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02/22/88 the People of the State of v. Gregory Sleboda

February 22, 1988





519 N.E.2d 512, 166 Ill. App. 3d 42, 116 Ill. Dec. 620 1988.IL.248

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon. Edward W. Kowal, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE INGLIS delivered the opinion of the court. UNVERZAGT and NASH, JJ., concur.


Defendant was indicted on three counts of leaving the scene of an accident involving death and three counts of reckless homicide. Two trials were held. In the first, the jury found defendant guilty of the three counts of leaving the scene of an accident involving death, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the reckless homicide counts. At the second trial, defendant was found guilty of the reckless homicide charges. Defendant was sentenced to concurrent sentences of 364 days on each conviction for leaving the scene and four years on each conviction for reckless homicide.

At sometime in the early morning of December 8, 1982, defendant was involved in an accident involving defendant's car and two other automobiles. The occupants of the two other cars, three in all, all died as a result of the accident. After the accident, defendant walked to his home in Hillside and once there attempted to cut his wrists. Both policemen and firemen from Hillside went to defendant's house in response to a call from defendant's sister. From there, the police officers took defendant to the Hillside police department. Later that morning, defendant was transferred to the Oak Brook police department and taken to a hospital for a blood test.


Prior to trial, defendant made a motion to suppress statements claiming that at the time he made the statements he was intoxicated to such an extent that he could not knowingly waive his rights under Miranda v. Arizona (1966), 384 U.S. 436, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694, 86 S. Ct. 1602.

Various police officers from the Hillside and Oak Brook police departments testified as to defendant's condition on the morning of December 8, 1982. While the officers testified that defendant had the odor of alcohol on his breath and staggered or swayed on occasion, they also testified that he was able to stand and walk on his own power, was able to follow directions, and was responsive to questions. In particular, Officer D'Alessandro testified that before leaving defendant's house, defendant assured his sister he would be all right and likewise told his father not to worry and that he would be okay. Officers D'Alessandro and Artl further testified that defendant was read his Miranda rights and after each right asked if he understood to which defendant responded that he did.

Several times during that morning defendant inquired about the people involved in the accident, at times asking if they were all right and at other times asking if they were dead.

Officer Artl, who took defendant from the Hillside police department to the Oak Brook police department, testified as to statements made during that trip. Defendant stated, "There's no way I could have caused the accident. I didn't go over the median strip." Defendant also stated that he had been challenged to a drag race at the intersection of Buck and Roosevelt Roads, that he traveled westbound on Roosevelt Road from Buck, and that the cars were going too fast.

On several occasions, defendant was asked if he desired medical treatment. He declined until he was informed that he could receive treatment without insurance, at which point he said he would go along with that.

On the way to the hospital, defendant again described a drag race and the other vehicle involved.

Evidence at the hearing was also presented that defendant submitted to a breathalyzer test which resulted in a reading of .22.

Defendant testified that between 6:15 and 7 a.m. on December 8, 1982, he was in the outer room of his bedroom drinking beer. Defendant said he drank eight beers "or more or less." He said that the next thing he remembered was talking to his attorney on the phone at the hospital.

Yoerge Pirl, assistant chief toxicologist for the State of Illinois Department of Public Health, testified on defendant's behalf. Pirl testified that at a blood level of .22, an individual would suffer severe perception and motor impairment. He added that whether an individual understands a given question is a matter of degree and that a person may or may not understand the short-term effects of that question. He stated that "frequently," at levels of .25, long-term consequences are not realized. He stated that such a person may or may not understand communication and that it is a difficult subject matter to Judge. When given a hypothetical question concerning a person's ability to understand and waive his Miranda rights, Pirl stated that he could not state with certainty whether the individual could or could not comprehend the statements. According to Pirl, alcohol and its effects differ from person to person.

Dr. Edward Senay also testified on defendant's behalf. Senay testified that, based on reports which had been submitted to him, defendant's ability to make judgments was impaired at least to a mild degree, more probably to a moderate or severe degree.

At the close of the hearing, the trial court denied defendant's motion to suppress statements.


Defendant made a motion to dismiss the indictment on the ground that automobiles involved in the accident had been destroyed before an expert for defendant could view them. At the hearing on this motion, the parties stipulated that if Albert Ceren were called to testify he would state that he was the chief of the Oak Brook police on the relevant dates. He would testify that certified letters were sent over his signature on January 31, 1983, notifying the families of John Czernia and Roberta Jackson that if storage and towing fees were not paid and the cars not picked up within 10 days, they would be disposed of. He would further testify that the Cordoba belonging to John Czernia and the Duster belonging to Roberta Jackson were released to the Diehl-Nuemier Scrapyard Company on February 16, 1983. The parties further stipulated that the cars were not available.

Charles Roberts, Jr., testified that he performs accident reconstruction and failure analysis as a consulting engineer and was first contacted by the defense in March 1983. Roberts said that he could not perform a failure analysis from available photographs of the vehicle. According to Roberts, he could have conducted a failure analysis on the vehicles despite the extent of damage ...

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