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People v. Jennings

May 20, 1998


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Leavitt delivered the opinion of the court:

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County

Honorable Richard E. Neville, Judge Presiding.

Fifteen-year-old defendant Mario Jennings was charged with the first degree murder of Joseph Merriwether and tried as an adult. Following a bench trial defendant was found guilty of second degree murder and sentenced to the Juvenile Division of the Illinois Department of Corrections. He appeals, contending (1) his post-arrest statements should have been suppressed as the product of his illegal arrest, and (2) the evidence was insufficient to rebut his claim of self-defense.

The facts of this case necessary to resolve this appeal are not disputed. The body of the victim, Joseph Merriwether, was discovered on March 13, 1995, in the vicinity of 9440 South Vernon in Chicago. Merriwether had been killed by a single gunshot wound to the chest.

DeMar Buffen testified he was at defendant's house with Edward Caples and John Fleming on March 15, 1995. While at the house, defendant admitted to Buffen he had shot Merriwether, who defendant believed to be a Gangster Disciple, when Merriwether tried to take his jacket. Defendant showed Buffen the gun he had used to kill Merriwether.

The four boys then decided to go to Caples' girlfriend's house at 95th and Vernon. Since that area was Gangster Disciple territory, the group agreed to take defendant's gun, but they further agreed Buffen should carry it. The boys took a bus to 95th and Vernon and began walking down an alley. At that point defendant told the group he should not be in the area because this was where he had killed Merriwether.

That same day, Detectives Francis Heslin and Kevin Glynn were investigating the Merriwether homicide and were canvassing the area where the murder had occurred. As they drove in their unmarked car, they saw defendant and three other boys walking down an alley around 424 East 95th Street. As the detectives approached, Buffen removed the gun from his waistband and ran. The two detectives chased and caught Buffen and then returned to where they had seen the others. Since the officers had not yet recovered the gun, they handcuffed all four boys and placed them in the car. According to Buffen, while in the car, defendant told him that if the gun was recovered and Buffen was questioned by the police, he should tell them defendant had given him the gun. Buffen testified defendant also assured him he should not worry about going to jail for the murder, since defendant would admit to the killing if questioned.

After the officers recovered the gun in the alley, they took all four boys to the police station and separated Buffen from the other three. Glynn and Heslin contacted the one witness to the Merriwether shooting and learned the perpetrator had worn a black-and-orange Miami Hurricanes jacket with a big bird on it. Buffen was then interviewed. After Buffen was read his Miranda rights, he told the detectives defendant had given him the gun to hold. The detectives noted Buffen was wearing a white-and-orange windbreaker, which did not match the description of the perpetrator's jacket given by the witness.

The detectives then sought to question defendant. As defendant was being led into the interrogation room, the detectives became curious about defendant's jacket. Heslin testified they "noticed that [defendant] had a Miami Hurricanes team jacket turned inside out that [they] did not notice earlier." Defendant was asked to remove his coat. After his jacket was seized and he was advised of his Miranda rights, defendant gave a statement implicating himself in the murder of Merriwether.

Following a hearing, the trial court granted defendant's motion to quash his arrest. The Judge concluded defendant had been arrested in the alley without probable cause, and defendant's coat was eventually suppressed based upon the illegal arrest. An attenuation hearing was held, with the trial Judge ultimately concluding defendant's statement to the police was sufficiently attenuated from his illegal arrest. The judge based this finding, in part, on various intervening circumstances which had occurred between the time of the illegal arrest and the making of the statement. The trial Judge specifically noted three intervening factors in finding attenuation: the recovery of the murder weapon, Buffen's statement--expressly approved by defendant--that the gun belonged to defendant, and the coat which matched the description given by a witness to the shooting.

Defendant filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing attenuation could not have been based upon the seizure of defendant's coat, since the trial court had earlier suppressed the coat as the fruit of an illegal arrest. The trial Judge acknowledged his error in considering the coat as an intervening circumstance, but concluded that, even without considering the coat, defendant's statement was nevertheless sufficiently attenuated from his earlier illegal arrest. Defendant's statement was subsequently admitted at his trial, and the trial court ultimately found defendant guilty of second degree murder. This appeal followed.

Defendant contends the court erred in finding his post-arrest statements were sufficiently attenuated from his illegal arrest. The law is clear that not every statement made by a suspect subsequent to an illegal arrest is subject to suppression; the relevant inquiry is whether the statement was obtained by exploitation of the illegal arrest. People v. Foskey, 136 Ill. 2d 66, 84, 554 N.E.2d 192 (1990). To be admissible, an inculpatory statement which follows an illegal arrest must be "sufficiently an act of free will to purge the primary taint of the unlawful invasion." People v. White, 117 Ill. 2d 194, 222, 512 N.E.2d 677 (1987), quoting Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 486, 83 S.Ct. 407, 9 L.Ed. 2d 441 (1963). Assuming a statement so obtained is given voluntarily under the Fifth Amendment, whether the statement is sufficiently attenuated from the prior illegal arrest to permit its admission under the Fourth Amendment requires an examination of four factors: (1) whether Miranda warnings were given; (2) the proximity in time between the arrest and the statement; (3) the presence of intervening circumstances; and (4) the purpose and flagrancy of the police misconduct. Foskey, 136 Ill. 2d at 85-86; White, 117 Ill. 2d at 222; see also Brown v. Illinois, 422 U.S. 590, 603-4, 45 L.Ed. 2d 416, 95 S.Ct. 2254 (1975). The burden of demonstrating attenuation rests upon the prosecution. Foskey, 136 Ill. 2d at 86; White, 117 Ill. 2d at 223. Where the parties do not dispute the relevant facts and differ in opinion only on the legal Conclusions to be drawn from those facts, we review de novo a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress a suspect's post-arrest statement. See People v. Oaks, 169 Ill. 2d 409, 447-48, 662 N.E.2d 1328 (1996); People v. Austin, 293 Ill. App. 3d 784, 787, 688 N.E.2d 740 (1997).

In this case it is undisputed defendant was given Miranda warnings. However, the mere giving of Miranda warnings is, without more, insufficient to purge the taint of an illegal arrest. Foskey, 136 Ill. 2d at 86; White, 117 Ill. 2d at 223; see also Brown, 422 U.S. at 603. Moreover, while defendant was given Miranda warnings prior to giving his statement, no warnings were given prior to the seizure of the coat. This factor adds little in support of a finding of attenuation.

The second Brown factor, the proximity in time between the arrest and the making of the statement, is also arguably of little significance in judging attenuation. See White, 117 Ill. 2d at 223 (noting "[t]he temporal proximity between an arrest and a confession is often an ambiguous factor, the significance of which will depend upon the particular circumstances of a particular case"); People v. Beamon, 255 Ill. App. 3d 63, 68, 627 N.E.2d 316 (1993); see also Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. 200, 220, 60 L.Ed. 2d 824, 99 S.Ct. 2248 (1979) ("[i]f there are no relevant intervening circumstances, a prolonged detention may well be a more serious exploitation of an illegal arrest than a short one"); 4 W. LaFave, Search & Seizure ยง 11.4(b), at 637-38 (3d ed. 1996). Nevertheless, to the extent it is significant, the temporal proximity factor does not support a finding of attenuation here. Defendant made ...

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