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People v. Wright

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 20, 1984.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

JEFFREY LYNN WRIGHT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon. P.J. O'Neill, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE JONES DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

At issue in the instant appeal is whether the trial court erred in refusing to suppress the defendant's confession after finding that the defendant had been promised leniency prior to making that confession. In view of the totality of circumstances surrounding the confession, we find no error in the trial court's ruling.

The defendant was arrested around 10:30 a.m. on August 11, 1983, and charged with the murder and armed robbery of Alton cab driver Clarence Emery. A co-defendant, D.C. Clark, was also arrested on that date. During the course of the day, the defendant was interrogated and gave two written statements and one video-taped statement in which he accused co-defendant D.C. Clark of shooting Emery. Clark also gave a statement, which differed from the defendant's in that he said that the defendant had shot Emery. To help resolve this inconsistency, both the defendant and Clark were given polygraph examinations at the Alton Police Department.

As the defendant was being returned to his cell following the exam, the defendant asked Detective David Whipple if the police really had co-defendant Clark in custody. Detective Whipple showed Clark to the defendant through an opening in Clark's cell door. When the defendant and Detective Whipple got back to the defendant's cell, the defendant stated that he wanted to talk. He told Whipple, however, that he was worried about getting the death penalty and about D.C. Clark's making a deal to testify against the defendant and "getting off without being prosecuted." When asked if he could guarantee that this would not happen, Detective Whipple stated that he could make no guarantees but that he would get someone from the State's Attorney's office to talk with the defendant.

Whipple then left the defendant and returned with assistant State's Attorney Randy Massey, who identified himself and read the defendant his Miranda rights. The defendant indicated that he understood his rights and wanted to make a truthful statement about the killing of Emery. The defendant asked Massey if he could guarantee that the defendant would not be given the death penalty, and Massey stated that no such guarantee would be made. The defendant then asked if Massey could guarantee that co-defendant Clark would be prosecuted along with the defendant and would not be allowed to "make a deal" whereby he would receive probation. Massey assured the defendant that co-defendant Clark would be prosecuted on the same charges as the defendant and that, if he were convicted, the State would not recommend probation.

Following this discussion the defendant made a third written statement at 6:35 p.m. in which he admitted that he had been the one who shot Emery. He read this statement in a second video-taped interview conducted at approximately 7:25 p.m. During this interview assistant State's Attorney Massey asked why the defendant had requested to speak to him. The defendant responded:

"[Defendant] Wright: Because I wanted to be, I know I'm involved in ths crime and I told everything that happened in the statement, but I wasn't involved in this crime by myself and I want to make sure that the other person that was with me is prosecuted right along with me.

Massey: O.K. Is that what you asked me to guarantee you when you asked to speak to me?

Wright: Yes.

Massey: O.K. Now, I explained to you at that time that there were no other guarantees being made to you under any circumstances. Do you understand that?

Wright: Yes.

Massey: And you voluntarily made a statement anyway?

Wright: Yes.

Massey: The agreement was that we would prosecute all people involved in this offense and that we would recommend penitentiary time for all ...


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