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People v. Henderson





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. FRANCIS J. MAHON, Judge, presiding.


Defendant, Michael Henderson, was charged by information with the murder and rape of Zelder Wilson. Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County, he was found guilty of murder, not guilty of rape, and was sentenced to 60 to 120 years imprisonment.

On appeal defendant contends that: (1) because of his limited intelligence and in the absence of family and legal counsel, he did not intelligently and voluntarily waive his right to remain silent; (2) the trial court erred in admitting his inculpatory statements because they were a product of an unlawful arrest; (3) the State failed to prove that he was fit to stand trial; (4) the trial court erred in admitting evidence of his blood type; (5) he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; and (6) his sentence was excessive.

The record indicates that on September 15, 1976, the body of the 87-year-old victim was found lying nude from the waist down on the floor of her apartment. A pathologist testified that her cause of death was due to asphyxiation and blunt trauma to the head. After investigating the scene, the police arrested the 18-year-old defendant and took him to the station for questioning. After being advised of his rights, the defendant confessed to the murder and rape of the victim. According to the defendant's signed statement which was admitted into evidence and read at trial, the defendant said he returned to his apartment at about 11 a.m. that day and saw the victim in the back of the apartment building emptying garbage. He asked her for a glass of water and she invited him in. She told him to go ahead and get a glass of water. He did so, drank some, and put the glass on the sink. He then said he did not want any water, picked up a knife, told her he "wanted some pussy" and to go into the bedroom. She consented and asked him not to kill her. He said after they had sex, they left the bedroom, he turned up the stereo, and they went into the kitchen. He told her she better not tell anyone, she said she wouldn't, and again asked him not to kill her. He then knocked her down, picked up a knife, and stabbed her four or five times. He said the knife he used was different from the one he originally picked up because the victim hid the other one. He left the knife he stabbed her with on the floor near her. He then went into the bathroom and washed his hands, leaving blood on the bathroom sink. He left the victim's apartment by the front door, went to his own apartment, took a shower, and changed his clothes. He said he threw his dirty clothes into his sister's laundry bag and she washed them. He said he cut his middle and ring fingers of his right hand when he stabbed the victim. When he left the victim's apartment, he had blood on his hand so he wiped it on the wall. He stated that he saw the man who lived in the third floor apartment, told him he saw a man running out of the victim's apartment, and asked him to see if the victim was okay. This man got another neighbor and after knocking on the victim's door, the defendant opened the door with his shirttail. He said they saw the victim lying on the floor.


Prior to trial, the trial court held a competency hearing as well as a hearing on defendant's motions to quash his arrest on the grounds it was made without probable cause and to suppress his confession on the dual grounds that it was made subsequent to an illegal arrest and in violation of his constitutional rights. Defendant was found competent to stand trial, and the motions to quash the arrest and suppress the confession were denied.

At both these hearings, the defense called a psychiatrist and a psychologist to testify. Dr. Katz, whose qualifications as an expert in psychiatry were stipulated to by the State, testified that he examined the defendant on one occasion in June of 1977. In his opinion, the defendant was mentally retarded with a mental age of 12 to 14 years old. He said his opinion was corroborated by Chicago Board of Education reports on the defendant which indicated that in 1964, at a chronological age of 8 years old, defendant had an IQ of 77 and a mental age of 4 years 10 months; that in 1966, defendant had an IQ of 66; and that in 1970, defendant had an IQ of 74 and a mental age of 8.6 years old. Dr. Katz stated that a mentally retarded person has great difficulty in understanding concepts, numbers, and symbols, and has difficulty reading and understanding language. He stated that the defendant was capable of conversing on a simple level, and that although defendant made inconsistent statements, they were responsive to the questions asked. The inconsistency, he said, indicated an attempt by defendant to disguise his retardation by saying things he thought the questioner wanted to hear. At the competency hearing, Dr. Katz testified that in his opinion, the defendant could understand the nature of the charges against him and the court proceedings, but would be unable to cooperate "fully to maximumly assist his Counsel." At the suppression hearing, Dr. Katz testified that the defendant would have a poor concept of the meaning of words such as "waive" and "consultation." After considering the fact that the defendant had been arrested on four prior occasions, Katz said defendant could understand the meaning of "lawyer" and "court of law." He said defendant would probably understand what was meant by a right to remain silent, that anything he said could be used against him, and the concept of being present with someone when informed that he had a right to have an attorney present. But defendant's ability to clearly understand and intelligently give up such rights, Katz said, would be diminished in a stressful situation. He also stated that the more experience the defendant had in a stressful situation, the less anxiety he would have.

Dr. Rosenwald, after his qualifications were reviewed, testified as an expert in psychology. He stated that in October of 1977, he administered the Weschler Adult Intelligence Scale and Bender Gestalt test to the defendant. He found that the defendant had an IQ of 62 which was equivalent to the mental age of 7 to 9 years old. He classified the defendant as a high grade mental defective which placed him in the bottom five percentile of the population. In Dr. Rosenwald's opinion, the defendant could understand the nature of the charges against him, but doubted whether he could understand the full nature of the criminal proceedings. He stated that defendant could comprehend the simplest kind of procedural questions, but would have great difficulty comprehending and answering complex questions. Dr. Rosenwald found the defendant to be cooperative and believed he would try to assist counsel in his defense, but was dubious as to how successful he would be. The degree of cooperation, he said, would be limited by defendant's IQ and impaired mental state. He stated that the defendant would understand the word "silent" but would not understand the full context of the words "right to remain silent" nor the implication of the phrase "advise of rights." Rosenwald said the defendant might respond affirmatively to questions in which such words were used because of his lack of understanding and the fact that he was cooperative. He said defendant would probably understand the words "lawyer" and "court of law" because he had been exposed to lawyers and courts> over a period of time. In Rosenwald's opinion, the defendant would not understand the meaning of Miranda warnings even though he might say he did, and would have great difficulty in comprehending a waiver of his rights.

The State called Dr. Kaplan whose qualifications as an expert in psychiatry were stipulated to by the defense. He testified that he examined the defendant in August of 1977. Prior to this examination, he reviewed examinations of the defendant done by both a psychologist and psychiatrist concerning a prior matter and read the defendant's signed statement, police reports, and the results of a partial IQ test administered to the defendant by a court psychologist in 1976. He said this test indicated that defendant was of borderline intelligence. Borderline intelligence, Kaplan said, was equivalent to an IQ score of 70 to 90. Dr. Kaplan stated that an IQ score of 62, the score defendant attained on the intelligence tests administered by Rosenwald in 1977, indicated a high grade mental defective which meant mental retardation. He agreed that an IQ level of 62 would be equivalent to a mental age of 8 to 9 years old. At the competency hearing, Dr. Kaplan was of the opinion that defendant understood the charges against him, the nature of the court proceedings, and was capable of adequately cooperating with his attorney. That defendant was found to have an IQ of 62 did not change his opinion. At the suppression hearing, Dr. Kaplan stated that in his opinion, the defendant could understand the rights that were given to him and had the ability to waive them. Dr. Kaplan also stated that defendant's earlier experiences with arrests and court procedures enabled him to acquire knowledge and an understanding of what his rights were, thus enabling him to understand the warnings given in this case.

At the suppression hearing, in addition to the testimony of these expert witnesses, several other witnesses testified. The defendant, testifying in his own behalf, acknowledged that before he gave his statement he was informed of his rights both by the police and an assistant state's attorney and verbally waived them. However, he said, he really did not understand what these warnings meant. He said when the police picked him up he had cuts on two of his fingers. At first he said he had them when he left to play ball at 8 a.m. the day the incident occurred. Later he stated he got the cuts around noontime from playing ball. After further questioning, he said he got the cuts after sliding on some glass. He admitted being picked up by the police on prior occasions and being in court. He said he knew what the words "judge" and "court" meant but did not know what a lawyer was. Later he stated that when picked up on a prior matter he knew what a lawyer was and had talked to a public defender about the matter.

When asked about the statement he had given, he said he knew what a statement was and that he signed the statement but was told by the officer what letters to put down to sign his name. When asked how he spelled his name he misspelled both his first and last name. He said the attorney read the statement into a tape recorder while he listened and then asked him if the statement was correct or accurate. He said he did not respond that the statement was correct and did not know what correct or accurate meant.

The defendant's sister testified that defendant had attended school through the 8th grade but could not read or write; that defendant could not write his name unless someone wrote it down for him to copy; and that her brother's attention span was limited but that they did carry on normal conversations.

Sergeant Glynn, the arresting officer testifying on behalf of the State, stated that he arrived at the scene of the crime at about 2 p.m. There he met the defendant who told him that at about 11 a.m. that day he saw a black male about 23 to 25 years old, 6'2" tall walk out of the victim's apartment and wipe blood on the hallway wall. The defendant told him he heard loud music playing. The officer then went into the victim's apartment and observed the victim's body. He also observed two knives with reddish-brown stains on them, one on the kitchen cabinet and the other in the front room. A member of the victim's family informed the officer that the defendant had broken into the victim's apartment a year ago. The officer then left the scene but returned a few hours later. Upon his return, he asked the defendant to re-enact exactly what he had observed. As the defendant did so, the officer noticed a band-aid on the defendant's middle right finger and inquired about it. He said the defendant responded that he had cut himself while making lunch and pulled back the band-aid. The officer observed a fresh cut which was still bleeding on defendant's middle finger and observed superficial cuts on defendant's ring finger. The officer said these cuts were consistent with blade wounds.

According to the officer, the defendant originally described the man he allegedly saw leaving the victim's apartment as wearing formal black leather shoes, having no mustache, and not wearing glasses. Later, the officer requestioned the defendant about this description. The officer admitted asking defendant leading questions such as what type of tennis shoes the man was wearing, what type of glasses he had on, horn-rimmed or straight, and what type of mustache he had. The officer said contrary to the original description, the defendant responded that the man was wearing plain white tennis shoes, horn-rimmed glasses, and had a Fu Man Chu mustache.

The officer testified that he placed defendant in the squad car, told him he was a suspect in the case, and informed him of his rights which defendant said he understood. Prior to questioning at the station, the officer said he read the defendant his rights which defendant said he understood. Defendant then consented to answer questions. After their conversation, the officer called in the assistant state's attorney. Sergeant Glynn verified the defendant's signature as it appeared on the recorded statement and said he saw the defendant sign the statement without help from anyone. The officer also stated that he had been unaware that the defendant was of limited intelligence.

Ronald Guzman, an assistant state's attorney, testified that at about 6:25 p.m. on September 15, 1976, he met with the defendant and Sergeant Glynn. He told the defendant who he was, why he was there, and then in his own words advised the defendant of his rights. Guzman said after each right the defendant said he understood. Guzman further informed the defendant that he could stop talking at anytime. Defendant again said he understood. Guzman asked the defendant if he had already spoken to Sergeant Glynn and whether Glynn had informed him of his rights. Defendant responded affirmatively to both questions. Guzman then questioned the defendant about the incident. When this conversation terminated, Guzman asked the defendant if he wanted anything to eat or drink, if he wanted to make any phone calls, and whether he wanted treatment for the cut on his hand. Thereafter, Guzman contacted a court reporter, again advised the defendant of his rights, and a statement was taken and recorded. The typed statement was then given to the defendant to read, but defendant informed Guzman he could not read. Guzman then got a tape recorder in order to record his oral reading of the statement to the defendant. He said after he read each page, the defendant acknowledged that those were the questions asked and answers he gave. Defendant then initialed each page and signed the last page. Guzman stated that the defendant appeared normal, and he was never informed that defendant's intelligence was below normal.


The State's evidence indicated that at about 10:30 to 11 the morning of September 15, 1976, the 87-year-old victim was alive and in good health. Around 1:30 p.m., Willie Rogers, the victim's third floor neighbor, met the defendant exiting the apartment building. The defendant expressed concern to Rogers about the old lady residing on the first floor and told him of a man he had seen run out of the victim's apartment and wipe blood on the hallway wall. They entered the victim's apartment by the defendant opening the apartment door with his shirttail. They discovered the victim's body in the rear of the apartment. Rogers called the police. While they waited, defendant asked Rogers for a band-aid, stating he cut his finger while slicing lunchmeat. According to Rogers, defendant already had a band-aid on his finger.

Upon the arrival of the police, defendant talked to Sergeant Glynn whose testimony at trial was substantially the same as has already been set forth for the suppression hearing. In addition, Glynn related an account of what the defendant told him occurred on the day in question. This account varied only in minor respects from the story the defendant subsequently ...

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