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The People v. Murdock





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EDWARD E. PLUSDRAK, Judge, presiding.


Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County the defendant, James Murdock, was found guilty of murder, rape and burglary. He was sentenced to concurrent terms of imprisonment for not less than 75 nor more than 199 years on the rape and burglary charges. The jury recommended the death penalty on the murder charge and he was sentenced to death. Defendant appeals directly to this court.

The record shows that in the early afternoon of May 7, 1964, a neighbor found the body of Mrs. Alvina Godlewski in bed in the living quarters behind her school supply and sporting goods store. There was testimony that markings on her body indicated that she had been manually strangled. The findings of a pathologist were that she had recently engaged in sexual intercourse and was intoxicated at the time of her death. The defendant's fingerprints were found on a storm window that had been removed from a bedroom window of the deceased's first floor apartment. Twelve days after the crime was committed the defendant surrendered himself after learning from his brother that he was wanted by the police. He at first denied being in the deceased's store or living quarters at any time but, when confronted with the fact that his fingerprints were on the storm window, signed a typewritten statement admitting that he had entered the room through the open window and taken $3 from the cash register, and $10 from a purse. No attorney was present for the defendant at this interrogation.

A coroner's inquest was held three days after the defendant had surrendered himself. He was taken to this inquest and advised by the coroner that he didn't have to testify unless he wished to do so, and that "if you do testify, it must be of your own free will and accord, without any promise of reward or immunity, knowing full well that anything you say here today may be used either for or against you at this hearing or some future hearing." After having been so admonished the defendant testified and admitted that he had entered the deceased's living quarters and had taken money. He denied, however, that he had raped her or murdered her. At no time during the inquest was the defendant advised that he had a right to be represented by counsel.

The defendant pleaded not guilty to all three charges. Prior to trial he moved to suppress both the statements he gave at the police station after surrendering himself and his testimony at the coroner's inquest on the ground that when they were made he was neither represented by counsel nor advised of his right to be so represented. He further asserted that during his interrogation at the police station, which resulted in the statement, he was not advised of his right to remain silent. His motion to suppress was denied and both the statement and the testimony at the inquest were offered by the State during the trial and received into evidence. After the verdict defendant moved for a new trial on the same grounds, which motion was denied. On this appeal he renews these contentions and also asserts numerous other grounds for reversal.

We are confronted here with a post-Escobedo and pre-Miranda trial. The restriction of Miranda to prospective operation was announced in Johnson v. New Jersey, 384 U.S. 719, 16 L.Ed.2d 882, 86 S.Ct. 1772, and consequently at the time of this trial our decision in People v. Hartgraves, 31 Ill.2d 375, governed the right to counsel in pre-indictment criminal investigations. In Hartgraves we noted that the fact that a defendant was not affirmatively warned that his confession might be used against him does not in and of itself render a confession incompetent. Relying upon Haynes v. State of Washington, 373 U.S. 503, 10 L.Ed.2d 513, 83 S.Ct. 1336, we held that the failure to warn the defendant and advise him of his right to remain silent was an attendant circumstance "which the accused is entitled to have appropriately considered in determining voluntariness and admissibility of his confession." (31 Ill.2d 380.) We further held in Hartgraves that an otherwise voluntary confession would not be rejected solely because the State did not affirmatively caution the accused of his right to have an attorney present. After reviewing the evidence on the defendant's motion to suppress, we are of the opinion that the trial court properly found that the statements given by the defendant at the police station were voluntary.

A further point urged by the defendant with reference to the statements at the police station is that since the first of these statements denied knowledge of any of the crimes committed in the deceased's premises, it should not have been admitted since it had no substantive or independent testimonial value. We disagree. In his subsequent statement the defendant admitted having committed the burglary. We are of the opinion that prior false or contradictory statements by an accused are admissible in evidence.

Defendant's argument that his testimony at the coroner's inquest should have been suppressed on the ground that he was not represented by counsel is likewise without merit. In support of his position he cites section 17.1 of the Coroners Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1963, chap. 31, par. 18.1) which provides that "any witness appearing at the inquest shall have the right to be represented by counsel." This provision, enacted in 1959, has never been construed to give an indigent witness the right to free counsel, even though such witness was then suspected of murdering the decedent. Defendant's contention was recently discussed by the court in People v. Musil (1967), 37 Ill.2d 373. There we held that testimony given at a coroner's inquest may be used against the accused in a subsequent criminal proceeding, despite lack of counsel, so long as certain requirements are met. These requirements, set forth in People v. Jackson, 23 Ill.2d 263, call for affirmative proof showing that the accused was advised of his right to refuse to testify; that he was advised that any statements could be used against him; and that he knowingly and intelligently waived his constitutional right against self-incrimination. We believe that these requirements were met by the admonishment given to the defendant by the coroner.

We are not unmindful that, following our decision in Musil, the United States Supreme Court in Mempa v. Rhay, 389 U.S. 128, 19 L.Ed.2d 336, 88 S.Ct. 254, ruled that the holding in Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335, 9 L.Ed.2d 799, 83 S.Ct. 792, compels the conclusion that "appointment of counsel for an indigent is required at every stage of a criminal proceeding where substantial rights of a criminal accused may be affected." (389 U.S. at 134, 19 L.Ed.2d at 340.) The particular proceeding involved in Mempa was for the purpose of imposing sentence, however, and was not a coroner's inquest. While there can be no doubt that imposition of a sentence is a "stage of a criminal proceeding" we are unwilling to extend this concept to include a coroner's inquest, which is primarily concerned with the cause of death, even when a witness testifying at the inquest may be suspected of murdering the decedent. On the basis that a coroner's inquest is not a "stage of a criminal proceeding," we conclude that the decision in Mempa is inapplicable to the situation before us. Consequently, no error was committed by the trial court's refusal to suppress defendant's testimony at the coroner's inquest.

We next consider defendant's contention that he was denied due process as a result of the prosecution's failure to disclose evidence which was favorable and material to the defense. Subsequent to the trial it was disclosed that police officers had interviewed Mary Ann Panek and made a report and thereafter an assistant State's Attorney took a sworn statement from Miss Panek. Both the police report and the sworn statement were to the effect that 15-year-old Mary Ann Panek had entered the deceased woman's store through an unlocked front door at approximately 12:30 P.M. the day the body was found. She walked to the rear of the store and, upon seeing or hearing no one on the premises, left by the same door. The State admits the existence of this statement and further admits its existence was intentionally not revealed to defense counsel. It attempts to excuse this failure to disclose, however, on the ground that the statement was not material to the facts in this case. The record reveals that the deceased woman was last seen alive at approximately 10:00 P.M. on May 6, 1964. Her body was discovered the following day at 2:00 P.M. by a neighbor who observed it through the ground floor open window of the deceased's apartment. The police arrived at 2:05 P.M. and found, according to their testimony at the trial, that both the double doors in front of the deceased's store and the door leading from the rear of her apartment were locked. It was further ascertained that the front doors could only be locked or unlocked with a key and that the rear door had been locked from the inside with the key remaining in the keyhole. The only other means of ingress and egress to the premises was through the window in the bedroom.

These facts, coupled with the facts that the defendant admitted entering the bedroom by way of the window and that only the deceased's and the defendant's fingerprints were found on the window, supported the prosecution's theory that only the defendant could have committed the rape and murder.

It should be noted that medical testimony adduced at the trial indicated that the deceased woman had engaged in intercourse prior to her death. There was also evidence that she was intoxicated. It was defendant's theory at the trial that some unknown person had engaged in intercourse with and strangled the deceased before the arrival of the defendant. The prosecution ridiculed this theory by commenting upon the locked doors. Since the locked doors played such a key role in the circumstantial evidence against the defendant, evidence that the front door was unlocked at some time prior to the discovery of the deceased's body could hardly be considered irrelevant or immaterial to the reconstruction of the crime. Such evidence, in fact, would be consistent with defendant's claim that a third party had been present to engage in sexual intercourse and strangle the deceased before or after the defendant arrived on the scene. It is our opinion that Miss Panek's testimony was material to the defense and that defendant was denied due process as a result of the prosecution's failure to disclose the existence of her statement. People v. Hoffman, 32 Ill.2d 96; Giles v. Maryland, 386 U.S. 66, 17 L.Ed.2d 737, 87 S.Ct. 793; Miller v. Pate, 386 U.S. 1, 17 L.Ed.2d 690, 87 S.Ct. 785.

As we have noted earlier in this opinion the defendant was charged with and, after a single trial, was found guilty of three distinct crimes: burglary, rape and murder. He was sentenced to 75 to 199 years on the burglary and rape charges and was sentenced to death for the murder. In view of our finding that the defendant's right to due process was violated, it is our opinion that the judgments and sentences relating to each of these crimes should be reversed and remanded for a new trial.

Having determined that the entire cause must be remanded we now consider those issues raised by the defendant which could ...

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