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People v. Gorham





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. FRANK B. MACHALA, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied January 9, 1979.

Defendant, Robert Gorham, was charged with the murder of Kenneth Thompson. After a jury trial, defendant was found guilty of that crime and the court sentenced him to 100 to 200 years. The sole issue on appeal is whether the trial court erred in denying defendant's pretrial motion to suppress his confession.

At the hearing on the motion the following evidence was adduced. At approximately 4 p.m. on April 2, 1976, Officers Carl Kuester and Joseph Robustelli of the Chicago Heights Police Department arrested defendant in a drug rehabilitation center in the city of Peoria. Robustelli read the complaint and warrant to defendant and Kuester read defendant his Miranda rights. Defendant did not respond. Defendant was involved in a methadone program and had received an eight-milligram dosage that morning. Defendant was not interrogated.

Defendant was brought before a judge in Peoria. Following a hearing the judge remanded defendant to Cook County. The officers and defendant arrived in Chicago at 9:30 p.m. Defendant was not questioned during the trip.

Upon arriving at the Cook County Criminal Courts> building, defendant was taken to assistant State's Attorney Gillis' office. Kuester and Robustelli turned defendant over to a Lieutenant Barger and departed. Prosecutors Helsel and Prendergast and, later, IBI agent Thomas Naughton also were present.

Barger advised defendant of his Miranda rights and asked him if he wished to make a statement. He told defendant that the arrest warrant could not have been secured without some evidence. Defendant asked, "What evidence?" but Barger did not reveal any evidence to him. According to Barger, defendant said he did not wish to make a statement.

IBI agent Naughton testified that when asked by Barger if he would make a statement, defendant replied it was a "pretty heavy beef" and he was not sure whether he wished to make a formal statement. Defendant said he had spent four years at Menard and many people there were convicted only because they did give statements. Defendant was not sure he wanted "to go that route." After Barger left the room Naughton asked defendant whether he ever felt guilty and defendant replied that sometimes he did. Naughton also asked defendant why he was so foolish to sell the gun when the murder was such "a good hit." Defendant stated he sold the gun to obtain dope.

At about 10 p.m., Robustelli and Kuester returned to the prosecutor's office. They again advised defendant of his rights and he stated that he understood them. They asked defendant if he wanted to talk about "it" and he asked "about what?" Robustelli told defendant that the police had recovered the gun and knew that the murder had been committed to obtain insurance money. Defendant was told that the authorities knew how the insurance money had been spent. He was then told that Kathleen Thompson, decedent's widow, had been arrested and had told the police everything.

Defendant asked if she was in the building. When told that she was, he asked that he be allowed to see her. She was brought to the office immediately.

When Thompson entered, defendant asked her what she had told the police. After Barger told her to tell defendant, she said, "I told them everything." She sat on the couch with defendant and they kissed. Thompson told defendant that they should tell the police everything and get it all out in the open. At approximately 10:15 p.m. defendant gave the officers an oral statement relating his involvement in the murder of decedent.

At approximately 11:15 p.m., in the presence of two prosecutors, Officer Kuester, and a court reporter, defendant gave a statement. When reduced to writing, it consisted of 42 pages. Defendant read, corrected, and signed each of 42 pages. The prosecutors signed as witnesses, and testified that defendant did not exhibit any physical signs of withdrawal, was offered food, and was not coerced. In the statement defendant admitted that he conspired with decedent's wife to kill decedent in order to get the latter's insurance. Defendant described the murder in detail.

At the hearing, defendant testified that he was 25 years old and had an 11th grade education. His testimony concerning his arrest and the trip to Chicago corroborated that given by the police officers. He also stated that he was advised of his rights. He testified that he replied negatively when asked if he would like to make a statement. According to defendant, Robustelli told him he would get "100 to 300" if he did not make a statement. Robustelli subsequently denied having said that to defendant. Defendant also testified that he told others he did not wish to make a statement and denied having requested to see decedent's widow. He further stated that she told him things would go easier for him if he talked and the police confirmed this statement. Robustelli said repeatedly that defendant "was going to get jammed if [he] didn't go along with him." Robustelli also denied making that statement. According to defendant, when he asked for his medication, a prosecutor told him that if things worked out with the police it would work out with him. Defendant testified that he was told things would be easier for the widow if he gave a statement and that he did so to protect her because she was carrying his child. He testified that at the time his joints were aching and that he suffered some other discomforts of withdrawal.

Defendant testified that he had been arrested a number of times before and had served time in prison. He knew what his Miranda rights were. He was aware of what was happening when his rights were read to him and ...

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