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People v. Koesterer





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County; the Hon. ROBERT L. GAGEN, Judge, presiding.


Defendant, Connie Koesterer, was convicted in a trial without a jury of the September 26, 1974, armed robbery of the Caseyville Pharmacy. She was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 4 years nor more than 4 years and 1 day. From the judgment of conviction and sentence defendant appeals.

Defendant raises several issues in this appeal. However, as will be discussed hereinafter, our disposition of this case requires a discussion of only the first issue raised, that is, whether the trial court erred in denying defendant's motion to suppress a confession or statement given by defendant to Detective Don Knight of the Granite City, Illinois police department on the afternoon following the armed robbery.

The statement in question was written by Detective Knight on 3 1/2 pages of yellow, lined, legal-size paper and was signed by defendant. Defendant filed a pretrial motion to suppress the statement, and on September 16, 1975, a hearing was held on the motion during which several witnesses testified. At the end of the hearing the court denied the motion to suppress, and the statement was thereafter admitted at trial.

It is clear from the record that without the admission of the statement at trial, defendant would not have been convicted. At the end of the trial the court, which acted as the trier of fact, twice commented about the crucial nature of this statement. First, addressing the trial attorneys, the court stated:

"Gentlemen, in view of the evidence, and I would say for purposes of the record so that everything is clear here, without the confession or statement of September 27, 1974, I don't feel that the State would have proved the case beyond a reasonable doubt. But with the statement which I have admitted into evidence for reasons that I have stated in an Order given to you this morning, I feel that the State has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, Connie Koesterer committed the offense of armed robbery * * *."

Later, addressing defendant, the court stated:

"All right, Miss Koesterer, I'm going to permit you to remain free under bond, under the bond that is already posted in this case. I want you to know, however, that this is the first time since I've been a Judge that I have allowed someone convicted of a Class felony to walk out of my courtroom. Ordinarily, I would have, if you or anyone else, I would have the bond revoked and order you held without bond pending disposition. But under the circumstances, because in my judgment the case is not made against you without the confession and because of issues that have been raised in that confession, I would permit you to remain free under bond."

• 1 In light of the crucial nature of the statement, defendant's conviction can only stand if the statement was properly admitted at trial. Whether the statement was properly admitted depends on whether the confession was made freely, voluntarily, and without compulsion or inducement or promises of any kind, no matter how slight. (Haynes v. State, 373 U.S. 503, 10 L.Ed.2d 513, 83 S.Ct. 1336; Malloy v. Hogan, 378 U.S. 1, 12 L.Ed.2d 653, 84 S.Ct. 1489.) "And, of course, whether the confession was obtained by coercion or improper inducement can be determined only by an examination of all the attendant circumstances." Haynes v. State, 373 U.S. 503, 513, 10 L.Ed.2d 513, 521, 83 S.Ct. 1336, 1343.

The circumstances surrounding the instant defendant's statement were described by the various witnesses testifying at the hearing on the motion to suppress the statement. Our determination of the voluntariness of defendant's statement requires a summary of that testimony.

One of the witnesses testifying at the suppression hearing was Officer Erv Keuenhoff. Keuenhoff stated that he had been an officer with the Granite City police force for 10 1/2 years and was working the 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. shift September 26 and 27, 1974. At approximately 2 a.m. on September 27, while on patrol, Keuenhoff saw defendant and another female, Roberta Jackson, in the parking lot of the Travel Lodge Motel in Granite City. He sat and watched for approximately 10 minutes until Jackson left the parking lot in her car and defendant entered Room 104 of the motel. Keuenhoff followed Jackson, stopped her car, and questioned her about who was present in the motel room defendant had entered. Jackson told Keuenhoff that defendant, a male, and a female named Barby Nelson were in the room but did not say what they were doing. Keuenhoff was aware that previously a warrant for the arrest of the defendant had been issued, and he radioed to the police dispatcher to inquire whether the warrant was still outstanding. The warrant had been issued on a charge of deceptive practices which Keuenhoff thought had probably been a misdemeanor. The dispatcher advised Keuenhoff that the warrant was still outstanding. Keuenhoff then radioed for a Lieutenant Mitchell to come to his assistance. When Keuenhoff arrived back at the motel he noticed that a yellow Nova, which belonged to Barby Nelson and which had been in the parking lot when he left to follow Jackson, was no longer there.

Mitchell arrived and the two officers knocked on the door of Room 104. They received no response, so they had the night clerk of the motel come and open the door with a pass key. The officers and the clerk entered the room and turned on the lights. They found defendant and a David Hill lying in bed. They were either awake or awoke when the policemen and the clerk entered. Keuenhoff advised defendant that she was under arrest. He could not tell whether defendant was under the influence of any drug, although he admitted that he could not say that she was not. He "didn't look into her pupils and so forth." In "open view" Keuenhoff found a bottle of the drug preludin. The seal of the bottle had been broken. He found a box labeled "preludin, 100 tabs." He also found some hypodermic syringes in the room. In a drawer he found cotton with blood on it and a spoon.

After the arrest Roberta Jackson was called and asked to come to the police station. She came and was interviewed by a Detective Harris and Keuenhoff at approximately 4 or 4:30 a.m. Jackson stated that a large quantity of drugs was in the motel room, which had come from an armed robbery in Caseyville.

Sometime during the night Keuenhoff had heard a report over the radio that an armed robbery had occurred in a Caseyville drugstore involving a male and two females in a yellow Chevrolet Nova. After the arrest, "as [he] put all the pieces together, the drugs, the car and so forth," Keuenhoff began to suspect that defendant had been involved in the armed robbery. He made a written report in which he stated that defendant should be interviewed as soon as possible because she seemed willing to talk. In the report he also stated that he believed defendant and Hill may have been involved in the armed robbery of the Caseyville pharmacy. After making the written report, Keuenhoff left the police station at approximately 5 a.m.

Although Detective Harris and the other police officers on duty would have had access to Keuenhoff's report, Keuenhoff testified that he did not know whether anyone in fact looked at the report before defendant was interviewed. Keuenhoff could not recall whether he had personally communicated to Harris his suspicion that defendant had been involved in the armed robbery.

Shortly after 9 a.m. Keuenhoff returned to the police station. There he saw defendant and her attorney. Although Keuenhoff testified that he could not recall whether he had told defendant's attorney that he suspected that defendant had been involved in an armed robbery, he felt that he would not have so advised the attorney. ("You being her counselor, I don't think I would have, I don't know.") While Keuenhoff was present with defendant and her attorney, the attorney advised defendant "to tell them everything" and that he had to leave to "catch a plane."

Detective Don Knight, the officer who obtained from defendant the written statement in question, testified at the suppression hearing as follows. He had been a detective for 1 1/2 years and a policeman for 5 years. On the morning of September 27, 1974, he came to work at the Granite City police department at 5 or 10 minutes after 8 o'clock. When he first came in he looked at the "prisoner list" and saw the names of defendant, David Hill, and Barby Nelson on the list, the latter being listed as in the hospital.

At 9:15 a.m. Knight talked with defendant's attorney. The attorney had spoken with defendant earlier. The attorney and Knight discussed the fact that there were three charges pending against defendant, namely, forgery, a prior drug possession, and the drug possession charge resulting from her arrest in the motel room a few hours earlier. They also discussed the possibility of a plea bargain. The attorney then again went to speak with defendant and returned to speak with Knight and Keuenhoff about the possibility of a plea bargain. Officer Keuenhoff "agreed," and the attorney again went to speak with defendant. The attorney then gave Knight permission to interview defendant and left before the interview began. The attorney "had an appointment out of town and he had to get on a plane and go someplace." Before the attorney left Knight told him that he had spoken with the State's Attorney and that the State's Attorney had agreed not to oppose a recognizance bond.

Knight began questioning defendant at 9:30 or 10 a.m. The interview lasted until approximately 11:30 a.m. The purpose of the interview was "[t]o more or less find out where the drugs come from and find out who had brought them there and just generally, you know, try to make the case." Detective Harris participated in the interview "later on." At the time of this interview ...

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