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People v. Torres

February 15, 2002


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Marion County. No. 00-CF-15 Honorable Patrick J. Hitpas, Judge, presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Maag


Antonio Torres (defendant) was charged by an amended information on April 6, 2000, with residential burglary and burglary. Following a jury trial, he was convicted of residential burglary. Defendant was sentenced to six years in the Department of Corrections (Department). Defendant appeals.

William and Kelly Snell and their three children lived in a mobile home at No. 54 Richmond Heights in Central City, Illinois. On January 12, 2000, while William was attempting to light the pilot light on the hot water heater, a fire occurred. The interior of the mobile home sustained smoke, water, and heat damage, and the siding on the exterior melted due to the heat. When the Snells left their home at approximately 7 p.m., the utilities were turned off due to the fire and they did not take anything with them. They locked the back door, and the window was intact. At that time, the Snells planned to return to the mobile home to live, but they never spent another night at the trailer, due to the extent of the damage. An insurance claim was filed and the trailer was considered totaled.

Later that same evening, the Snells were told by the police that someone had broken into their burned trailer. When the Snells arrived, they noticed that the back door to the trailer was open and that the back window was broken. The Snells determined that a pair of jeans, a short-sleeved, black shirt, and cologne were missing. The Snells both knew defendant, but neither of them knew John Vinson. Regardless, neither of the men had permission to enter the mobile home and take anything out of it. After the Snells learned that their home had been broken into, they removed their VCR and a PlayStation. After they determined that the trailer was totaled, they returned several times to retrieve the remainder of their belongings.

Jesse Cummins lived at No. 22 Richmond Heights in Central City, Illinois, on the date of the fire. On January 12, 2000, Cummins, defendant, and a friend were at John Vinson's trailer, No. 8 Richmond Heights, in Central City, Illinois. Defendant and Vinson were planning to go to Huck's for soda and cigarettes. While Vinson was in the bathroom, defendant told Cummins and his friend that he and Vinson were going to see how badly the Snells' trailer was damaged. Cummins had been to the Snells' trailer earlier in the evening while it was burning.

When Vinson testified, he admitted that he had twice been convicted of theft. Vinson stated that at the time of the burglary of the Snells' trailer, he was on parole for grand theft auto and theft over $300. Vinson admitted that he had pleaded guilty to the burglary of the burned trailer. He had not been sentenced at the time of the trial in this case, and he did not have a sentencing agreement. Vinson said that he and defendant had the idea to break into the Snells' trailer as "an easy way to make money." Vinson claimed that he reached through a broken-out window in the back of the trailer and unlocked the back door. When Vinson and defendant entered the trailer, there was no electricity. Vinson used a cigarette lighter to see. Vinson claimed that he saw defendant take a black shirt that zipped up the front with long sleeves. When Vinson and defendant entered the living room, they noticed that some people had spotted them in the trailer. They ran out the back door and through the cemetery. When they reached the main road, they split up and met each other approximately 20 to 30 minutes later.

Vinson admitted that he made two statements to the police. Defendant's exhibit 7, Vinson's first statement, is in his own handwriting and does not mention that defendant took a shirt. Approximately eight hours later, Vinson made a second statement, defendant's exhibit 8. In the second statement, Vinson stated that defendant had taken a shirt. Vinson claimed that the second statement was merely a clarification of the first statement and that he had failed to include everything in the first statement.

Vinson spoke with defense counsel and an investigator, Kevin McClain, on the Saturday prior to the trial. At that time, Vinson stated that he did not see defendant take anything from the trailer. Vinson told defense counsel and McClain that the only reason that he said that defendant had taken the shirt was because Officer Berger threatened to put Vinson back in prison. At the trial, Vinson admitted that he had lied to defense counsel and McClain on the Saturday prior to the trial. Vinson testified that he saw defendant take the shirt from the Snells' trailer. Vinson also admitted that Berger had not threatened him. Vinson clarified that a state agent told him that he could get up to five years' imprisonment if he lied while giving his testimony.

Shawn Richards, a Central City police officer, testified that on January 12, 2000, at approximately 8:30 p.m., he received a report of a burglary at No. 54 Richmond Heights in Central City, Illinois. Richards met with the Snells at their trailer that evening. The Snells told Richards that their trailer had been broken into through the back door. They told Richards that a black shirt and blue jeans were missing. It was not until Richards' second meeting with Vinson that he let Vinson know that clothing was missing from the Snells' trailer. Richards did not give Vinson a description of what was missing. Vinson's description of the shirt was similar to the description given by William Snell.

The jury received guilty and not-guilty verdicts on residential burglary and burglary. The jury returned a verdict of guilty of residential burglary and not guilty of burglary. Defendant was later sentenced to six years' imprisonment. The written sentencing order was entered on May 18, 2000, and states, inter alia, as follows: "IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Illinois Department of Corrections is ordered to withhold fifty per[]cent (50%) of the inmate's monthly Corrections income and remit that amount to the Marion County Circuit Clerk for application to amounts due in this cause, for a total amount due of $123.00." Defendant filed a timely notice of appeal.

Defendant contends that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the burned trailer was a dwelling place, a necessary element of residential burglary. In a nutshell, defendant claims that because the Snells' residence could not be repaired, they could not, within a reasonable period of time, intend to reside there. Hence, defendant claims that the fire-damaged residence was not a "dwelling" place of another under section 19-3 of the residential burglary statute (720 ILCS 5/19-3 (West 1998)) and that he should only have been found guilty of the mutually exclusive offense of burglary. Defendant claims that because the evidence supported only a conviction for burglary and because the jury acquitted him of this charge, he should be completely exonerated for his unlawful acts. We disagree.

On appeal, a criminal conviction will not be set aside unless the evidence is so improbable or unsatisfactory that there remains a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt. People v. Anderson, 188 Ill. 2d 384, 392, 721 N.E.2d 1121, 1125 (1999). When a court on appeal reviews the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain a verdict, the relevant inquiry is "whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." (Emphasis omitted.) Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 61 L. Ed. 2d 560, 573, 99 S. Ct. 2781, 2789 (1979). The standard of appellate review in a criminal case is one of great deference to the trier of fact, since it is not the function of the appellate court to retry the defendant. People v. Young, 323 Ill. App. 3d 1078, 1088, 753 N.E.2d 1046, 1055 (2001). Additionally, as a court of review, we do not reweigh the evidence or substitute our judgment for that of the trier of fact. People v. Penrod, 316 Ill. App. 3d 713, 719, 737 N.E.2d 341, 348 (2000).

Pursuant to section 19-3 of the residential burglary statute, "[a] person commits residential burglary who knowingly and without authority enters the dwelling place of another with the intent to commit therein a felony or theft." 720 ILCS 5/19-3 (West 1998). By statute, the offenses of burglary and residential burglary are mutually exclusive. See 720 ILCS 5/19-1 (West 1998). The Illinois Supreme Court has also adopted this view. People v. Childress, 158 Ill. 2d 275, 302, 633 N.E.2d 635, 647 (1994). For purposes of the residential burglary statute, a "dwelling" is, inter alia, a mobile home or trailer "in which at the time of the ...

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