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People v. Rhoads





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. BRIAN L. CROWE, Judge, presiding.


After a jury trial, defendant was convicted of murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 9-1) and arson (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 20-1(a)) and was sentenced to a term of 60 to 100 years on the murder conviction. On appeal, defendant presents several arguments, but because of our disposition we only will consider: (1) whether the trial court erred in admitting defendant's custodial statements into evidence; (2) whether the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to admit certain photographs into evidence; (3) whether the trial court erred in refusing to allow psychiatric testimony on the contents of certain medical records; and (4) whether the trial court erred when it refused to give special verdict forms of not guilty by reason of insanity as to each offense charged. We reverse and remand.

At approximately 5 p.m. on July 17, 1976, Vickie Rhoads suffered extensive burns in a fire at her parents' home in Palatine, Illinois. She died from the burns on the following day. Her husband, David Rhoads, was charged with murder and arson. The relevant testimony at a suppression hearing and the trial follows:


Defendant was taken to the police station immediately after the fire and within a 28-hour period gave a number of oral and two written statements. Several Palatine police officers and an assistant State's Attorney testified concerning the circumstances surrounding the making of the statements. Officer Dale Ott stated that he had first seen defendant in the back seat of a police car in the vicinity of the fire; he said that defendant was not wearing handcuffs at the time. At about 5:30 or 6 p.m., he again saw defendant in an air-conditioned interview room at the police station and had a conversation with him. At the time, Officer Jack Byrnes was also present.

Ott stated that after he had introduced himself to defendant, defendant asked him how Vickie was doing. Ott told defendant that he did not know. He said that defendant appeared calm and he noticed that he was dirty. Eventually, Ott advised defendant of his rights and asked him if he understood them. Defendant said that he did, but that he wished to give a statement concerning the fire and the events preceding the fire. Ott stated that defendant did not ask to see an attorney and did not complain of any pain. He also stated that he did ask defendant how many beers he had drunk, but that he did not ask defendant if he was under the influence of drugs.

After the oral conversation, which lasted about 30 minutes, defendant agreed to give a written statement to Ott. He signed a voluntary waiver of his rights and then he proceeded to write out his statement. The statement took 50 minutes to write, despite being approximately 10 lines long, and it was very poorly written. Ott stated that he did not threaten defendant while he was writing out his statement. He stated that during this initial interviewing period, he had seen defendant with a cup and he thus assumed that he had been given coffee.

Ott had a second interview with defendant later in the evening; Officer Byrnes was again present at this interview. Ott advised defendant of his Miranda rights and defendant again said that he understood them, but that he wished to give a statement. Ott said that defendant did not ask to see a lawyer or complain that he needed medical treatment for any burns. Also, he noted that although defendant had wrapped a blanket around himself, he did not see him shaking. After defendant had given his statement, he was placed in a cell and remained there overnight.

Ott said that at around 10:45 a.m. on July 18, defendant was taken to a hospital by Officers Langguth and Daut. There, he received treatment for burns on his left hand and shins. Afterwards, he was brought back to the police station and, at about 1 p.m., Ott once again spoke with him. Ott told defendant that his wife had just died. He appeared shaken and began pounding his hands on a table and his head on his hands.

At 1:30 p.m., Ott spoke to defendant in the lockup with Officer Ralph Winkelhake and Sergeant Mark Kjellstrom present. Ott once again read him his rights and defendant said that he understood them but that he wanted to give a statement. During this statement, he did not complain of pain. At around 2:15, he had completed his statement. Later in the afternoon, he was granted a request to make a telephone call to his employer.

At 6 p.m., Assistant State's Attorney Griffith spoke to defendant with Ott present. Griffith advised defendant of his rights and he indicated that he understood them. At 7 p.m., a court reporter arrived to take a written statement. Griffith once again advised defendant of his rights. After defendant's statement had been typed up, both he and Ott read and signed the statement. Additionally, defendant signed his initials to every page of the statement. Ott stated that defendant did not complain about pain during the statement. He also stated that defendant had received three meals on the 18th.

On July 19, Ott told defendant that he had discovered some discrepancies in his story and, for the first time, defendant stated that he wished to see an attorney. On July 20, defendant received a bond hearing.

Officer John Byrnes testified that he was "in and out" of the interview room when defendant was giving his first written statement. While there, defendant asked how his wife was doing. He did not hear defendant request any medical attention and, although he noticed that defendant's hands were dirty and his hair was singed, he did not notice any burns on him. Byrnes said that he did not ask defendant if he was under the influence of drugs or if he was educated. He stated that during the time he spent in the interview room, he never once saw Ott threaten defendant.

Sergeant Ralph Winkelhake and Officer Mark Kjellstrom testified that they interviewed defendant on July 17 at 7 p.m. in the interview room of the Palatine police station; Winkelhake came "in and out" during the interview. Kjellstrom advised defendant of his rights and defendant said that he understood them, but that he wished to talk. Both Kjellstrom and Winkelhake questioned defendant during the three-hour interview. Even though the weather was warm outside, defendant wore a blanket which the police had given to him when he had indicated that he was cold. Defendant indicated on a number of occasions that he had received some burns to the back of his hands and that he felt some "stinging" in his hands and his thighs. Kjellstrom looked at defendant's hands but, although he noticed that they were dirty, he did not see any injuries. Winkelhake noticed that defendant's hair was singed. Kjellstrom asked defendant if he needed medical attention, but defendant said that he did not. During the interview, neither of the policemen asked defendant if he was under the influence of drugs. Winkelhake said that he gave defendant some coffee and donuts, but that defendant did not eat any of the donuts.

Officer Dennis Langguth testified that in the morning hours of July 18, he took defendant to a hospital for treatment of his burns. He noticed blisters on defendant's fingers, but he never heard defendant complain of any pain associated with those blisters. He said that he saw defendant smile and wink at a nurse while she was treating his burns.

Assistant State's Attorney Griffith testified that he arrived at the police station at 6 p.m. on July 18, and advised defendant of his rights prior to taking his written statement. He said that he never asked defendant if he was under the influence of drugs, but he did ask him if he was under the influence of alcohol.

Defendant testified that he had graduated from grade school at the age of 15 and had attended high school for only five or six months. He said that he had been drinking beer and smoking marijuana most of the day on July 17. He had first begun drinking at 9 in the morning. He only had a bologna sandwich and a Pepsi for breakfast and by 3 p.m. he had consumed 12 cans of beer. At 3 p.m., he and his wife, Vickie, went to a park where he had two "hits" of L.S.D. and another six cans of beer. He and his wife also consumed about three-fourths of a bottle of Tequila Sunrise while at the park. After he left the park, he had maybe an additional three cans of beer. When asked if he had told Assistant State's Attorney Griffith that he had only had four beers and had not been taking pills or smoking on July 17, he said that he had made this statement but that he was not lying to him "because he was still high." He said that he wanted to tell Griffith the truth. Defendant also said that he gave a statement to Griffith because he had made a statement earlier and he did not figure that he had anything to lose.

Shortly after the fire, he told the police that he wanted to go to the hospital with his wife, but they asked him first to come with them to the police station. When he arrived at the station, he was placed in an interrogation room and was asked to give a statement. He refused and said that he wanted to see a lawyer, a doctor, and his wife. He wanted to see a doctor because he felt pain in his hands and leg, he was chilled, and he was coughing up "some black stuff." Officer Ott then came in and asked him what had happened. Defendant again refused to talk and requested to see an attorney. Ott told him:

"Well, you need help and if you talk to us we'll see that you get some help. * * * We think that you're sick."

Defendant then began talking and gave his written statement. As far as he knew, he was not under arrest at this time.

After defendant had given his statement, he was placed in a lockup. He complained that he was cold and that his hand hurt and requested to see a doctor. An officer brought him a blanket and told him that he would get someone to look at him later. He could not remember if he was given any coffee or food during the evening. He spent the evening being interrogated by one officer or another and was not able to sleep very well.

Defendant said that the effects of the L.S.D. finally wore off in the morning hours of July 18. He went to the hospital for treatment of his burns and while there, skin was removed from his hands and shin because they were blistered. He said that they had first started to blister about an hour after he had arrived at the police station on the previous day. At about 1 p.m., Officer Ott again asked him if he wanted to talk. When defendant again refused, Ott said, "Do you know you can get the electric chair for what you did." Ott then explained that Vickie had just died. After defendant had heard this, he broke into tears and began "banging" his hands against a table. Later in the day, defendant spoke with Assistant State's Attorney Griffith. He said that he spoke with Griffith because he wanted to tell him the truth and because he had made a statement earlier and did not figure that he had anything to lose. On July 19, defendant went to another hospital to be treated for the burns. While there, the treating physician asked him why the injuries were not taken care of previously. On about the 22d, defendant was admitted to Cermak Memorial Hospital because of psychiatric problems.

Doctor Vincent M. Greco testified that he was the emergency room physician who treated defendant on July 18. He said that defendant had mostly first degree burns with some second degree burns on both of his hands. Three quarters of the top of defendant's left hand was burned. The burns were visible to the naked eye. Greco could not recall whether defendant made any complaints about the burns. His treatment included burns dressings and a tetanus shot. He indicated that in subsequent treatment of burns, the skin is sometimes removed.

Doctor Barry Mizock testified that he treated defendant for mostly second degree burns on July 19. He said that first degree burns often develop into second degree burns and that second degree burns usually blister within an hour. Mizock cleaned defendant's wounds and removed some of the blistered skin. He also prescribed some analgesic for moderately severe pain.

After hearing this testimony, the trial court denied the motion to suppress.



Carol Reiter, Vickie's mother, testified that she was the owner of a house at 306 Morris Street in Palatine. She said that when Vickie and defendant decided to get married, Vickie was 17 years old. In 1975, she had filed charges against defendant for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, but she withdrew the charges because she felt that it would do no good. Eventually, she learned to "tolerate" the marriage but she warned defendant that if he hurt Vickie, he would be accountable to her.

Reiter stated that on July 2, 1976, Vickie moved back home along with 80 percent of her personal possessions. From July 2 to July 15, Vickie spent all but two of her nights at the Reiter house. During that period of time, defendant paid a number of visits to the house. On July 15, Reiter and several members of her family left for a vacation to Canada. At the time, Vickie was still alive.

Reiter next saw Vickie in a hospital at about 4 a.m. on July 18. She said that Vickie could communicate by nodding her head. When she next saw Vickie at 1:05 p.m., Vickie was dead. On the 18th, Reiter had gone to view the damage caused by the fire at her house. She said that the kitchen had been destroyed and there was $12,400 worth of damage to the house. She said that she never gave anyone permission to start a fire at her house on July 17.

Several neighbors and fire department personnel testified to the events surrounding the fire at 306 Morris on July 17, 1976. Some of the neighbors said that they were attracted to the fire by the smoke, others said that they heard glass breaking. Richard Guthrie stated that defendant ran by his house and told him that his wife was on fire. Janet Bone said that she was talking to Saunders Reinhard, a minister, when defendant came up to them and said, "[h]elp me, my wife is burning up." At the time, she noticed that defendant was wearing an unsoiled white tee shirt and she did not recall smelling any alcohol on him.

When each of the neighbors arrived, he or she tried various methods of putting out the fire and rescuing Vickie. James Marton testified that he entered the house and attempted to put out the fire with an extinguisher. After he failed, he went into the backyard and found a hose which he could use. While there, he saw defendant who was wearing a green and white shirt. Defendant muttered something about gasoline and an outboard motor in the garage. He further said that, "[i]t was my fault," and mentioned something about a lighted cigarette. Marton testified that defendant "seemed like he was out of it," and noted that defendant's hair, eyebrows, and hands were burned.

Other neighbors hosed down the house, broke windows, and attempted to "ram open" the garage door. Several of them heard screams coming from the house. Reinhard said that he saw defendant attempt to enter the house through the front door. He thought that defendant had been successful.

Gary Fergestad testified that he saw a man whom he believed to be defendant kicking in the glass on a door next to the kitchen. Defendant entered the house and then came back out again. Fergestad then went into the house and carried Vickie out of the kitchen. He later observed a blood stain on the shoulder on which he had rested Vickie's head.

Meanwhile, several men continued to "ram" the garage door. Eventually, somebody told them to stop and unlocked the door from the inside. Fergestad said that he thought that defendant had unlocked the garage door. After the door had been raised, somebody ran from the garage and Fergestad then came out with Vickie. While she was being carried out, David Bone heard her say "[i]t was an accident." Fergestad placed Vickie on the grass and somebody proceeded to extinguish the fire on her clothing. Most of her clothing had been burned away.

Terry Dineen testified that while Vickie was being ministered to on the front lawn, he went to the back of the house and attempted to enter the kitchen. After his attempt proved to be unsuccessful, he sat down on a picnic bench. Defendant, who was also sitting on the bench, asked him for a cigarette. Dineen noticed that defendant's hair was singed and asked defendant what had happened. Defendant told him that he had been fixing a motor. When Dineen again asked him what had happened, defendant said:

"You know, I love her. We were just fooling around. It wasn't supposed to end this way. I love her."

After the flames on Vickie's clothing had been extinguished, Fergestad noticed that Vickie was bound with a lamp cord. The cord was tied around her neck, down the center of her back to her hands, around her hands, down to her feet, and around her feet. A number of the neighbors characterized the binding as similar to being "hog-tied." They said that the cord was tied anywhere from fairly tightly to very tightly. Fergestad said that "it didn't appear that there was any way she could have gotten out of it." While Vickie was lying bound, David Bone asked Vickie who had done this to her. She told him "[l]ater, later," and also said, "[g]et my neck please." Several of the neighbors eventually cut her free. Richard Guthrie testified ...

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