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People v. Clements





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. William Cousins, Jr., Judge, presiding.


After a jury trial, defendant Mark Clements was found guilty of murder and aggravated arson. He received concurrent sentences of natural life for murder and 30 years for aggravated arson. On appeal, defendant contends: (1) the Juvenile Court Act prohibited the admission of his confession; (2) his arrest was made without probable cause and his confession therefore should have been suppressed; (3) the State failed to prove that defendant waived his Miranda rights; (4) he was denied his right to confront witnesses and his right to a fair trial where the State elicited hearsay testimony and improperly examined witnesses; and (5) the imposition of a natural life sentence was improper.

We affirm.

The evidence presented at trial showed that James Moore, Annabelle Moore, Isadore Tucker and Robert Watson died in a fire which occurred at approximately 2 a.m. on June 17, 1981, in a building located at 6602 South Wentworth in Chicago. The victims resided in second-floor apartments. The cause of death was acute carbon monoxide intoxication. Defendant was charged with murder, aggravated arson and criminal damage to property. He was 16 years old at the time of the offenses and 17 at the time of trial.

Lieutenant Kinsella of the Chicago fire department testified that as he was extinguishing the fire he saw a liquid burning on the porch of the building. He smelled gasoline and saw an empty whiskey bottle near the burning fluid. At the bottom of the stairway he found a soft drink bottle filled with a liquid which looked and smelled like gasoline. Kinsella gave both bottles to Detective Peterson.

Detective Thomas Peterson testified that tests indicated the bottles contained gasoline. Also, tests conducted on clothing removed from one of the victims revealed the presence of gasoline. Peterson examined the building in which the fire occurred and discovered that the fire began on the front stairway and on the second floor of the back porch. Heavy charring on the stairs indicated that an accelerant had been used. Peterson concluded the fire was caused by arson.

Defendant was arrested on June 25, 1981, by Officer Aaron Gibson. Gibson testified he responded to a disturbance call and saw defendant among those yelling and shouting obscenities. He arrested defendant for disorderly conduct after defendant refused to quiet down. Gibson immediately advised defendant of his Miranda rights. After he received additional information about defendant, Gibson transferred defendant to police headquarters.

Detective James Higgins testified he spoke to Derrick Banks, Ramona Patton and James Robinson during his investigation of the arson and homicides in question. He thereafter sought defendant for questioning. On the evening of June 25, 1981, he spoke to defendant at police headquarters. Prior to each of three conversations with defendant, Higgins advised defendant of his rights and informed him that he could be tried as an adult if charged with the crimes. Defendant stated he understood the warnings. When he first spoke to defendant, defendant said that he, James Robinson and Ken Miner had planned to commit a burglary on the night in question, but did not make it to their destination because their car ran out of gas. The men pushed the car to 66th and Perry streets near their homes. During a subsequent interview, defendant added that after they bought gas, Ken Miner decided to collect money owed him by another man. As they walked to the man's apartment at 66th and Wentworth, Miner told defendant to collect bottles. When they arrived at the apartment, they poured gas into the bottles. Defendant said another person named Jamaica was also with them. Jamaica went upstairs. Defendant brought bottles of gas upstairs and saw Miner and Jamaica beating the man. Miner splashed gas on the man and he and Jamaica poured gas on the stairway as they left the building. Miner ignited the fuel. Aided by a photograph, defendant identified Robert Watson as the man on whom Miner spilled gas.

Assistant State's Attorney Kevin Moore interviewed defendant on June 25, 1981. Before the interview, he advised defendant of his Miranda rights and told him he could be tried as an adult. Moore took defendant's written statement and read the statement into the record.

In his statement, defendant acknowledged his rights and stated that he understood them. If charged with the crimes, defendant knew he could be tried as an adult. Defendant stated that on June 17, 1981, he was riding in a car with James Robinson, Ken Miner and Jamaica. The car ran out of gas and was pushed to the intersection of 66th and Perry streets near defendant's home. While the others went to buy gasoline, defendant collected bottles as Miner instructed him to do. Defendant collected a Coca-Cola bottle and a wine bottle. The men then walked to 66th and Wentworth and, while outside the apartment building, filled the bottles with gas. They went to a second-floor apartment to talk to a man who sold marijuana for Ken, and an argument ensued. Defendant brought the bottles of gas upstairs. Ken and Jamaica poured gas on the man's pants and splashed gas on the stairway as they left the building. Ken Miner lit the match which started the fire. Immediately thereafter, the four men ran to defendant's house.

Defense witness James Robinson testified he had known defendant for five years. Robinson was arrested on the afternoon of June 25, 1981, and was beaten by police while he was in an interrogation room. He saw defendant later that evening and heard police shouting at defendant. Robinson and defendant were placed in a room together at approximately 12 a.m. Defendant cried and rocked in his chair. His face was red and "puffy." Robinson was released from police custody at 5 p.m. on June 26, 1981.

Dr. Allen K. Rosenwald, a psychologist, also testified on defendant's behalf. Rosenwald administered five tests to defendant and determined that defendant had an I.Q. of 58 and suffered mild mental retardation. He also found that defendant had a passive dependent personality. Rosenwald explained that a person with such a personality is easily led and "suggestable" and takes no initiative. A passive dependent person reacts to stress by being compliant and by yielding to that which creates stress. On cross-examination, Rosenwald testified that he examined defendant to determine his fitness to stand trial and concluded that defendant understood the nature of the proceedings. Although defendant understood the meaning of the phrase, "You have the right to remain silent," he did not believe that defendant understood Miranda rights.

Defendant testified that he did not complete grade school. He attended GED classes but never received a diploma. When he was taken to police headquarters after his arrest, defendant was interviewed by Higgins and Daniel McWeeny and denied committing the offense. He was beaten and slapped by police and finally confessed because he was afraid of being beaten again. When he first spoke to Assistant State's Attorney Moore, he denied involvement in the crimes. However, he lied when he gave his statement to Moore because he was afraid the police would harm him. The police told defendant exactly what to say to Moore. Defendant could not recall where he was at the time of the fire. Defendant recalled explaining Miranda rights to Dr. Albert Stipes, a psychiatrist, during an examination.

On rebuttal, Higgins testified he spoke to Robinson about the fire. Robinson stated that prior thereto he and defendant planned to commit a burglary. At about the time the fire started, Robinson was at ...

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