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People v. Tanser

OPINION FILED AUGUST 23, 1979.

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

v.

MARVIN W. TANSER, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of De Kalb County; the Hon. WILSON D. BURNELL, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE SEIDENFELD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The State appeals from an order suppressing the defendant's confession. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 110A, par. 604(a).) In issue is whether the confession was voluntary or, rather, involuntary as the result of inducements of confidentiality by the police, or inadequate Miranda warnings.

Defendant was arrested on a charge of arson (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 20-1) involving the residence of his neighbor, Francis Palmatier. After a hearing, the court granted the defendant's motion to suppress his confession on the basis of his finding that Tanser had not been adequately informed of and did not understand his constitutional rights before he confessed. The court also found that his confession had been induced by promises that any statement that he made would not be used against him in a criminal proceeding.

At the hearing on the motion to suppress, Donald E. Brown, an arson investigator for the State fire marshall's office, testified that defendant had been pointed out to him by one of the police and fire personnel near the scene of the fire as a possible witness. Brown asked the defendant to come down to the fire station and discuss the fire "because he was a witness." Tanser agreed, and drove his own truck to the fire station. At the station, Brown, the assistant fire chief Leonard Gustafson, and two police officers from the Sandwich police department spoke with the defendant. Brown handed Tanser a form with his Miranda rights printed on it. Tanser read the form; Brown said he pronounced the words that Tanser stumbled over and explained the words which were giving Tanser difficulty; and Tanser signed the waiver form. During what was described as an "interview" which was later transcribed and introduced as an exhibit, defendant confessed to setting the fire at the Palmatier residence.

The conversation may be broken into three segments, each lasting approximately 15 minutes. During the first segment Brown, Officers King and Bowman, and Assistant Fire Chief Gustafson were present. During the first segment the defendant, after some preliminary questions, was asked if he had set this fire and answered "No." He was asked about some previous fires and admitted that he had set fires previously. Questions were then asked about fires in his neighborhood and he said he did not have anything to do with those. In the second segment defendant made an admission to Brown alone.

When questioned further about the fire at Palmatier's, the defendant was accused of having changed his story in some details of his activities that night and Brown asked:

"* * * [I]f you've got a problem, this is what were [sic] for? I'm not here to nail you or anything like that, I don't want to do it, if you've got a problem, then fine, lets [sic] get some help. But there's no way in heck that I'm going to sit here and believe all this when you change your story. * * *

Q. Marvin, don't, do you have a problem.

A. Well, I've got a problem.

Q. Want to talk to us about it?

A. Well, if you and I could talk together.

Q. Fine, would you gentlemen want to step outside for a moment or two? Now you want to talk to me about it Marvin?

A. Well, I've had problems though. * * * I'm an epileptic. I do things, I have these attacks and lots of times I don't know you do it, and I'm really ashamed of ...


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