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People v. McNeal

July 30, 1998


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Wolfson



At about 2:20 a.m. on May 23, 1994, Dion Massey stood outside a submarine sandwich shop on the corner of 71st and Paxton in Chicago. Suddenly there was a barrage of gun fire. Soon after, the police arrived on the scene. They found Dion Massey, unconscious, inside the sub shop. He was bleeding from a bullet wound to the chest. Outside the sub shop, the police found 2 bullet fragments, one lodged in the store's door casing. On the southwest corner of the intersection, kitty-corner from the sub shop, the police found 14 9mm. shell casings.

There were no eyewitnesses to the shooting, but the investigation led police to believe the shooting was gang-related. A number of Mickey Cobra (MC) gang members were brought to the police station for questioning. After a month-long investigation, three members of the MCs were indicted by the June 1994 grand jury -- Calvin "Pookie" McNeal, Michael "Pigtail" Keene, and Antoine "Goofy" Scott. All three defendants were charged with two counts of first degree murder.

Separate but simultaneous bench trials were held for the three defendants on January 8, 1997. McNeal and Scott were found guilty as charged. Each was sentenced to a term of 28 years imprisonment. Keene was acquitted.

McNeal and Scott appeal their convictions. Both defendants contend the trial court erred by refusing to suppress their inculpatory post-arrest statements to police. In addition, McNeal and Scott argue they were not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We affirm.


On November 29, 1995, the trial court held a hearing on Scott's motion to suppress his post-arrest statements. At this hearing Detective McCann testified that he and his partner, Detective Caesar, arrested Scott at about 7:45 p.m. on June 8, 1994. Scott, who was 16 years old, was arrested at 7336 S. Luella in Chicago, his grandparents' home. The detectives did not have a warrant for Scott's arrest.

When the police arrived, Scott's grandparents were home. The police invited them to accompany Scott to the police station. Scott's grandfather declined. He said he had to go to work. Scott's grandmother also declined to accompany Scott. Her reasons were health-related. It was reported that she suffered from bronchitis and epilepsy.

At the station, Detective McCann attempted to obtain a youth officer. None was available. Detective McCann then met with Scott briefly (about 5 minutes). At this time, Scott denied any participation in the Massey shooting. Scott was told, however, the police had information to the contrary. Detective McCann denied reading to or providing Scott with any of the statements implicating him.

After the brief interview, Scott was left alone in an interview room to await the arrival of an assistant State's Attorney. ASA Hal Garfinkle arrived at Area 2 at about 9 p.m. He did not speak with Scott until a youth officer became available. At about 10:30 p.m., Youth Officer Burke came to the station and met with Scott. ASA Garfinkle then spoke with Scott in the presence of Youth Officer Burke. At this time Scott gave a detailed oral statement implicating himself in the shooting.

In his statement, Scott said he met Carney Wiggins on the way to school on May 19, 1994. Carney told him his brother, Michael Wiggins, had been shot the night before. Carney said a gang meeting was planned for that evening. After school that afternoon, Scott went to the cleaners and met Jerome Watson along the way. While Scott was inside the cleaners he heard gunshots outside the cleaners. When he looked out he saw members of the Gangster Disciples, dressed in black, running in one direction. Jerome Watson and some other MCs were running in the opposite direction.

Later, at about 6:30 p.m., Scott was on his way to Rosenbloom Park when he saw Jerome Watson again. Watson told Scott the meeting was over. Watson told him they were going on a mission to "burn" some GDs. Scott accompanied Watson to Dante Eatmon's house.

Scott also told police he returned to Eatmons' house on May 23, 1994. Michael Keene and Sam Smith were there. Smith stole a white car and Scott got in the car with Keene and Calvin McNeal. As they headed for GD territory, however, the car broke down. They all went back to Dante's house. A friend named Marcus came to Dante's with a dark colored car. This time four-five more MCs got into the car and drove with them to GD territory. They parked at 71st and Merrill. Scott said he was told to stay with the car and open the doors when the others returned from their mission. Scott admitted he had acted as a lookout while the others walked down an alley toward 71st and Paxton. He heard shooting, then the MCs ran back to the car and they all left the area.

Although Scott provided this oral statement to both the police and the assistant State's Attorney, he declined to have his statement memorialized in any way.

Scott testified in support of his motion to suppress. He agreed that his grandparents had been present when he was arrested, and that they declined to go with him to the police station. Scott claimed, however, that he told the detectives his mother lived down the street, but the detectives did not respond.

Scott also contended that when the police questioned him at the station and informed him of his "right to counsel," he told the detectives he didn't understand what this meant. The detectives didn't explain and questioned him anyway.

Scott denied having any personal knowledge of the shooting. He said he learned the details of the shooting from statements the police had obtained from other persons and read to him. He said he initially denied any involvement in the shooting, but the detectives called him a liar. Then, Scott claimed, the detectives told him he would spend the rest of his life in jail unless he told them he acted as a look-out. Scott said the detectives told him if he admitted being a look-out he could go home. This was the only reason, Scott said, he made the admission that he had been a look-out at the shooting.

Scott agreed that he gave ASA Garfinkle a statement implicating himself in the shooting. He said he was afraid to tell ASA Garfinkle the truth.

On cross-examination, Scott admitted his grandmother was his legal guardian. He had been living with his grandparents since April 1994. Scott also admitted that he had been arrested a number of times prior to this arrest. He had been informed of his rights each time in the past. He never said he didn't understand his rights.

The trial court denied Scott's motion to suppress. The court found that the police complied with the statutory requirement of giving notice to the minor's guardian of the arrest. The court also found that the legal guardians were given sufficient opportunity to be present at Scott's questioning, but that they chose not to attend. In addition, Scott did not give an inculpatory statement until after he met with a youth officer. He made the statement to ASA Garfinkle, in the presence of the youth officer.

The court found Scott's rights as a juvenile were sufficiently protected. The court said it gave no credence to Scott's claims that he did not understand his rights and that he was threatened with life imprisonment unless he made an admission.


On December 4, 1995, the trial court held a hearing on McNeal's motion to suppress his oral and written post-arrest statements. At the hearing Detective Louis Caesar testified he and his partner, Detective McCann, arrested McNeal at about 9 a.m. on Sunday morning, June 12, 1994. He and Detective McCann went to 7420 S. Jeffery, to the home of McNeal's grandmother, Mrs. Jennie Alexander. They had a warrant for McNeal's arrest on a charge of murder. The detectives told Mrs. Alexander about the warrant and said they were taking McNeal into custody for further questioning.

Because McNeal was 16 years old, Detective Caesar said, they invited Mrs. Alexander to accompany her grandson to the station. She declined. She said she was going to church and would come to the station when she was done.

The detectives took McNeal to Area 2 and left him in an interview room while they went to arrest Michael Keene. When they returned to Area 2, at about 10:45 a.m., ASA Kirby was already at the station.

ASA Kirby asked the detectives the whereabouts of McNeal's grandmother and suggested they telephone her since she had not yet arrived at the station. When Detective Caesar called, however, there was no answer at Mrs. Alexander's home.

Because they could not reach Mrs. Alexander, a youth officer was summoned. At about 12:00 p.m., a youth officer arrived. McNeal was not interviewed until the youth officer had an opportunity to speak with McNeal. At about 12:30 p.m., ASA Kirby met with McNeal in the presence of Detective Caesar and the youth officer. McNeal gave an oral statement, admitting his involvement in the shooting of Dion Massey. McNeal told them he did not shoot at Massey, but acted only as a look-out.

McNeal agreed to give a written statement. ASA Kirby wrote out McNeal's statement, based on answers McNeal gave to questions ASA Kirby asked. When the statement was finished, McNeal reviewed and signed it. The written statement contained both Miranda warnings and juvenile warnings.

The written statement, though admitted into evidence, was not made a part of the appellate record. We, however, have been able to glean certain portions of the statement from McNeal's cross-examination.

McNeal told police he graduated from Bryn Mawr grade school and was a sophomore at South Shore High School. He said he learned that Mike Wiggins, also known as Mike Sconey, had been shot on May 18, 1994. He knew the MCs believed the shooting was done by the GDs. On May 19, 1994, a gang meeting was held at the park. It was decided at this meeting that McNeal, Antoine Scott, Michael Keene, and Jacob Elzie would go on a mission to retaliate against the GDs. McNeal told police that the four of them dressed in black on the evening of May 22, 1994. Keene had a .38 hand gun and Elzie had a 9mm. They met at the park. Elzie stole a dark colored car and they drove to GD territory. McNeal said he sat in the back of the car with Scott. Elzie drove with Keene in the front passenger side. They drove past the sub shop at 71st and Paxton, then parked down the street. Elzie and Keene got out, walked to the corner, and fired shots at Massey, who was standing on the opposite corner. McNeal said he and Scott stayed with the car and opened the doors when Elzie and Keene ran back to the car, shouting, "I got him."

On cross-examination, Detective Caesar admitted that June 12, 1994, was not his first contact with McNeal. On May 26, 1994, at about 1:45 p.m., Officer Peck, who was patrolling the area near 73rd and Jeffery (acknowledged MC territory), saw McNeal and asked him to come to the station for questioning. McNeal was taken to the police station at 71st and Cottage Grove, where he was questioned briefly. There was no youth officer present at this time and no attempt was made to contact McNeal's guardian.

After this first interview, Detectives McCann and Caesar were called. They came to the station and spoke with McNeal briefly. Again, there was ...

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