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People v. Miller





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Morgan County; the Hon. HOWARD LEE WHITE, Judge, presiding.


The State's Attorney asked a single, fatal question of the defendant on cross-examination.

The query was in direct violation of the United States Supreme Court's edict in Doyle v. Ohio.

Because of it, we must reverse and remand for a new trial.


Miller, Clarence "Butch" Armstrong, and Randy Williams were charged with abducting, beating, robbing, and killing Neil Gorsuch.

Armstrong's case was tried separately. Williams pleaded guilty to kidnapping and the other charges against him were dropped when he agreed to testify against Miller and Armstrong.

Upon denial of Miller's motion for change of venue, a jury trial was held in Morgan County. The prosecution's case against Miller consisted mainly of the testimony of Randy Williams. At Miller's trial, Williams testified substantially as follows:

At 1:30 a.m. on February 9, 1980, Williams, his brother Rick, "Butch" Armstrong, and a person later identified as the victim left a tavern in Jacksonville, Illinois. The four got into a car belonging to a friend of Rick Williams. Rick drove to his house and got out. Randy began driving with the victim sitting behind him and Armstrong sitting in the back seat next to the victim. During this trip, Armstrong administered a beating to the victim.

After driving around for an undetermined length of time, the trio arrived at Williams' house. Once inside, it was discovered that the victim had become incontinent. While the victim was in the bathroom cleaning himself, Armstrong obtained from Williams a .12-gauge shotgun, shells, and a .32-caliber pistol containing one shell. When the victim exited the bathroom, Armstrong, finding feces on the floor, struck and knocked Gorsuch down. Williams attempted to clean up the feces and blood, but was not completely successful. Thereafter, the trio prepared to leave. Armstrong placed both guns in the car, shoved the victim into the rear seat, and then got in the passenger side of the car. Williams began driving and at some point, Armstrong fired the .32-caliber pistol into the back seat of the car, ostensibly to convince the victim to keep his head down. During this time, the victim's face was covered with a stocking cap.

Subsequently, with Armstrong giving directions, Williams drove to a trailer court. According to Williams, it was still dark at this time. Armstrong got out and went to a trailer, but returned shortly thereafter. Miller followed a few minutes later and got into the back seat of the car with the victim. Williams again began to drive, with Armstrong and Miller giving directions. Miller asked the victim if he had any money. According to Williams, the victim replied affirmatively, whereupon Miller hit the victim and demanded all of his money. Williams testified that he then heard Miller going through the victim's pockets.

Williams testified that he drove west out of Jacksonville through the country until he came to a bridge, where Armstrong ordered him to stop. Miller was the first to exit the car. Armstrong followed, and handed Miller the shotgun. Williams was the next to get out. Armstrong then took the victim by the arm, pulled him out of the back seat of the car, and shoved him up against the rail of the bridge. Williams testified that Miller then shot the victim in the head. According to Williams, Armstrong took the shotgun, reloaded it, and also shot the victim in the head. Armstrong put a third shell in the shotgun and gave it to Williams. When Williams shot and missed, Armstrong ordered Williams to shoot again and to do it right this time or be buried there with the victim. As the shotgun was reloaded for this fourth shot, the empty shell fell through the floor of the bridge. Williams testified that he thought he hit the man with his second shot.

Armstrong then grabbed the body of the victim by the feet and flipped it over the north side of the bridge. On Armstrong's orders, Williams picked up the spent shells — except the one which fell through the bridge. Armstrong, Miller, and Williams got into the front seat of the car, with Williams again driving. According to Williams, it was still dark when the trio left the bridge, heading west. A short while later, the shells, along with the victim's wallet and driver's license, were thrown out the passenger side of the car. The three returned to Williams' house, where they disposed of the shotgun. While it was still dark, Williams and Miller took Armstrong home and proceeded to a cafe. It was beginning to get light out when they arrived at the cafe. Later, Williams took Miller home.

That afternoon, Miller, Williams, and Armstrong met at another tavern in Jacksonville. All of them then went to Williams' house, where Williams cleaned up the house and the car used in the murder. The three returned to the tavern. Armstrong later left, but Williams and Miller were soon joined by Williams' brother, Rick. Williams informed his brother, Rick, that he was in trouble and needed to talk. After some more drinking, Miller, the Williams brothers, and Chris Peterson went to Williams' house. Williams testified that he and Rick went into a bedroom, where he told brother Rick that "they" had killed the person who was with them the previous evening. Thereafter — according to both brothers' ...

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