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People v. Howard

March 19, 1999


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 96 CR 139486

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Zwick

Honorable John E. Morrissey, Judge Presiding.

Following a jury trial, defendant, Antoine Howard, was convicted of one count of armed robbery and sentenced to nine years incarceration. Defendant has appealed his conviction and sentence, arguing that (1) the trial court improperly admitted evidence of prior crimes to establish modus operandi and (2) his sentence was excessive and predicated upon improper factors where the trial court erroneously considered his continued claim of innocence as an aggravating factor.

The State charged that defendant robbed Professor Alfred Rosenbloom on April 20, 1996, near the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) campus. Prior to trial, defendant moved to exclude the testimony of Professor Steven Melamed. The State alleged that defendant robbed Melamed near the UIC campus on April 18, 1996. The trial court ruled that because the two robberies were sufficiently similar Melamed's testimony was admissible to establish defendant's identity through modus operandi.

At trial, the State's first witness was Alfred Rosenbloom. Rosenbloom testified that he taught at Illinois Benedictine College and lived in Chicago near the UIC campus. On April 20, 1996, he was walking near his home on Van Buren Street. An individual, whom he identified as defendant, came up quickly behind Rosenbloom and "muscled" him around the corner. Defendant then stood face to face with Rosenbloom, pointed a gun at him, and said, "Give me your wallet." Rosenbloom complied. The defendant then demanded Rosenbloom's PIN (personal identification number) number which is a special entry code for an ATM (automatic teller machine). Rosenbloom lied and said he did not have a PIN number. Defendant said "Don't follow me you motherf-----." Defendant then ducked around the corner with the wallet.

Rosenbloom waited for a moment before he looked around the corner and saw defendant running west on Van Buren. Rosenbloom ran after defendant. Defendant turned the corner on Morgan Street. Rosenbloom momentarily lost sight of defendant but then continued chasing him on Morgan. Defendant turned right on Jackson and got into a red car. Rosenbloom was able to read the license plate before the car pulled away. Rosenbloom returned to Jackson and flagged down a police car, but the ensuing search of the area was unsuccessful.

Two days later, Rosenbloom went to a police station and identified an automobile as the car he had seen defendant enter. He then identified defendant in a lineup. He also identified a number of foreign currencies which had been kept in his wallet as souvenirs from his extensive foreign travels.

Professor Steven Melamed, a professor at UIC, testified that on April 18, 1996, he was walking near the UIC campus on Peoria Street. He observed defendant walking towards him on the opposite side of the street. Defendant crossed the street and put his hand in his jacket. Defendant then approached Melamed from behind. Melamed felt something hard pressed against the back of his head. Defendant said, "Give me your money mother-f-----, or I'll pop you." Defendant moved in front of Melamed and pointed a gun at him. Melamed pulled his wallet from his pants pocket. Melamed attempted to remove the money from his wallet, but defendant grabbed the wallet and ran. Defendant ran first north on Peoria and then West on Van Buren. Melamed was shown a black wallet which he testified was the same style, color and material as his wallet.

Melamed reported the robbery to the Chicago police and University of Illinois police. On April 26, 1996, he viewed a lineup and did not identify anyone. Defendant was not in this lineup. On May 8, 1996, Melamed viewed "a photographic lineup" at the UIC police station and identified defendant's photograph. Later that day, Melamed viewed a lineup and identified defendant.

On cross-examination, Melamed denied telling a police officer that he could not identify the offender in a lineup. He also denied telling a police officer that he could not complete a computer sketch of the offender. Melamed admitted that although he described an offender with facial hair, defendant had none when Melamed identified him. Melamed stated that the police were "very anxious" to have him pick someone in the first lineup, but he denied that he was pressured to pick someone in the second lineup. He also admitted that he could not identify any distinguishing marks on the wallet he had been shown earlier.

Chicago police officer Joseph Pulido was assigned to investigate the robbery of Professor Rosenbloom. He checked the license plate number given by Rosenbloom and discovered the car was registered to defendant. He attempted to locate defendant but found a vacant lot at the address to which the car was registered. On April 22, 1996, Pulido received information that defendant worked for On-Cor Foods. When he arrived at On-Cor Foods, he saw a red vehicle with the license plate number given by Rosenbloom. He went inside, met the plant manager and asked to speak to defendant. The manager brought defendant to the office. After determining defendant matched the description of the robbery suspect, Pulido arrested defendant. Defendant then asked to get his jacket from his locker, and another officer accompanied the plant manager to retrieve the jacket. Pulido took defendant to the station, and another officer drove defendant's car.

Officer Thomas Newton accompanied Pulido to the On-Cor plant on April 22, 1996. He obtained a set of keys from defendant and retrieved a jacket from defendant's locker. He gave the jacket a "pat down" for weapons before giving it to defendant. Newton drove defendant's car to the police station where he also performed a custodial search of defendant and recovered a wallet from defendant's pants pocket which contained defendant's driver's license, other identification and miscellaneous papers. He also recovered a black wallet which contained a variety of foreign currencies. The second wallet did not contain any personal identification.

The defendant called UIC police officer Philip Basak who had conducted an investigation of the robbery of Professor Melamed. Basak admitted that according to his report Melamed said he could not complete a composite computer sketch. However, Basak denied that his report was accurate and suggested that he may have transposed information from another report. He also admitted the report stated Melamed was not confident he could identify the suspect, but stated the report did not coincide with his memory of his conversation.

Defendant testified on his own behalf that he did not give the police officers the keys to his locker and that the locker did not have a lock. From time to time he lived with two male cousins, who occasionally drove his car. He denied committing the ...

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