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People v. Wieland





Appeal from the Circuit Court of McLean County; the Hon. Luther H. JUSTICE MILLER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The defendant, Emil Wieland, was tried by a jury, convicted of murder, involuntary manslaughter, robbery, aggravated battery, and battery, and sentenced to concurrent terms of imprisonment of 27 years for murder, seven years for robbery, and five years for aggravated battery. The defendant and another person beat and robbed their victim, William Spates, who was in his sixties. On appeal the defendant argues that his inculpatory statements should have been suppressed because they were made after the police failed to honor his request for counsel, that the State failed to prove that any of his or his partner's acts contributed to the death of Spates, that the State failed to prove that the murder occurred in the course of a robbery, and that certain convictions must be vacated because they are included offenses of murder or arose out of the same acts as the murder and therefore are redundant. We affirm.

The defendant's trial began April 15, 1983. Dr. Bak Lee, the pathologist who performed an autopsy on the victim, William Spates, on November 22, 1982, testified that the body had been found the previous day. At the time of the autopsy the body was badly decomposed, and Lee estimated that Spates had been dead for five to 10 days. Lee could not determine the cause of death with certainty. He reported to the coroner's office that Spates had died from coronary sclerosis, pulmonary congestion, hemorrhage, bronchiectasis, and pleural fibrosis. He did not find any large traumas or lacerations; the decay of the body hid any small trauma. The State asked Lee to assume that Spates was hit in the face and head several times by two young men, that Spates was moderately to severely intoxicated at the time, and that Spates ended up on the floor bleeding and unconscious or barely conscious. Lee said that the facts presented in the hypothetical question "could have been a contributing factor" to the victim's death; he could not say that they caused death.

Richard Lowthian, of the Michigan State police, testified that he questioned the defendant December 16, 1982, in Michigan. At first, the defendant said that Spates had invited him and his partner, Bill Stout, into his apartment to drink. Spates was intoxicated. The defendant later added that he took $1.72 from Spates' trouser pocket at this time. Spates was alive when the defendant left, and the defendant denied doing anything to Spates.

Detective Charles Crowe of the Bloomington police department questioned the defendant several times in Bay City, Michigan, in December 1982. The first interrogation occurred December 15. Crowe testified that the defendant told him that he and his partner, Bill Stout, went to the building where Spates lived on November 15, 1982, to talk to the landlord about renting an apartment. They saw a black man with a whiskey bottle, and they gave him a bottle of beer, which they had brought along. The man, Spates, bought a car from the landlord and left. The defendant and Stout then visited a friend, Jamie, who lived in that building. An hour or two later, as they were leaving, they saw the black man again, who gestured for them to go into his apartment. The three drank from a bottle of whiskey that the man had. The man was very drunk. The defendant and Stout left after a while.

Crowe testified that his second conversation with the defendant took place in the morning of December 16, 1982. The defendant gave virtually the same version of events that he had given the preceding day. This time, though, the defendant added that he believed that Spates must have been bleeding because Stout had blood on his hands after they left. The defendant also added that he had left his coat as a cushion for Spates' head.

Crowe testified that his third conversation with defendant took place in the afternoon or evening of December 16, after the defendant had talked with Lowthian, the Michigan law enforcement officer. This third version of events differed substantially from the earlier two. The defendant said that Spates and Stout were arguing in Spates' apartment. Stout pushed, shoved, and slapped Spates. The defendant believed that the argument "had something to do with them living together before." The defendant opened his pocketknife and gave it to Stout, who waved it in front of Spates. Stout told Spates that he would have to pay them money for protection and that they were members of a criminal organization — this demand was just a joke, though, for they were not actually members of a criminal organization. Stout then punched Spates several times in the face, and the defendant punched Spates on the side of the head several times. Stout asked Spates for his social security check, but Spates denied having any money. The defendant, when asked by Crowe whether he was hitting Spates to get his money, said that he "was hitting the old man so that [Stout] would give up and leave." The defendant took about $2 from Spates' trousers; Spates was lying on his stomach, bleeding, but alive when they left. They did not remove Spates' wallet, which contained $84, from his trousers.

Other evidence presented by the State showed that Spates received three public aid checks totaling about $900 on Friday, November 12, 1982. On that day, he rented the apartment where he was later found dead. On Sunday, November 14, Spates moved into the apartment. On Monday, November 15, Spates cashed a $570 public aid check, receiving $300 in traveler's checks and the balance in cash. Later that day, Spates went to the apartment of the building manager and paid his rent and a loan. The defendant and Stout were there. Spates also bought a car from the manager for $75.

Anthony Johnson, a resident of a neighboring building, testified that on a Thursday evening in November 1982 he saw three persons in a fight in an apartment in the building where Spates lived. Later that evening, as Johnson walked by the building, he saw two persons standing and looking down at the floor. He identified one of the persons as Stout, but he could not identify the other. Johnson, who eventually received $1,000 for his information, said that when he first talked to the police about it he did not realize that he might receive a reward.

The defendant's only witness was Jamie Hellige, 18 years old, who lived in the building where these events took place. Hellige knew both the defendant and Stout; they were in her apartment Monday, November 15, from 9 p.m. until about midnight. Hellige had first seen Spates that day. She also saw Spates outside the building two days later, on November 17, at about 10 p.m.

In sentencing the defendant the trial judge found that the convictions for involuntary manslaughter and simple battery were redundant and imposed only three terms of imprisonment — 27 years for murder, seven years for robbery, and five years for aggravated battery — and they were to run concurrently.


• 1 The defendant argues first that he was improperly questioned by police after asking to consult with a lawyer. The defendant believes that this violated his Federal constitutional privilege against self-incrimination. The trial court denied the suppression motion, finding that the defendant did not unequivocally request counsel.

Detective Charles Crowe of the Bloomington police department testified that he traveled to Bay City, Michigan, December 15, 1982, to talk to the defendant, who was being held in the county jail there. Crowe spoke to the defendant that day and about 10 a.m. the next day, December 16. During that second conversation, the defendant said that he would take a polygraph examination later that day. In the afternoon, about 3:15, Crowe saw the defendant outside a courtroom, where the defendant had gone for a hearing on some Michigan charges. Crowe testified:

"I asked him if he was ready to take the test, and he said he didn't know because they didn't appoint him an attorney. And I said, this morning you were all set to take the test, you didn't mention anything about an attorney. The test is all set up. And then I asked him if ...

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