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People v. Miller





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Peoria County; the Hon. CALVIN R. STONE, Judge, presiding.


This is an appeal by the defendant, Jerry Richard Miller, from his conviction for murder and armed robbery by the Circuit Court of Peoria County following a jury trial. He was sentenced to concurrent terms of 40 years' imprisonment for murder and 25 years for armed robbery.

On August 30, 1979, the body of Paul Brown, the night watchman, was discovered at the Willow Knolls Country Club. He had been stabbed and shot to death. A small safe had been taken from the clubhouse office. The Peoria County sheriff's investigation was unsuccessful until September 6, 1979, when sheriff's detectives Schofield and Sylvester went to Debra Rogers' apartment located on Willow Knolls Road near the country club. Rogers had earlier told a city patrolman that she and her boyfriend, the defendant, had been standing on the balcony of their apartment during the early morning hours of August 30, and had heard what sounded like gunshots and shortly afterward saw a small white car accelerating at a high rate of speed on Willow Knolls Road.

When Schofield and Sylvester went to Rogers' apartment they knew that a white Corvette which had earlier been reported stolen had been found on August 30 and that the safe taken from the clubhouse had been small enough to fit inside the Corvette. They also knew that a shoeprint had been found on some broken glass near Brown's body, and they had a description of the type of shoe that would make such a print.

Rogers was not at home when Schofield and Sylvester arrived, but her younger brother admitted them to the apartment. While waiting for Rogers, the detectives went out onto the balcony and concluded that it would be difficult to see vehicles passing on Willow Knolls Road because of all the obstructions. After waiting for awhile they decided to leave. They met Rogers and the defendant in the parking lot and asked Rogers if they could interview her about her statement to the patrolman. At first Rogers refused but later agreed to talk to the detectives.

All four returned to the apartment and the interview began at 7:20 p.m. in the living room of the apartment. Sylvester questioned Rogers and the defendant about her statement to the patrolman. When questioned about the obstructed view, Rogers said she only had a glimpse of the car. During the questioning of Rogers the defendant put his feet onto the coffee table so that the soles of his shoes were visible. Sylvester told the defendant that the pattern on the soles of his shoes matched the shoeprint on a glass fragment found at the country club. Sylvester then asked defendant if he had been employed on August 30 and whether he had worked that day and the defendant replied that he had. Sylvester asked the defendant to telephone his employer and verify the hours he worked on August 30. The manager told Sylvester that the defendant normally started work at 7:30 a.m., but on August 30 he came in at 1:15 p.m. and appeared tired. The manager also told Sylvester that the defendant had asked a co-worker if he could use the co-worker's car to commit a robbery.

Sylvester told the defendant the substance of the conversation and then asked the defendant if he owned a knife. Defendant said he had one, but after a cursory search said he could not find it. Schofield reminded Sylvester about a police report that two youths had attempted to buy a used car shortly after midnight on August 30 and one of the youths, whose description matched that of the defendant, dropped a knife while talking to the owner. The youth picked up the knife and hid it behind his back. Schofield then told the defendant that the detectives considered him a suspect in the Brown homicide. After the defendant was told his Miranda warnings, he was told that the detectives would like him to accompany them to the detective offices at the Peoria County jail to give a written statement. The defendant then privately told Schofield that he had some marijuana and Schofield agreed not to arrest him for possession. During this conversation the telephone rang and the defendant spoke to someone named Todd. The telephone rang again and Rogers spoke to Todd. A third telephone call was from Rogers' mother, and Rogers, Sylvester, and the defendant talked to her. As they were preparing to leave a uniformed city patrolman appeared at the door. Both Sylvester and Schofield denied requesting his presence.

Schofield, Sylvester, and the defendant then drove to the detective offices in Schofield's unmarked car, leaving Rogers' apartment at 7:50 p.m. Schofield drove while Sylvester and the defendant rode in the back. Defendant was not handcuffed or told he was under arrest and neither officer displayed his firearm to the defendant.

As they were driving, Sylvester saw that the defendant was crying and at this time asked the defendant if he knew anything about the Brown homicide. Defendant would not say anything at first, but in response to further questioning said that he had not hurt or killed anyone, but that Todd Reese had killed Brown, and Debra Rogers had been in the car with them. Schofield, Sylvester, and the defendant arrived at the detective office at 8:05 p.m. Defendant gave an oral statement, signed a two-page statement written by Sylvester and also signed a six-page typewritten statement, all of which were completed by 10 p.m. Defendant then led police to a ravine where items, including the safe, taken from the country club were found.

On September 25, 1979, defendant was charged with murder and felony murder. On October 23, 1979, he was charged with armed robbery. He entered a plea of not guilty to all charges and defendant also filed a motion to suppress all statements and evidence resulting from or discovered as a result of his statements. In the motion defendant alleged that the statements were the result of an illegal arrest, in violation of his Miranda rights, and a product of psychological coercion.

At the hearing on this motion the defendant testified that after he was given the Miranda warning he was told by Schofield, "We are going to have to take you down to the station." Defendant testified that he believed he was under arrest based on the actions of the police. He said that Schofield told him the marijuana would be used if the police needed a charge on which to hold him in custody. The trial court took the motion under advisement and denied it on November 19, 1979. In its written order the trial court stated that the Miranda warnings were given fully and properly. The court found that, "* * * Defendant was asked to accompany the Officers to the Police Station and agreed to do so." The trial court also found that there was no psychological coercion, no custodial interrogation prior to the giving of the Miranda warnings, no illegal arrest, no statements taken from defendant in violation of his constitutional rights, and no evidence obtained contrary to the fourth amendment.

Defendant's trial began on November 26, 1979, during which his oral and written statements were entered into evidence. There was testimony that a knife and sheath were found in defendant's apartment and it was shown that the shoeprint on the glass found at the country club matched defendant's right shoe. Evidence further established that glass particles found in defendant's shoes matched glass fragments taken from the country club.

Rogers testified that she, the defendant, and Reese were riding in a stolen white Corvette on August 30 and that they drove to the country club, intending to steal. Defendant and Reese were armed, Rogers waited in the car while defendant and Reese went into the clubhouse. Rogers testified that she heard shots and saw the two come back to the car carrying a small safe. She further testified that both the defendant and Reese claimed to have shot and stabbed Brown.

The defendant testified in his own behalf and admitted participating in the robbery, but denied shooting or stabbing Brown, but ...

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