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People v. Warlick

December 31, 1998


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Wolfson



This garden variety burglary case raises an evidentiary issue that seems to be occurring with increasing frequency in the trials of criminal cases.

Obie Warlick (Warlick) was charged with burglary and possession of burglar tools. After a jury trial, he was found guilty of burglary. Because he had two prior burglary convictions, Warlick was sentenced as a Class X offender to 12 years imprisonment. See 730 ILCS 5/5-5-3(c)(8) (West 1996).

Warlick raises several issues. The only serious one is his claim he was unfairly prejudiced by the admission of a police call concerning a "burglary in progress." While we find admission of the contents of the call was error, we also find the error was harmless. For that reason, we affirm Warlick's conviction and sentence.


We set out those facts necessary to an understanding of the hearsay issue.

Only two witnesses testified at trial. The first witness was Horus Frantino, the manager of Chicago Recycling Resource Center located at 222 East 135th Place in Chicago. Frantino described the recycling center as a warehouse where materials such as aluminum cans and glass bottles were processed and stored. He said aluminum was compacted into bundles or "biskets" weighing 1500 pounds. The facility also housed a welding shop, an office area, and, above the office, a residence.

Frantino testified Emiliano Lima and his son lived in the residence above the office. They had keys to the facility and, with Frantino's permission, parked their car -- a Buick Skylark -- inside the facility. Lima, Frantino explained, was currently in Brazil. Lima did not testify at trial.

Frantino said he received a call from the Chicago police department sometime after midnight on February 17, 1997. In response to the call, Frantino went to the recycling center. When he arrived he saw that a window was open in the rear of the building. Frantino testified this window had been broken a few days earlier, but had been boarded up with cardboard. When the facility closed at 4:30 p.m. on February 16, 1997, Frantino said, the window had been closed.

Inside the facility, Frantino saw Lima's parked car. The doors of the car were open. Frantino also saw a leather coat, which he knew to be Lima's, lying on the floor of the building near the open window.

Later Frantino went to the police station. At the station, the police gave Frantino a bag of tools. Though Frantino could not specifically identify the tools, he said he returned them to the recycling center, where they were being used. The police also gave Frantino a briefcase, which was identified as belonging to Lima.

Finally, Frantino testified he did not know Warlick and did not give him permission to enter the facility on February 16, 1997.

The second witness was Chicago police officer Albert Susnis. Officer Susnis testified he and his partner, Patrick Glinski, began working at 10 p.m. on February 16, 1997. Shortly after, at about midnight, they received a dispatch concerning a "burglary in progress" at 222 East 135th Place. Within two minutes they arrived at the Resource Center, where they were met by two men. One man identified himself as Emiliano Lima, the other was Lima's son.

Officer Susnis said he and his partner were directed to the rear of the recycling center and shown an open window. As they approached the open window, Officer Susnis observed a single set of footprints in the snow leading up to the open window. There were no footprints leading away. He also noted "some stuff" piled outside the window. The piled objects had enabled someone to enter the window, which was six to eight feet from ground level.

Officer Susnis testified his partner climbed on the pile of stuff and entered the facility through the window. At the same time, Lima let him into the facility through a side door. When he entered the facility, Officer Susnis said, he heard his partner yell, "He's running toward the east." Officer Susnis saw a man running and Officer Glinski in pursuit. Officer Susnis joined the chase. When cornered, the man, who was later identified as Warlick, hid under a truck. Warlick refused to come out from beneath the truck despite their commands that he do so. Officer Glinski then dragged Warlick from beneath the truck. Once captured, Warlick was advised of his rights, placed in handcuffs, and transported to the police station in another squad car that arrived on the scene.

After Warlick was arrested, Officer Susnis investigated the premises. He observed a parked car inside the facility with its doors open. He said papers were strewn around on the floor, outside the car. Inside the facility, underneath the open window, Officer Susnis found a briefcase. Upon inspection, the briefcase contained personal papers belonging to Lima, as well as a Bible with Lima's name inside. Just outside the open window, Officer Susnis found a canvas bag containing tools, a can of paint, and some other small items. Officer ...

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