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People v. Reed

DECEMBER 18, 1972.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Ogle County; the Hon. JOHN L. MOORE, Judge, presiding.


This is an interlocutory appeal brought by the State pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 604(a)(1) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 110A, sec. 604(a) (1)), from an order entered October 20, 1971 by the circuit court of Ogle County suppressing all statements made by the defendant, Dorothy Reed, on February 5, 1971 (the day of her arrest) and all evidence derived therefrom.

On December 23, 1970 the defendant's husband, John Reed, died in a hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. The cause of death was diagnosed as acute arsenic poisoning. On that day, deputy sheriff Melvin Messer of Ogle County visited the Reed home in Polo, Illinois and learned from Mrs. Reed that her husband had been ill since May, 1970. At that time, Messer took samples of paint and water from the Reed home and a sample of Mrs. Reed's hair.

In early February, 1971, Mrs. Reed agreed to visit the sheriff's office in Oregon to answer some questions about her husband's illness and death. Accordingly, on the morning of February 5, deputy Messer drove her and her married daughter, Linda Poper, from the home in Polo to the office of Sheriff Gerald Brooks. Brooks first read the now well-known Miranda warnings to Mrs. Reed from a card he carried. She said she understood her rights and that she wished to talk with them. Brooks then told her that they suspected "foul play" in the death of her husband and asked if she would submit to a lie test. When she agreed, deputy Messer drove her, and her daughter, to the police crime laboratory in Rockford.

At the laboratory, Mrs. Reed was taken to the office of polygraph examiner Nicholas Reiland. Reiland also read the Miranda warnings to her and explained a polygraph examination. He emphasized that she did not have to take the test and "could walk out at any time." Mrs. Reed said that she knew her rights and was willing to take the test. When it became apparent to Reiland during the administration of the examination that the defendant was not telling the truth, it was terminated. The two talked further and Mrs. Reed then admitted that she had, on several occasions, put ant poison in her husband's coffee. She repeated the statement to Messer a few moments later when Reiland called him into his office.

Messer then drove the women back to Oregon where he prepared and signed a complaint charging Mrs. Reed with the murder of her husband. After a warrant was obtained and she was formally arrested, Mrs. Reed was asked to repeat her statement before a stenographer and Sheriff Brooks. When she agreed, Messer read the Miranda warnings to her for a third time and proceeded only after she indicated that she understood her rights and was willing to waive them. She then repeated her statement which was transcribed by the stenographer while she was taken into court (in an adjoining building) where bond was set and an attorney appointed to represent her. She signed the statement upon her return from court.

On March 4, Mrs. Reed was indicted for murder and on March 11 entered her plea of not guilty. On May 7, the proceedings were suspended, pursuant to motion of the State and over objection, to institute proceedings to determine the competency of the accused to stand trial pursuant to section 104-2(a) of the Code of Criminal Proceedure. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 38, sec. 104-2(a).) On June 1, the court found her competent to stand trial on the basis of the conclusions of three court-appointed psychiatrists that she both understood the charges against her and was able to assist in her defense.

On June 1, the defendant moved to suppress all confessions, statements, admissions, whether inculpatory or exculpatory, and a hearing on that motion was held on June 23. On September 9, the court entered an order suppressing all statements made by Mrs. Reed on or after February 5 and all other evidence derived from such statements. On October 20, an amended order was entered, pursuant to motion of the State, that expanded the original order to include findings of fact. That order, from which this appeal is taken, concluded as follows:

"The Court further concludes as a matter of law as follows:

(A) That the Defendant, on February 5, 1971, was because of her mental condition as testified to by Dr. Graybill and Mr. Gould, unable to understand or intelligently waive her constitutional rights as enumerated in the Miranda warnings read to her.

(B) That even if she had been able to understand and intelligently waive her constitutional rights, that no conversation with the polygraph operator would be admissible.

(c) That even if she had been mentally able to understand and waive her constitutional rights, that the signed confession would be inadmissible because it was not signed until after an attorney had been appointed for her, and without the presence of that attorney or without his knowledge that the event was taking place.

Therefore, it is Ordered that that part of the Motion to Suppress any and all statements given, or physical evidence obtained, prior to February 5, 1971, be denied, and that portion of the Motion requesting suppression of all statements or physical evidence given or acquired on or after February 5, 1971, as a result of any conversation with the Defendant, be granted."

At the hearing held on June 23, Dr. Graybill, a psychiatrist, testified that he first treated Dorothy Reed in 1962. At that time she complained of insomnia and "head noises". Dr. Graybill saw her on three occasions during that year and prescribed medication. She gave him a history of heavy drinking since she was 15 years old. Psychological tests were administered to her at that time that indicated some organic brain damage. ...

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