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People v. Jones





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Richard J. Petrarca, Judge, presiding.


Defendant Thomas Jones, was charged by information with four counts of murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, pars. 9-1(a)(1), (2), (3)), one count of burglary (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 19-1), and one count of robbery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 18-1). Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant was convicted on all six counts and sentenced to an extended 60-year term for murder and concurrent seven-year terms for the burglary and robbery.

Defendant appeals, presenting eight claims of error. First, he argues that his motion to quash arrest should have been granted because (1) his warrantless arrest violated the fourth amendment search and seizure clause; and, (2) the police lacked probable cause to arrest. Defendant next contends he is entitled to a new trial because (3) the prosecution knowingly withheld discoverable testimony; (4) the trial court admitted hearsay testimony; (5) the trial court admitted irrelevant testimony; and (6) the prosecution used its peremptory challenges to systematically exclude black jurors. Finally, defendant claims that (7) he was denied a fair trial because the prosecutor advised the jury that the defendant had been incarcerated since his arrest; and (8) his motion to suppress fingerprint analysis testimony should have been granted because no proper chain of custody was established. Defendant also contends that his sentence should be modified to the statutory minimum of 20 years because the 60-year sentence imposed by the trial court was excessive.

We affirm the decision of the trial court.


On June 17, 1978, at approximately 2:30 p.m., Michael Lux, a 65-year-old retired widower, was discovered by his brother Peter lying on the floor of his South LaFayette Avenue apartment with his hands tied above his head and his feet bound, strangled to death. No suspects were taken into custody at that time.

One year later, as the investigation into the homicide of Michael Lux continued, the police learned of a potential witness, Joseph Tallie, who had information about the identity of the offender. On June 11, 1979, Detective Yucaitis and Investigator John Ryan went to the home of Joseph Tallie on South LaFayette Avenue, across the street from the home of the victim. Not finding Tallie at home, the officers left their names and a request that Tallie contact their office. Later that evening, Tallie complied with the request, and the police brought him in for questioning.

Tallie testified at trial that on June 16, 1978, the day before Michael Lux was found dead in his apartment, Tallie had been present at a conversation between Bruce O'Neil, Willie Henderson and the defendant, Thomas Jones ("Tee") as the four sat talking on Tallie's front porch. In the course of the conversation, Henderson stated that he, Clyde Rogers and Tee were going to "rip off the old white man" across the street and kill him. At that time, Michael Lux was the only white man living across the street from Tallie. Tallie told the police that the next day, June 17, 1978, he saw the dead body of Michael Lux being carried from the victim's house. He saw Willie Henderson that evening and said to him, "You really did what you said you were," to which Henderson smiled.

Tallie further testified that on August 24, 1978, following his arrest on an unrelated charge, he had been held for several weeks in Cook County jail and that Henderson and Rogers were also incarcerated there. Tallie reported that while in jail, Henderson had told Tallie that Jones, Rogers and he had gone into "the old guy's home," referring to Lux, strangled him and taken some television sets. His information was corroborated by the investigators, who ascertained that Michael Lux' death was by strangulation, a television set had been taken from his home the evening he was murdered, and the records of the burglary unit and those of Cook County jail affirmed Tallie's information that Clyde Rogers and Willie Henderson were incarcerated in August and September of 1978.

Tallie further informed the investigators that Jones lived on LaFayette and 120th on the east side of the street, the second house from the south corner, approximately 1 1/2 blocks from the victim's home. Finding that the corroborated facts and the description of Jones' home constituted probable cause to arrest, the officers proceeded to South LaFayette Avenue. Tallie's description as to the location of Jones' house proved accurate.

Two unmarked squad cars bearing four plainclothesmen arrived at Jones' home at approximately 11 p.m. On cross-examination, Jones described his house as having three trees in front, a porch with five or six wooden steps, and "that is about it." Two doors, an inside door and a screen door, separate the wooden porch from the inside of the house. When officers Ryan and Yucaitis walked up the steps to the porch of Jones' house, the screen door was closed, but the inside door was open. The officers knocked on the door. Jones testified that as he came to the door in response to the police knocking, he recognized the plainclothesmen standing on his porch as policemen.

The record reveals divergent testimony as to whether officers Ryan and Yucaitis entered Jones' home or remained standing on the front porch. The officers testified that Jones opened the screen door, identified himself, and then stepped out onto the porch, where the officers informed him that they wanted to speak with him in regard to "the death of the old white guy." Jones asserted however, that after he identified himself and began to open the screen door, officers Ryan and Yucaitis stepped through the door and entered his home. Jones testified that Officer Ryan then asked him to step outside so they could have a few words with him. Jones then accompanied the officers to the squad car and was driven to the police station.

At the station, Jones was taken into an interview room and questioned. Present in the room with him were officers Ryan and Yucaitis. Jones initially denied his involvement in the Lux homicide. Detective Yucaitis then left the interviewing room and returned with Joseph Tallie. Ryan testified that upon confrontation with Tallie, Jones admitted knowing him and proceeded to confess to his involvement in the homicide. The assistant State's Attorney was summoned to Area II headquarters, and in his presence and the presence of Investigator Ryan, Jones made and signed a statement detailing his involvement in the homicide of Michael Lux.

Jones stated that on June 16, 1978, he, Willie Henderson and Clyde Rogers had a conversation on Tallie's front porch in which they discussed entering the "old man's house" to burglarize it. Jones admitted that on that evening at approximately 8 p.m., he, Willie and Clyde broke into the victim's home. They took Michael Lux into the living room. Clyde asked for something with which to tie up the victim. Jones complied by cutting off a piece of electrical cord from a lamp in the victim's house and giving it to Clyde. Jones stated that Clyde tied up the victim's hands so the three could walk around the house and decide what to take. During this search of the house, Clyde called Henderson by name in the victim's presence. Upset by this, Henderson went into the victim's bedroom and returned with a belt. Henderson put the belt around the victim's neck and strangled him to death while Jones stood in the room looking on. Jones and the others then took Michael Lux' television set and car and drove away.

The jury found Jones guilty of murder, burglary, and robbery. The trial court imposed an extended 60-year term for the murder and concurrent seven-year terms for the burglary and robbery. This appeal followed.



Defendant's first argument on appeal is that the trial court erred when it denied his motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence. At trial, conflicting testimony was presented as to whether the warrantless arrest took place inside defendant's home or outside on his front porch. Defendant contends that he was arrested inside his home; citing Payton v. New York (1980), 445 U.S. 573, 63 L.Ed.2d 639, 100 S.Ct. 1371, he argues that warrantless arrests inside the home absent exigent circumstances are prohibited. Alternatively, defendant contends that the arrest on his front porch is similarly prohibited under the curtilage doctrine.

The arresting officers testified at trial that the arrest took place on defendant's front porch after he came to the door, recognized the officers as policemen, voluntarily opened the door and stepped out onto the porch. Finding the testimony of the arresting officers to be more credible, the trial court held that the arrest took place outside the home.

It is the function of the trial court to resolve conflicts in the testimony and to determine the credibility of the statements given by witnesses. (People v. Clay (1973), 55 Ill.2d 501, 504, 304 N.E.2d 280, 282.) A reviewing court will not disturb findings of fact reached by the trial court at a hearing on a motion to suppress evidence unless those findings are manifestly erroneous. (People v. Reynolds (1983), 94 Ill.2d 160, 165, 445 N.E.2d 766, 769.) It is clear from the trial court's denial of the motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence that the court resolved the conflict in testimony by determining that the testimony of officers Ryan and Yucaitis was more credible than that of defendant Jones. We find no reason to disturb this determination.

Defendant argues in the alternative that the warrantless arrest on the front porch of his residence violated his fourth amendment right to privacy. Defendant reasons that, under the common law doctrine of curtilage, Payton's prohibition against warrantless arrests in the home extends to his front porch. Defendant correctly asserts that the trial court made no findings of fact in regard to this alternative argument. It is therefore within our province to do so.

The issue of whether fourth amendment protection extends to the curtilage of one's home has not yet been addressed in this State. Courts> of other jurisdictions that have addressed the issue differ as to the working definition of "curtilage." For search and seizure purposes, the generally accepted definition includes

"those outbuildings which are directly and intimately connected with the habitation and in proximity thereto and the land or grounds surrounding the dwelling which are necessary and convenient and habitually used for family purposes and carrying on ...

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