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People v. Hancock





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. George Marovich, Judge, presiding.


Defendant Patricia Hancock was convicted in a bench trial of murder and was sentenced to 30 years. On appeal, defendant raises the following issues: (1) whether the arrest of defendant was without probable cause which would require the suppression of subsequent statements made to the police; (2) whether defendant's statement to the police was involuntary; (3) whether the trial court was required to admonish defendant pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 402; (4) whether defendant was denied her right to effective assistance of counsel; (5) whether the evidence established defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; and (6) whether defendant's sentence was excessive.

The record discloses that Patricia Hancock was charged by indictment with two counts of murder. The indictment alleged that on April 30, 1980, defendant threw Ronald Sheffield, her seven-month-old son, into a lagoon, which resulted in the drowning of the child.

Defendant filed two motions to suppress statements on the grounds that the statements were involuntary. Defendant also filed a motion to quash her arrest on the grounds that the police lacked probable cause to arrest her without a warrant.

At the suppression hearing, Officer Gerald Smith of the Chicago police department testified that at approximately 11:30 p.m. on April 30, 1980, he and his partner responded to a call for help at 7705 S. Eggleston Street in Chicago. The two officers were directed to a nearby lagoon in Auburn Park where they observed defendant standing. Defendant told the officers that someone had thrown her child into the lagoon. After the body of the infant was recovered from the lagoon, defendant and the child were taken to a hospital. Smith stated that he and other officers viewed defendant as being a victim and that there were no restrictions which were placed upon her.

Detective John Yucaitis testified that he arrived at the hospital at approximately 1 a.m. on May 1 and that he spoke with defendant. Yucaitis stated that he also spoke with defendant at 4:30 a.m. At both times, Yucaitis viewed defendant as a victim.

Assistant State's Attorney Richard Loftus first spoke with defendant at approximately 1:15 a.m. on May 1 and again at 1:45 a.m. Both of these conversations occurred at the hospital. He next spoke with defendant at approximately 2 a.m. on May 1 at Auburn Park. Loftus also had another conversation with defendant at 3 a.m. at Auburn Park. Detective John Solecki stated that at approximately 1 a.m. on May 1, he and his partner took defendant to Auburn Park so that she could re-enact the events of the prior evening. He stated that defendant screamed very loudly in her reenactment. Solecki indicated that defendant's demeanor was normal and that she did not complain of being tired or in need of food or medication.

At 4:30 a.m. Assistant State's Attorney Loftus spoke with defendant at the police station. After his conversation with defendant, she was left alone until approximately 9 a.m. at which time Loftus returned and found defendant in the same interview room. At approximately 9:15 a.m. on May 1, Detective Yucaitis advised defendant of her Miranda rights and placed defendant under arrest.

Richard O'Brien stated that he administered a polygraph examination to defendant at approximately 10:15 a.m. on May 1. Defendant was given her Miranda warnings and executed a waiver of liability. O'Brien stated that he observed no emotional response from defendant when he questioned her. He testified that he was led to conclude that there was no response because of the "recency of events and the subject's possible fatigue." He stated that he observed defendant yawn during the examination. Defendant told O'Brien that she had slept periodically the day before and that she had taken a nap between 6 and 8 p.m. on April 30. Defendant also told O'Brien that she was not taking any medication.

Detective Dennis McGuire stated that upon leaving the polygraph examination, he stopped at a fast-food restaurant. Defendant declined McGuire's invitation to eat lunch. They arrived at the police station between 1 and 2 p.m. on May 1. Defendant did not complain of being tired or in need of medication.

Assistant State's Attorney Michael Spivack spoke with defendant at 3:15 p.m. on May 1. He advised defendant of her rights and defendant stated that she wished to waive her rights and make a statement. Defendant did not complain of being tired or hungry. Spivack described defendant as being calm and alert.

At 9:30 p.m. on May 1, Assistant State's Attorney Loftus spoke with defendant at the police station. He observed defendant asleep on a chair in the interview room at 12:30 a.m. Defendant was awakened after 30 minutes of sleep and at 2 a.m. on May 2, defendant was taken to the lagoon in Auburn Park. Upon returning from the lagoon, defendant gave a statement in the presence of a court reporter. After the statement had been typed, the witness was given the statement to review and to make any corrections. Loftus stated that defendant did not complain of being tired, hungry or in need of medication. Loftus stated that defendant appeared to have slept and that there was a bag of chicken in the interview room.

Ronald Sheffield stated that he was the father of the deceased infant and that he had lived with defendant for more than a year. He testified that the police would not permit him to see defendant when he requested to do so. He testified that he had left the police station at 7 a.m. on May 1 and that prior to that time, he had not been permitted to leave. He did not see defendant sleeping and he did not observe any food being brought to defendant. At approximately 4:30 p.m. on May 1, he brought chicken to the police station for defendant and one of the police officers gave the food to defendant. He also stated that on May 1, defendant was taking medication called teathallithium.

Following the close of the evidence, the court ruled that the statement given by defendant was not involuntary based upon its consideration of the totality of the circumstances. The court noted that defendant was confined approximately 30 hours, beginning on April 30 at 11:20 p.m. and ending on May 2 at 4:30 a.m. The trial judge stated that for 10 of the 30 hours, defendant was treated as a victim, rather than a suspect. He indicated that she was offered food and drink and that she had the opportunity to sleep if she wished. The court further stated that there was no showing that defendant was subjected to constant questioning by the ...

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