People v. Powell

Citation292 N.E.2d 409,53 Ill.2d 465
Decision Date26 January 1973
Docket NumberNo. 43201,43201
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee, v. Monty POWELL, Appellant.
CourtSupreme Court of Illinois

Kenneth L. Gillis and Jack P. Rimland, Chicago, for appellant.

William J. Scott, Atty. Gen., Springfield, and Edward V. Hanrahan, State's Atty., Chicago (James B. Zagel, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Elmer C. Kissane, John O'Rourke, and Nicholas D. Taubert, Asst. State's Attys., of counsel), for the People.


Defendant, Monty Powell, was indicated for the attempted armed robbery and murder of an East Chicago Heights Police Department dispatcher, Oscar Brumfield. At his first trial in the circuit court of Cook County, the jury was unable to reach a verdict. Following a subsequent jury trial, he was convicted of both charges and judgments were entered. Upon the jury's recommendation he was sentenced to death for the murder and now appeals to this court (50 Ill.2d R. 603) Ill.Rev.Stat.1971, c. 110A, § 603 contending that various errors, hereinafter enumerated, denied him a fair trial and that his sentence was improper.

John Gallano of the sheriff's police testified that on March 9, 1969, at about 1:50 A.M., he went to the East Chicago Heights police station in response to a call and discovered deceased lying in the station corridor. A pistol, apparently owned by deceased, was found under several books which had fallen from an overturned carton. A coroner's pathologist stated that death was caused from a bullet wound in the heart.

At the time of the shooting Donald Wright was incarcerated at the station. He testified that he was awakened by a gunshot but from his cell could not see what occurred. He estimated that the police arrived fifteen minutes after the shooting.

Two police dispatchers testified that they knew defendant, who was the admitted leader in that area of an organization known as the Blackstone Rangers. They claimed that on several prior occasions defendant had asked them about weapons which were kept at the police station.

The State produced several members of this group as its witnesses. Johnell Perry testified that in the early evening of March 8, 1969, he was with Charles Smith and others when East Chicago Heights police seized a gun from Smith. Later that evening he and others were at the home of Jerome Branch, and when the defendant arrived there was a discussion regarding the loss of the gun. Defendant said that he had to have it back. Further discussion followed regarding the recovery of the gun, and the number of people that could be expected at the police station at that hour was contemplated. Defendant selected four others to accompany him to the station. They obtained disguises and left. Upon their return a short time later defendant had a gun in his hand and, when asked what had happened, said he had to shoot the man because he pulled a gun on him.

Eugene Perry corroborated the testimony of his brother Johnell. Andre Hood testified that the defendant was the chief of the Blackstone Rangers in East Chicago Heights. Hood was at the home of Jerome Branch when the loss of the gun was discussed. Defendant then talked about knowing where they could obtain many guns--'at the police station.' Defendant, after requesting disguises, selected the persons who were to go with him. Upon their return a short time later, defendant was holding a gun, and when someone asked him what happened, he said that the old man went for his gun.

Joseph Harris was the only occurrence witness to testify to the events which took place at the police station. He stated that upon his arrival at Branch's house that evening every one was 'hollering' about the gun which had been seized by the police. During their conversation defendant said that he knew where other guns could be obtained. After procuring disguises, Harris testified that he, defendant and three others departed for the station in a car which Harris had previously stolen. They drove about the area to ascertain whether there were any police patrols. Further reconnaisance indicated that the dispatcher was alone in the station. Harris then stated that he remained in the car while Charles Smith, who was unarmed, entered the station. He was followed by another member who was armed. Harris further testified that defendant, who was carrying a gun, then entered and immediately a shot was fired but Harris did not see who fired it. The three ran from the station to the car and they all returned to Branch's house where defendant made a statement that he shot deceased. Defendant and several others then went to a restaurant.

Harris also testified that in the early evening of March 12, 1969, prior to his departure for Tennessee, he was again at Branch's house. There, he said, defendant gave him a gun and told him to keep it until 'things blow over.'

Harris was arrested in Tennessee for an unrelated charge. The gun was found concealed in his car and was identified by a ballistic comparison as the murder weapon. He was then returned to Illinois and detained in the Cook County jail.

On cross-examination Harris denied that he and one Ronald Johnson had killed deceased. It was established, however, that certain promises had been made by the State to Harris in return for his testimony. Harris claimed that shortly before defendant's first trial (July 1969) the State promised to recommend a sentence of 5 to 10 years for charges which arose against him from the shooting as well as for the charge of stealing the automobile which was used in connection with the killing. The State also promised to contact the Tennessee authorities concerning the charges pending against him there. Harris refused this offer and another offer of 3 to 7 years. Finally, he agreed to testify when he was offered a recommendation of a 1-to-3-year sentence. He admitted that he knew one Thomas Johnson and Theotis Clark, who were in the county jail with him at about the time of these offers, but denied telling them about the 'deal' which was promised in return for his testimony.

On redirect examination, Harris, over defense objection, testified that his statement given to the police upon his return from Tennessee in March, 1969, was substantially the same as his testimony given at trial.

Ronald Johnson, another member, in substance corroborated the testimony of Harris and other witnesses concerning the events at Jerome Branch's house on the evening of the murder. He also testified that as he was leaving the house to go to the restaurant he asked defendant what had occurred. Defendant responded that when he approached the door of the police station, Brumfield, apparently observing that one of the intruders was wearing a scarf over his face, reached for his weapon and defendant said he shot him. Johnson further stated that he was at Branch's house on March 12, 1969, and saw defendant give Harris the murder weapon, but he said that Harris gave it back to the defendant. Johnson testified that he left shortly thereafter.

Matt Simpson, the restaurant owner, testified that defendant, Joseph Harris and several others entered his restaurant at 2:00 A.M. on the morning of the murder. They departed after purchasing some food.

Defendant testified in his own behalf and denied any involvement in the crime. He claimed he was home that evening with his younger brother and sisters and remained there when his mother came home at midnight. He said that he then went to the restaurant alone arriving there at 1:30 A.M.

An alibi witness was called in an effort to refute the circumstances surrounding the transfer of the weapon on March 12, 1969. Reverend Frank McCall, a community worker in East Chicago Heights, testified that he arrived at defendant's house in the early evening hours of that day. He met defendant and both went to a meeting. He stated that after the meeting he took defendant home where they continued to talk until about 9:00 P.M.

Thomas Johnson, called by defendant, testified that he was in the Cook County jail in July, 1969, where he met Joseph Harris. The State objected to the admission of any conversations this witness had with Harris. It was the State's position that the defense had not established a sufficient foundation for impeachment because it failed to inquire on cross-examination of Harris if he had admitted to Johnson that he had killed the dispatcher.

Defense counsel, out of the jury's presence, conceded that through his inadvertence a proper foundation was not established but sought to cure this defect by having Harris recalled. The trial court denied this request but did instruct defense counsel that he might inquire if Harris had told Johnson that he (Harris) had killed deceased.

An offer of proof based upon Thomas Johnson's testimony at the prior trial was then made. Defense counsel asserted that this witness would testify that he had talked to Harris in early July, 1969, in the county jail; that Harris said he killed deceased and defendant was not involved; that Harris informed him of the prosecution's pressure to testify against defendant and he did not know what to do; that Johnson then said to 'be cool' and went to get Theotis Clark, another inmate; that after he returned with Clark, Harris told them that he and Ronald Johnson went to the station to steal guns in order that he might obtain recognition from the leaders of the Blackstone Rangers; that he stayed in town for several days after the shooting and then went to Tennessee where he was arrested and the murder weapon was discovered in his car; that if he testified, he could obtain a lenient sentence because of his past mental history; and that he had been offered one year incarceration and three years probation in return for his testimony.

After this offer of proof was made, Thomas Johnson then testified that Harris told him and Theotis Clark, another member of the Blackstone Rangers, that he (Harris) and Ronald Johnson had shot...

To continue reading

Request your trial
96 cases
  • State v. Ruth
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 10 Junio 1980
    ...cert. dismissed, 406 U.S. 912, 92 S.Ct. 1619, 32 L.Ed.2d 112 (1972) (corroborating evidence included confession); People v. Powell, 53 Ill.2d 465, 292 N.E.2d 409 (1973) (corroborating evidence included confession); People v. Ahmeti, 28 App.Div.2d 1195, 284 N.Y.S.2d 951 (1967) (corroborating......
  • People v. Gilliard, 81-913
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • 16 Febrero 1983
    ...People v. Thornhill, 31 Ill.App.3d 779, 333 N.E.2d 8 (1975); People v. King, 54 Ill.2d 291, 296 N.E.2d 731 (1973); People v. Powell, 53 Ill.2d 465, 292 N.E.2d 409 (1973); People v. Petty, 3 Ill.App.3d 951, 279 N.E.2d 509 (1972); People v. Fort, 133 Ill.App.2d 473, 273 N.E.2d 439 (1971); Peo......
  • People v. Bryant, 55723
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • 24 Enero 1983
    ...Bailey (1975), 60 Ill.2d 37, 43, 322 N.E.2d 804; see also People v. Gant (1974), 58 Ill.2d 178, 317 N.E.2d 564; People v. Powell (1973), 53 Ill.2d 465, 292 N.E.2d 409; People v. Collins (1971), 49 Ill.2d 179, 274 N.E.2d 77.) Moreover, statements made outside the defendant's presence which r......
  • People v. Lewis, 52338
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • 13 Noviembre 1981
    ...race on the jury and venire in this case. (Swain v. Alabama (1965), 380 U.S. 202, 85 S.Ct. 824, 13 L.Ed.2d 759; People v. Powell (1973), 53 Ill.2d 465, 477-78, 292 N.E.2d 409.) It was entirely proper for the judge to omit mention of Bernice Lewis in asking whether jurors could obey their oa......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT