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In Re Morris





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. AUBREY F. KAPLAN, Judge, presiding.


The minor respondent, Bobby Morris, along with a companion, Julian Vaughn, was charged with murder, armed robbery and burglary in a delinquency petition filed on December 4, 1974. On March 21, 1975, while represented by counsel, respondent entered admissions to the offenses of murder and armed robbery, and was subsequently found delinquent and committed to the Department of Corrections. Respondent appeals and contends: (1) that the court failed to substantially comply with Supreme Court Rule 402(a)(2) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 110A, par. 402(a)(2)) in that he was never informed as to the possible duration of his commitment should he persist in his admissions; and (2) that the court erred in denying respondent's motion to suppress certain oral statements. We affirm. The pertinent facts follow.

Respondent was arrested on December 3, 1974, in connection with the shooting death of Juanita Jones during an armed robbery. At that time respondent made an oral statement concerning the incident in the presence of the arresting officers. Respondent subsequently made two oral statements concerning the incident, but, through his parents, refused to give a written statement. It was agreed between the parties that respondent's Miranda rights were read to him at each interrogation, prior to each statement.

On December 12, 1974, the respondent filed a motion to suppress these oral statements contending that due to respondent's lack of mental capacity it was impossible for him to understand his Miranda rights, and therefore respondent could not have made a knowing and intelligent waiver of these rights.

At the request of defense counsel a clinical psychological evaluation was ordered for the purpose of determining the ability of respondent to make a knowing and intelligent waiver of his rights. Two evaluations were performed on respondent: one by Dr. Robert E. Bussell, the court-appointed psychiatrist, and one by Miss Mary Liemert, a private psychologist called by respondent.

At the hearing on the motion to suppress Dr. Bussell testified that he was Director of the Department of Clinical Services for the Circuit Court of Cook County, Juvenile Division. He had practiced as a psychiatrist for approximately 11 years and had interviewed some three to four thousand people during that time. He conducted an examination of respondent on January 10, 1975, pursuant to a court order.

Dr. Bussell's examination of respondent lasted about 35 to 40 minutes, of which approximately 20 minutes was spent relative to the Miranda warnings. He did not administer any formalized tests to respondent during the interview. In his opinion tests such as the "Wisc-R Chronological test" would not have significantly aided in evaluating respondent's ability to waive his rights. Based on the interview, Dr. Bussell concluded that respondent had adequate comprehension of the warnings given him by police, and that he did in fact knowingly and intelligently waive his rights.

The written report prepared by Dr. Bussell following the examination was received into evidence. In pertinent part it stated:

"In discussing the sequence of events following his apprehension, he recalls quite specifically being apprised of his rights via the Miranda Decision. He states that he recalls the detectives inquiring if he understood what they had said and he is confident that he did understand. He has some question whether his friend, Julian, understood in view of the fact that Julian asked Bobby what, `silent' means. Bobby states that he told Julian that `it means that you don't have to say anything'. Bobby states that he did give a narrative version of what happened at the police station but choose [sic] to remain silent in court on the advice of his father.

"It is this examiner's opinion that his general understanding of the Miranda Decision is adequate to allow him to respond or not respond to questioning as he saw fit. * * *"

While Dr. Bussell concluded that respondent was functionally illiterate and below average in intelligence, he also found that respondent's vocabulary and general knowledge placed him above the formal category of retardation.

Miss Mary Liemert, a registered psychologist holding a master's degree in psychology and speech pathology, testified that she had interviewed respondent for approximately three hours on February 21, 1975. She administered a number of tests to respondent, including the Wisc-R test, which she characterized as an intelligence test particularly pertinent to abstract reasoning and conceptualization. The test results indicated that respondent was operating on a mental level of "below age five." Respondent registered an I.Q. of 52, which is in "what was once called the imbecile range." Miss Liemert concluded that respondent did not have the intellectual capacity to have made a valid waiver of his rights.

On cross-examination Miss Liemert stated that respondent was in ninth grade, that his father told her respondent "got along" in school, and that she had not seen an educational report on respondent. She stated that respondent was "streetwise," meaning that he had a superficial understanding of situations, and knew what he had to do in order to "get by" in such situations. The witness answered affirmatively when asked by the court whether respondent understood well enough to be able to make an election on whether to speak or to remain silent.

On redirect examination, Miss Liemert expressed the opinion that respondent had reached the ninth grade because he was "socially promoted" by being quiet in school and submitting to ...

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