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People v. Leamons





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. Raymond L. Terrell, Judge, presiding. PRESIDING JUSTICE MILLS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Aggravated indecent liberties with a child.

Oral intercourse with an eight-year-old boy.

Sentence: eight years' imprisonment.

On appeal, defendant argues variously that:

(1) the trial court erred in refusing to suppress a statement he made to the police;

(2) the trial court erred in refusing to order a psychiatric examination of the complaining witness;

(3) the trial court erred in the manner in which voir dire was conducted;

(4) the trial court erred in two evidentiary rulings which require reversal;

(5) he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt;

(6) prosecutorial misconduct in cross-examination of the defendant and in closing argument requires a new trial; and

(7) the sentence of eight years was excessive.

We affirm in toto.


Since Leamons has raised reasonable doubt as an issue which he feels requires reversal, an extensive recitation of the prolix facts is necessary.

The scene of the crime was a trailer park in Springfield. The victim (J.L.) lived in one of the trailers with his mother and two brothers. His grandmother lived in another trailer, as did two of his uncles. Leamons lived in yet another trailer in the court. All of the parties were acquainted with each other through previous interaction at the trailer court.

On March 28, 1983, the victim's mother and his two brothers drove one of his uncles to work in Springfield. The group left around 7:20 p.m. after first dropping the victim off at a neighbor's house. Upon their return, the three went to their grandmother's house, where the victim's mother helped out with some housework. One of her sons left around 9 p.m. and returned shortly thereafter. The three then left in search of J.L. They drove to Leamons' trailer, where the mother honked the car horn. Getting no response, she exited the car and pounded on the side of the trailer. Again, no response was forthcoming. The trio then went to their trailer. After they arrived at the trailer, both sons left in search of their brother around 10 p.m. J.L. returned home shortly after his brothers left. He took off his coat, at which time his mother noticed a bruise on the side of his neck. She also noted that his lips were swollen, his chin red, and that "little bumps [were] coming off of his mouth."

When she asked him where he had been, he replied that he had been in several neighbors' trailers. Suspecting that something was amiss, she threatened to call the police if he did not tell her what had happened to him. She went to another room, ostensibly to call the police, at which time the victim came in and told her that Leamons had committed a sexual assault upon him. At this point the victim's mother called the police.

Officers Robert Palmer and Ralph Caldwell met Officer Greg Shaffer at the victim's trailer at approximately 10:30 p.m. Shaffer was the first on the scene and was generally in charge of the investigation which followed. After relating the details of the attack to the police, the victim's mother led them to Leamons' trailer and then returned to hers. Upon their approach, the interior lights were on, but as they neared the trailer they were turned off. The officers knocked on Leamons' trailer door and saw someone briefly look out a window. The officers yelled out that they were the police and wanted to talk to the person inside. Leamons eventually came to the door. Upon questioning, he told the police his name and admitted knowing the victim. The police asked him if the victim had been at his trailer earlier in the evening, to which he answered yes. At this point, Leamons was placed under arrest and given his Miranda warnings.

Prior to the trial in this cause, Leamons moved to suppress his statements given prior to Miranda warnings but the motion was denied. During the hearing on his motion, Leamons testified that he was handcuffed immediately upon his telling the officers his name. He further testified that at no time did he say that the victim had been at his trailer and that he at no time felt that he was free to break off the questioning once he had exited his premises. The testimony of the police officers was as related above. However, Officer Shaffer testified that he did not think the officers were going to let Leamons go, although he was not exactly sure what they were going to do upon their first confrontation. Similarly, Officer Palmer testified that if Leamons had tried to run he would have been apprehended, because he was a suspect in an ongoing criminal investigation.

The trial of the cause was had on October 25, 1983. The People's case consisted basically of the facts as we have set forth, plus scientific evidence which confirmed the fact that the victim had indeed engaged in an act of oral intercourse. Further, the scientific evidence indicated that Leamons could not be excluded from the population of possible attackers.

Of additional importance to this appeal are these two matters. During the trial, one of the victim's brothers testified that he had gone back to Leamons' trailer after he, his brother, and mother had returned home from their grandmother's house. Upon his approach to Leamons' trailer, he knocked on a rear window but got no response. He testified that he could hear his brother and Leamons inside. He heard Leamons ask, "Does it hurt?" He then returned to his mother's trailer, at which time they went to Leamons' trailer, where his mother stopped, honked the horn, and knocked on the trailer. The victim corroborated his brother by testifying that during the attack Leamons continually asked him if it hurt until he finally said yes. He also testified that Leamons had threatened to kill him if he ever told anyone about the attack. He further testified that during the attack he heard a car horn honking outside and someone pounding on the side of the trailer.

During cross-examination of the victim and his mother, it was established that Leamons had previously ordered the victim to stay away from his trailer due to the fact that the victim was generally troublesome and often fought with other children in the neighborhood.

Leamons' case-in-chief consisted of the character testimony of four witnesses, his own recounting of the events of the evening, and testimony by investigators of the public defender's office to the effect that the victim's mother had given them statements which were inconsistent with her testimony at trial.

Leamons testified that on the date of the occurrence he was employed as a mechanic at Ed's Garage in Springfield. During the course of the day, one of the customers of the garage asked him to help set up a trailer at 2021 Clearlake Avenue in Springfield. Leamons did so, the two completing their efforts sometime after 6 p.m. They went to the Hitch'n Post Lounge, arriving around 6:20 and leaving around 7 p.m. They went to Wanda's Corner, another tavern, where they stayed approximately 20 minutes. They left Wanda's Corner and went to Ed Nutaut's house and stayed until 8:20 p.m. At this time Leamons was driven to his trailer and dropped off.

Leamons testified that he had just gotten to bed when the police arrived and knocked on his door. He went to the door and was asked if he was Michael Leamons, to which he replied, "Yes." One of the officers told him to step outside and then told Leamons that he was being charged of the sex offense. One of the other officers handcuffed him and led him to a police car. Leamons denied telling the police officers that the victim had been in his trailer that evening. He also denied ever having sexually abused or threatened the victim. Leamons reiterated that the victim had previously been ordered to stay away from his trailer because he was a troublemaker.

On cross-examination Leamons was asked on several occasions whether the police and the complaining witnesses were lying. He replied that in his opinion they were. During closing arguments, the prosecuting attorney made repeated references to the fact that Leamons had called various State's witnesses liars throughout the trial.

A jury found defendant guilty of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. The trial court sentenced Leamons to eight years' imprisonment based upon the enormity of the crime and the devastating psychological impact of the crime on the victim. This appeal followed.

We turn now to the various matters raised by Leamons upon which he relies in urging us to reverse his conviction or reduce his sentence.


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