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The People v. Scott





APPEAL from the Criminal Court of Cook County; the Hon. ERWIN J. HASTEN, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied November 25, 1963.

Gertrude Rhinehardt and John Schot were killed on November 17, 1959, and defendant Roosevelt Scott was named in separate murder indictments which were subsequently, on motion of defense counsel, consolidated for trial before a jury in the criminal court of Cook County. The jury found defendant guilty and fixed his punishment at death. The consolidated cases are here for review on appeal.

The record in this case, comprising some 3000-odd pages, indicates that Gertrude Rhinehardt, about 90 years of age, owned an apartment building at 1927 West Jackson Boulevard in Chicago where she lived in a first-floor apartment, while her nephew, John Schot, aged 72, occupied a basement apartment. They owned a large Collie dog and a small black one. About one o'clock on the morning of Tuesday, November 17, 1959, Marie Gilman, a widow living alone in a second-floor apartment of the same building, was awakened by what she described as "an uncanny yell or scream." She left her apartment and went to the head of the stairs leading to the first floor; looking down the stairway she saw a light colored Negro man coming out of Mrs. Rhinehardt's apartment. He had on a vivid red shirt which buttoned all the way down the front and had long sleeves. Mrs. Gilman asked the man what he was doing and he replied that John Schot and he were painting and that John had sent him up for some paint. She asked why the dog had screamed and the man said it had cancer of the leg and had fallen down stairs. They stood there talking for a few minutes during which the man invited her downstairs so John could tell her everything was all right, but Mrs. Gilman did not go down. She then returned to her room, but could not sleep and about fifteen minutes later she arose, went downstairs and outside the building and looked around. Hearing nothing, she re-entered the building. About half way up the stairs to her apartment she heard a sound like a door opening, and she ran back to her apartment where she heard nothing further. Shortly thereafter the odor of something burning became noticeable and smoke billowed in when she opened her door. Arousing other people living on the second floor, she fled from the building which was on fire. Several people tried to arouse Mrs. Rhinehardt and Schot but got no answer.

The fire department was called shortly after 3:00 A.M. and while extinguishing the blaze the bodies of Mrs. Rhinehardt and Schot were found in their respective apartments. Mrs. Rhinehardt's body was on her bed bearing severe wounds about the face and neck, and Schot's body was found on the floor of his apartment severely wounded on the face, neck and head. Immediately following the discovery of the bodies police officers began an investigation which started with the interrogation of Mrs. Gilman. She was taken to the Warren Avenue station about 5:00 that morning and a typed statement was taken from her which was torn up. A second statement was torn up and, finally, a third statement was taken in which Mrs. Gilman said a man who had been painting the back porch would fit the general description of the man she had seen in the hall. This man was arrested later that evening, but Mrs. Gilman then said he was not the man to whom she had spoken. Later on the evening of November 17, the police took another typewritten statement from Mrs. Gilman in which she described the man with whom she had spoken as a slender light-skinned mulatto Negro with a soft voice, and stated that she could not see his face because he had on a brimmed hat which hid it. She also stated that there were two lights in the hallway, one toward the back where the door to the basement was and one near the front entrance to Mrs. Rhinehardt's apartment. The back light was on, the front one was not. The man stood beneath the front light, and because it was out she couldn't see him too well.

During the ensuing week Mrs. Gilman was taken to the Warren Avenue police station on seven or eight occasions to view suspects being interrogated by police and she was unable to identify any of them. On the night of November 24, 1959, about 9:00 P.M. she was again taken to the Warren Avenue station. While sitting on a bench there she overheard a voice which she thought she recognized, and looking in the adjoining room she saw the man with whom she had spoken in the apartment hallway, wearing the same "vivid red shirt", which was "identical, in color, texture, buttons and everything." She told police officers Pates and Slaughter, both of whom she knew by this time, that, "You have got your man, finally. You don't have to bother anymore". She further said to them, "It is funny he didn't change his clothes, he must be awful stupid." However, she was not requested to and did not confront the man with her identification. The man was Roosevelt Scott, who had been taken into custody about 10:45 that evening in the lobby of the Royalton Hotel at 1810 West Jackson Boulevard, one block east of the scene of the killings. He had been placed in a squad car and taken to the Warren Avenue police station, arriving there about 11:00 P.M.

Some confusion existed in Mrs. Gilman's statement as to whether the light in the hallway, beneath which was standing the man later identified by her as defendant, had been lighted at the time of her conversation with him, and she had also made conflicting statements as to whether this person wore a hat on that occasion. She gave contradictory answers as to whether the officers had shown her any red shirts, and her testimony at the trial that the defendant was wearing the same clothing, including the red shirt, at the time she identified him at the police station as he was wearing the night of the murder was contradicted by all other witnesses who remembered defendant's clothing when he was brought to the station.

Upon his arrival Scott was taken to the second floor juvenile room at the police station and Pates and Slaughter began to question him about his acquaintance with Schot and about the killings. Shortly thereafter Lt. Flynn arrived and he then took charge of the interrogation. An hour or so later officers Vincent and Jones came in, and they also participated. It appears that one or the other of these five men interrogated the defendant for about four hours. Around three o'clock A.M. on the morning of November 25 he was told that he was under arrest on "suspicion of murder," after the officers had checked an alibi witness, one Diverna Day, who denied being with defendant on the night of November 17 as claimed by him. The interrogation continued until about 6:30 in the morning when defendant was placed in the basement lockup at the station where he remained until about noon. He was then removed to Central Police Headquarters at 11th and State streets by two officers, and taken to the crime laboratory where he underwent a polygraph examination for two hours. Thereafter he was interrogated by officers Flanagan, Flood, Barrett, Banks, and Jones at the homicide division until five or six o'clock when he was returned to the Warren Avenue station. The interrogation by Lt. Flynn and officers Pates, Vincent, Jones, and Slaughter was then resumed and some time between 9:30 and 11:00 o'clock on the evening of November 25 the defendant agreed to make a statement to an assistant State's Attorney.

Assistant State's Attorney Eldred Benz arrived at the station about 11:00 P.M. on the evening of November 25. After being briefed by Lt. Flynn, Benz discussed with the defendant the matters to be covered in the statement, and a question and answer statement was then taken in the presence of Lt. Flynn and court reporter Smith; the defendant subsequently refused to sign the transcribed statement. Officer Pates's signature appears as a witness on a stenographic transcript of the confession although Benz, Smith and Flynn all testified there was no one present with the defendant at the time the statement in question was taken except the three of them. Pates denied being present during the interrogation by Benz, and although he identified his signature, he could not remember how or when he signed it.

November 26, 1959, was Thanksgiving Day, and on Friday, November 27, the defendant was taken before a municipal court judge for preliminary hearing. His present counsel was appointed to represent him on January 15, 1960.

Meriting primary consideration is defendant's contention that the methods used to secure the confession were violative of defendant's constitutional rights under both the State and Federal constitutions and that his motion to suppress the confession, the hearing on which lasted a full week, should have been allowed. Defendant testified to physical abuse by the officers which, if believed, would invalidate his subsequent admissions. His argument regarding prolonged interrogation, denial of counsel, denial of prompt arraignment, and claim of corroboration as to his testimony regarding violence must all be weighed with respect to the rules of law heretofore announced. The physical abuse testified to by defendant consisted of claims that he was struck with a blackjack, beaten on top of the head with a city of Chicago telephone book, that the telephone book was placed on his head and then struck sharply and repeatedly with a baseball bat; and that his clothing was removed and he was forced to lie on the floor with his legs separated while the officers struck him on the testicles with a belt. Additionally, he claimed the officers pulled on his handcuffed arms so as to cause him considerable pain. Corroboration exists, defendant argues, for this testimony in the statements of the county physician that the doctor found welts on defendant's wrists from the handcuffs and that, while the physician had seen them on prisoners before, they were "quite unusual." Defendant's brother and mother testified defendant told them of his mistreatment and that his confession was untrue when they were first permitted to see him. Contrasted to this are the undenied facts that defendant did not tell the committing magistrate, county physician or assistant State's Attorney of the alleged mistreatment, the fact that the welts on defendant's wrists could well have resulted from causes other than the claimed abuse, and the unequivocal denial of this mistreatment by each of the persons supposed to have participated in or witnessed it.

The prolonged interrogation relied on by defendant as error consisted, according to defendant, of questioning by various officers from the time of his arrival at the Warren Avenue station at about 11:00 P.M., November 24, to 6:30 or 7:00 A.M., November 25, a period of rest until noon of the same day when intermittent questioning resumed, culminating in the confession at 8:00 or 9:00 P.M. It is apparent that the entire period covered no more than 24 hours, during a portion of which defendant was asleep or resting.

Argument relating to the denial of a prompt arraignment is predicated on the fact that defendant was taken into custody shortly before 11:00 P.M. on November 24. The following day he was taken to Central Police Headquarters in Chicago at 11th and State streets, a building in which four branches of the municipal court were then in session, and before any one of which defendant might well have then been taken for a preliminary hearing. The purpose of the visit there was to enable defendant to take an agreed lie-detector test, following which he was returned to the Warren Avenue station where his confession occurred that evening. The following day being Thanksgiving the defendant's preliminary hearing did not occur until November 27, the day after Thanksgiving.

The proof as to the denial of counsel is unclear in that the defendant apparently did not request that he be permitted to call a lawyer or that a specific lawyer be called for him. While the defendant did testify as to the names of two specific lawyers in his trial testimony, there was no such evidence at the hearing on the motion to suppress the confession. The proof in support of the motion was simply that "defendant said he ...

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