People v. Clay

Decision Date20 November 1973
Docket NumberNo. 44873,44873
Citation55 Ill.2d 501,304 N.E.2d 280
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee, v. Edward CLAY, Appellant.
CourtIllinois Supreme Court

Lee E. Holt, Chicago, for appellant.

William J. Scott, Atty. Gen., Springfield, and Bernard Carey, State's Atty., Chicago (James B. Zagel, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Kenneth L. Gillis and Thomas A. Mauet, Asst. State's Attys., of counsel), for the People.

RYAN, Justice:

Following a bench trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant, Edward Clay, was convicted of murder and three armed-robbery charges and sentenced to the penitentiary for a term of from 40 to 60 years for each offense. Constitutional questions were raised, and the appeal was taken to this court pursuant to our Rule 603, S.H.A. ch. 110A then in effect (43 Ill.2d R. 603). People v. Johnson, 55 Ill.2d 62, 302 N.E.2d, arose from the 55 Ill.2d 62, 302 N.E.2d 20, arose from the the instant case do not require a complete restatement of the facts which are set forth in Johnson. It is sufficient to say that the defendant was convicted of the armed robberies and murder which occurred in Otto's Tavern on Bissell Street in Chicago, on April 18, 1968.

Defendant's primary contention, and the one upon which other alleged errors are premises, is that the police, when they arrested him without a warrant, lacked probable cause to believe he had committed an offense. We disagree.

Witnesses to the crime informed police that the gunmen were two male Negroes in their early 20s, approximately 5 feet 8 inches and 6 feet tall. They stated that one was dark and the other was light in color. In addition, the witnesses described to police their personal effects which were taken in the robbery, and the shotguns used by the two holdup men. This information was in the possession of the police when they learned that Charles Knox knew something about the crimes.

On the morning of April 21, 1968, Charles Knox was located by the police and questioned. According to the police officers, Knox informed them that on April 19 he had met two men on a Chicago street corner, one of whom was known to him as Moses, and the other was identified by Moses as his brother. Moses told him that they had committed a robbery on Bissell Street and had taken a large quantity of money. Moses showed him a large roll of bills and said that he had 'to trigger the woman with a shotgun.' Knox said that Moses and his brother were Negroes; that Moses was approximately 20 years old and was dark complected; that his brother was light complected; that he had seen a shotgun in the front bedroom of Moses' apartment, and that, while he did not know Moses' specific address, he could point out the building and describe the floor plan of Moses' apartment.

With Knox's assistance, the police proceeded to the building and apartment in which Moses resided, which was also on Bissell Street. The police entered the apartment and arrested Moses and his two brothers, Oscar and Edward (the defendant in this case). The physical characteristics of Moses and Edward conformed to the descriptions given the police by Knox.

At a hearing to suppress statements made by the defendant after his arrest, Knox refuted the testimony of the police officers as to what he had told them. Knox testified that he had never told the police who committed the crime on Bissell Street; that he had not informed the police of any recent conversations with Moses, for he had not spoken to the latter for three weeks prior to the questioning, and that the only information that he had given to the police was that he knew a man named Moses who lived on Bissell Street and who had a shotgun. The trial judge at the hearing on the motion to suppress heard the conflicting testimony as to what Knox had told the police prior to defendant's arrest. It is the function of the trial court to resolve conflicts in the testimony and to determine the credibility of the statements given by the witnesses. (People v. Hurst, 42 Ill.2d 217, 220, 247 N.E.2d 614.) From the court's denial of the motion to suppress it is apparent that the court resolved the conflict by determining that the testimony of the officers was more credible than that of Knox. We find no reason to disturb this determination.

Whether or not probable cause for an arrest exists in a particular case depends upon the totality of the facts and circumstances known to the officers when the arrest was made. (People v. Higgins, 50 Ill.2d 221, 227, 278 N.E.2d 68; People v. Gwin, 49 Ill.2d 255, 258, 274 N.E.2d 43.) In deciding the question of probable cause in a particular case the courts deal with probabilities and are not disposed to be unduly technical. These probabilities are the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable men, not legal technicians, act. Draper v. United States, 358 U.S. 307, 79 S.Ct. 329, 3 L.Ed.2d 327; People v. Fiorito, 19 Ill.2d 246, 166 N.E.2d 606.

The defendant contends that the State failed to prove that Knox was a reliable informant and that, therefore, the information which he gave to the police officers would not justify the arrest of the defendant.

To establish probable for the defendant's arrest under the circumstances in this case it was not necessary that it be established that Knox was an informant who had previously given reliable information to the police. This is not the customary case where the arrest is made solely on the basis of information obtained from an informant. The officers knew that a murder and three armed robberies had been committed by two men armed...

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    • United States
    • Maine Supreme Court
    • June 5, 1978
    ...justice thereon will not be set aside unless clearly erroneous. State v. MacKenzie, 161 Me. 123, 210 A.2d 24 (1965); People v. Clay, 55 Ill.2d 501, 304 N.E.2d 280 (1973). E. Reliability of In State v. LeBlanc, supra, at page 594, this Court said that an anonymous phone call was not by itsel......
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