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10/05/87 the People of the State of v. Matthew James

October 5, 1987





514 N.E.2d 998, 118 Ill. 2d 214, 113 Ill. Dec. 86 1987.IL.1494

Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Stephen Schiller, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE RYAN delivered the opinion of the court. JUSTICE CUNNINGHAM took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.


The defendant, Matthew James, and a codefendant, Edward Meeks, were charged by indictment in the circuit court of Cook County with the offenses of murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, pars. 9-1(a)(1), (a)(2), (a)(3)), rape (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 11-1), robbery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 18-1) and home invasion (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 12-11(a)(1)). Prior to trial, both defendants moved to suppress statements made following their arrests. Meeks' motion was granted, and charges against him were subsequently dropped. James' motion was denied, and he proceeded to trial. He was found guilty by a jury of all charges. The trial Judge did not impose a sentence for rape, finding that offense was subsumed in the murder conviction.

The appellate court, with one Justice Dissenting, reversed the decision of the trial court and remanded for a new trial on the ground that James' confession was the fruit of his illegal arrest and therefore should have been suppressed. (149 Ill. App. 3d 214.) We granted the State's petition for leave to appeal. 107 Ill. 2d R. 315.

On the morning of June 26, 1982, the body of Josephine Hayes was discovered by Juan Ortiz, the maintenance man at her apartment building. When the police arrived at the scene, they observed that entry to the apartment had apparently been gained via a broken kitchen window. The body was sprawled across a sofa with hands and legs tied. Ms. Hayes had been strangled to death. She was wearing a white blouse but was nude from the waist down, and her face was covered with rags. A purse and its scattered contents were on the bed, and various papers were strewn about the apartment.

Ortiz told the police that Josephine Hayes had moved into the apartment the previous week. She had been assisted by three men in a red Ford truck. One of the men was known to Mr. Ortiz, but only by the nickname "Gigolo." Ortiz testified that Gigolo was at Ms. Hayes' apartment on Monday, June 21, and again on Wednesday, June 23. Ortiz last saw the victim on Friday evening, June 25. On that occasion, the victim indicated that she was expecting to receive about $50,000 in the very near future.

The police eventually determined that the man known as "Gigolo" was Eddie Meeks. Meeks was located and brought in for questioning. He at first denied involvement, but was kept in custody overnight awaiting a polygraph examination. The next afternoon he was questioned again, and was also asked to turn over the gym shoes he was wearing in order to compare them to a shoeprint which had been found at the scene. At that point, Meeks gave a confession which also implicated the defendant, Matthew James.

Meeks stated that James was one of the men who had helped Josephine Hayes move into her apartment. On the evening of June 25, James proposed robbing Ms. Hayes because they believed she had a large sum of money in the apartment. According to Meeks, the two men went to the rear of the building and jumped the fence. Next to the back door was a window which had previously been cracked and taped. James tapped on the window until another crack developed, enabling him to remove the glass. The men then entered the apartment.

Meeks was going through a purse in the front room when he heard screams. He went into the bedroom and saw James with his hand on the victim's throat. She was nude from the waist down. The men then tied her hands and feet and left the apartment.

Based upon these statements by Meeks, the police located the defendant and brought him into custody. The defendant initially denied any knowledge of the crimes but, after being informed that Meeks had implicated him, admitted involvement and ultimately signed a written confession.

Both Meeks and the defendant moved to suppress their statements as fruits of illegal arrests. The trial court ruled that Meeks' arrest was without probable cause and suppressed his confession. With regard to James' motion, however, the court stated, "I believe the police clearly did have probable cause prior to making the arrest, notwithstanding the fact that I suppressed the fruits of the Meeks ...

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