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People v. Helm

OPINION FILED MARCH 8, 1979.

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

v.

JOHN D. HELM, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Tazewell County; the Hon. ESPEY WILLIAMSON, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE SCOTT DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is an appeal by the State from two orders of the circuit court of Tazewell County, one which granted a motion of the defendant Helm praying for suppression of a confession and the other granting the defendant's motion in limine which requested the suppression of certain statements which in fact were those contained in the confession.

On December 29, 1977, the defendant was charged by an information with the offense of reckless conduct. This charge resulted from an investigation conducted by the sheriff of Tazewell County after he had heard accusations that the defendant, who was employed as a jailer, had made some arrangements for one of the inmates at the jail to hang himself.

On November 18, 1977, the defendant was called to the office of his employer, the sheriff, and the alleged incident was discussed. At the time of this conversation the defendant was not under arrest, not in custody and was free to leave at any time. The defendant testifying in a pretrial hearing stated that he did not feel like he was under arrest while present in the sheriff's office. In the course of the conversation the defendant expressed his sorrow regarding the incident and repeatedly apologized to the sheriff, his employer.

Immediately after the initial conversation between the defendant and the sheriff another conversation ensued between the parties, however, at this time a deputy sheriff was also present. There is testimony of the sheriff in the record that he advised the defendant of the possibility of criminal charges being brought against him as well as charges being filed with the merit commission. The defendant denies that he was informed of possible criminal charges, but that he resigned rather than to defend himself against charges filed with the merit commission. At the conclusion of this second conversation the defendant returned to his home and resigned from his position as jailer in the sheriff's department. It should be noted that the testimony as to the statements made in the two meetings is in some respects conflicting, but there is no conflict over the fact that Miranda warnings were never given to the defendant.

The motion to suppress his confession filed by the defendant was predicated upon the failure to give Miranda warnings and hence it was not voluntary, but instead obtained by coercive means. The motion in limine filed by the defendant was done so as the result of it being recommended by the trial judge, who was of the opinion that such procedure should be followed since an employer-employee relationship existed between the defendant and the sheriff. As we have previously stated, both the motion to suppress and the motion in limine were granted by the trial judge. After examining both motions we find that they essentially contain the same allegations, to-wit, the confession or statements made by the defendant were involuntary and obtained by coercive means.

Several issues are raised in this appeal and we first direct our attention to the defendant's contention that the appeal should be dismissed because the order appealed from is not one from which the State may appeal.

• 1 In support of this contention the defendant asserts that the trial judge stated he did not believe that there was a confession to be suppressed and therefore the order entered was not an order suppressing evidence within the meaning of Supreme Court Rule 604(a)(1) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 110A, par. 604(a)(1)). We quarrel not with this assertion of the defendant for it is abundantly clear that the trial court entertained serious doubts as to whether the statement made by the defendant to his employer constituted a confession. We respect the opinion of the trial court; however, in the final analysis it devolves upon the reviewing court to determine an appeal based upon a review of the entire record of the case in question. (See People v. Townsel (1973), 14 Ill. App.3d 105, 302 N.E.2d 213, appeal denied (1973), 54 Ill.2d 599.) After examining the record we are of the opinion that the statements made by the defendant while being interrogated constitute more than nonincriminating admissions. Nor do we interpret the statements of the defendant to be tacit or implied but on the contrary deem them to be actual statements which considered in their entirety constitute a confession.

The record reflects that the sheriff of Tazewell County, Mr. Donahue, testified as follows:

"Q. Officer [Mr. Donahue] will you relate for the court as best you can what was said by Mr. Helm and what you said yourself.

A. I informed Mr. Helm that an accusation had been made against him and the fact he supposedly had made provisions for one of the inmates to hang himself in the jail area.

Q. Did Mr. Helm deny that accusation?

A. No, he did not.

Q. What further conversations did you have ...


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