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People v. Govea

September 16, 1998


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Burke


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Honorable Fred G. Suria, Judge Presiding.

Following a jury trial, defendant Gaston Govea was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to 34 years' imprisonment. On appeal, defendant argues that: (1) the trial court committed reversible error in admitting as substantive evidence the written statement and grand jury testimony of a witness because both were obtained in violation of the witness' right to due process under the fourteenth amendment and, since they were admitted into evidence, defendant's right to due process was violated; (2) the statement and grand jury testimony were not inconsistent with the witness' trial testimony and therefore should not have been admitted; (3) the trial court erroneously denied defendant's motion to suppress his oral and written statements because they were obtained in violation of his fifth and fourteen amendment rights under the United States Constitution against self-incrimination; (4) defendant was denied a fair trial and the effective assistance of counsel because his counsel failed to move to suppress the illegal arrest and subsequent statement of a witness, which led to defendant's implication in the murder and his subsequent statement as fruit of the poisonous tree; and (5) the trial court committed reversible error in sentencing defendant to 34 years' imprisonment. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

Defendant was charged with first degree murder in the shooting of Fillamon Ibarra-Saucedo (Saucedo). Prior to defendant's trial, defendant filed a motion to suppress his oral and written statements. At the hearing on his motion, Detective Karen Hansen of the Chicago Police Department testified that she investigated Saucedo's shooting which occurred at the LaAlondra tavern in Chicago on October 3, 1994. On October 5, Hansen and Detective Dennis Walsh arrested defendant at his place of employment. Hansen advised defendant of his Miranda rights in the police car in the presence of Walsh.

Detective Hansen further testified that defendant was transported to Area 4 where he was put into an interview room at around 1 p.m. At 4:15 a.m., defendant participated in a lineup. At approximately 5 a.m., Hansen and Walsh interviewed defendant for 10 minutes after informing defendant of his Miranda rights. At 8 a.m., defendant was again read his Miranda rights, and Hansen and Walsh had another brief interview with defendant in the presence of Assistant State's Attorney Gregory Vaci (Vaci). Hansen and Vaci next spoke with defendant at 11:25 a.m. in the presence of a court reporter. After defendant received another Miranda warning and had indicated he understood his rights, defendant and Vaci had a conversation about defendant's knowledge of Saucedo's shooting. During this series of conversations, defendant implicated himself in the shooting of Saucedo. Detective Hansen testified that defendant never stated that he was threatened during police custody, nor did he ever request an attorney or a cessation of the interview. Defendant was offered food and was allowed to use the bathroom when requested. Hansen also stated that no one harmed defendant at Area 4 or promised him that he could go home after giving a statement.

Defendant testified at the hearing that while he was at work, Detectives Hansen and Walsh arrested him and placed him in a police car where they gave him Miranda rights. During the ride, the officers "got smart" with defendant and told him how his "action was bad." Defendant arrived at the police station and he was placed in a room where he sat on the floor. Defendant was handcuffed at the time. Defendant further stated that when the officers came in to talk to him, he told them he did not want to talk and that he wanted to make a phone call to his family and to contact his attorney. Hansen responded that it was "too late," and the officers kept questioning him. Defendant also stated that Officer Bribiesca hit him two or three times. Prior to defendant's court reported statement, Hansen allegedly told defendant that she "already knew what happened" and that defendant "might as well just go along with it" if he wanted to go home. Hansen also told him that Saucedo was an "asshole" and "deserved" being shot. Defendant also testified that he was only offered food after he made a statement. Defendant further testifed that when Vaci came into the room prior to taking his statement, he asked defendant if defendant wanted food, to which defendant responded that he had already eaten two sandwiches. Defendant also stated that the officers gave him Miranda rights before he gave his transcribed statement, and he told the officer that he understood those rights and that he, in fact, understood them. At the Conclusion of the hearing, the trial court denied defendant's motion to suppress, finding that defendant's statement itself denied almost all the allegations he made at the hearing, and that, "by defendant's own words," he admitted to having received Miranda warnings and agreed that he was not mistreated by the police. The court further found that under all the circumstances, the State had satisfactorily shown that defendant freely and voluntarily made the statement, especially because defendant was 19 years old and had prior experience with "the system."

At defendant's trial, Gabriela Garcia, defendant's sister, testified that she had known Saucedo for a year and one-half, and that she lived with him for approximately "half a year." On October 3, 1994, Garcia was working at the "Alondra" tavern. When Saucedo arrived at the bar, Garcia left the bar, made a phone call to defendant and then returned to the bar. Defendant subsequently entered the bar with three other men. Defendant was holding "a stick" in his hands, and was the first of the four men to walk into the bar. Garcia further stated that Saucedo was mad when the four men entered the bar, and he threatened her and defendant. Garcia saw Saucedo pick up a bottle from the bar and throw it at defendant, but she did not see if the bottle actually hit defendant. Garcia then "laid down" and covered her face with her hands, at which point she heard gunshots. Garcia looked up and saw defendant and the other three men leave the bar. Garcia also stated that she answered the questions the police asked her when they arrived at the tavern, but she did not identify the four men because the police "didn't ask [her]."

Garcia further testified that the police came to her house the following day to tell her Saucedo was dead. Garcia was taken to the police station where she identified defendant, but the police never informed her of the purpose of the identification. When asked whether she was questioned by an assistant State's Attorney, Garcia said that she was not. However, when questioned about the written statement that she gave to Assistant State's Attorney Vaci, Garcia stated that Vaci had taken her statement and that she read the Miranda warnings contained in her statement out loud before signing the statement. Garcia admitted that she told Vaci that she left the bar to call defendant when Saucedo arrived, that defendant and three other men subsequently arrived at the bar, and that defendant carried a "brown stick about two foot long." Upon further questioning regarding her statement to Vaci, Garcia denied telling Vaci that: defendant started beating Saucedo with the stick; Saucedo threw a bottle at defendant after Saucedo was "getting beaten"; there was enough light in the bar that she could see what was happening; and she saw defendant and the three other men get into defendant's car and drive off. Garcia also stated that after Vaci wrote her statement, she and Vaci read "some of it" together out loud, including the Miranda warning section, and then she signed it.

The State then questioned Garcia about testimony she gave before a grand jury on October 6, 1994. Garcia denied making the following statements to the grand jury that: defendant and his friends "went after" Saucedo; defendant hit Saucedo with a stick; Saucedo threw a bottle at defendant; the four men who went into a car were her brother, cousin and their friends; her brother was driving the car; and the four men "just went and jumped [Saucedo]." Garcia admitted that she stated to the grand jury that the police did not harm her or threaten her in any way for her testimony. Garcia also stated that the detective at the police station said "a lot of bad things," including threats to take her children away from her, but Garcia did not tell that to the grand jury because she was scared.

On cross-examination, Garcia testified that she was "arrested" on October 4, 1994, and that she was kept at the police station for three days, during which her request to make a telephone call was denied on the first day, she was kept in a locked room and was treated badly by the police. More specifically, Garcia stated that two detectives called her a "bitch" and other "bad words," and that the female detective pushed a desk at her and threatened to take her children away from her. Garcia also stated that the police told her she was not under arrest, but when she asked to go home, they told her that she could not.

Detective Karen Hansen's testimony was essentially the same as her testimony at defendant's hearing on his motion to suppress his written and oral statements, except when asked at trial if defendant asked to use the telephone while in custody, Hansen testified that she did not recall "specific details about who [defendant] wanted to call." Hansen also testified that she was not sure whether defendant used the telephone prior to his transcribed statement, but that "if he wanted to, we would have let him." When asked if it were true that defendant requested to use the telephone shortly after he arrived at the station and that Hansen told him that he did not need a lawyer, Hansen responded, "No."

Assistant State's Attorney Vaci testified that he and Detective Foster had a conversation with Garcia on October 5, 1994, during which Garcia was given Miranda warnings and agreed to make a written statement. Vaci testified that after the statement was prepared, he had Garcia read the paragraph containing the Miranda warnings, after which she signed the line beneath the paragraph. Vaci further stated that he went through the entire statement out loud with Garcia, after which she placed her signature on every page. The trial court then allowed the State to publish Garcia's statement.

Vaci was also allowed to read into the record defendant's statement which was taken on October 5, 1994. In his statement, defendant admitted he went to the bar to "go beat up" Saucedo because Saucedo had hit Garcia; defendant was carrying a pipe when he entered the bar and he knew one of the other men he was with had a gun; when he walked into the bar, he hit Saucedo in the head with the pipe, after which Saucedo threw a beer bottle at him. Before the jury was sent into deliberations, defendant objected to the State's admission into evidence of his written statement based on the argument that it was coerced. The trial court overruled ...

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