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The People of the State of Illinois v. Albert Beauchamp

February 3, 2011

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
APPELLANT,
v.
ALBERT BEAUCHAMP,
APPELLEE.
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT,
v.
MICHAEL JONES,
APPELLEE AND CROSS-APPELLANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Theis

JUSTICE THEIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Thomas, Garman, and Karmeier concurred in the judgment and opinion.

Justice Burke dissented, with opinion, joined by Justice Freeman.

OPINION

Following a joint bench trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendants Albert Beauchamp and Michael Jones were found guilty of burglary (720 ILCS 5/19--1(a) (West 2006)). In separate appeals, the appellate court modified the trial court's judgments to reflect convictions for theft and remanded to the trial court for resentencing. Beauchamp, 389 Ill. App. 3d 11; Jones, No. 1--07--2248 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).

For the reasons set forth below, we reverse the appellate court's judgment in both cases and reinstate defendants' convictions and sentences for burglary.

BACKGROUND

Defendants were charged by indictment with burglary in that they, without authority, knowingly entered a motor vehicle with the intent to commit a theft therein. See 720 ILCS 5/19--1(a) (West 2006). At their joint bench trial, the State first called Pamela Little. Little testified that on January 29, 2007, at approximately 9:20 a.m., she parked her vehicle--a 2004 Chevy Trailblazer--in the Metra parking lot located at 104th and Throop Streets in Chicago. She noticed that a white car had entered the Metra lot behind her. After parking her vehicle, Little headed to the pay box to deposit the parking fee, but returned to her car shortly thereafter to check on it. Little testified that when she hit the button on the vehicle remote, she expected to see the lights flash and to hear a beep, but nothing happened. Little saw an African-American man standing two feet from her vehicle by the rear view mirror on the driver's side. Little ran across the street to the fire department and told a police officer that someone was trying to steal her car. Little testified that when she later returned to her vehicle, she saw that the lock on the rear hatchback, which was undamaged when she parked the car that morning, had been "punched out." Little also noticed that the hatchback window, which was closed and operating properly when she parked the vehicle, was missing. She later observed the window in the back of the white car that had followed her into the parking lot. On cross-examination, Little testified that the hatchback window opens "by itself" when the "little button on the back" of the vehicle is pressed, and that a hydraulic arm on either side lifts up the window. When asked whether "the only way [the window] opens is it comes out away from the truck," Little responded "yes."

The State next called Officer Freddy Frazier III. Officer Frazier testified that he was working the day shift on January 29, 2007, as a one-person unit in a marked squad car. After receiving a call from dispatch at 9:28 a.m., Officer Frazier proceeded to the Metra parking lot, where he noticed the amber signal lights flashing on a gray or silver "Chevy Blazer, SUV type vehicle." When asked whether he noticed anything else near the vehicle at that time, Officer Frazier answered: "There was a white car with two men [that] just got into the vehicle and the driver trying to start the car." The white car was adjacent to the SUV. Officer Frazier pulled his squad car up to the white vehicle, blocking the driver's side, and exited his squad car. Officer Frazier described the white car as a "Buick Regal, small compact vehicle, just two doors," and testified that defendant Beauchamp was in the driver's seat, and defendant Jones was in the passenger seat. Officer Frazier noticed a window, approximately 4 feet by 3 to 31/2 feet, in the backseat of the white car. Other officers arrived on the scene, and after defendants were secured, Officer Frazier observed that the window in the rear door of the SUV was missing, one hydraulic arm was on the ground, the other arm was dangling from the vehicle, and the rear door lock was "punched." Officer Frazier spoke with Little, who identified the window in the white car as coming from her vehicle.

The parties stipulated that the SUV was owned by Little's husband, who had not given anyone permission to remove the rear window. The State rested.

Both defendants moved for a directed finding of not guilty, arguing that the State had failed to prove an essential element of the offense of burglary: an "entry" into the vehicle. Defendants argued that the window was completely outside of the vehicle "because all you had to do was press that lever and the window came up and out." The State argued, however, that the window could not be removed "without somehow reaching into the vehicle. The window does not just pop off." The trial court denied defendants' motions, stating in relevant part:

"[I]n order to remove a window from a vehicle for purposes of the burglary statute, you enter the vehicle since the window has both an inside and an outside and you are removing something that has both an inside and an outside on a vehicle." The trial court also concluded that the evidence showed that the hydraulic arms that opened the window were on the inside, and that punching out the rear lock constituted an entry, regardless of how the window was removed.

Defendant Jones further argued for a directed finding of not guilty, maintaining that the State had failed to prove that he was a participant and not merely a passenger in the car. The trial court found the evidence sufficient to withstand Jones' motion for a directed finding on this issue.

Defendants called no witnesses, and after closing argument, the trial court found both defendants guilty of burglary. The trial court denied defendants' posttrial motions for a new trial, and sentenced defendant Beauchamp to three years' imprisonment and defendant Jones to ...


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