Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Shelvin Singer, Judge Presiding.
Rehearing Denied September 21, 1994. Released for Publication September 27, 1994. Petition for Leave to Appeal Denied December 6, 1994. Petition for Leave to Appeal Denied February 1, 1995.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cahill
JUSTICE CAHILL delivered the opinion of the court:
After a trial before separate juries, Arthur Almendarez and Francisco Nanez were convicted of aggravated arson and the murder of two persons who died in the fire. The court sentenced each defendant to natural life in prison without parole. We consolidated their appeals and now affirm the convictions.
John Galvan, a third defendant, was tried separately. We affirmed his conviction for aggravated arson and murder in People v. Galvan (1993), 244 Ill. App. 3d 298, 614 N.E.2d 391, 185 Ill. Dec. 257. The narrative of the crime and arrests appear in Galvan, and so we do not repeat them here.
On appeal Almendarez raises eight issues and Nanez five. We first address the issues raised by Almendarez.
Almendarez argues that the trial court erred when it denied his motion to quash the arrest and suppress the subsequent statement. Detective Switski testified at the hearing on the motion to quash. He stated that he spoke with Jose Ramirez, Soccoro Flores, Michael Almendarez, and John Galvan before he arrested Arthur Almendarez.
Jose Ramirez told Detective Switski that seconds before the fire started he saw John Galvan with a person named "Michael" and two other men walking together about a half block away from the house on 24th Place. Ramirez identified a photo of Michael Almendarez as the man he saw walking with John Galvan. The police brought Michael Almendarez and John Galvan to the station. Michael Almendarez stated that Galvan and Nanez said they started the fire. They told him that Nanez threw a bottle full of gas at the house and, when it did not ignite, Galvan lit it with a cigarette.
Galvan confessed and stated to police that he, Nanez, and Arthur Almendarez agreed to "burn out" a rival gang member who lived on 24th Place near Rockwell. Galvan said Nanez and Almendarez bought the gas and Nanez threw the bottle filled with gas at the house. Galvan further admitted that he threw a lit cigarette at the house and started the fire.
Soccoro Flores told police she saw three hispanic men standing in an alley on 24th Place moments before the fire. She then saw one of the men throw something and the house catch on fire.
The police then arrested Arthur Almendarez on the sidewalk in front of his house.
Almendarez contends he was arrested without probable cause. We disagree. Probable cause exists when the facts and circumstances known to the officers are such that a reasonable person would believe the suspect has committed a crime. ( People v. Montgomery (1986), 112 Ill. 2d 517, 494 N.E.2d 475, 98 Ill. Dec. 353.) Probable cause may be established by an accomplice where he makes a statement against his penal interest or the statement corroborates what the police already know. People v. James (1987), 118 Ill. 2d 214, 514 N.E.2d 998, 113 Ill. Dec. 86.
In James, as here, the defendant was implicated by an accomplice who confessed and described the actions of both parties. The court held that a statement of an accomplice made while in police custody, implicating another, may be probable cause to arrest the person implicated if there is some indicia of reliability. ( James, 118 Ill. 2d at 225, 514 N.E.2d 998.) The James court set out three elements which enhance the reliability of such a statement: (1) it is against penal interest; (2) it was not made in response to promises of leniency ...