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People v. Landgham

MARCH 11, 1970.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JAMES J. MEJDA, Judge, presiding. Judgment affirmed.


After a jury trial, defendant was convicted of murder and sentenced to serve seventeen to twenty-five years. He appeals.

Defendant contends that in violation of Miranda v. Arizona *fn1 (1) he was not warned of his constitutional rights before he made oral statements admitted in evidence against him; (2) warnings of his constitutional rights were not repeated to him before he gave an inculpatory oral statement; (3) he did not knowingly and intelligently waive his constitutional rights before he gave the oral statements; (4) a written confession he gave was the product of the circumstances that produced the prior oral statements; and (5), he was not adequately advised of his constitutional rights before he gave the written confession.

At approximately 6:00 in the morning of August 6, 1966, Samuel Jones, 6437 South Bishop in Chicago, found his son, Wendaland, age 8, dead in the alley behind 6439 South Bishop. Mr. Jones carried the body to his front porch and called the police. When they arrived, they inspected where the body was found. There the policemen saw what appeared to be a small pool of blood. From the alley, the policemen followed brown spots on the ground to a gangway between 6445 and 6447 South Bishop. More traces of blood were found on the pavement. After first looking in the rear area of 6445, the officers crossed the yard to 6447 where they discovered more blood on the concrete of the basement door.

6447 South Bishop was the home of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Strong and their five children. Defendant, a stepbrother of Mr. Strong, lived with them. Two sons of the Strongs, Charles, Jr., age 14, Ardell, age 6, and the defendant slept in the basement. The rest of the family slept upstairs. Three policemen went to the front of the Strong home and knocked on the door. Defendant opened it. One officer, Sergeant Gorman, identified himself and asked defendant if he lived in the building. Defendant said he did. Gorman asked defendant if he and his fellow policemen could look in the basement. Defendant replied, "Come on in." The officers did not have a search warrant. Sergeant Gorman did not tell defendant why he wanted to look. Defendant took Gorman and two officers to the basement. Everyone else in the house was asleep.

In the basement one of the officers opened the back door and saw what appeared to be bloodstains. A short time later, Mrs. Strong came from the upstairs portion of the house and asked the policemen what they were doing in her home. One officer explained to her that a boy was killed; and that they had reason to believe the boy was killed in her basement. Mrs. Strong asked who the boy was; and on learning his identity, she gave permission for a search of the house. Mrs. Strong then left the basement and went upstairs with her two sons, followed by the defendant.

The policemen made a thorough search of the basement and discovered what appeared to be bloodstains on the refrigerator, on the floor, on five rags on the floor and on a lace curtain. In the upstairs portion of the house, Sergeant Gorman saw a pair of shoes which had brown spots on them. He asked who owned them. Defendant, who was then on a couch playing with a grandchild of Mrs. Strong, said they were his. At this point, because defendant became a suspect, Sergeant Gorman advised him of his constitutional rights. "[I] told Mr. Landgham that he had a right to remain silent, that anything he told me could and would be used against him in trial. I also told him he had a right to have an attorney present during the questioning, and also that if he could not afford an attorney we would see that the State would procure one for him." In the presence of Mrs. Strong, Sergeant Gorman and Officer O'Neil, defendant said that the day before Wendaland Jones and Ardell Strong had an argument; that Ardell stabbed Wendaland.

A short time later, Sergeant Gorman found a hunting knife in the kitchen covered with reddish-brown stains. The two officers ordered defendant to take off the clothes he was wearing and seized them as evidence. The stained shoes were also taken. Defendant was transported to Area 3 Headquarters of the Chicago Police Department. Mrs. Strong and her son Ardell were taken to the station in another vehicle. There, according to the two officers, defendant changed the statement he made earlier. He said that in the afternoon of the day before, he, Ardell and Wendaland were in the basement of the Strong home. Ardell left. Defendant said that he had an urge, he picked up a knife and struck Wendaland in the chest. A short time after defendant made the inculpatory oral statement, Officer O'Neil called the office of the State's Attorney of Cook County. An assistant on duty spoke to him and asked if defendant was advised of his constitutional rights and whether defendant wanted to give a statement. Officer O'Neil answered both questions in the affirmative, although he did not explain the basis of his assertion that defendant was willing to give a statement. At about 12:00 noon, defendant was taken to the office of the State's Attorney where he gave a written confession. After the confession was transcribed, defendant corrected and signed it.

Evidence which the court heard on hearing of defendant's motion to suppress the oral statements and the written confession established that he was born in Mississippi where he attended school to the eighth grade. Although he lived in that state until he was 21, defendant never was gainfully employed there. In Chicago he worked at menial jobs before he moved in with the Strong family. While living with the Strongs, and at the time of his arrest, defendant was employed in a restaurant in the Chicago Loop. When he gave the written confession, he was asked whether he could read and write. Defendant answered, "A little, not much, not too much." Defendant denied he was warned concerning his constitutional rights; he denied making the written statement; and swore that "[I] told them I did not want to make a statement. . . . That's right." After hearing Sergeant Gorman, Officer O'Neil, Mrs. Strong, the Assistant State's Attorney, the court reporter who corroborated the other witnesses concerning the written confession, and defendant himself, the trial judge found that defendant was adequately warned of his rights and overruled the motion to suppress.

Defendant's motion to suppress questioned whether prosecution authorities complied with the mandate of Miranda when they took defendant's oral statements and the written confession. Sergeant Gorman testified that in the Strong residence, the morning of August 6, he gave defendant the Miranda warnings. This testimony was corroborated by Officer O'Neil and, more importantly, by Mrs. Strong, wife of defendant's stepbrother. By the requisite degree of proof, the evidence established that defendant was adequately warned of his constitutional rights before he was subjected to custodial interrogation. Narro v. United States, 370 F.2d 329 (5th Cir 1966).

Implicit in the trial court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress was a finding that before he made the inculpatory oral statement at Area 3 Headquarters defendant had been adequately warned of his constitutional rights. Defendant challenges this finding with the contention that the record does not show he was given the Miranda warnings at the Headquarters. In other words, defendant contends that the warnings given him at the Strong home a very short time earlier that morning, should have been, but were not repeated. This contention, however, is answered by People v. Hill, 39 Ill.2d 125, 233 N.E.2d 367, where the court said, 39 Ill.2d 125, at 131-132:

It should be made clear that once Miranda's mandate was complied with at the threshold of the questioning it was not necessary to repeat the warnings at the beginning of each successive interview. To adopt an automatic second warning system would be to add a perfunctory ritual to police procedures rather than providing the meaningful set of procedural safeguards envisioned by Miranda. Gorman v. United States (1st Cir) 380 F.2d 158, 164.

Therefore, a second Miranda warning was not necessary immediately before defendant gave the inculpatory oral statement. People v. Sievers, 255 Cal.App.2d 34, 62 Cal Rptr 841 (1967).

Defendant's next contention is that the trial judge denied his motion to suppress although there was no evidence that defendant waived his Miranda rights before he gave the oral statements. Defendant points to the three witnesses who gave testimony concerning what occurred the morning of August 6. The witnesses were Sergeant Gorman, Officer O'Neil and Mrs. Strong. The record discloses that none of the three witnesses was asked any question which disclosed what the defendant did or said after Sergeant Gorman gave him the Miranda warnings. As a consequence, the record is silent concerning waiver by defendant of his constitutional rights prior to his giving the oral statements.

Defendant relies on the language of Miranda: 384 U.S. 436, at 475:

If the interrogation continues without the presence of an attorney and a statement is taken, a heavy burden rests on the government to demonstrate that the defendant knowingly and intelligently waived his privilege against self ...

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