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People v. Ramirez

FEBRUARY 27, 1968.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Criminal Division; the Hon. HERBERT C. PASCHEN, Judge, presiding. Judgment affirmed. MR. JUSTICE LYONS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.

Martin Liszka, Paul DeMario and the instant defendant-appellant, Guy J. Ramirez, were jointly indicted for the offenses of robbery and murder. Defendant was prosecuted separately before a jury which returned verdicts of guilt as to both offenses on November 10, 1965. Defendant, accordingly, was sentenced to serve concurrent terms of from five (5) to ten (10) and of from fourteen (14) to fifteen (15) years in the Illinois State Penitentiary as per the respective counts. Subsequent to the return of the jury's verdicts, defendant offered oral motions in arrest of judgment and for a new trial, both of which were denied, and from which denial he brings this appeal.

Defendant pursues his appeal upon the multifold theory: (1) that error was committed below in the denial of defendant's motion to suppress his two confessions, both having been the involuntary product of psychological coercion by police authorities; (2) that both such confessions being substantially identical, the admission into evidence of the two was cumulative in nature and prejudicial; and (3) that the prosecution failed to adduce sufficient proof to establish either the corpus delicti of the crime charged or defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In response, it is the State's theory that each of the aforesaid elements upon which defendant predicates his appeal is devoid of foundation in fact or law.

A full pretrial hearing was conducted below on defendant's motion to suppress the confessions. The uncontradicted portions of the testimony elicited by the State revealed that defendant and coindictee, DeMario, had been apprehended at defendant's home in the late evening hours of August 25, 1965, for questioning in regard to an August 15th strong-armed robbery, which fact was, at that time, made known to defendant. The arrest is admitted to have been made without a warrant, it likewise appearing that the identity of the alleged victim of the crime (John Baird) was not disclosed until sometime later. Defendant was thereafter transported to the Area 5 Headquarters and placed in overnight custody, without being questioned, in the 14th District lockup where he admits to having remained alone and undisturbed until sometime around 9:00 a.m. the following morning. At this juncture however, the State's version of the events of that day (August 26th) leading up to and culminating in the first of defendant's two written and signed confessions was contradicted by the testimony of the accused.

The State's principal witnesses in this regard were Police Officers Cody and Mahoney, both of whom claimed to have been the sole participants in defendant's interrogation. The two witnesses, without qualification, each denied having made or observed any threats of force or promises of leniency relative to defendant, or to having engaged in any forms of psychological coercion upon his person. As to the duration of their interrogative efforts, both related that defendant had been first questioned briefly regarding the Baird robbery at 9:00 a.m. for a period of approximately a half hour. Thereafter, the accused was taken to police headquarters at 11th and State for a scheduled 11:00 a.m. polygraph examination to which he had consented. Cody added that he had remained with defendant throughout his stay at 11th and State and that, to his knowledge, defendant was not again questioned until approximately 4:00 p.m. that afternoon shortly after his return to Area 5.

On cross-examination, Cody could not recall whether he had personally informed defendant that he would be permitted to make a telephone call or that he had a right to presence of counsel. Cody, however, explained that there were numerous signs to that effect posted throughout the Area 5 building, and that Officer Mahoney had directed defendant's attention to them. Mahoney's testimony made a similar acknowledgment, further stating that upon the witness' suggestion, defendant had arisen from his chair in the interrogation room, walked over, and appeared to have read one of these signs for about a minute. Mahoney testified that the posted signs were in conformity with the requirements of an Illinois statute.

At the afternoon interrogation, Mahoney admits to having told defendant in effect that when he was defendant's age a policeman has helped him out at a time when he needed help, and that it was best to tell the truth. Defendant adhering to his claim of innocence, Mahoney testified that he then informed defendant of John Baird's death earlier that day, advising him that now a murder, not just a robbery, was involved. It was at this point that defendant first gave an oral statement implicating himself in the offense. Cody accounted that defendant gave his inculpatory statement approximately 30 to 40 minutes after the questioning had resumed at 4:00 p.m., State's witness Gloria Williams, an Area 5 stenographer, adding that she had transcribed defendant's remarks shortly after 5:30 p.m. and observed defendant affixing his signature thereto. Mahoney asserted that defendant had, at no juncture, made any request to see a lawyer or to make a telephone call.

Testifying in his own behalf, defendant told the court that at the time of the foregoing events he was 18 years of age, that he could speak English, and that the extent of his education was the completion of one year of high school. Defendant claimed to have never been apprised of his constitutional rights to remain silent and to consult an attorney, nor informed that he could make a telephone call. He further maintained to have not been fed until the evening of August 26th nor ever afforded the opportunity to examine the posted signs advising of his rights in the matter.

Defendant stated that the questioning lasted almost the entire day under the direction of different persons. He asserted that, at one point, an unidentified policeman had endeavored to trip him as he walked down a corridor to an interrogation room, overhearing someone at that time suggest that they beat him up for what he did to Baird. Having been made fearful and nervous by such tactics, defendant claims to have uttered his incriminating statement only after being further frightened by the revelation that Baird had died and by the suggestions of Officer Mahoney that he tell the truth because the police had five witnesses to prove that he was lying. In rebuttal, Mahoney denied ever having told defendant that only DeMario and not he could be held accountable for the murder.

Defendant's second confession had been taken in his mother's presence by Assistant State's Attorney, George Murtaugh, at 8:00 p.m. that same evening. Murtaugh testified as to having obtained some food for defendant and of having fully advised him of his rights before securing defendant's statement. Defendant on appeal, however, does not question the propriety of the circumstances attendant the taking of this latter confession. As against his motion to suppress, defendant argues only that by the precedent of People v. Thomlison, 400 Ill. 555, 81 N.E.2d 434 (1948), a second confession, ostensibly valid in all respects, suffers from the same unlawful constraints by which the first was obtained, and hence both must fail for want of voluntariness. It was from within this factual context that defendant's motion was considered by the court below and denied.

[1-4] The principle of law for which defendant offers People v. Thomlison, supra, of course, finds no application in the case at bar lest we upset the trial judge's finding of voluntariness as to the first confession. Upon our inquiry into the nature of that initial statement, the question of its competency is a matter long reserved for the trial court to alone decide, the voluntary character of which, moreover, need not convince the court to that degree foreclosing all reasonable doubt. Accordingly, in passing upon the entirety of circumstances surrounding the rendition of that confession, our court will lend considerable credence to the findings of the trial judge who saw and heard the witnesses as to matters of credibility. It is a determination which will not ordinarily be disturbed on review, absent some abuse of judicial discretion or unless shown by the attacking party to be contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. People v. Hudson, 38 Ill.2d 616, 233 N.E.2d 403 (1968); People v. Hall, 38 Ill.2d 308, 231 N.E.2d 416 (1967); People v. Spencer, 27 Ill.2d 320, 189 N.E.2d 270 (1963). Viewed from such perspective in reviewing the record before us, we have found substantial evidence supporting the finding of voluntariness, evidence adequately demonstrating the absence of any psychological overbearance as would be tantamount to a form of coercion or inducement.

While the scope of the preliminary hearing is, to a degree, dependent upon the facts peculiar to the case, the instant proceedings, having postdated June 22, 1964, are agreed to have been within the realm of applicability of the constitutional guidelines enunciated in Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U.S. 478 (1964). The principles established in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), however, do not so attach, the commencement of the proceedings here antedating its effective date of prospective application. Johnson v. New Jersey, 384 U.S. 719 (1966); People v. Kirk, 36 Ill.2d 292, 222 N.E.2d 498 (1966). Hence, as to the Miranda dictates requiring adequate warnings relative to rights to counsel, to remain silent, and the use of statements in evidence against the accused, failure to comply therewith in the case at bar would not per se, render defendant's confession inadmissible. Rather, they are deemed factually "significant attendant circumstances" for the court to consider in conjunction with the question of voluntariness. People v. Hudson, supra; People v. Kirk, supra.

Here, that question was resolved in the affirmative upon the trier of fact's belief in the State's version of the case. It is a determination the record here on review will not permit us to disturb. There is no dispute but that defendant had not been interrogated during his overnight confinement. The two interrogation sessions themselves were for relatively brief periods of time, separated from one another by a span of about six hours, and conducted by what would appear to not have been an overwhelming number of persons, all of which is uncharacteristic of the classical case of coercion. Defendant stated that he could speak English, acknowledging the existence of posted informational signs in the Area 5 building (denying only that he read them), which signs Officer Mahoney attested conformed to the requirements of the statute. See Ill Rev Stats 1965, c 38, par 103-7. The two officers' testimony further corroborated that defendant, in fact, had been directed to and personally viewed the contents thereof. Under such circumstances, this court does not understand Escobedo as tainting an otherwise voluntary confession because the State did not, as such, affirmatively caution the accused of such rights. People v. Hartgraves, 31 Ill.2d 375, 202 N.E.2d 33 (1964); People v. Miller, 33 Ill.2d 439, 211 N.E.2d 708 (1965).

Defendant, in essence, makes no claim to the involuntariness of his confession because of threats of physical force, but rather as the end result of a mind overborne by subtle tactics designed to instill fear or induce reliance. Yet defendant does not assail the statements of advice by Mahoney or his revelation of Baird's death as calculated falsehoods. Such remarks being mere statements of truth uncoupled with some intimation of compromise, we cannot deem them sufficient to evidence an inducement which produced an involuntary acknowledgment of complicity in the questioned offense. People v. Pugh, 409 Ill. 584, 100 N.E.2d 909 (1951); People v. Hartgraves, supra.

Unlike Escobedo, there is no testimony of record which would indicate that the accused ever requested and was denied an opportunity to make a telephone call or to seek the advice of counsel. Similarly, while the State offered no testimony to refute defendant's claim to having not been fed until approximately 8:00 p.m. that day, it does not appear that defendant ever made a request for food. This is not to say that it was incumbent upon defendant to make the request in the first instance. It was simply another relevant factor taken together with defendant's age, education, and arrest without a warrant, the sum total of which not of itself sufficient to render the confession ...

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