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People v. Bunting

FEBRUARY 20, 1974.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ROBERT J. DOWNING, Judge, presiding.


The defendant, Roy Bunting, went to trial on a four count indictment charging him and two others, Gilbert Mims and Jeffrey Dixon, with three counts of murder, including one of felony murder, and one count of armed robbery. Gilbert Mims was tried separately and found not guilty. Jeffrey Dixon was never brought to trial.

Following his arrest, the defendant made an oral statement to police admitting his involvement in the robbery-murder with which he was charged. Subsequently, he signed a typewritten statement in the State's Attorney's office. A motion was made by defendant's attorney to suppress the confessions prior to trial. The motion was heard and denied. Defendant then waived trial by jury and was found guilty in a bench trial as charged. He was sentenced to serve not less than thirty years and not more than sixty years in the Illinois State Penitentiary on the murder conviction. The trial judge held that the offense of armed robbery was part of the same act and did not sentence him on that charge.

The defendant argues in this appeal that (1) the confession should not have been used as evidence against him at trial because it was coerced and obtained without constitutionally required procedures and warnings and (2) the failure of his appointed counsel to call material witnesses deprived him of adequate and competent counsel and the court's denial of his pro se request for substitution of counsel was an abuse of discretion.

The record reveals that Michael Rose, the victim of a robbery-murder, was employed by Hillman's Company. He was vested with the responsibility of picking up pay envelopes at the Hillman's Food Store on Washington Street in Chicago and delivering them to the Hillman's produce center warehouse on South Martin Luther King Drive. Rose Bertrand, the main cashier for Hillman's testified that Michael Rose picked up pay envelopes containing a total of approximately $1600 in cash at the Washington Street store between 10:30 and 11:00 on the morning of May 20, 1970. Upon information received, Officer James Maziarka at approximately 3:45 P.M. on the same day discovered Michael Rose slumped in the front seat of a Chevy station wagon, with a bullet through the back of his head. According to the officer, "he had been dead for some time." The pay envelopes were no longer in his possession.

Robert Blakely testified that he worked as a truck loader at the Hillman's produce center warehouse on King Drive. He said that he was paid in cash on Wednesdays, that he knew Michael Rose, and that Michael Rose would deliver the pay envelopes to the produce center. He testified that he was not paid on Wednesday, May 20, 1970. When he finished work that afternoon, he had occasion to visit his aunt's house at 2350 South State. Upon arriving he observed squad cars and Michael Rose's station wagon in the alley of the 2400 block of South State. Blakely further testified that the following day he saw the defendant, Roy Bunting, whom he had known for about nine years, sitting on a bench at 2611 South Calumet. He testified the defendant said to him "You didn't get paid today, did you?" Blakely asked him how he knew and he replied, "Because we robbed, we got the checks and we robbed Michael Rose."

Officer Dale Buehler testified that he and Officer John Ferguson arrested the defendant on June 17, 1970, without a warrant and took him to Area I Homicide Headquarters at 5101 South Wentworth Avenue. Defendant was advised of his constitutional rights and questioned by Officer John Fitzgerald. After approximately half an hour defendant orally admitted his involvement in the robbery-murder. He was then transported to the office of Assistant State's Attorney John J. McDonnell, who took a written statement from him.

The defendant's first argument on appeal is that the denial of his motion to suppress the confession and the admission of the confession into evidence was error. This extensive argument can be distilled into three parts: First, that the warnings the defendant received prior to interrogation, as required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, were inadequate; second, that defendant did not adequately waive his right to counsel; and third, that the sum of the attendant circumstances, including claimed police threats and promises and the defendant's "drugged, drowsy, and uncomfortable condition" during his questioning, rendered his statements involuntary.

Before considering these contentions, we note that it is also urged in defendant's brief at one point in passing, without elucidation, that his warrantless arrest was illegal. This is apparently based in part on his testimony at the hearing on the motion to suppress the confession that the police told him that they wanted him to accompany them to the police station in connection with some trouble his younger brother was having at school. Defendant's mother, who directed the police to his whereabouts, testified at the hearing that the police told her that a car was stolen and they wanted him to identify someone else. The arresting police officers testified that they informed the defendant that he was being taken into custody for investigation regarding the homicide of Michael Rose.

• 1, 2 We find no merit to the cryptic assertion that the defendant was arrested illegally. The police may arrest without a warrant when a criminal offense has in fact been committed and they have reasonable grounds for believing that the person to be arrested has committed it. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 38, par. 107-2.) The evidence supports the conclusion that the police had ample information to reasonably believe the defendant might have committed the homicide before making the arrest, and the defendant, neither in the trial court nor on appeal, specifically questioned that the police had such information.

We turn now to defendant's contention that the warnings given to him before he made a statement do not satisfy the requirements of Miranda and that therefore the State failed to prove that his confession was voluntarily given.

After a lengthy hearing on the motion to suppress, the trial judge concluded that the defendant had been properly given the Miranda warnings before he gave an oral statement and again before he subsequently signed a written one. The evidence overwhelmingly supports this finding.

Dale Buehler, one of the arresting officers, testified that when they were en route to police headquarters he advised the defendant that:

"* * * he had a right to remain silent; that if he did not remain silent that anything he said can and will be used against him in a court of law; that he had a right to have an attorney present during any questioning; and that he also had a right if he had no funds an attorney would be supplied for him [sic]." (Emphasis added.)

John Ferguson, the other arresting officer, testified that:

"Detective Buehler advised him * * * and * * * he was re-advised by Buehler and Detective Fitzgerald * * * [of] his right to remain silent; * * * to have an attorney present at any questioning; * * * to have an attorney appointed for him if he didn't have sufficient funds to pay for the attorney; * * * that anything he ...

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