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People v. Zepeda

NOVEMBER 4, 1969.

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

JESSE ZEPEDA (IMPLEADED), DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JACQUES F. HEILINGOETTER, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.

MR. JUSTICE MCCORMICK DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.

Jesse Zepeda, defendant, was indicted for the crime of murder. On June 20, 1967, at a bench trial and plea of not guilty, the court found the defendant guilty of murder as charged and sentenced him to be committed to the Illinois Youth Commission. This appeal raises the question of the propriety of the trial court's ruling admitting into evidence over objection a confession of the defendant.

At the time of the alleged offense the defendant was a minor, sixteen years old. He made a pretrial motion to suppress a confession, but the trial court overruled the motion.

The defendant's main contention is that he did not receive adequate warning concerning his constitutional rights and that when he did make a statement to the police, and later to the State's Attorney's Office, he had not knowingly waived any of his rights. He argues that anything said by him to the police or the State's Attorney should have been suppressed, and that the trial court therefore committed reversible error by admitting such statements into evidence.

The facts are that a certain Gabriel Moreno was found dead, his body having been placed under a porch. It was stipulated that if Dr. Kearns of the Coroner's Office were called upon to testify he would state that he examined the body of Gabriel Moreno on March 7, 1967, and that it was his opinion that the death was caused by hemorrhage resulting from multiple stab wounds of the face and neck; that the lethal weapon appeared to have been a broken bottle.

Jesse Zepeda and his co-defendant, Larry Zavala, were arrested on March 9, 1967, and taken to Area 2 police station on Cottage Grove Avenue where they were placed in separate rooms. No juvenile officer was called until after statements had been given and the boys were being taken to the State's Attorney's Office at about 3:30 p.m. The arresting officer testified that it was standard procedure to call a juvenile officer immediately after such an arrest, but he admitted that the procedure was not followed in the instant case and that no juvenile officer was present at any of the interrogations of the boys.

Two statements given by the defendant — one to the police and one to the State's Attorney — were substantially the same, and both statements placed the blame for the actual killing on Zavala, although the defendant admitted dragging the deceased across an alley after he had been beaten and before he was stabbed. The defendant also admitted standing by and watching Zavala kill the victim with a broken bottle, although a statement taken from Zavala claimed that the defendant had killed Moreno. A severance had been granted so that Zavala's statement was not introduced at defendant's trial.

The defendant maintains that his statement to the police officers was obtained illegally and that any subsequent statement was also tainted with illegality. The defense has concluded that the defendant's statements should have been suppressed and that the trial court committed reversible error in admitting those statements into evidence.

At the pretrial hearing on the motion to suppress, William Boreczky, the arresting officer, testified for the State concerning both defendant and Zavala. Before the hearing an agreement had been reached between the State and the parties-defendant that the motion would be joint, with the understanding that if it were denied there would be a severance in the trial of the defendants. The officer said that when he took the written statement from the defendant he warned him of his constitutional rights, and that he heard the Assistant State's Attorney give the required warning to the two boys at the time the second statement was taken. The documents containing questions and answers were signed by the defendant after he was asked to verify them. The following was included in the statement given to the police officer:

Det. Boreczky: "Do you realize that you have the right to remain silent, if you choose not to remain silent anything you say or write can and will be used as evidence against you in court: you have a right to consult a lawyer before any questioning, and you have a right to have the lawyer present with you during any questioning; you not only have a right to consult with a lawyer before any questioning, but, if you lack the financial ability to retain a lawyer, a lawyer will be appointed to represent you before any questioning, and you may have the appointed lawyer present with you during any questioning. Do you fully understand what I have stated to you?"

Zepeda: "Yes."

Boreczky: "Do you still wish to give us this statement?"

Zepeda: "Yes."

Boreczky: "Can you read and write the English language, and how far did you progress in school?"

Zepeda: "Yes, I can, and I went to Bowen High School and dropped out in my second year."

The following was included in the later statement given to the State's Attorney:

Q. "Jesse, before I ask you any questions, before you might give me any answers, I want first to caution you and warn you of certain constitutional rights. First, you have an absolute right to remain silent at this time, do you understand that? Secondly, anything that you might say now might be held ...


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