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People v. Maounis

December 9, 1999


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 97 CR 6485 Honorable Robert F. Nix, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hourihane

nunc pro tunc October 21, 1999

Following a jury trial, defendant Gregorios Maounis was found guilty of armed robbery and sentenced to a six-and-a-half year prison term. On appeal, defendant contends (1) that certain errors at trial served to deny him his constitutional right to due process of law and (2) that the evidence introduce against him was insufficient to sustain his conviction.

For the following reasons, we reverse and remand.


Defendant was arrested on January 11, 1997 and charged with armed robbery.

At trial, Derrick Neal testified that he was working behind the counter at a truck rental firm in Niles on the evening of December 7, 1996. At around 6:30 p.m., defendant approached him wearing "blue jeans, a *** black jacket and a skull cap." Aside from other more general characteristics, Neal also noticed that defendant had a large mustache. Defendant inquired about truck rentals. Neal stated that he turned toward a display in order to better explain the different options available. When he turned back, defendant was pointing a gun at his chest. Defendant then told Neal to give him all the money from a nearby cash register. Neal did so. Defendant took the money and fled.

Neal testified he then called the police and gave them a description of defendant. With the help of Niles Police Detective Thomas Davis, that description was used to create a composite picture, which was then displayed in the Niles police department.

Niles Police Detective martin Stankowicz noticed the composite picture. Detective Stankowicz was investigating a missing person report concerning defendant. His comparison of the composite picture and a photograph of defendant he had obtained as a part of his investigation led him to include the photograph in an array shown to Neal on January 3, 1997. Neal identified defendant "right away" in a lineup several days later. Neal also identified defendant in court.

Niles Police Detective Joseph O'Sullivan, who was also present when the photographs were shown to Neal, confirmed the latter's testimony. According to Detective O'Sullivan, Neal identified the photograph of defendant, stating, "'[T]hat's him. That looks just like him.'"

Detective O'Sullivan further testified that he met defendant outside his place of employment on the evening of January 11, 1997. Detective O'Sullivan drove defendant to the Niles police department, where he and Detective Stankowicz conducted an interview. Detective O'Sullivan stated he asked defendant to pinpoint his whereabouts for the prior month, December 7, 1996 in particular. Defendant, however, could not do so. Detective O'Sullivan then testified as follows:

"[Defendant] stated he stayed in various transient motels. He mentioned the Ambers and the Milshire motels. He said he stayed in some motels along Lincoln Avenue. He said that he had met a prostitute named Maria on North Avenue *** and that he had spent much of the time he was reported missing with her and[,] in his words[,] [']partying.['] And when I asked him what he meant by [']partying,['] he said buying alcohol beverages and smoking crack cocaine."

The circuit court interrupted Detective O'Sullivan to admonish the jury that the foregoing testimony was "only being allowed for the limited purpose of showing motive."

The State rested shortly thereafter.

Defendant called Louise McNamara to testify on his behalf. McNamara stated that she prepared paychecks for the employees at Temple Steel Company, where defendant worked. McNamara testified that five paychecks totaling $3,015.32 were generated for defendant on November 27, 1996.

Maryel Gonzalez testified that she was celebrating her birthday on December 7, 1996, with several family members, including defendant. According to Gonzalez, defendant arrived at her home at approximately 6:30 in the evening and left two-and-a-half hours later.

Rose Marie Alicea also attended Gonzalez' birthday party. She testified that she arrived at around eight that evening, around the time defendant was leaving.

Martha Arce helped Gonzalez prepare for her birthday party. Like Gonzalez, she testified that defendant attended the party, arriving between five and six that evening.

Defendant also testified in his own behalf. He stated that he received five paychecks on November 27, 1996, before beginning a four-week vacation. Defendant cashed two of the paychecks on December 2, 1996. The remaining three ...

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