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People v. Feagans





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. Raymond L. Terrell, Judge, presiding.


Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Sangamon County, defendant was convicted of the offenses of murder and armed robbery in violation of sections 9-1 and 18-2 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, pars. 9-1, 18-2). Defendant was sentenced to concurrent prison terms of 30 years for murder and 10 years for armed robbery.

This case is on appeal for the second time. Defendant's original convictions for murder and armed robbery were reversed by this court on the ground that the State, at the pretrial hearing to suppress a certain statement made by defendant to police, failed to produce or explain the absence of a police officer who was a material witness to defendant's statement. This court also found reversible error in the refusal of defendant's tendered instruction on the defense of involuntary intoxication and remanded the case for a new trial. People v. Feagans (1983), 118 Ill. App.3d 991, 455 N.E.2d 871.

Upon remand, the trial court held a de novo hearing on the admissibility of defendant's statement, at which the officer in question was called to testify. The court again found that the statement was voluntarily given, and it was introduced by the State at defendant's second trial.

In this appeal, defendant alleges that: (1) the doctrine of collateral estoppel precluded the trial court from reconsidering the voluntariness of defendant's statement; (2) the statement was in any event given involuntarily and should have been suppressed; and (3) the evidence was insufficient to prove defendant guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt. For the reasons stated below, we disagree with each of these contentions and therefore affirm defendant's convictions.

On April 27, 1982, police received an anonymous tip that defendant may have been involved in a murder. During the resulting investigation, police obtained two statements from defendant implicating himself and two other individuals in the murder of Charles Cummings. Following these statements, Cummings' body was discovered in the Sangamon River, downstream of the Illinois Route 29 bridge. An autopsy revealed that the cause of death was consistent with drowning.

The State's case was based primarily on the two incriminating statements made by defendant to investigating officers on April 28 and 29, 1982. Only the former statement is directly at issue on appeal. Both statements are essentially the same in content, containing only minor discrepancies and additions.

On April 28, 1982, defendant gave a statement to Detective Thomas Kramp of the Springfield police department which was reduced to written form and read to the jury at defendant's second trial. Defendant stated that he had spent the evening of March 18, 1982, drinking at several Springfield area taverns with his brother, Robert Feagans, and David Landers. At one of the taverns they met a man named Chuck, whom defendant later identified as the victim, Charles Cummings. Cummings accompanied the trio on their round of taverns, after which the four men drove around in Landers' car.

Defendant stated that while they were driving, he demanded from Cummings money defendant had spent buying drinks for him. Cummings replied that he had no money. Defendant then told Cummings that if the latter did not come up with some money something would happen to him. Defendant thereupon brandished a wooden club which Landers had given him and threatened Cummings with rape or something similar. Landers then indicated that they should kill Cummings instead, to which defendant objected.

Defendant then ordered Cummings to remove his shirt, shoes, and glasses. The shoes and glasses were thrown out of the car, and defendant tore the shirt into strips, which he then handed to his brother, who used them to tie Cummings' arms.

Defendant stated that at this point things became hazy because of his intoxication. He claimed it was his idea to leave Cummings in the country and make him walk back to town naked. However, defendant lost consciousness, and when he awoke Cummings was no longer in the car. Defendant asked his companions what had happened to Cummings but received no reply. He returned home, where he told his wife that he thought someone had been killed. Defendant was later informed by his brother and Landers that they had taken $2.35 from Cummings, after which they had pushed Cummings over a bridge with his arms and legs tied. They told defendant, however, that he had not assisted them in the act.

Defendant's second statement was given to Detective Al Sample of the Sangamon County sheriff's department on April 29, 1982. This statement was recorded and a transcript thereof read to the jury at defendant's second trial. As stated, this second statement paralleled the first in all essentials. Defendant additionally recalled that Landers expressed the desire to kill Cummings in order to avoid possible kidnaping charges; defendant again claimed that he voiced objections to such proposal. Defendant also vaguely recalled seeing Cummings' legs tied before he became unconscious.

In his second trial, defendant's testimony largely corroborated the version of events he gave in his pretrial statements. He stated that he drank over a case of beer on March 18, 1982, before blacking out in Landers' car. At trial, defendant testified, contrary to his statements, that he ordered Cummings to remove his clothing before Landers mentioned killing Cummings. Defendant also denied tearing up Cummings' shirt into strips, testifying that he merely ripped it up the back and passed it to his brother. Defendant did recall testifying at his first trial that he had used a pocketknife to cut Cummings' shirt. Defendant also denied ever seeing Cummings tied up. Defendant testified that he told the police he had assisted in tying up Cummings because he was confused when he made his statements.

Defendant testified that following March 18, 1982, he was unsure whether Cummings had actually been killed or whether his brother and Landers were lying to him about pushing Cummings off of the bridge. Sometime later he returned to some of the bars they had been to on March 18, 1982, in an unsuccessful effort to determine whether any of the bartenders had seen Cummings since that night. This testimony was corroborated by one ...

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