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People v. Cackler

November 08, 2000


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cerda

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Edward M. Fiala, Jr., Judge Presiding.

Defendant appeals from his convictions for first-degree murder and armed robbery after a bench trial in the circuit court of Cook County. Defendant argues that (1) his guilt of armed robbery was not proven because there was no concurrence between his use of force and his taking of the victim's property some time after the murder; (2) Public Act 89--689 (Pub. Act 89--689, eff. December 31, 1996) violated the single-subject rule of the Illinois Constitution; and (3) he was improperly sentenced to consecutive sentences. We reverse the armed-robbery conviction and remand for resentencing.


In conversations with the police and with a jail inmate, defendant confessed to the murder of 14-year-old Joel Trinidad after defendant and the victim performed a sexual act together. Defendant claimed that he had paid the victim money on three prior occasions to perform a sex act. Defendant claimed that, during the sex act, the victim turned around and slapped him in the face. Defendant said he punched the boy in the face and that the victim picked up a hammer. Defendant picked up a crowbar. The victim tried to leave, but defendant hit him on the head twice with the crowbar. The victim lunged at him, and defendant hit him over the front of the head with the crowbar. Defendant strangled him with a tie and then with a rope until the victim stopped breathing.

According to a police detective, defendant further confessed that, after the murder, he sat in the bathtub "for a long while." Defendant then took a shower and went to Jewel, where he purchased trash bags for disposing of the body. Defendant cut off the victim's jewelry and took the victim's newspaper route book and money. He put in the trash bags anything that was bloody, including items that belonged to defendant. Defendant left the body in an alley and threw the trash bags in another location.

Defendant told the inmate that he took the jewelry and money from the victim to make it look like a robbery. Defendant told the assistant State's Attorney that he put the victim's possessions in the trash bags so that police would think someone had mugged the victim and would not think he had done the murder. Defendant showed the police where the disposed items could be found. There were people rummaging through the area, and it appeared that the items disposed of by defendant had been rummaged through. A $20 bill was found in one trash bag. Nothing from the victim was found in defendant's car or apartments or on his person. There was no money found on the victim's body or wallet except for some change. Although the victim wore jewelry, including a necklace, a bracelet, a medallion, and rings, the only item of jewelry found on him was a wooden cross. No jewelry was found in the trash.

After a bench trial, defendant was found guilty of first-degree murder and armed robbery. Although defendant was eligible for the death penalty, he was sentenced to consecutive sentences of natural life for the murder and 30 years' imprisonment for the armed robbery.

Defendant appealed.


Defendant first argues that his armed-robbery conviction should be reversed because the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the necessary concurrence between his use of force and the taking of the victim's property.

The gist of armed robbery is the taking of another's property by force or threat of force. People v. Lewis, 165 Ill. 2d 305, 338, 651 N.E.2d 72 (1995). The offense is complete when one uses force or the threat of force to cause the victim to part with possession of the property against his will. People v. Blake, 144 Ill. 2d 314, 322, 579 N.E.2d 861 (1991).

The use of force or threat of force need not transpire before or during the time the property is taken; rather the force may be used as part of a series of events constituting a single incident. People v. Cooksey, 309 Ill. App. 3d 839, 849, 723 N.E.2d 784 (1999); see also People v. Armstrong, 183 Ill. 2d 130, 148, 700 N.E.2d 960 (1998) (there was a concurrence between defendant beating victim to death and then going to her apartment and taking her television set).

As long as there is some concurrence between the threat of force and the taking of the property, a conviction for armed robbery can stand. Lewis, 165 Ill. 2d at 339. In Lewis, the murderer's taking of the key from the body after the murder in order to let himself out of the apartment was held to be essentially a single series of continuous acts committed by defendant. Lewis, 165 Ill. 2d at 340.

Our standard of review is, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, whether any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. ...

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