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People v. Williams





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Vermilion County; the Hon. James K. Robinson, Judge, presiding.


Defendant, Johnny Williams, was convicted of murder and attempted rape following a jury trial. He was sentenced to natural life imprisonment for murder and a concurrent term of 30 years' imprisonment for attempted rape. Defendant appeals, raising 13 issues: (1) whether his arrest was illegal because there was neither consent nor exigent circumstances justifying a warrantless entry; (2) whether the trial court erred in denying defendant's motion to suppress statements which were allegedly involuntary because he had difficulty understanding the words "murder" and "waive"; (3) whether the trial court erred in prohibiting a defense expert from giving his opinion whether defendant was intelligent enough to understand the rights waiver form; (4) whether his constitutional right to a trial by a fair and impartial jury was violated when the trial court excused for cause all prospective jurors who expressed reservations about capital punishment; (5) whether the examination of prospective jurors in accordance with the standards promulgated in Witherspoon v. Illinois (1968), 391 U.S. 510, 20 L.Ed.2d 776, 88 S.Ct. 1770, resulted in the selection of a jury biased in favor of the prosecution; (6) whether defendant was denied his right to a fair and impartial jury because of the prosecution's use of peremptory challenges to exclude certain blacks from the jury on the basis of race; (7) whether the State proved defendant guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt; (8) whether the State proved defendant guilty of attempted rape beyond a reasonable doubt; (9) whether Dr. Sheldon Rudnick was a qualified expert in bite-mark comparisons; (10) whether permitting the jury to view photographs of the murder victim was prejudicial error; (11) whether it was reversible error to refuse the defense request that the jury be given both paragraphs of the circumstantial evidence instruction; (12) whether the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing defendant to natural life imprisonment for murder; and (13) whether the trial court erred in sentencing defendant to an extended term of imprisonment for attempted rape because it was not the most serious offense of which defendant was convicted. We affirm the convictions.

Defendant was charged with five counts of murder and one count of attempted rape stemming from the April 1, 1983, beating death of an 80-year-old woman at the Holland Apartments in Danville, Illinois. At about 9:15 p.m. on April 1, 1983, Pauline Hayne saw defendant inside the Holland Apartments. The victim was sitting in a chair by the elevator door, a short distance from the defendant. Defendant was wearing a blue or red jacket. At about 10 p.m., Hayne saw defendant run out of the building toward the parking lot of the Quality Inn. Defendant was not then wearing his jacket.

A short time later Officer Calvin Showers encountered defendant 2 1/2 blocks away from the Holland Apartments. Defendant asked Showers for a ride home. Showers saw a large quantity of blood on the defendant's hands, arms, and clothing. The blood "pretty much covered" the defendant's hands and arms. The defendant was not wearing a jacket although it was cool and raining slightly. When asked about the blood, defendant said he had been in a fight but did not want to press charges. When questioned later, he was unable to state with whom he had the fight or where it had occurred. During the ride home, the defendant asked Showers, "Are you taking me to jail?" The defendant also said, "I got blood all over me, Cal Showers. I got blood all over me."

At about 11:35 p.m., the victim was found in the basement of the Holland Apartments. The body was nude from the waist down with the exception of her pantyhose, which had been torn and pulled down to her ankles. A man's blue and orange coat and a blue comb were found near the body.

When defendant was later picked up at his home, he was still wearing the bloody clothes. The police officers who were with the defendant on April 2 and 3 noted that he had a small cut on his right hand, that his right hand was swollen, and that there were traces of blood under his fingernails and in the cracks of his skin. At the station, defendant's clothing was taken from him and he was given a pair of coveralls to wear. The forensic expert testified that the bloodstains on defendant's clothing were the same type as the victim's.

The defendant was interviewed by the police on April 2 and again on April 3. In these conversations, defendant repeatedly denied being given a ride home by Officer Showers. He also denied being near the Holland Apartments and claimed he had been in a fight with an unknown man at an unspecified location some 16 blocks from the crime scene. When confronted with the coat and comb found near the victim's body on April 2, the defendant initially said that he had been wearing a different coat. He then admitted that the coat and comb were his. The defendant stated, however, that they had not been found near where anyone was killed.

After being confronted with Hayne's statement that she saw him inside the building, the defendant admitted that he had seen her when he went into the apartment to visit some friends. Defendant admitted that his statement about the fight was not true and stated that he got the blood all over him when he tried to help a woman he had heard screaming in the basement. The defendant stated that he dropped her and fled when some lady yelled, "Leave that lady alone." When asked about a bloodstain in the elevator, the defendant stated that he had dragged the woman into the elevator and had taken her to the first floor, where he left her when confronted by the unknown woman.

• 1 Defendant first contends that his arrest was illegal because there was no consent or exigent circumstances justifying a warrantless entry. The evidence indicated that two police officers dressed in street clothes went to defendant's apartment at about 1 a.m. on April 2. Defendant's mother answered the door. The officers identified themselves to her, showed her their badges, and told her that they wanted to speak with the defendant. She recognized Officer Showers and invited both officers in. She pointed to the defendant, who was asleep on the couch. After defendant was awakened, the officers told him that they would like him to come with them to the station to talk with an investigator. Defendant agreed and the officers drove him to the station.

The defendant filed a pretrial motion to quash arrest and to suppress evidence seized and statements made pursuant to the arrest. The motion alleged that the arrest was illegal because it was made without a warrant and no exigent circumstances existed to excuse a warrant. The trial court, in its written order denying the motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence, stated:

"[T]he officers' entry was consensual. Officer Showers had shortly before let the defendant off at his direction at this building and address. When he knocked he was invited in by the defendant's mother without complaint by the defendant's brother. Evidence indicates that the defendant's mother may, in fact, reside in the next apartment. Legal residency is not the issue. The defendant's mother was clearly an occupant of the premises at the time she invited the officers in, and her invitation was a valid consent to enter. This was not, therefore, a nonconsensual entry. Consent must be voluntary, and under the totality of the circumstances, was here. Nor has the defendant under these facts adequately contested the validity of the consent voluntarily given by other occupants of the residence apartment."

Defendant contends that the trial court erred in finding that the entry was consensual because defendant's mother, who allegedly was not a resident of her son's apartment, did not have authority to consent to the police officers' entry to her son's apartment. In People v. Taylor (1975), 31 Ill. App.3d 576, 333 N.E.2d 41, we held that the brother of the defendant, who did not reside with the defendant and his mother, could not consent to a search of their premises. Defendant, thus, argues that Mrs. Williams did not have authority to consent because she did not live with her son.

However, Mrs. Williams gave consent to enter the premises, not consent to search as in Taylor. In People v. Bean (1981), 84 Ill.2d 64, 417 N.E.2d 608, the supreme court upheld a warrantless consensual entry into an apartment where the officers were admitted into defendant's apartment by his mother. No showing was made in Bean that defendant's mother lived at that location. Likewise, this court upheld an entry to make an arrest where permission to enter was obtained from an unidentified person inside the home. (People v. Bell (1976), 41 Ill. App.3d 233, 355 N.E.2d 38.) Therefore, the trial court did not err in finding that Mrs. Williams had the authority to consent to the police officers' entry into the home.

Furthermore, the State presented evidence that Mrs. Williams was in her own home when the police arrived. At trial, Mrs. Williams expressly testified that the defendant was arrested in her home on the morning of April 2. Mrs. Williams was at the apartment in question at 8:30 p.m. on April 1 when the defendant returned home from visiting a friend, at about 9 p.m. on April 1 when the defendant left, and when the defendant was returned home by Officer Showers. Mrs. Williams was still at this residence at 1 a.m. when the police arrived to pick up the defendant. She was later contacted by the police on several occasions at this residence.

The defendant next addresses the argument that exigent circumstances did not exist to allow a warrantless entry. We need not address this issue, because we have found that the entry was consensual. Defendant's arrest was valid.

• 2 Defendant next contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress statements made by defendant. He contends that the statements were not voluntary because of the length of questioning, the conditions during questioning, and his limited intelligence. He also contends that he did not understandingly waive his constitutional rights.

On a motion to suppress a defendant's statements, the burden is on the prosecution to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the statements made were voluntary. (People v. Jackson (1968), 41 Ill.2d 102, 242 N.E.2d 160; Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 114-11(d).) A confession is not voluntary if a defendant's will has been overborne at the time he confessed. (People v. Kincaid (1981), 87 Ill.2d 107, 429 N.E.2d 508.) This determination must be based on a totality of the circumstances under which the confession was given. (People v. Murdock (1977), 50 Ill. App.3d 198, 365 N.E.2d 1301.) The reviewing court's inquiry is limited to whether the trial court's finding is against the manifest weight of the evidence. People v. Higgins (1972), 50 Ill.2d 221, 278 N.E.2d 68.

The police officers went to defendant's home at about 1 a.m. to ask him to come down to the station. He was asleep, but after he was awakened by his brother he voluntarily went with the police to the station. He was placed in an interview room, where he fell asleep. At about 7:25 a.m., he was given breakfast and the interview began.

Before the start of the interview, Lieutenant McGee read the defendant the Miranda warnings from a form and asked him to read it out loud. Defendant stated that he did not understand the use of the word "murder" on the form, explaining that he knew murder meant when someone was killed but that he had not murdered anyone. Defendant also expressed some lack of understanding about the word "waive," and this word was explained to him. Defendant signed the rights waiver form after he finished reading each section.

Investigator Rory Steidl testified that defendant appeared to understand his rights and why he was being questioned. The defendant did not appear to be confused or disoriented. The defendant did not refuse to answer any questions, did not indicate that he wished to stop talking or speak to an attorney, and did not indicate that he was too tired or wanted to sleep. Lieutenant Edwin McGee stated that other than being fidgety, nervous, and "a little sleepy-eyed" there was nothing unusual about the defendant.

When the defendant asked to speak with his mother, the officers called her to come to the station. Questioning was discontinued until defendant's mother arrived. Lieutenant McGee stated that he had talked to defendant for about an hour between 7 and 10 a.m. on April 2. Defendant was questioned again about 3 p.m. on April 3.

Defendant was kept in a jail cell in the interim. On April 3, the defendant's rights were again read and explained to him and he read the rights form aloud and signed it. The defendant had no trouble reading the form and only questioned the word "murder," stating that he knew what this was but not why he was being charged. The defendant was not confused during the conversation of April 3. The defendant stated that he understood his rights and had no questions about them.

Dr. Dallas Grant also testified at the suppression hearing. Dr. Grant is a school psychologist and had given defendant intelligence tests on three different occasions. Defendant was found to be in the Educable Mentally Handicapped (EMH) group. At the suppression hearing, Dr. Grant examined a copy of the rights waiver form and gave his opinion that the waiver form contained words above defendant's reading level. Dr. Grant stated that his opinion was that defendant could not understand the rights waiver form, regardless of how he had been advised of his constitutional rights.

The Illinois Supreme Court has held that a mental deficiency alone is not enough to render a confession or statement involuntary, but rather it is one issue to be considered in the totality of the circumstances under which the statement was made. People v. Turner (1973), 56 Ill.2d 201, 306 N.E.2d 27; People v. Hester (1968), 39 Ill.2d 489, 237 N.E.2d 466.

The trial court denied the motion to suppress statements defendant had made because he found that the statements were made voluntarily and his rights understandingly waived. The police officers who interviewed defendant and observed defendant believed that he understood his rights and voluntarily made statements to the police. The police explained the rights waiver form in terms that defendant could understand. Defendant read the form aloud and with little difficulty and signed the form. Defendant did have some difficulty with the words "murder" and "waive." However, after the officers explained these terms to him, he expressly ...

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