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April 18, 1995


Appeal from Circuit Court of McLean County. No. 92CF1063. Honorable Luther H. Dearborn, Judge Presiding.

As Corrected July 19, 1995.

Honorable Frederick S. Green, J., Honorable James A. Knecht, P.j., Honorable Robert J. Steigmann, J., Concurring

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Green

JUSTICE GREEN delivered the opinion of the court:

On April 29, 1993, defendant Paul Anthony Childs was indicted in the circuit court of McLean County for the offense of obstructing justice (720 ILCS 5/31-4(a) (West 1992)), in that he knowingly made certain false statements to a police officer with the intent to prevent the apprehension by the police of Michael Carlos. On May 6, 1993, following a jury trial, the court entered judgment on a verdict finding defendant guilty. Subsequently, the court imposed a sentence of three years' imprisonment.

Defendant has appealed contending that (1) the evidence did not support the verdict; (2) the court erred in denying his motion to suppress the statements he made to the police which were the subject matter of the charges; and (3) he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Although much of the evidence was circumstantial, it was strong enough to support the verdict. The motion to suppress involved an unusual theory on a subject about which no direct precedent exists. However, we are satisfied that the circuit court ruled correctly. The claim of incompetent counsel has no merit. We affirm.

At trial, Bloomington police detective Rick Davis testified that (1) in the early morning hours of December 19, 1992, he, another detective, and two uniformed officers went to an apartment in Bloomington seeking to capture Carlos, who was suspected of murder; (2) Barbie Price, the tenant in possession of the apartment, gave the police group permission to enter to search for Carlos; (3) as Davis approached the door to the bedroom of the apartment, Sandra Garza left the bedroom, closing the door behind her; (4) Davis then opened the door, turned on the bedroom lights, and discovered Rodney Harris behind the door; (5) Davis arrested Harris pursuant to an unrelated warrant; (6) Bloomington police officer James Avery then opened the door to a bathroom and discovered defendant inside; (7) the officers then required defendant to get on his knees; and (8) defendant was then facing the door while a bed was four feet to defendant's right.

Davis then explained that while defendant was on his knees, he (Davis) twice asked defendant where Carlos was and defendant twice responded that he did not know Carlos. Davis noted that during thetime defendant was on his knees, he continually asked for permission to stand up and that permission was denied. Davis also admitted that he questioned defendant in a loud and assertive tone of voice. The evidence was undisputed that when defendant was questioned, the officers were armed and at least a shotgun was pointed at defendant. The evidence was also undisputed that shortly after defendant's responses, Avery found Carlos under the bed in the bedroom and defendant was then arrested. Avery's testimony corroborated that of Davis.

Sandra Garza testified for the State that (1) between 1 and 2 a.m. of the morning the offense allegedly occurred, she brought Price to the apartment where the incident at issue occurred and only Colleen Schuster was then there; (2) Garza then left and returned at approximately 3 a.m. with Rodney Harris and found Carlos and defendant sitting in the front room listening to music; (3) when Schuster started to go to the bathroom, she heard a knock on the door so she woke Price up; (4) at that time lights were on in the bedroom; (5) she then went to the bathroom and when she came out into the bedroom, the lights in the bedroom were off but she heard the voices of Harris and the defendant; and (6) when she left the bedroom, she saw the police who were then in the apartment. She heard the defendant being asked where Carlos was and she heard defendant respond saying "I don't know."

Schuster was the only witness for the defense. She testified that (1) she was at the Price apartment the entire evening that defendant was arrested; (2) upon her arrival, she observed Garza and Harris, both of whom left and returned later that evening; (3) she was awakened when defendant entered the apartment alone; (4) defendant watched television for about one-half hour and then Carlos arrived; (5) Garza and Harris returned soon thereafter; (6) she did not see defendant and Carlos together; (7) after Garza and Harris returned, she fell asleep and did not awaken until the police arrived; and (8) she saw the officers "rush in with guns and barge the bedroom door in and take [Harris] out in handcuffs."

Schuster testified she saw the police "throw" defendant to his knees, point their guns at him and yell questions at him seeking the location of Carlos and that defendant kept saying "I don't know." On cross-examination, Schuster admitted that she had seen defendant and Carlos together "maybe on the street a couple of times."

Section 31-4(a) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Code) defines the offense of obstructing justice, as charged here, as follows:

"A person obstructs justice when, with intent to prevent the apprehension or obstruct the prosecution or defense of any person, he knowingly commits any of the following acts:

a) Destroys, alters, conceals or disguises physical evidence, plants false evidence, furnishes false information." ...

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