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08/02/96 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. JOSEPH MILLER

August 2, 1996

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLEE,
v.
JOSEPH MILLER, APPELLANT.



The Honorable Justice Heiple delivered the opinion of the court: Justice McMORROW, specially concurring:

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Heiple

The Honorable Justice HEIPLE delivered the opinion of the court:

Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Peoria County, the defendant, Joseph Miller, was convicted of six counts of first degree murder. 720 ILCS 5/9--1(a) (West 1992). The same jury found the defendant eligible for the death penalty on the basis of the defendant's having killed more than one individual. 720 ILCS 5/9--1(b)(3) (West 1992). The jury determined that there were no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude imposition of a sentence of death. The trial court sentenced defendant to death. The defendant's sentence has been stayed (134 Ill. 2d R. 609(a)) pending direct appeal to this court (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, ยง 4(b); 134 Ill. 2d R. 603). For the reasons which follow, we affirm the defendant's conviction and sentence of death.

On appeal to this court, defendant argues that: (1) the trial court erred in failing to suppress statements he made to the police; (2) the trial court erred in admitting DNA evidence; (3) evidence that he committed other crimes should not have been admitted; (4) the trial court improperly allowed hearsay testimony regarding his possession of a car; (5) a detective should not have been allowed to testify about women's clothing recovered from defendant's apartment; (6) the prosecutor made improper comments during the closing argument at the second stage of the capital sentencing hearing; (7) the jury instructions used at the capital sentencing hearing did not reflect the law; and (8) the death penalty is unconstitutional.

BACKGROUND

In September of 1993, the nude bodies of three women, Marcia Logue, Helen Dorrance and Sandra Csesznegi, were found in rural Peoria County. The body of Marcia Logue was found in a drainage ditch in the 500 block of South Cameron Lane on September 18, with a pillow case stuck in her mouth. The body of Helen Dorrance was found 50 feet from Logue's body on the same date. The body of Sandra Csesznegi was found in a drainage ditch near Christ Church Road on September 26. Csesznegi's body was in a state of advanced decomposition. All three women were known prostitutes in the Peoria area.

The defendant was charged with six counts of first degree murder for the murders of Logue, Dorrance and Csesznegi. The trial was moved to Sangamon County due to extensive pretrial publicity.

At trial the following evidence was elicited. Marcia Logue had last been seen alive on September 15, 1993, entering a maroon-colored car which was driven by a white male in his forties or fifties. Helen Dorrance was last seen alive on September 11, 1993. Sandra Csesznegi was last seen alive on September 15, 1993.

On September 29, 1993, at approximately 11:30 p.m., Detectives Rabe and Pyatt of the Peoria police department and Detective Hawkins of the Peoria County sheriff's department went to the defendant's Peoria apartment to question him about crimes in the Peoria area. The defendant allowed the detectives into his apartment and consented to a search of his apartment. He then voluntarily accompanied the detectives to the Peoria County sheriff's department. During the ride to the sheriff's department the defendant asked the detectives what they wanted to talk to him about. The detectives told the defendant that they would discuss the matter when they arrived at the sheriff's department. The defendant then stated that he knew what all this was about; that it was "about the prostitutes in the newspaper." At that time, defendant was read Miranda warnings.

The defendant was questioned at the sheriff's department, where he denied any knowledge of the murders of the three women. During the questioning the defendant identified as his a knife obtained during a search of a maroon Oldsmobile owned by Bernice Faggott. The defendant stated that the police would not find any blood on the knife. When asked to explain this statement, the defendant replied that he thought Detective Pyatt might have believed there was blood on the knife because of the missing women and said that he had anticipated the police would be calling. The defendant claimed that the knife fell out of his pocket when he was a passenger in Faggott's car.

At about 8:30 a.m. the next morning, the defendant agreed to accompany Detectives Rabe and Hawkins to Cameron Lane. Detective Rabe testified that the group first stopped at the defendant's apartment so that the defendant could retrieve medication. Detective Rabe stated that during the drive, he and Detective Hawkins were speaking about the three bodies. When the detectives reached Cameron Lane, Detective Rabe asked the defendant if the bodies had been dumped at the same time. The defendant replied that the bodies had been dumped at different times and stated that the bodies were placed in a manner so that they could not be found. The defendant then directed the detectives to Christ Church Road near where Csesznegi's body was discovered. The defendant did not make any reference to the precise area where Csesznegi's body was found, but did state that the area stuck in his mind for some reason. Throughout the drive the defendant denied having killed the three women.

The search of defendant's apartment revealed two robes, female underwear, a broken mini-blind rod and a brown and white cloth covered with what appeared to be dried blood. The police also recovered pillows and a mattress from defendant's bedroom. These items had reddish-brown stains. Blood splatters were also found on a wall of the bedroom and the bed's headboard. A later search revealed a glove, a throw rug and more women's underwear. During the second search, the police collected hair and fibers.

Crystal Taylor, a deputy United States marshall, testified about a conversation she had with defendant at defendant's request on February 1, 1994. Taylor testified that when she and defendant were discussing the three women defendant stated, "From the strangulation I am convinced I did these three." The defendant indicated to her that he was afraid to go into his bedroom because bad things had happened there. The defendant also spoke to Taylor about the three women and looking for dump sites off a road.

Dr. Mary Jumbelic, a forensic pathologist for Peoria County, testified about the autopsies that she conducted on the bodies. Logue's body revealed extensive injuries, including stab wounds and ligature marks on her neck, left wrist and right ankle. Logue had been the victim of a sexual assault. Other marks on Logue's body were consistent with those that would be inflicted by the mini-blind rod recovered from the apartment. Logue died as a result of multiple stab wounds, blunt trauma, gagging of the mouth and strangulation. Dorrance had been dead longer than Logue and was also the victim of a sexual assault. She died as a result of asphyxia, consistent with strangulation. Jumbelic believed that Csesznegi had been dead for more than a week when she was found because of the advanced decomposition of her body. The injuries to Csesznegi's body showed that she too had been strangled.

Other testimony revealed that a maroon Oldsmobile registered to Bernice Faggott was reported missing on September 4, 1993. It was recovered in Peoria a few blocks from the defendant's apartment on September 22, 1993. When the car was searched, the police discovered a rug in its trunk, a knife wedged between the front seats, and dark stains on the back seat. Dennis Hall testified that the defendant knew Faggott as early as July of 1993. Samuel Voight, who owned property near Faggott's home, testified that he saw defendant enter Faggott's screened-in porch on August 28, 1993.

James McGovern, a security guard at defendant's apartment complex, testified that he saw the defendant driving a maroon Oldsmobile on two occasions in early September of 1993. The defendant told McGovern that the car belonged to a friend. Mary Decher and Daniel Mayes testified that they rode in a maroon car with the defendant during the last week of August 1993. The defendant told Decher and Mayes that he was transporting the car to another location for a dealership. When Mayes questioned the defendant about an insurance card he found in the glove compartment with the name "Bernice" on it, the defendant stated that a friend had lent him the car while the friend was on vacation. Mayes testified that, on another occasion, the defendant told him that two guys had stolen the car and defendant needed to get rid of it by setting it on fire. The defendant told Mayes that he had wiped any fingerprints from the car and left it on a street in Peoria. When the defendant went to get the car the next day, it was missing. Mayes and Decher testified that a rug, similar to the one found by the police in the trunk of the maroon Oldsmobile, had been stolen off of a chain link fence at their home around the middle of September.

Glenn Schubert, a forensic scientist, testified regarding the hair and fibers recovered from the defendant's apartment, Logue's body and the maroon car. Schubert stated that debris from the pillow case found in Logue's mouth was consistent with the defendant's pubic hair. Other fibers on the pillow case matched fibers taken from a throw rug located in the defendant's apartment and fibers collected from the defendant's living-room floor. Several fibers taken from Logue's body also matched fibers collected from the defendant's living-room floor. Hairs recovered from the maroon Oldsmobile were consistent with the defendant's hair and several acrylic-like fibers from the car were consistent with the fibers found on defendant's floor.

The State's DNA expert, William Frank, testified that seminal fluid recovered from Logue matched that of defendant. Such a match would occur in 7% of the Caucasian population. Blood recovered from underneath Logue's fingernails also matched that of defendant and such a match could be expected in 1 in 465 million Caucasians. Bloodstains from a magazine, mattress, pillow and towel found in the defendant's apartment and from the seat of Faggott's car matched that of Logue. Such matches would occur in 1 in 1.1 trillion Caucasians. Further, blood found on a napkin and a pillow taken from the defendant's apartment matched Dorrance's DNA profile, with such a match occurring in 1 in 466 billion Caucasians. Another bloodstain on one of defendant's pillows matched the DNA profile of Csesznegi with such a match occurring in 1 in 1 billion Caucasians. On cross-examination, Frank conceded that there were only five billion people in the world.

The defendant did not testify on his own behalf. The parties stipulated that several dark-colored cars had been seen near Cameron Lane on September 16 and 17, 1993. In addition, a resident who lived in the area where the bodies were found saw a pickup truck with a construction rack and lettering on the side. On several occasions, the resident saw the truck stop and its occupant look around.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty on all six counts of first degree murder. The same jury found the defendant eligible for the death penalty, as defendant was over the age of 18 and had been convicted of murdering at least two individuals. At the second stage of the sentencing hearing, the State presented as aggravation evidence the defendant's convictions for two murders in 1977 and one armed robbery in 1978. The defendant was sentenced to terms of 15 to 30 years for each of those murders and a term of four to eight years for the armed robbery. Jack Thurmon, a Department of Corrections' parole agent, testified that the defendant was released from prison in April of 1993 to a mission in Cook County. Thurmon later learned that defendant had travelled to Peoria by September 1993.

The defendant presented the testimony of two psychiatrists as mitigation evidence. Dr. Sohee Lee testified that defendant suffered from disassociative amnesia and an antisocial personality. Dr. Lee linked the disassociative amnesia to the emotional, physical and sexual abuse defendant received during his childhood. Dr. Lee commented that the defendant had been in an orphanage until he was six and was later sexually abused by his mother. Dr. Lee did state that the defendant was happy in September 1993, as one of his friends had sent him a bus ticket to travel to Peoria and his friend and other church members had helped him establish his life in Peoria. Dr. Robert Chapman testified that defendant suffered from disassociative disorder with multiple personality disorder type.

At the conclusion of the second stage of the sentencing hearing, the jury found no mitigating circumstances sufficient to preclude imposition of the death penalty. The defendant was sentenced to death for the three murders. Defendant's post-trial and post-sentencing motions were denied.

ARGUMENT(S)

Trial

Suppression of Evidence

The defendant alleges that the trial court erred in denying a motion to suppress various statements he made to the police on September 29 and 30, 1993. The defendant specifically points to the statements he made (1) in the police car on the way to the sheriff's department and at Cameron Lane and Christ Church Road; (2) about the knife found in Faggott's car; (3) about being in Faggott's car; and (4) about a photograph of a mattress with blood on it. The defendant claims that the statements were involuntary and the result of coercion and that he was not given proper Miranda warnings pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694, 86 S. Ct. 1602 (1966). At a pretrial hearing the trial court concluded that there was no evidence of the involuntariness, either mental or physical, of the defendant's statements.

In support of his contentions, the defendant highlights the events occurring on September 29 and 30. At approximately 11:30 p.m. on September 29, three detectives arrived at the defendant's door while several other police officers remained outside the apartment building. The defendant allowed the detectives inside and he consented to a search of his apartment. The defendant agreed to accompany the detectives to the sheriff's department. The detectives did not tell the defendant why they wanted to speak with him. The defendant suggested that it was about the missing prostitutes. At this juncture, defendant was read Miranda warnings.

At the sheriff's department the defendant was placed in an interview room and questioned periodically through the early morning hours of September 30. At about 8:30 a.m., the defendant was taken on a drive to Cameron Lane. The defendant was returned to the jail at approximately 11 a.m. He was left alone until 5 p.m. when he was questioned and taken on another car ride. After defendant was returned to the sheriff's department, he was questioned again. At 7:30 p.m. on September 30 the defendant was read a second set of Miranda warnings.

A trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress will not be disturbed unless that ruling is manifestly erroneous ( People v. Garcia, 97 Ill. 2d 58, 74, 73 Ill. Dec. 414, 454 N.E.2d 274 (1983)) and a trial court's ruling that a statement is voluntary will not be disturbed unless that ruling is against the manifest weight of the evidence ( People v. Redd, 135 Ill. 2d 252, 292-93, 142 Ill. Dec. 802, 553 N.E.2d 316 (1990)). "Whether a statement is voluntarily given depends upon the totality of the circumstances. The test of voluntariness is whether the statement was made freely, voluntarily and without compulsion or inducement of any sort, or whether the defendant's will was overcome at the time he confessed." People v. Clark, 114 Ill. 2d 450, 457, 103 Ill. Dec. 102, 501 N.E.2d 123 (1986).

In the instant case, the totality of the circumstances shows that defendant's statements were voluntary. The defendant voluntarily accompanied the detectives to the sheriff's department. The detectives did not use force at defendant's apartment and although there were other officers outside the apartment, these officers could not be seen from inside defendant's apartment. Defendant was the one who initially stated that the police were questioning him about the prostitutes. Although defendant was questioned for some period of time, the questioning was not relentless. The detectives described the tone of the questioning as cordial. There were at least 10 breaks and the defendant was given something to drink and the opportunity to use the restroom. The defendant was given food to eat, at which time he was left alone for approximately one-half hour. The defendant was never handcuffed. In addition, the defendant agreed to accompany the detectives to Cameron Lane and he directed the detectives to Christ Church Road. Before driving to Cameron Lane, the detectives took defendant to his apartment to retrieve medication. Although the defendant now claims that he was not allowed to sleep before 11 a.m. on September 30, the defendant never indicated to the ...


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