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06/24/96 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. JACQUELINE

June 24, 1996

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
JACQUELINE WHEELER, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 94--CF--1842. Honorable Ronald B. Mehling, Judge, Presiding.

Rule 23 Order Redesignated Opinion and Ordered Published June 24, 1996. Released for Publication July 23, 1996.

The Honorable Justice Bowman delivered the opinion of the court: Doyle and Rathje, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bowman

The Honorable Justice BOWMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant, Jacqueline Wheeler, was charged by indictment with the offense of second degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9--2(a)(1) (West 1994)). The trial court entered an order granting defendant's motion to suppress statements she made to law enforcement officials. The State appeals that order pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 604(a)(1) (145 Ill. 2d 604(a)(1)). We affirm.

The following summary of the facts is taken from the record. In the early morning hours of July 10, 1994, Gale White died from a gunshot wound. Later that day, defendant made statements to law enforcement officials of Du Page County which apparently incriminated her in White's death. On August 31, 1994, defendant was charged with the offense of second degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9--2(a)(1) (West 1994)). On December 5, 1994, defendant filed a motion to suppress her July 10, 1994, statements on the grounds that (1) they were involuntarily given; (2) they were made while she was unlawfully detained by police officials; (3) they were the result of a custodial interrogation in which she was never apprised of her rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694, 86 S. Ct. 1602 (1966); and (4) they were elicited from her after her requests for counsel were disregarded.

On February 10, February 24, and March 6, 1995, the trial court conducted a hearing on defendant's motion. At the hearing, defendant testified that in February 1994 she moved from Portland, Oregon, to Winfield, Illinois, to live with Gale White, her fiance. She lived with White from February 1994 to July 10, 1994, the day of White's death. In the early morning hours of July 10, 1994, she placed a 911 telephone call from White's house. At the time she placed this call, White had been mortally wounded by a bullet. Police officers arrived, and after about one hour she was taken by ambulance to Central Du Page Hospital. Because she was "hysterical" when she arrived at the hospital, she was administered Xanax, a sedative, which made her "very drowsy." By her own account, she had not slept since 7 or 8 a.m. on July 9, 1994.

Defendant testified that after being attended to by medical personnel she was taken to a "quiet room," a small room with chairs, a table, a telephone, and windows. Once in the room, at least three or four police officers questioned her about how White had died. In response to their questions, defendant repeated her version of White's death at least three or four times. Defendant apparently told the police that White had shot himself. Defendant estimated that she stayed in the quiet room "the better part of the morning" and was able to sleep in a chair for a short period of time.

According to defendant, she used the telephone in the quiet room several times to place and receive calls from her parents in Oregon. In one of these conversations her mother told her that Nancy Huntowski, defendant's aunt, was coming to see her. When defendant asked Officer Gretchen Fehling of the Winfield police department if someone had come to see her, Officer Fehling said someone had, although she did not know if defendant would be allowed to see this person. Officer Fehling accompanied her whenever she left the quiet room, such as when she went to smoke a cigarette or to go to the rest room.

At approximately noon on July 10, 1994, defendant was taken to the Du Page County sheriff's office (police station) by Detective Greg Figiel, one of the detectives who had questioned her in the quiet room. She sat in the front seat of the car and was not handcuffed. Although she was not given the option to go home or to contact Nancy Huntowski, she went to the police station because she wanted to be "cooperative." She went to the police station with Detective Figiel because her car was at the White household.

Upon arriving at the police station, defendant was taken to an area accessible only by key or code and was initially left alone in a lobby area for approximately 10 minutes. She was then given access to a telephone, which she used to call her mother. After speaking with her mother, defendant was taken to a small windowless room with a table and hard chairs. On at least one wall was a sign which, according to the record, contained over 100 lines of small print which described the various rights an individual has in relation to the police and the court system. The door to this room was closed throughout the questioning. Once inside the interrogation room, the officers continued to question her, and defendant continued to tell them her version of what had happened.

At about 4 p.m. on July 10, defendant met Richard O'Brien, a polygrapher who administered a polygraph examination to her. He was not introduced to her as a police officer. Before taking the examination, defendant signed a document entitled "Polygraph Subject's Statement." This document states that Richard O'Brien, polygraph examiner, has informed defendant that he wishes to question her about White's shooting. The document further states:

"He [O'Brien] has told me [defendant] that I have the right to remain silent and that I do not have to agree to be questioned at this time unless I wish to do so. He has also told me that even though I agree to be questioned I have the right to change my mind at any time during the questioning and can refuse to answer. I may also request that the questioning be stopped and he will abide by any such decision. He has further advised me that anything I say may be used against me in court at some future time.

He has further advised me that I have a right to consult with an attorney or in the event I cannot afford to retain an attorney one will be appointed to represent me. I have a right to have said attorney present if I wish during the time I am being questioned."

Defendant admitted that she read those parts of the document which provided that she had the right to remain silent, that she had the right to change her mind at any time about being questioned, that she could refuse to answer any questions, and that anything she said could be used against her in court. She did not recall heeding the parts which provided that she had the right to counsel and that if she could not afford counsel one would be appointed for her. Defendant understood the document to be "a release of an agreement in regards to the polygraph test." After taking the test, defendant was informed of the results of the examination. Those results are not part of the record on appeal.

Defendant testified that once she had taken the polygraph examination the police officers returned to the room at approximately 5:30 p.m. and began to question her again. According to defendant, the questioning became "more adamant." They told her that they did not believe she was telling the "whole truth." They suggested that she shot White in self-defense and that they would understand if that were the case because they knew White was a "bad guy" with a "previous history." Defendant initially responded to these questions and suggestions by repeating her earlier version of the day's events.

Defendant stated that she soon changed her version because the police officers made it clear to her that if she kept telling the earlier version they would have no choice but to take her into custody. The substance of this new version is not part of the record on appeal. She told this new version twice, once at approximately 5:30 p.m. and once at 6 p.m. The 6 p.m. statement was recorded on a tape cassette. Before giving the recorded statement, she was told that the rights listed on the sign hanging on the wall were her rights. However, she was not allowed to leave her chair and study them.

Anita Beal, a registered nurse at Central Du Page Hospital, testified that defendant was brought into the emergency room of the hospital at 5:05 a.m. on July 10, 1994. Defendant was "quite upset," and had an abnormally high blood pressure and pulse. At one point she found defendant in a kneeling position on the bed with a pillow over her head screaming, "I can't believe he did this." Beal administered Xanax to defendant to relieve her anxiety. The police then asked Beal if they could speak to defendant; when defendant ...


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