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People v. Bradford





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JAMES M. BAILEY, Judge, presiding.


Melvin Bradford and his wife, Diana Bradford, were jointly charged with the murder of their 8-year-old son, Matthew. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)(3).) After a bench trial, they were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Melvin Bradford was sentenced to serve 3 to 9 years; Diana Bradford was sentenced to 2 to 6 years. Diana Bradford did not pursue the appeal. Melvin Bradford raises the following issues for review: (1) whether his confession should have been suppressed as it was obtained in violation of his fifth amendment privilege against self-incrimination; (2) whether his confession should have been suppressed as it resulted from custodial interrogation on less than probable cause in violation of his fourth amendment rights; and (3) whether the physical evidence admitted into evidence against him should have been suppressed as it resulted from a warrantless search and seizure not justified by any exception to the warrant requirement.

We affirm.

On June 4, 1977, police officers were summoned to the Bradford residence. The officers were admitted into the house and directed to a front bedroom on the second floor. There, the officers found the victim lying on a bed. The boy was wearing blue jeans which had been pulled down to his knees. His body was cold to the touch and extremely stiff.

Police Officers Koin and Martin went downstairs and questioned the mother as to why the police had been called. The mother told the officers that 30 minutes earlier she had instructed her son to take out the garbage. He did, but complained of dizziness. The mother told her son to go upstairs and to lie down. Shortly thereafter, the father informed the mother that the boy was not breathing. The mother telephoned for the fire ambulance.

On returning to the second floor front bedroom, Officer Koin observed lacerations on the top of the boy's head, bruises on the face, arms and thighs, welts on his buttocks and on the back of his legs. Ligature marks were on his ankles. In the bedroom, Officer Koin observed a chair with a belt tied around the chair arm. On the chair were stained clothes and a pillow.

Officer Martin testified that he left the front bedroom and went into the two remaining bedrooms. In the back bedroom, he saw linen, clothes, a rope and a cord lying on the bed. Though he did not touch the items, the officer saw what he thought to be blood on them. Personnel from the crime laboratory and medical examiner's office seized various items from both bedrooms of the home, among which were a length of clothesline, a knotted electrical cord, a chair pillow and another pillow, and some clothing.

Officer Koin returned to the first floor to talk with the mother. She repeated her original account. The officer asked her to accompany him to the police station. She and her husband agreed to go to the station.

At the station, the police placed Melvin and Diana Bradford in separate interview rooms. Officer Koin questioned Mrs. Bradford; Officer Ridges questioned Mr. Bradford. Mrs. Bradford reiterated her account of what had occurred prior to calling an ambulance. Officer Koin left the room and on returning informed Mrs. Bradford that her husband had told what happened. Mrs. Bradford then stated that she would relate what happened. Officer Koin advised her of the Miranda rights. Mrs. Bradford waived her rights, gave a statement (People's Exhibit No. 1), but refused to sign the typed statement.

Mr. Bradford gave a similar account to Officer Ridges. He maintained that the boy had been alive at 9 p.m. despite Officer Ridges' remonstrations that the boy's body was in an advanced stage of rigor mortis. Officer Ridges left the interview room and returned with Officer Koin. Officer Ridges informed Mr. Bradford that Mrs. Bradford had told them there had been a beating. Officer Ridges then gave Mr. Bradford his Miranda warnings. Mr. Bradford waived his rights. He described the beating that occurred at 10:30 the morning of June 4. He saw his wife beating the boy with a piece of pool stick. He took the stick from her. Thereafter, he hit the boy with the stick and also with a knotted electrical cord. The parents suspected the boy of stealing from the mother's purse. Mr. Bradford signed a consent (People's Exhibit No. 4) permitting the police to enter the home and retrieve the pool stick.

When an assistant State's Attorney arrived at the station, he spoke separately with Mr. and Mrs. Bradford. Both were advised of their rights; both waived their rights and each gave an oral statement. When the court reporter arrived, the statements were taken and transcribed. Both read and signed their written statement (People's Exhibit No. 2 and No. 3.)

At the hearing on the motions to suppress evidence and the motion to suppress statements, defendants contradicted the police and testified that they were not advised of their rights until the assistant State's Attorney arrived. Moreover, they testified that not until the arrival of the assistant State's Attorney were they aware that they were under arrest. But, defendant's brief on appeal claims that Miranda warnings were given prior to his oral statement.

In denying the motions, Judge Bailey said:

"I see nothing wrong with what the police did here. * * * There is a dead body. These are the parents of the dead victim. I think the only proper thing is to probably set them down in a cool, collected place away from where the body is located, namely, to the police station, and that is exactly what they did. * * * The officers had a duty to find out what happened. The witnesses to it are these two individuals. They sat them separately in the police station and when it appeared to the police officers that one ...

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