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People v. Felton





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon. John S. Teschner, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied September 30, 1982.

Defendant, Donald A. Felton, was tried by jury and convicted of six counts of armed violence (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 33A-2) and one count each of burglary (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 19-1(a)), theft in excess of $150 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 16-1(a)(1)), unlawful restraint (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 10-3(a)), aggravated battery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 12-4(a)) and aggravated assault (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 12-2(a)(1)). He was thereafter sentenced to concurrent terms of imprisonment of 18 years for armed violence, 7 years for burglary, 5 years for theft, 3 years for unlawful restraint and 364 days for aggravated assault. The aggravated battery conviction was vacated as a lesser included offense of armed violence in which it was the predicate offense.

Defendant appeals contending that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress inculpatory statements he made to police when they questioned him after he had requested counsel, and, that his conviction and sentence for armed violence, based on aggravated battery, must be vacated as prohibited double enhancement.

The evidence in trial disclosed that at about 4:15 p.m. on October 24, 1980, Earl F. Wilcek returned home from work to his apartment in Elmhurst and found damp, unfamiliar clothing on the radiator. He testified he was then confronted by defendant who was wearing Wilcek's clothes, his wife's gold necklace and pointing Wilcek's loaded rifle at him. Defendant told Wilcek to be cool and advised him he had recently escaped from Menard and had entered the apartment to find car keys as people were trying to kill him. Wilcek responded that his wife had their car and defendant held him at gunpoint for about an hour during which time defendant stated he had entered the apartment at about 2:30 p.m. by breaking a window; he also took money from Wilcek's wallet during this period. Defendant allowed Wilcek to answer the phone when his wife called to tell her to leave the car in back of the apartment and come upstairs. Wilcek pleaded with defendant not to shoot them when his wife arrived. Defendant said he knew gang members and killing was an everyday way of life in prison. He asked Wilcek if he had heard of Don Felton and became angry when he responded he had not; defendant told Wilcek he was desperate and that police would have to kill him to catch him. When defendant momentarily took his hand off the trigger of the rifle Wilcek made a grab for the weapon and a struggle ensued during which defendant threatened to cut Wilcek with his knife, struck him seven or eight times with the rifle and fired it once into the ceiling. Wilcek managed to escape out the door and called the police.

Sergeant John Millner and Officer Michael Krenek of the Elmhurst police were on patrol at approximately 5 p.m. when they were informed by radio that a subject matching the home invader's description had been seen. They drove to a location a few blocks from the Wilcek apartment where they observed defendant, whose description matched that given by Wilcek, carrying a rifle wrapped in clothing; he was also wearing Wilcek's clothes and his wife's gold necklace and carrying a knife. Defendant was arrested, given the Miranda warnings and transported to the police station where he requested an attorney at 5:25 p.m. At 6:30 p.m., before an attorney was provided, detectives Edwin Wolter and James O'Brien initiated an interview with defendant in which he made inculpatory statements. Defendant's pretrial motion to suppress the statements was denied by the trial court.

Officer Wolter testified in trial that defendant had said he had been released from Menard Penitentiary a few days earlier on October 24. Defendant also related that five men were always following him and chasing him around and he had entered the apartment by breaking a window. In the apartment defendant looked for something to eat and dry clothes as his were wet. He also found a rifle in the apartment. Defendant stated a man came home and they struggled, during which defendant fired the rifle into the ceiling to scare the man and stop the struggle. The man then ran out and so did defendant.

Officer Raymond Turano testified he made a crime scene investigation in which he discovered a window pane on the back door had been broken. In the living room he found a spent shell casing on the floor, a pile of clothing on the radiator, and the room in disarray appearing as though a struggle had occurred. The officer also located a bullet hole in the upper portion of a closet.

Defendant testified on his own behalf that he was in the Wilcek apartment on the day in question. He stated he believed certain people were conspiring to kill him and he had followed his instincts in going there. He further testified he had entered another apartment under similar circumstances in the past for which he had been convicted of attempt burglary and sentenced to Menard.

Defendant initially contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the inculpatory statements made by him while in custody, after requesting an attorney, in violation of Edwards v. Arizona (1981), 451 U.S. 477, 484-85, 68 L.Ed.2d 378, 386, 101 S.Ct. 1880, 1884-85, which states:

"that when an accused has invoked his right to have counsel present during custodial interrogation, a valid waiver of that right cannot be established by showing only that he responded to further police-initiated custodial interrogation even if he has been advised of his rights. We further hold that an accused, such as Edwards, having expressed his desire to deal with the police only through counsel, is not subject to further interrogation by the authorities until counsel had been made available to him, unless the accused himself initiates further communication, exchanges or conversations with the police."

The State confesses error, but argues that in this case it was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt and does not require reversal and a new trial.

In People v. Black (1972), 52 Ill.2d 544, 555, 288 N.E.2d 376, 383, cert. denied (1973), 411 U.S. 967, 36 L.Ed.2d 689, 93 S.Ct. 2155, the court stated that consideration of whether constitutional error is harmless beyond a reasonable doubt is not limited as to whether the erroneously admitted evidence is merely cumulative or that other record evidence is sufficient to sustain the conviction; rather, the focus should be on the character and quality of the illegally obtained evidence as it relates to the other evidence bearing upon the same issue and its possible impact upon the jury. This question was further addressed in People v. Henenberg (1973), 55 Ill.2d 5, 11, 302 N.E.2d 27, 30, in which the court found that a motion to suppress a confession would be allowed when continued interrogation by officers leads to a confession after defendant has requested an attorney and none has been provided. While there the court found the error required reversal after review of the evidence, it left open the question of whether the improper admission of a confession or inculpatory statement of a defendant can ever be harmless error.

In People v. Washington (1977), 68 Ill.2d 186, 194, 369 N.E.2d 57, 60-61, cert. denied (1981), 454 U.S. 846, 70 L.Ed.2d 132, 102 S.Ct. 162, the court determined that admission of incriminating statements made by Washington during custodial questioning after he had requested counsel could not be deemed harmless as there the eyewitnesses to the offenses were unable to identify ...

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