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People v. Pearson

May 21, 2002


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 98 CR 30630 Honorable Thomas M. Davy, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cahill


Defendant appeals a bench trial verdict convicting him of robbery and aggravated battery and the 20-year and 5-year concurrent prison terms imposed. We affirm.

Beverly Ruiz, a 66-year-old woman, exited a grocery store about noon on October 12, 1998. She was about to load her groceries into her parked car in an alley behind her home when a man wearing a white T- shirt approached. The man asked Beverly what time it was. As she looked at her watch, the man grabbed her purse off her shoulder.

Beverly was knocked to the ground in the struggle that followed. The man took the purse and left in a white car. Beverly noted the license plate number on the car and yelled for help. Andres and Parnell Ruiz, Beverly's husband and son, were at home and heard Beverly call for them.

Beverly told them what happened and gave them the license plate number of the white car. Beverly called the police to report the robbery.

Andres and Parnell left in the family car to look for the white car. They found it parked in front of a store about 15 minutes later. There was a woman inside the car. A man wearing a white T-shirt came out of the store, lit a cigarette and got into the car. Andres and Parnell followed the car but lost sight of it after the woman passenger was dropped off at 701 Christiana. Andres and Parnell looked at the man for about five minutes.

Beverly described to police the person who robbed her: a black man, about 5 feet 8 inches or 5 feet 9 inches tall and 25 years old. She estimated his weight as more than 200 pounds. He was clean shaven and wore a white, short sleeved T-shirt. Both Andres and Parnell described the person they saw as a black man with corn row or braided hair.

Detective Michael Muzupappa investigated the case. He traced the license plate number to a woman who admitted owning a white Pontiac. She said that her husband, Tanner Riddle, drove the car. Muzupappa contacted Riddle on October 22. Riddle said that he had loaned the car to "Manard" on October 9 and that it was not returned until October 13. Riddle gave Muzupappa "Manard's" phone number and "Manard's" sister's address at 714 N. Christiana. Muzupappa traced the phone number to an address at 205 N. Kolmar. Muzupappa and his partner went to that address on October 22, shortly before midnight.

Muzupappa and his partner identified themselves as police officers and asked the woman who answered the door if "Manard" was there. The woman let the officers inside and called out "Manard's" name. Defendant came out of a bedroom. Muzupappa noticed that defendant matched the description given by Beverly, Andres and Parnell. Defendant was then arrested. Defendant was 5 feet 9 inches, weighed 210 pounds and had braids in his hair at the time of his arrest.

Beverly, Andres and Parnell Ruiz separately identified defendant in a lineup on October 23. After the lineup identification, defendant told police that he had borrowed a white Pontiac from his sister's friend on October 11 and 12.

Defendant filed a motion to quash his warrantless arrest for lack of probable cause. Defendant also sought to suppress the lineup identification and statements as fruits of an illegal arrest. The motion was denied.

At trial, Beverly identified defendant as the person who robbed her on October 12. Andres and Parnell identified defendant as the man they saw get into the car with the license plate number matching the one Beverly gave them. Beverly said that she had a good opportunity to see defendant's face during the robbery.

Tanner Riddle testified that his wife owned a white Pontiac on October 12, 1998. He identified defendant as the person who borrowed the car in exchange for drugs. Riddle admitted on cross-examination that he was on a "binge high" when he loaned the car to defendant.

Defendant testified on his behalf that he was at a barbeque/baby shower at 139 North Waller on October 12. Defendant said he went to the shower with his mother, aunt, girlfriend and other family members. He drove to the shower in a brown and beige Buick. He arrived at the shower at 10 a.m. but left with his sister to buy drugs. He returned by 11:30 a.m. Defendant said he stayed at the shower until 9 p.m. and left in his own car. Defendant admitted selling drugs to Riddle before, but said he had only seen Riddle in a green car, not a white one. Defendant admitted using the green car in September 1998, in exchange for $10. Defendant denied robbing anyone on October 12 and described his hair as french braids, not corn rows. He also denied that he smoked cigarettes.

Christy, defendant's sister, testified that defendant was at the baby shower all day and left only to buy drugs with her. She did not see him driving a white car that day, only his brown Buick. She also denied that defendant smoked cigarettes.

Defendant's mother Jane Winn testified that her daughter Rhonda lived at 714 Christiana and was dating Lawrence Sanders. Sanders was about 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighed 210 to 215 pounds and had braids in his hair. Winn said that defendant drove her and other family members to a baby shower on October 12. She said that, except for leaving for a short time in the morning, defendant was at the shower all day from noon until the evening. Defendant drove a brown Buick. Winn said that ...

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