, Williams' cousin dropped a bag at the station, which Johnson recovered. Defendant then drove Johnson back to Streeter's house.

En route, defendant and Johnson discovered that the bag contained, not money, but scraps of paper. Once back at the house, defendant telephoned Williams' cousin, asking him why he was "playing" with them. Defendant then allowed Williams to speak with his cousin, but while on the phone, defendant struck Williams' upper knees with a baseball bat. Shortly thereafter, defendant heard Williams scream and turned to see Streeter burning Williams' hand with an iron. According to defendant, at this time, he had decided that, as soon as Williams' cousin called back, he would release Williams. Before Williams could be unbound, however, the police arrived at the house.

Among the several police officers arriving at Streeter's house were Chicago Police Detectives John McMurray and Michael McDermott. Testifying at trial, McMurray and McDermott explained how the investigation began. On March 13, 1994, at 8 p.m., Williams' cousin, Adrian Bardo, entered a police station and spoke with Chicago Police Officer Louise Galvan. After her conversation with Bardo, Galvan notified McMurray who, after gathering additional information from Bardo, asked him to use the telephone in the station to make several phone calls. Once those calls were completed, preparations were made to follow Bardo, driving his own vehicle, to the gas station at Ashland Avenue and Van Buren Street in Chicago. Prior to leaving, McMurray filled a paper bag with pieces of newspaper and gave Bardo a police radio. In addition to McMurray and his partner, who drove together in an unmarked squad car, another unmarked squad car with two officers and an unmarked van containing three other police officers, including Detective Michael McDermott, followed Bardo to the gas station.

At the gas station, Detective McMurray observed a gold Honda parked in the station lot and an individual standing next to the Honda. Within minutes, a Toronado drove into the station and parked next to the Honda. McMurray then observed defendant exit the Toronado, walk to the Honda and enter the driver's seat of the Honda. Bardo then drove into the station, tossed the paper bag out of his vehicle, and drove away. The individual standing by the Honda picked up the paper bag, entered the Honda, and the Honda and the Toronado then left the station.

Detective McMurray, in his vehicle, joined Detective McDermott, in the van, in pursuit of the Toronado. During the chase, McDermott observed a black automatic handgun thrown from the passenger side of the Toronado. Unable to stop to recover the weapon, McDermott continued the pursuit, which reached speeds in excess of 100 m.p.h. The vehicle chase ended when the occupants, Darnell Floyd and Derrell Adams, jumped from the Toronado and ran. McDermott and his partner gave chase on foot and, after a three-block chase, caught both Floyd and Adams. A search incident to arrest revealed that Floyd possessed a credit card belonging to Williams; and Adams held a large amount of cash. Several of Williams' personal papers and a walkie-talkie were recovered from the Toronado.

After speaking with Adams and Floyd, Detectives McDermott, McMurray and other officers proceeded to 2029 W. Washburn in Chicago, where McMurray noticed the gold Honda parked in front of the house. McMurray entered, went up to the second floor of the house, and observed defendant standing over Williams, attempting to remove his cap. McMurray saw that Williams' hands were bound together with masking tape and tape was wrapped around both his neck and his eyes, holding the cap in place. Telling defendant and Williams to lie on the floor, McMurray searched the room and recovered a baseball bat, an iron, a cellular phone and a pager. Shortly thereafter, McMurray searched the Honda, finding a walkie-talkie and the paper bag containing newspaper.

Following the arrests of the occupants of 2029 W. Washburn, Detective McDermott, on March 15, 1994, proceeded to 33 East 119th Street in Chicago. There, after knocking on the door and stating, "police," he heard running. Searching the building, McDermott eventually discovered Darryl Banister, holding a loaded .25 caliber automatic weapon, crouched in the darkened basement.

The prosecution also presented testimony from Cherry Page, defendant's aunt and owner of the Oldsmobile Toronado, who stated defendant had borrowed that vehicle on March 13, 1994. Prior to resting, the prosecution introduced into evidence several ...

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