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UNITED STATES EX REL. COLE v. LANE

August 20, 1984

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA EX REL. RICKIE COLE, PETITIONER,
v.
MICHAEL LANE, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Rickie Cole ("Cole") has filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("Section 2254") petition for writ of habeas corpus, based on the admission into evidence at his state court murder trial of his allegedly involuntary confession. At Cole's request (and without objection) this Court treats the answer by Illinois Department of Corrections Director Michael Lane ("Lane"), together with Lane's subsequent filing of the state court record, as a Fed.R.Civ.P. ("Rule") 56 summary judgment motion. Cole, acting through counsel, has filed a cross motion for summary judgment. Based on the state court record and the analysis in this opinion, Lane prevails on both motions.

Facts*fn1

Cole was convicted of the murder of his estranged girlfriend, based principally on his July 30, 1979 confessions.*fn2 Before those confessions Elgin Police Detective Gary Shaver ("Shaver") told Cole if he cooperated he would probably be charged with manslaughter rather than murder because that was the approach generally taken in Cook County. Cole later confessed orally to Elgin police interrogators, repeated his confession for tape recording and finally signed a typed confession prepared by Elgin police.

Among the positions Cole asserted during the criminal proceedings against him was that his confessions should be suppressed as involuntary. Cole's November 26, 1980 Motion To Suppress Confessions ¶ 4 (R. 1454) stated:

  Between 1:30 P.M. and 3:15 P.M. [July 30, 1979]
  Rickie Cole was handcuffed and repeatedly threatened
  in the Elgin Police Station by officers of the Elgin
  Police force. He had no food or drink during that
  period. After denying any involvement

  for [sic] the crime with which he was charged he was
  taken back and forth from room to room in said police
  station and continuously threatened and harrassed
  [sic] until he agreed, after being tricked by the
  police, into giving an involuntary confession.

In closing argument after a two-day hearing on Cole's motion to suppress, his attorney argued Shaver's statement to Cole was an impermissible promise of leniency rendering his confessions involuntary (see R. 704). That is the only ground on which Cole now seeks habeas relief.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Cohen denied Cole's suppression motion in a May 12, 1981 oral bench ruling, during which he considered each allegedly coercive circumstance. Before discussing Shaver's promise of leniency he quoted from People v. Houston, 36 Ill.App.3d 695, 344 N.E.2d 641 (1st Dist. 1976), which held in part that promises of leniency in that case did not render a defendant's confession involuntary. Judge Cohen then stated (R. 725-26):

  We have mental — subtle mental threats. He was
  promised that he would be afforded leniency or
  considered that.
  The Court feels that the words and acts that [sic]
  the police officers as described by the Defendant did
  not constitute the coercion. That there is nothing
  here to indicate that any of the acts or the words
  here were likely to produce[ — ]any acts or words of
  the police officers that [sic] were likely to
  produce[ — ]an untrustworthy confession.
  The Court feels that the confession was made freely,
  voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently, and that
  the State has met their [sic] burden by the
  preponderance of the evidence.

Motion to Suppress Confession denied.

On appeal Cole argued (among other things) Judge Cohen had applied the wrong legal standard to the effect of promises of leniency on voluntariness of confessions. In an unpublished June 28, 1983 order the Appellate Court for the First District, 115 Ill. App.3d 1154, 78 Ill.Dec. 250, 461 N.E.2d 1084, (No. 81-1745, slip op. at 6) rejected that contention:

  Defendant also claims that the trial court erred in
  denying his motion to suppress his confession to the
  police because he made the confession after he had
  been offered leniency for cooperating. Defendant
  testified at his suppression hearing that the reason
  he eventually gave a confession was because the
  police told him that since the case was in Cook
  County, if he would cooperate he would be charged
  with manslaughter rather than murder; if he didn't
  cooperate, he would get what his brother did for
  raping a white girl. The officers who interviewed
  defendant at the station denied that they ever
  offered leniency to defendant, ...

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