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People v. Wallace





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. R. Eugene Pincham, Judge, presiding.


After defendant was convicted by a jury of murder, armed robbery, and home invasion, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. *fn1 On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred in (1) denying his motion to suppress his written statement; (2) failing to excise from his written statement a reference to his alleged sale of narcotics; (3) denying his motion for a mistrial after a State's witness testified to his presence in jail; and (4) permitting his impeachment on a collateral issue involving his bond forfeiture in an unrelated case.

There is no contention that guilt was not established beyond a reasonable doubt, and we will therefore discuss only the testimony bearing upon the issues presented. At the hearing on defendant's motion to suppress his written statement on the ground that it was not voluntarily given, Assistant State's Attorney Neville testified that defendant was advised of his constitutional rights and then gave the statement to him at 2:50 p.m. on October 1, 1980, in the presence of Officer Pochardo and a court reporter at police headquarters; that after the statement was typed, defendant read it, initialed every page, and signed the last page; that in his presence there were no promises or threats made to defendant, and no one struck him; and that defendant had given a prior oral statement to him which was substantially the same as the written statement.

Defendant testified in substance that he was in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 30, 1980, when Chicago police officers Hood and Pochardo informed him they had an arrest warrant against him for murder; that the next day, on the way to Chicago, Pochardo told him the details of the murder and, although he told the officers that he had no knowledge of it, Pochardo said that the State would seek the death penalty if he would not cooperate; that no Miranda warnings were given him by the police officers, but they were given by the assistant State's Attorney prior to the oral and written statements given to him; and that he made these statements because he was scared and trying to protect himself.

Officers Hood and Pochardo both stated that when they first saw defendant, in Birmingham, he was advised of his constitutional rights; however, they both admitted the police report did not so state. They also testified that he never asked for a lawyer and that no threats or promises were made at any time to him. Hood also stated that he may have told defendant that they had statements from Larry Wiggins and Webber Dowells which implicated someone named "Bull" in the shooting, but that he did not say that either of them had named defendant as the person doing the shooting.

The motion to suppress was denied and, at trial, a Chicago police officer testified that in his investigation of the shooting of a woman on June 21, 1979, he found the body of Wilhemina Wade lying in the hallway of the first-floor apartment at 5021 Indiana Avenue. He also noticed that dresser drawers in her apartment had been removed and their contents strewn about. While the officer was in the apartment, Anthony Harris came in and told him of seeing two men involved in the shooting. Harris gave a description of them and said one had the nickname "Bull."

Harris, age 13 at the time of the shooting, then testified that he was in the rear yard of the building helping Wade clean up her yard when three men approached the gate from the alley. One man walked on through the gate, and she stopped the other two who said that they were going to see someone on the second floor. She told the latter two to ring the front bell. Shortly thereafter, the two men returned to the yard, and he heard one of them call into the house for "Bull." He (Harris) was then standing on the porch next to the back door of Wade's apartment, and a man he identified as defendant came out of the apartment, pointed a gun at him, and told him to come in. Defendant was pulling him into the apartment when Wade told defendant to get out of the house. Defendant then shot her twice, and she fell to the floor. Although defendant told one of the others to tie him up, he was allowed to go home. When the police arrived, he talked to them and they later showed him five photographs from which he identified defendant as the person who shot Wade. In court, Harris again identified defendant as the person doing the shooting.

Webber Dowells testified that when he met defendant on June 21, 1979, the latter asked him to take a walk, and they were joined by Larry Wiggins. They had a conversation about robbing a woman who owned a building whom defendant thought would have some money since she collected rent. Defendant produced a handgun, and they proceeded to her building at 5021 South Indiana. They entered the yard, and Mrs. Wade, who was with Anthony Harris, told them to go to the front if they wanted to see someone; that shortly thereafter, he went up on the back porch of the first-floor apartment where he saw defendant inside. Wiggins said, "Bull, you in there?" and Wade then came in and asked defendant what he was doing in the apartment. He (Dowells) heard a struggle and then two shots, following which he saw defendant standing over Wade's body, pointing a gun at Harris whom he told not to say anything or he would kill him. The next day, Harris was in an unmarked police car with two officers and pointed him (Dowells) out as being one of the men who had been in Wade's apartment. He admitted being a drug addict at the time of the incident; that he had been using drugs on and off for four years; and that he "was promised something" for his testimony.

Stephen Hood, a Chicago police officer, found some belongings of Wade's in the second-floor apartment at 5021 South Indiana. He obtained an arrest warrant for defendant and, after learning he was in Birmingham, Alabama, he went there with his partner, Investigator Pochardo. They arrested defendant on September 29, 1980, and on October 1 flew him back to Chicago, taking him directly to police headquarters where he and Pochardo talked to him in the presence of a State's Attorney.

Arthur Neville, an assistant State's Attorney, testified that about 2:50 p.m. on October 1, defendant gave him a statement before a court reporter who then typed the statement, and it was given to defendant who initialed each page and signed it. Defendant was advised of his constitutional rights before giving the statement, and in it he said, among other things, that he was also known as "Bull"; that he met Larry and Webber in a poolhall when they came to him for pills; that he was selling "T's and Blues" but he did not have any at that time, and they talked about making some money by robbing a store, somebody on the street, or taking a car; that Larry had a gun, and as they walked down an alley drinking wine, they saw Wade and some young persons cleaning her yard; that he knew she was the landlady, because he had stayed there on the second floor with someone named James once or twice a week for the previous month and a half; that they entered the yard and he walked up the stairs, and when she wasn't looking he entered her first-floor apartment and crawled under the dining room table; that after Wade and a boy came in, he heard her say, "My God, he is going to kill me," and then he heard a shot; that as she was lying on the floor, he grabbed the gun from Larry who was next to her; that the boy and Webber were at the back door, and he said to Webber, "You might as well kill him. No witnesses"; that Webber said he would not do it because he knew the boy's brother; that he disposed of the gun in some bushes in back of a poolhall; that when he learned Webber and Larry had been arrested, he went into hiding; and that, after staying in Chicago for a week or two, he went to Birmingham.

Evelyn Morris, defendant's aunt, testified that she lived in Birmingham and, after she told defendant that she needed his help because her husband was ill, he arrived in Birmingham about the middle of June 1979. She knew this was the time, because he had been there about a week before a policeman shot and killed a black woman named Carter in Birmingham on June 21 or 22 of that year.

Defendant stated that he went to Birmingham around the first or second of June when his aunt said she needed his help because her husband was ill. He recalled being there on June 21, 1979, because on June 22 a police officer shot a black girl in Birmingham. On September 30, 1980, in that city, Chicago police officers Hood and Pochardo told him they were picking him up for a robbery and murder. Defendant told them he knew nothing about the crimes, but on October 1 he was flown to Chicago and taken to a police station, arriving about 10:30 a.m., where he was handcuffed to a wall. At about 11 a.m., Pochardo told him he had talked to the State's Attorney and that if he gave a statement, the death penalty would not be sought. He made an oral statement but had not been given any Miranda warnings, although he did receive those warnings before giving a written statement later. He gave that statement because he had been threatened with the electric chair if he did not cooperate, and he was scared. He said he was able to describe the crimes in the statement, because the police officers had told him what occurred. He admitted that his nickname was Bull and that, in April 1979, he was out on bond for an unrelated criminal charge which was pending when he went to Alabama.


Defendant first contends that the motion to suppress his written statements should have been granted because it was involuntarily given. The State has the burden to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the statement in question was voluntarily made (People v. Brownell (1980), 79 Ill.2d 508, 404 N.E.2d 181, appeal dismissed (1980), 449 U.S. 811, 66 L.Ed.2d 14, 101 S.Ct. 59), and the key inquiry on such a motion to suppress is whether defendant's will was overcome at the time he made the statement (People v. Kincaid (1981), 87 Ill.2d 107, 429 N.E.2d 508, cert. denied (1982), 455 U.S. 1024, 72 L.Ed.2d 144, 102 S.Ct. 1726). A reviewing court considers all the evidence surrounding the giving of the statement (People v. Kincaid), and a finding of voluntariness will not be disturbed unless it is against the manifest weight of the evidence (People v. Prim (1972), 53 Ill.2d 62, 289 N.E.2d 601, cert. denied (1973), 412 U.S. 918, 37 L.Ed.2d 144, 93 S.Ct. 2731).

At the hearing on the motion to suppress, the only testimony as to possible involuntariness was from defendant, who stated that he was told by Officer Pochardo that the State would seek the death penalty if he did not cooperate and that he gave the statement because he was scared and wanted to protect himself. However, Pochardo and another officer (Hood), as well as Assistant State's Attorney Neville, all testified that no threats or promises were made to defendant. The weight to be accorded the testimony of the witnesses was for the trial court, and because we do not believe the ...

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