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The People v. Townsend





WRIT OF ERROR to the Criminal Court of Cook County; the Hon. WALKER BUTLER, Judge, presiding.


Charles Townsend, the defendant, was indicted in the criminal court of Cook County for the murder of Jack Boone. He was found guilty of the charge by a jury, which fixed his punishment at death. He prosecuted this writ of error for a review of the record of his conviction. This court, in a per curiam opinion heretofore announced, affirmed the conviction.

The defendant's petition for rehearing has been allowed to reconsider his contentions restated therein that a confession made by a person in custody while under the influence of drugs is per se involuntary, and the admission thereof into evidence is a denial of due process of law. Counsel for defendant does not argue that the drugs were injected for the express purpose of inducing the confession, but insists that it is the fact that defendant was under the influence of a drug injection by police authorities that deprives the confession of that element of voluntary admission which allows it to be admissible in evidence against the defendant.

In our original opinion we summarized the facts from the record, as follows:

At approximately 6:00 P.M. on December 18, 1953, Jack Boone, who normally returned from his work at that hour, was found lying in a dark passageway outside his place of residence at 3754 S. Michigan Avenue in the city of Chicago. He was unconscious and the presence of bleeding wounds in his scalp caused neighbors to summon police who removed him to a hospital where he died three days later. An autopsy revealed that death had been caused by a badly fractured skull and accompanying injury to the brain. Because of the severity of the fracture, the presence of two parallel cuts on the scalp, approximately two inches apart, and because certain small neck bones had been fractured, the pathologist performing the autopsy formed an opinion that the fatal injuries had resulted from an external blow of great force struck on the top of the victim's head.

The day following the discovery of Boone's body, a small boy, who lived three fourths of a block distant at 117 E. Thirty-seventh Place, found a wallet on the first floor landing of the apartment building at that address. The boy turned it over to his father who, because of identification found in the wallet, caused it to be delivered to Boone's wife. On the occasion of her appearance before the grand jury on January 5, 1954, the latter turned it over to the police and later identified it at the trial as belonging to her husband.

On December 29, 1953, during the week following Boone's death, the Chicago police arrested a man named Vincent Campbell. Evidence developed at the trial disclosed that Campbell was an acquaintance of defendant but whether the police were then aware of that fact is not shown. Campbell, who admitted while being cross-examined in this cause that he had informed against defendant, was questioned and kept in custody until about 2:00 A.M., January 1, 1954, at which time he accompanied four police officers to the corner of Indiana Avenue and Thirty-fifth Street. Located nearby was a poolroom wherein defendant later claimed to be employed as a professional pool player. After a short wait defendant appeared on the street, was pointed out by Campbell, and was placed under arrest. Approximately 36 hours later, in the office of the State's Attorney, defendant signed a written confession to Boone's murder which was ultimately admitted in evidence against him at his trial. The record reflects an exhaustive and painstaking inquiry, outside the presence of the jury, into the circumstances surrounding defendant's confession and as to his claim that its use as evidence would deny him substantial justice.

Looking to the evidence adduced at the hearing on the confession, we find there are certain significant and undisputed facts of a general nature which should preface any consideration of the immediate circumstances under which the confession was given. Summarized briefly they are: that defendant was nineteen years old at the time of his arrest; that his intelligence quotient was characterized as below normal; that he had had little if any gainful employment or apparent means of support in the months prior to his arrest; that he was a confirmed narcotics addict who had used drugs almost continuously since he was fifteen years old and who had failed to respond to an enforced rehabilitation treatment; that his drug habit cost him from approximately five to seven dollars a day, and that he had taken heroin in the hours immediately prior to his arrest.

Following defendant's arrest, which was fixed at 2:30 A.M., January 1, he was taken to the police station for the second district and, by his version, was questioned for at least two hours during which he denied knowledge of Boone's death. According to homicide detectives who did the questioning, the period was nearer a half hour. In any event, at approximately 5:00 A.M., defendant was transported to the lockup of another station where he remained until 8:30 P.M. without being questioned by anyone. At the hour last stated he was returned to the second district station where he was again questioned by the four arresting officers. Within a short time, by the version of one officer, defendant admitted he had struck and robbed a man on December 18, 1953, in the area where Boone's body was found, and this information caused the officers to summon a representative of the State's Attorney's office to the station. Before the latter arrived, defendant complained of being sick and stated he could answer no further questions until he had seen a doctor. The time, it appears, was approximately 9:00 P.M. A police surgeon was summoned and, thereafter, both the officers present and the assistant State's Attorney, who arrived at 9:30 P.M., refrained from further questioning.

Upon arriving at the station around 9:45 P.M. the surgeon examined the defendant, determined that he was a narcotics addict and diagnosed his illness, which was manifested by stomach pains, chills and nervousness, as being an acute reaction caused by the withdrawal of the effect of narcotic drugs on defendant's body. To relieve and pacify defendant, the surgeon gave him an injection of sodium phenobarbital and hyoscine hydrobromide, described as a normal treatment in such cases. Before departing, the surgeon left with defendant four quarter-grain tablets of oral phenobarbital instructing him to take two tablets at midnight and two the following morning. According to defendant, however, he took three of the tablets almost immediately. Questioning of the defendant was resumed after the departure of the surgeon but it was not until 11:15 P.M. that he was specifically questioned concerning the Boone murder. At that time the assistant State's Attorney obtained a statement from defendant, by means of questions and answers, which was taken down in shorthand by a court reporter called for the purpose. The sweep of the answers to the questions propounded was that defendant had on December 18, 1953, in a passageway near Michigan Avenue and Thirty-eighth Street, struck a man on the head with a house brick and robbed him of a wallet; that he took $4.80 from the person of his victim, and that he disposed of the wallet by throwing it in the hallway of a building on Thirty-seventh Place. Upon further investigation the police confirmed the discovery of the wallet and its return to Mrs. Boone as previously related.

At 1:30 P.M. the following day, January 2, 1954, defendant was taken from jail to the office of the State's Attorney where he was given a typewritten copy of his statement, consisting of four pages of questions and answers. While defendant followed on his copy, the assistant State's Attorney read the complete statement aloud and, when he had concluded, defendant placed his signature in the margin of each page and at the bottom of the last page. Two days later, on January 4, at the coroner's inquest, defendant again testified, in response to questions put to him, that he had robbed and murdered the deceased.

The basic objection to the admission in evidence of the confession taken from the defendant is set forth by counsel for the defendant in his brief wherein he states that: "The confession in this case was not admissible because the evidence in the record shows that it was involuntarily extracted from the defendant while he was under the influence of drugs administered to him by a doctor employed by the police who had defendant under interrogation."

Defendant does not argue that the drugs were involuntarily administered as in People v. Heirens, 4 Ill.2d 131. Defendant does not contend that the medical treatment given him was not proper or that required by good medical practice. The doctor was called at the request of the defendant; it is undisputed that defendant was suffering from "withdrawal pains" — pains resulting when an addict does not receive drugs; it likewise appears without challenge that the medication given defendant was normally used to relieve an acute drug withdrawal case. The fact that defendant had been given a beneficial administration of drugs by a police physician ...

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