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People v. Malcom

AUGUST 28, 1973.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. FRANCIS T. DELANEY, Judge, presiding.


On the morning of 13 March 1970 two male Negroes, one tall and thin, the other shorter, entered a cleaner's shop at 838 Montrose Avenue in Chicago. Bernice Odem, the 73 year old manager, was alone in the store. Mrs. Odem was ordered to the rear of the store and told to lie on the floor. The shorter man, armed with a gun, emptied the cash register while the taller man, armed with a knife, took a ring from Mrs. Odem's left hand and was attempting to take another ring from her right hand.

At that juncture, Mr. Dubin, the owner of the establishment, entered the store. The shorter man confronted him with the gun and took his money. Afterwards Mr. Dubin struggled for the gun and was shot and killed by the shorter man. Mrs. Odem was then shot, by the shorter man, once in the neck and once in the head. The taller man then stabbed her seven times. In spite of her wounds, Mrs. Odem survived.

Later that morning, one Norris White was visited by the defendant-appellant, Spencer Malcom (hereafter defendant), and one Nate Dozier. Defendant told White that he and Dozier had "offed" somebody (meaning that they had killed somebody). Defendant related that Dozier had shot both Mr. Dubin and Mrs. Odem and that, after Dozier had run out of bullets, defendant had proceeded to stab Mrs. Odem. The two offenders then gave the gun and the knife to White who buried the weapons in two different places. White received a portion of the proceeds from the robbery. Thereafter, the three men left the State.

White gave himself up and was arrested in California on 28 March 1970. He was returned to Chicago where he told the police about his conversations with defendant and Dozier. While free on bond, White located the gun he had buried and turned it over to the police. It developed that the gun had been in White's possession prior to the robbery, but White had not been aware that the gun was missing until it had been returned to him by Dozier on the morning of the incident. The knife was not recovered.

In the meantime, York Anderson, a Chicago police officer and a friend of defendant's family, had learned that defendant was wanted in the investigation of the incident. After several conversations with defendant's father, Anderson met with defendant on 21 March 1970 at defendant's home. Anderson informed defendant that he was under investigation for a homicide robbery and then placed defendant under arrest. Defendant was then advised of his constitutional rights. Notwithstanding the warning, defendant implicated himself in the robbery, adding he did not want to be picked up for murder.

After hearing defendant's story, Anderson took him to Area 6 Homicide. Anderson next met defendant the following morning when he accompanied defendant and some other police officers to the hospital where Mrs. Odem was being treated for her wounds. Defendant identified Mrs. Odem, went over to her, and apologized for what he had done.

Defendant gave the police two oral statements (other than his initial statement to Officer Anderson) in which he described and admitted his part in the incident. Each statement was then typed and defendant signed the typed statement. The first statement was taken at about 6:00 A.M. on 22 March 1970, before the trip to the hospital. The second statement was taken after the trip to the hospital. Before each statement was taken, defendant was advised of his constitutional rights.

Prior to trial, defense counsel filed a motion to suppress all three statements made by defendant (the two signed statements and the first oral statement to Officer Anderson). The basis for the motion was that the confessions were the product of undue influence and a physical or mental coercion. No challenge was made regarding the adequacy of the Miranda warnings. A hearing was held on the motion at which all the officers connected with defendant's interrogation testified. Defendant and his mother testified for the defense. The motion to suppress was denied.

After the trial, at which the statements of defendant were admitted into evidence, the jury found defendant guilty of the murder of Mr. Dubin on the basis of accountability and of the attempt murder and armed robbery of Mrs. Oden. Defendant was sentenced to a term of not less than 100 nor more than 199 years for the murder. For the armed robbery, defendant was sentenced to a term of not less than 25 nor more than 40 years, which sentence was to run consecutively with the murder sentence. Finally defendant was sentenced to not less than 15 years nor more than 20 years for the attempt murder. This sentence was to be served concurrently with the murder sentence.


Defendant first contends that at the hearing on his motion to suppress his confessions, defense counsel's cross-examination of the State's witnesses (specifically, Officers Anderson and Skelly) was so severely restricted as to violate due process of law. The allegation in the motion to suppress was that the defendant had been questioned continuously by three or four detectives walking in and out of rooms in the police station for about five hours. During the cross-examination of Officer Anderson, the trial judge sustained objections to the following questions: (1) whether Anderson had spoken to anyone else in the police department concerning the case; (2) what caused him to become interested in the case; (3) whether he was looking for defendant after he had learned about the case; (4) whether he went to defendant's father's home for the purpose of questioning defendant; (5) whether he knew if defendant was wanted for questioning at this time; (6) if he knew whether other personnel of the police department were assigned to investigate this case; (7) whether the two detectives who were questioning defendant immediately after he was brought into Area 6 Homicide were questioning him about the homicide; (8) what his purpose was in going back to see defendant the following morning; (9) whether defendant had confidence in him; (10) where it was that he stopped to get defendant a sandwich when defendant was being returned from the hospital visit; (11) what his interest was in the case; and (12) why detectives Miller and Serafini picked him up at the 18th District on the following morning.

Likewise, during the cross-examination of Officer Skelly (one of the officers who had taken defendant's first written statement), the trial judge sustained objections to the following questions: (1) whether defendant was sleeping when the officer had him taken out of his cell at 5:40 A.M.; (2) whether he looked sleepy at the time; (3) what was the officer's reason for ...

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