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People v. Wright

February 05, 1998



McNAMARA and South, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Wolfson delivered the opinion of the court:

On the evening of March 25, 1994, Robert Smith and Tyrone Rockett went to a store in their neighborhood to purchase soft drinks and cookies. A short time later, in Smith's back yard, Smith and Rockett received execution-style gunshot wounds to their heads. They died almost instantly.

A jury found David Wright (David) guilty of those first degree murders. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. At trial, six different statements he made while in police custody were introduced by the State.

Everyone agrees David was arrested and brought to the police station unlawfully, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The primary issue in this case is whether the six statements made during 14 hours of police custody should have been suppressed as the product of the illegal detention. The trial Judge refused to suppress the statements. We agree with the trial Judge. We also find no merit in the other issues raised by the defendant. We affirm his convictions and sentence.


The State's case, at pre-trial hearing and at trial, rested on the testimony of Chicago police detective James Cassidy and Assistant State's Attorney Steve Klaczynski:

The police received a telephone call from a woman calling herself Sheila Atkins. After several months of police investigation, Atkins provided a lead into the shootings of Smith and Rockett. Atkins told the police to look for two black teenagers named David and John in the area around Smith's home. In canvassing the area on August 22, 1994, Cassidy spoke with Smith's mother, who told him two black teenagers named David and John lived in the area near the Moore family on the 5900 block of South Eggleston. Cassidy spoke with the Moores, who told him David and John Wright (John) lived next door.

Cassidy found the Wright residence and spoke with Tawana Wright. Tawana admitted her sons were named David and John, but neither was home at that time. Later, at Area One Police Headquarters, Cassidy ran a computer background search on David and John. Cassidy learned John had an outstanding juvenile arrest warrant for possession of a controlled substance.

On August 23, 1994, the police returned to the Wright residence and arrested John on the outstanding warrant. Cassidy asked John about the shooting. John pointed toward his residence and, according to Cassidy, said "ords to the effect, if that's what this is all about, you should talk to my brother." According to David, the police entered the building, broke down the door to his room, shined a light in his eyes, and put a gun in his face. The police arrested David between 8-8:30 a.m. and then took David and John to Area One for questioning about the shooting deaths of Smith and Rockett. Cassidy put David and John in separate interrogation rooms. By the end of the day, David gave six statements, each offered at trial by the prosecution.

Cassidy, before questioning David, gave John Miranda warnings and spoke with him about Smith and Rockett. John said Smith and Rockett had beaten up David three days before the shootings. John also said he saw David immediately before the shootings talking with Smith and Rockett on Smith's front porch, and walking with Smith and Rockett toward Smith's back yard. John said he heard gunshots from Smith's back yard. Finally, John said David had admitted shooting Smith and Rockett and throwing away the gun.

Cassidy then gave David Miranda warnings around 11:30 a.m. David denied any involvement in the shooting deaths of Smith and Rockett (Statement #1). When confronted with John's statement, David conceded he had had a recent altercation with Smith and Rockett. Then, David recanted and said Smith and Rockett died after Smith's handgun accidently discharged twice into Smith's and Rockett's temples during a scuffle as they attempted to bully David (Statement #2). After hearing David's second statement, Cassidy called the prosecutor's office.

At approximately 3:30 p.m., Klaczynski, a felony review prosecutor, gave David Miranda warnings for a second time and spoke with him again about Smith and Rockett. David repeated the statement he made to Cassidy (Statement #3). Klaczynski told him this statement conflicted with John's statement.

Klaczynski then turned his attention to John, who agreed to put his statement in writing. According to John's written statement, as published to the jury by Klaczynski:

"John Wright stated that when he saw his brother David [two days after the shooting], he asked David what happened when he went to the backyard on the night of the shooting. John Wright stated that David Wright told him that Robert Smith and Mac-Ty Rockett tried to [']play him like a bitch['] ... so he shot them.

John Wright stated that his brother David also told him that he got rid of the gun the same night that he shot Robert and Mac-Ty . John right stated that his brother David is a BD [Black Disciple] gang member and Robert was with a GD [Gangster Disciple] gang member."

At approximately 5 p.m., Klaczynski gave David Miranda warnings for a third time and confronted him with John's written statement. According to David's trial testimony, after hearing John's statement, "I sit down and I was thinking about it." David then made another statement: on the night Smith and Rockett were shot, he was with John's girlfriend, Carol Wise, and two other women named "Nay-Nay" and "Sheen" (Statement #4). According to David, the police grabbed his neck at this point in the interrogation. (The trial Judge found the grab did not take place. Defendant does not challenge that finding in this appeal.) The police located Wise and obtained her written statement in which she denied she was with David that night.

At approximately 8 p.m., Klaczynski gave David Miranda warnings for a fourth time and confronted him with Wise's written statement. After reading Wise's statement, David made another statement: John had murdered Smith and Rockett while David stood as a lookout (Statement #5). Klaczynski left the interrogation room and returned shortly. David received Miranda warnings for a fifth time and agreed to make a written, inculpatory statement around 10:30 p.m. (Statement #6). This sixth and final statement reflects the prosecution's theory of what happened to Smith and Rockett.

The trial court granted David's motion to quash his arrest and suppressed any evidence flowing from his illegal detention. The prosecution requested and was granted a hearing on whether David's statements were attenuated sufficiently ...

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