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People v. Maxon

OPINION FILED JANUARY 30, 1976.

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

v.

CINDY MAXON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Peoria County; the Hon. EDWARD E. HAUGENS, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE STENGEL DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant was convicted of felony theft following a jury trial in the Circuit Court of Peoria County. She was sentenced to 3 years' probation conditioned on serving 90 days of periodic imprisonment, making restitution and paying $5 for each day of work release during periodic imprisonment. On appeal, she contends that incriminating statements were obtained in violation of her Fifth Amendment rights, that evidence of another crime was improperly admitted, and that she was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt under a theory of accountability.

According to the State's evidence, on June 29, 1973, Carol Williams went to Bergner's Madison Park store and purchased a diamond ring with a check drawn on defendant's bank account. Miss Williams signed defendant's name as payor and furnished the sales clerk with defendant's driver's license for identification.

The following day Miss Williams and defendant were in Bergner's South Adams store shopping for china and silverware. Several items were purchased with another check drawn on defendant's account. Defendant tendered the check to the sales clerk, but the clerk could not recall which of the two women signed it.

That same evening Miss Williams and defendant were seen in Bergner's Sheridan Village store, apparently shopping in different departments of the same store. Carol Williams attempted to purchase a dress with another of defendant's checks. The clerk took the check to a security officer who was acquainted with defendant. The officer noticed that the check tendered by Miss Williams was in defendant's name and looked up in time to see the two women leaving the store very quickly.

On July 2, 1973, defendant reported that her checks, including those used in the transactions at the Bergner stores, had been stolen. Stop-payment orders were placed on her account.

Both defendant and Carol Williams were later arrested and interrogated at the police station. During questioning, defendant stated that she knew Carol Williams had been using her checks and that she was with Miss Williams on those occasions. This statement was admitted in evidence over defendant's objection after the court heard and denied her motion to suppress her statements.

Defendant testified in her own defense that her apartment had been burglarized on or about June 26, 1973, and that her checks were among the items found to be missing. Although she admitted being with Miss Williams when she was shopping for china, she said she only gave advice as to patterns and was not present when the check was tendered. She denied giving her checks to Miss Williams and disclaimed any knowledge that Miss Williams had been using her checks.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty and defendant appeals.

The first error assigned is the admission in evidence of the incriminating statements made by defendant after her arrest. Defendant contends that, when she was given her Miranda warnings prior to questioning, she indicated a desire not to speak, and consequently any statements obtained as a result of further questioning were in violation of her Fifth Amendment rights.

At the hearing on the motion to suppress, Sergeant Johnson testified that after defendant was brought to the police station, she was given her Miranda warnings and asked if she wished to talk to the police. Defendant replied that she did not know anything about the checks. She was then taken to a holding cell. A few minutes later defendant was brought back to the interview room where Miss Williams was being questioned. At this time defendant gave a statement to the police. Detective Buck gave substantially similar testimony, stating that at the first interview defendant answered the questions put to her but denied any knowledge regarding the checks.

Defendant contradicted the police witnesses, testifying that when she was first questioned, she stated that she had nothing to say and wanted to see a lawyer. She also denied making the statements at the subsequent interrogation.

• 1 The preliminary inquiry as to whether the defendant has been properly warned and has knowingly waived her rights is for the trial court. In making this determination the trial court need not be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, nor will its findings be disturbed unless they are against the manifest weight of the evidence. People v. Torres (1973), 54 Ill.2d 384, 297 N.E.2d 142; People v. Burbank (1972), 53 Ill.2d 261, 291 N.E.2d 161.

• 2 There was a conflict in the testimony as to what defendant said at the initial interview and whether defendant had expressed a desire to terminate the questioning, which the court resolved against defendant. The trial court found that the statement by defendant that she had no knowledge about the checks and did not really have anything to say about them was not an indication that defendant wished to exercise her right to remain silent, but rather was responsive to police questioning. This determination is supported by Detective Buck's testimony that defendant answered the questions put to her but denied having any knowledge concerning the ...


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