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People v. Berry





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Coles County; the Hon. Paul C. Komada, Judge, presiding.


Defendant was charged with two offenses of residential burglary (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 19-3) in the circuit court of Coles County. His motion to suppress his confessions was denied and the case then proceeded to a stipulated bench trial. He was found guilty and sentenced to four years' imprisonment. This appeal followed.

The facts are not in substantial dispute. Two break-ins occurred in homes in Coles County in February and April 1983. A detective investigating the incidents was told by a neighbor that she had seen the defendant walking in the area at about the time of the April offense. He therefore determined to question defendant about the incidents.

Defendant lived with his parents in the neighborhood of the burglarized premises. He was 17 years old and attended classes in Paris, Illinois, for the educable mentally handicapped, his I.Q. being about 80. His ability to read and write and comprehend was limited; he had no prior criminal record.

The detective, Redden by name, went to defendant's house and requested him to come to headquarters. He did so later that day in the company of his mother. Redden took him to a basement room; the door was not locked, but closed with another officer stationed outside. Defendant's mother remained elsewhere in the building. Redden testified at the motion hearing that he told the defendant he was not under arrest and could leave at any time.

An interrogation followed during which defendant admitted his guilt and agreed to give a taped statement. During the interrogation defendant was questioned about an unrelated case involving another person who was a friend. He was also told that fingerprints had been found at the scenes of the burglaries and that they would be compared to his.

Later defendant gave two taped statements in the presence of his mother and the two officers. In substance, he admitted breaking into the residences. In one case he walked through several rooms and sampled a soft drink from the refrigerator; in the other, he took a cigarette lighter; in both cases he was looking for money, but changed his mind and left.

Redden testified that he knew of defendant's impairment of mind and he did not give him any Miranda warnings because he wanted to obtain a confession from him. He stated that he told defendant he was not under arrest in order to avoid Miranda.

Defendant testified that he had had no prior exposure to the police; that he had always respected the police; that he would have remained silent if he had been advised of his right to do so; and that he did believe he was free to leave but did not do so because he was afraid he would be arrested.

As indicated above, the trial court denied defendant's motion to suppress his oral and taped statements. The trial consisted only of stipulations to defendant's statement and stipulations with the owners that their homes had been entered and that they had not given defendant permission to do so.

The sentencing hearing was held some 60 days later. The trial judge indicated a preference for probation if it were a possible disposition. However, it is barred by section 5-5-3(c)(2)(G) of the Unified Code of Corrections (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 1005-5-3(c)(2)(G)).

• 1, 2 The events must be viewed in the context of two time periods: (1) those leading up to the taped confessions, and (2) the taped confessions themselves. While the two are interrelated, it is our opinion that the former rests principally upon the voluntary nature of the oral statement, and the latter upon the lack of Miranda warnings. The trial court was in error as to both; the oral statement was involuntary and the taped statements should have been suppressed because they were not preceded by Miranda warnings. Consequently, since the trial consisted almost entirely of the taped statements, defendant's convictions must be reversed and the cause remanded for a new trial without any of the confessions as an element of evidence.

The fundamental principle governing the admission of confessions is well known: the confession must be voluntary; otherwise, it is totally inadmissible. The test to determine whether a confession is voluntary is whether the defendant's will was overborne at the time of the confession. (People v. Kincaid (1981), 87 Ill.2d 107, 429 N.E.2d 508.) This determination must be based on the totality of the circumstances and consideration must be given to both the characteristics of the defendant and the details of the interrogation. (People v. Simmons (1975), 60 Ill.2d 173, 326 N.E.2d 383.) The State bears a heavy burden of showing that the statement was knowingly, intelligently and voluntary made. (People v. Kincaid (1981), 87 Ill.2d 107, 429 N.E.2d 508.) If, as here, the trial court finds that the confession was voluntary, a reviewing court's inquiry is limited to whether that finding is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence.

It is well established that a defendant's age, education, mental capacity, emotional characteristics and experience in criminal matters are factors which must be considered by the trial court in determining the voluntary nature of a ...

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