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People v. Johnson





Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Kenneth L. Gillis, Judge, presiding.


Following a bench trial in the circuit court of Cook County, the defendant, Charles Stanley Johnson, was convicted of murder and armed violence, and was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment. The appellate court reversed, holding that the trial court erred in denying defendant's motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence. (103 Ill. App.3d 734.) We allowed the State's petition for leave to appeal.

This appeal requires determination of only one question. Did the police have probable cause to arrest defendant?

The body of the victim, Albert Owens, was found on October 8, 1979, in the vicinity of the 7100 block of South Halsted Street in Chicago. He had been shot several times and died from multiple gunshot wounds inflicted by both a .38- and a .45-caliber revolver.

On Friday, October 12, 1979, at about 2:00-2:30 p.m., an informant told the police that the two individuals who had committed the murder resided at 6812 South Normal in Chicago. The informant gave a detailed description of one of the suspects, whom he indicated was known as "Stan," and also described the other suspect, whom he could not identify by name. He said Stan was approximately 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall, 25 to 30 years old, had a front tooth missing, a beard, and an "afro" hair style. The description of the other subject, while not appearing in this record, was apparently no as detailed as that given for Stan. The informant told police that Stan lived on the second floor of an apartment building and the other suspect lived in the basement apartment. Because the building was very large, the police brought the informant to the building and had him point out which apartments the suspects lived in.

The following morning, at approximately 7:30 a.m., six officers went to the Normal address. They did not have an arrest warrant. Upon arriving at the building, some of the officers were stationed at the front to insure that nobody entered or exited the building. The others went to the basement apartment, wherein one of the suspects allegedly resided, and knocked on the door. Two men answered and admitted the officers, while two other men, one of them being Michael Head, climbed out a basement window and attempted to flee. One of the officers testified that Head was wanted for armed robbery. Head's physical description was similar to that of the unnamed suspect described by the informant. The other man fleeing with Head did not match "Stan's" description. Both men were apprehended by the officers who remained at the front of the building. The officers asked the other basement occupants whether they knew an individual named Stan, whom the officers described, and were told that Stan lived on the second floor.

Four officers went to the front door of the second-floor apartment and two others covered the rear exit. One of the officers knocked on the front door. Dorothy Rhines, who lived with defendant, asked who was there. The officer announced, "police officers," and told her to open the door.

From this point in time, the testimony is in conflict regarding the events which transpired. One officer testified that Rhines started screaming while unlocking the door. She opened it and ran into the hallway. At this point, the officer drew his gun. Rhines stopped, went back into the apartment, grabbed a baby, and ran into the hallway, leaving the door wide open. The officers looked in, saw defendant, who matched Stan's description, and asked him his name. Defendant replied, "Charles Johnson." The officer requested to see some identification and recalled that the defendant gave him a piece of identification with the name "Charles Stanley Johnson" on it. The officer then handcuffed defendant and placed him under arrest.

Rhines testified that after she opened the door she saw a police officer standing there pointing a gun at her. There were three other officers in the hallway, one of whom had a rifle. She started screaming and asked why they had guns drawn and if they had a search warrant. One of the officers responded that the only warrant he needed was in his hand, indicating the gun, and all four officers entered the apartment. She did not consent to the police entry. In response to the commotion, defendant, who had been sitting on the couch in the front room, walked toward the front door. Upon seeing the defendant, the officers told him to stand still. They asked him his name and he told them. He was then handcuffed and seated on the front-room couch. Defendant was asked if anyone else was in the apartment, and he said his brother was in a bedroom sleeping. The brother was brought out of the bedroom, handcuffed and seated next to defendant.

One of the officers walked to the back of the apartment, opened the rear door and let in the other two officers. The police then ransacked the apartment. They opened a closet door, searched the closet and recovered an air rifle, a .22-caliber rifle and a .38-caliber revolver. Defendant admitted ownership of the rifles but denied ever having seen the revolver.

Investigator James Higgins testified that after he entered defendant's apartment, through the rear door, he walked down an inside hall, looked in an open closet, and saw the rifles and the revolver. The closet was about eight to 10 feet from the front door. He did not have a warrant and said he did not remember if the closet had a door. The officers also recovered a leather jacket in the living room of defendant's apartment. In the jacket pocket they found a .45 clip and ammunition. The clip and bullets were later admitted into evidence; however, the jacket was never inventoried, and defendant testified that the jacket, which he said was several sizes too large for him, was his brother's.

Shortly after his arrest, defendant was taken to police headquarters and was questioned about the Owens' shooting. He denied any knowledge of it. One of the officers testified that defendant was left basically alone in an interview room other than for routine questions until about noon time. During this interval, a ballistics examination was conducted which showed that two .38-caliber projectiles, one recovered from the victim's body and the other from the sidewalk near the scene of the crime, were fired from the .38-caliber revolver found in defendant's apartment. Investigator Higgins returned from the crime lab at 12 noon and related to defendant the findings of the ballistics examination. Defendant then gave various inculpatory statements.

Defendant testified he was physically and mentally abused at the police station and only admitted to the homicide to prevent further harassment. He denied making any oral admissions; rather, he said he was told the story by the officers.

The trial court found that the police went to the apartment with the intent to make an arrest, had probable cause to do so, and looked in defendant's ...

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