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In Re Willis





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. PETER F. COSTA, Judge, presiding.


Charles Willis, a minor (hereinafter referred to as respondent), was charged by a delinquency petition with one count of murder during the commission of a forcible felony in violation of section 9-1(a)(3) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)(3)); one count of murder in violation of section 9-1(a)(1) of the Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)(1)); and one count of burglary in violation of section 19-1(a) of the Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 19-1(a)). Respondent filed a motion to suppress any and all statements made by him relating to these charges. This motion was denied after a lengthy hearing. Following an adjudicatory hearing, the trial court found the evidence sufficient to prove respondent guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on all counts and adjudicated respondent a ward of the court. After a dispositional hearing, respondent was committed to the Juvenile Division of the Department of Corrections. Respondent appeals presenting the following issues for review: (1) whether respondent's statements should have been suppressed because they were the product of an alleged unlawful arrest; (2) whether statements by respondent were made voluntarily after a knowing and intelligent waiver of his constitutional rights; and (3) whether respondent's delinquency was established beyond a reasonable doubt.

For reasons hereinafter set forth, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court of Cook County.

On October 27, 1977, James Weathersby (hereinafter referred to as the decedent) was shot to death when he returned to the apartment in which he resided with the Albert Jackson family at 114 South Spaulding and interrupted a burglary in progress. The apartment had been ransacked and a weapon belonging to Mr. Jackson had been taken from the apartment. The body of decedent was found in the living room.

Because a detailed discussion and analysis of the facts is required by the nature of each issue presented for review and because the record is voluminous, clarity and brevity suggest that the facts pertinent to each issue be set forth in the discussion of that issue.


Respondent contends that his arrest was unlawful because the police did not obtain an arrest warrant prior to arresting him at his home, and that as a result thereof his subsequent statements should have been suppressed as the product of the unlawful arrest. The State maintains that respondent's arrest was lawfully executed, even though an arrest warrant had not been obtained, and that as a consequence thereof, respondent's statements were properly admitted into evidence. Respondent does not argue that the police did not have probable cause to arrest him. The question presented for review, therefore, is whether the fact that the police had no arrest warrant vitiated the arrest and tainted respondent's subsequent statements.

On November 10, 1977, Investigator Dwyer of the Chicago Police Department was investigating the October 27, 1977, burglary and homicide. Bobbie Driskel, one of the three juveniles who had been taken into custody for questioning regarding the October 27, 1977, burglary and homicide, implicated respondent during an interview which began at approximately 4:30 p.m. Dwyer, accompanied by Investigator Wasmund, youth officer O'Neil and policewoman Ramos, proceeded to the home of respondent at approximately 5:30 p.m. with the intent "to bring him into Area 4 for questioning." The officers were informed by respondent's mother that respondent was not at home. Wasmund and O'Neil advised her that they wished to speak to respondent concerning a burglary. O'Neil gave respondent's parents his name and telephone number and asked respondent's parents to call him when respondent returned home. At approximately 7:30 p.m. O'Neil received a call from respondent's mother informing him that respondent had returned home. Dwyer and Wasmund proceeded to respondent's home and were met at the door by respondent. The officers identified themselves and asked respondent to accompany them to headquarters for questioning with regard to a burglary which had occurred at 114 South Spaulding. Dwyer advised respondent's mother that they were taking respondent to Area 4 headquarters for questioning concerning the burglary and that she could accompany them. Although respondent's mother indicated an intention to accompany the respondent, she did not so do.

In ruling upon respondent's motion to suppress, the trial court found that the respondent "was, in fact arrested at [the time he was taken into custody by police officers]"; that "the police officers indeed had probable cause to arrest the minor respondent at that time and place"; and that "the arrest was not in violation of the minor respondent's constitutional rights or any other rights delineated by statute or any other law."

Whether a warrantless and nonconsensual entry into the home of a suspect by police officers for the purpose of making an arrest supported by probable cause must also be supported by proof of exigent circumstances, until recently, was an issue unresolved by the United States Supreme Court, Federal courts> of appeals, many State courts> and the courts> of this State. We have held this case under advisement pending our Supreme Court's decision in People v. Abney (1980), 81 Ill.2d 159, 407 N.E.2d 543. Abney enunciated the rule that "exigent circumstances must be present to justify a warrantless entry to arrest." (Abney, at 168.) The arrest in the instant case was without a warrant, and thus we are concerned with whether exigent circumstances existed which militated against delay and justified the officers' decision to proceed without a warrant.

• 1 It is our opinion that such exigent circumstances were present in the case at bar and that the officers acted in a reasonable fashion. First, the officers' decision to proceed to defendant's residence without a warrant followed immediately receipt of Driskel's statement implicating respondent. The receipt of such information about a relatively recent offense could suggest to the officers a need for prompt action. (See, e.g., People v. Sakalas (1980), 85 Ill. App.3d 59, 405 N.E.2d 1121.) Second, and closely related to the fact that the officers acted promptly, there was no deliberate or unjustified delay by the officers during which time a warrant could have been obtained. Unlike the invalid warrantless search in Coolidge v. New Hampshire (1971), 403 U.S. 443, 478, 29 L.Ed.2d 564, 91 S.Ct. 2022, for example, the officers in the instant case did not contemplate their course of conduct for an extended period of time: respondent was arrested within three hours of Bobbie Driskel's statements implicating him. (People v. Haynes (1980), 89 Ill. App.3d 231, 411 N.E.2d 876.) Finally, the need for prompt action was further made apparent by the belief that respondent was possibly armed and exhibited some sign of a violent character. The offense charged, murder, is unquestionably a violent offense. Moreover, a gun which had been taken from the burglarized apartment and which may have been used to shoot the victim, *fn1 had not been accounted for.

In addition to the exigent circumstances set forth above, other factors were present which suggest that the officers acted reasonably. First, the officers were acting on a clear showing of probable cause based upon the type of reasonably trustworthy information necessary to justify warrantless law enforcement activities. Bobbie Driskel, a friend of respondent who had been taken into custody by police for questioning regarding the burglary and homicide, informed police of respondent's participation. Second, the police officers had strong reason to believe that respondent was in the premises entered. Respondent's mother had called Officer O'Neil to inform him that respondent had returned home. Finally, the entry here was peaceful and not the type of forced entry that has led courts> to disapprove warrantless entries.

In summary, we see no cause to hold invalid the entry here and the resultant ...

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