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People v. Taylor

JUNE 27, 1972.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

WILLIE TAYLOR, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. FRANK J. WILSON, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE SCHWARTZ DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

At 12:30 P.M., on December 27, 1968, an object came through the window of a bedroom in the home of Willie and Burnette Taylor at 5029 West Monroe Street, Chicago. The object exploded and caused a fire. Five persons were in the home at the time — defendant's wife, Burnette Taylor; his stepdaughter, Faye Wright; his stepsons, Orgee Wright and Raymond Smith; and Raymond's wife, Gloria Jean Smith. Orgee Wright died and Raymond Smith sustained serious injuries as a result of the fire. The defendant was indicted for the murder of Orgee Wright, and for attempted murder, aggravated battery, and arson. Suspicion was directed against the defendant because there had been quarreling between him and his wife, and she had advised the police that he had threatened to blow up the house.

Before going to trial, defendant moved to suppress a confession he had made, and a hearing was had. The court denied the motion and the case went to trial. Defendant's confession was admitted into evidence during the course of the trial, and the jury found him guilty of arson, but he was acquitted of the other charges against him. The court entered judgment on the conviction and sentenced the defendant to serve 25 to 50 years in the State penitentiary. Defendant appeals, contending:

(1) that he was denied due process of law in that his confession which was induced by false statements of the police was admitted into evidence;

(2) that under the Fourth Amendment of the Federal Constitution his confession, which he charges was a product of a custodial interrogation on less than probable cause, was admitted into evidence;

(3) that he was denied his right against self-incrimination when interrogation continued after he had invoked his right to remain silent and resulted in a confession;

(4) that he was denied a fair trial and the right to cross-examine a witness in that he was not allowed to use the witness' prior statement for impeachment purposes;

(5) that he was denied the right to cross-examine a witness who was allowed to testify that the fire in question was "arson," when that was the issue the jury was to decide, and that he was not allowed to inquire into the witness' understanding of the word [arson];

(6) that the evidence was not sufficient to prove the corpus delicti; and

(7) that the sentence was excessive.

At noon on December 27, 1968, the defendant was picked up by police at his place of employment — without a warrant — for questioning about the fire. He was taken to the Town Hall Police Station at 3600 North Halsted Street in Chicago, where the arresting officer asked him some questions in order to complete the arrest slip, then advised defendant of his rights. Defendant was then put into a cell where he remained for two and one-half hours, after which he was taken to Area 5 Headquarters at 2138 North California Avenue. Starting at about 3:00 P.M., the defendant was questioned by three Chicago police officers, Robert Moravec, George Berndt and Robert Walter. At the hearing on the pre-trial motion to suppress, defendant testified that he was not warned of his rights before the interrogation started, but the officers testified to the contrary.

Defendant was questioned by Detective Moravec for about an hour in the main room of the station, but denied any knowledge of the fire in his home or participation in the incident. He was then moved to a smaller room because there was noise and disturbance in the main room. The second interrogation lasted about an hour and defendant persisted in his denial of any knowledge of or participation in the fire. During that time he was offered food and drink which he refused. He was then moved to the interrogation room where he was questioned by the three officers for about an hour and a half, during which defendant persisted in his denial of any knowledge of or participation in the fire.

During this third interrogation the detective suggested that defendant take a polygraph [lie detector] test. The officers testified that they told defendant the test was voluntary; that the results were inadmissible in court; that it was one way for him to clear himself; and that at no time was he ordered to take the test. The defendant testified that he was told by the officers that taking the polygraph test was the only way they would believe he was telling the truth, that they suggested he take the test, and that he was not told that he did not have to take it.

The defendant then agreed to take the test, and was taken to the Police Crime Laboratory at 11th and State Streets. When he arrived there with the three detectives at 6:00 P.M., Detective Berndt advised the polygraph examiner, Bruce Thompson, of the facts of the crime and the defendant's denial. Thompson then questioned the defendant for half an hour prior to the actual polygraph test, and defendant continued to deny any knowledge of the fire. Thompson told the defendant that most people who take the test are shown to be telling the truth. However, on cross-examination at the hearing on the motion to suppress the confession, Thompson stated that there was no way to measure the results of such a test as to the general truth or falsity, only ...


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