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06/20/97 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. RHONDA F.

June 20, 1997

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
RHONDA F., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Fred Suria, Judge Presiding.

Released for Publication August 5, 1997.

Presiding Justice Hartman delivered the opinion of the court. Hoffman and South, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hartman

PRESIDING JUSTICE HARTMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant, Rhonda F., age 15, was found guilty by a jury of second-degree murder. The circuit court adjudged defendant to be a ward of the court and sentenced her to an indeterminate term in custody of the Juvenile Department of Corrections. Defendant appeals, claiming error in: (1) the circuit court's finding that her confession was voluntary; (2) the exclusion of evidence of the decedent's violent and aggressive character, (3) the exclusion of evidence of the decedent's prior arrests for child endangerment and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver; (4) the State's cross-examination of defendant and a defense witness; (5) the State's comments during closing argument; and (6) sentencing. Issue (1) will be considered in this opinion; issues (2) through (6) will be determined in a separate Supreme Court Rule 23 order disseminated contemporaneously with this opinion. For reasons which follow, and those contained in our separate Rule 23 order, we affirm defendant's conviction, reverse her sentence, and remand this case to the circuit court for resentencing.

On March 17, 1993, defendant fatally shot her mother, Beatrice, once in the chest. Prior to trial, defendant moved to suppress statements, claiming that due to her emotional state, she was unable to understand Miranda warnings and was questioned although no guardian was present.

At the hearing on defendant's motion to suppress, Detective James Cassidy testified he arrived at the scene of the shooting at 1:30 p.m. and saw defendant, crying, sitting in the back seat of a squad car. Defendant was taken to the police station, but she was not a suspect at the time and was not under arrest.

Detective Cassidy arrived at the police station between 3:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., after speaking to several people in defendant's neighborhood. Cassidy and Detective William Moser began to speak with defendant, who was considered a witness and was free to leave. Fifteen minutes into their conversation, Cassidy advised defendant of her constitutional rights from a preprinted card because she made a statement which conflicted with statements made by other people. Cassidy then told defendant that she could "possibly be charged as an adult" because a murder had been committed and considering her age. Cassidy asked defendant if she wanted the police to contact her father. Defendant shook her head to indicate "no." Moser left the room to speak with other witnesses and Cassidy questioned defendant. Moser subsequently gave Cassidy a gun he had received from one of defendant's family members. Defendant identified the gun as the one she used to shoot Beatrice. A photograph was taken of the gun. After 30 to 45 minutes of questioning, youth officer Terrell entered the interview room, introduced himself to defendant, and gave her Miranda advisements. Cassidy left the room and Terrell sat with defendant for the next hour and one-half.

Detective Cassidy reentered the room when assistant State's Attorney (ASA) Ted Johnson arrived at 6:30 p.m. Youth officer Steven Terrell remained present. Johnson advised defendant of her Miranda rights and told her she would be charged as an adult. After speaking with defendant for 15 minutes, Johnson and Cassidy left the room to request a court reporter, but later reentered the room and spoke with defendant for 10 minutes until the court reporter arrived. Defendant was moved into a larger room and her responses to Johnson's questions were transcribed by the court reporter. Defendant then read and signed the statement. Cassidy, Johnson and Terrell also signed the statement.

According to Detective Cassidy, defendant was never promised that she could go home if she signed the statement nor that her grandmother was waiting for her at the police station. Nor did he tell defendant the story of a boy who killed his father in self-defense. Defendant did not cry at the police station; she did not become upset when shown the gun. Defendant was never handcuffed and the door to the interview room remained open during the entire time she was inside. Defendant did not ask to speak to her grandmother or aunt. Defendant's grandmother, who was at the police station for a short time, was not allowed to see defendant "because of her hostility towards defendant."

Detective William Moser testified he was present for defendant's initial conversation with Detective Cassidy at 3:45 p.m. Cassidy advised defendant of her rights from a preprinted card. Defendant shook her head "no" when asked if she wanted her father present. Moser left the room to secure a youth officer for defendant, but was unable to obtain one immediately because a shift change was occurring.

Detective Moser received a gun from one of defendant's family members. Moser never promised defendant she could go home nor that she could talk with her grandmother if she signed a statement. Moser did not tell defendant a story of a boy who killed his father in self-defense. At approximately 6:00 p.m. at the police station, Moser spoke with defendant's grandmother, who, along with other family members, was "highly upset" about the shooting. Defendant's grandmother and family members were not permitted to see defendant because the police believed they might physically harm her.

Youth officer Steven Terrell testified that after arriving at the station, he was assigned to defendant's case and first saw defendant at approximately 5:00 p.m. Terrell informed defendant who he was, gave her Miranda warnings from a preprinted form, and told her she would be charged as an adult. Defendant understood her rights. Defendant was not hungry, but asked for some water, which Terrell gave her. Defendant shook her head "no" when asked if she wanted her father present. ASA Johnson subsequently arrived and informed defendant who he was and advised her of her rights. During her statement, Terrell showed defendant a photograph of the gun. After defendant gave her statement, Johnson read over the statement, signed each page and handed it to defendant who read it and signed each page. Terrell and Cassidy also signed each page of the statement. Defendant was responsive and understood Terrell's questions. Terrell never told defendant she could go home if she signed the statement nor did he tell her a story of a boy who shot his father in self-defense.

ASA Ted Johnson testified he advised defendant of her rights, which she understood and agreed to waive. Defendant understood that Johnson was a prosecutor. After a 15-minute conversation, defendant agreed to give a statement before a court reporter, which started at approximately 7:30 p.m. and lasted one hour. Defendant was responsive to Johnson's questions. The court reporter transcribed defendant's statement, which Johnson and defendant read over, making corrections where necessary. Johnson, Cassidy, Terrell and defendant signed each page of the statement and initialed the one correction made. Johnson twice showed defendant a photograph of the gun for identification purposes. Johnson never promised defendant she could go home after signing the statement nor that her grandmother was waiting ...


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