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People v. Wallace

September 21, 1998


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Gallagher

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable James Schreier, Judge Presiding.

Following a bench trial, defendant Andre Wallace was convicted of first degree murder for the shooting death of Herb Handy. The trial court sentenced defendant to serve a term of 26 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections on the first degree murder conviction. Defendant next filed this appeal, asserting: (1) the trial court erred in denying defendant's motion to quash his arrest and suppress statements; (2) the assistant State's Attorney who transcribed defendant's inculpatory statement improperly advised him of his Miranda rights; (3) the trial court erred in excluding defense evidence regarding the victim's allegedly violent and aggressive character; (4) the trial court erred in admitting prejudicial hearsay offered into evidence by the State; and (5) defendant's conviction for first degree murder should be reduced to second degree murder because defendant was sufficiently provoked by the victim.

The victim, Herb Handy, was shot and killed on January 17, 1994, at 825 North Lawndale Avenue in Chicago. Handy had been hired by a real estate company to housesit the residence at that address. The police recovered several 9 millimeter shell casings from the murder scene, and another housesitter, Robert Banks, claimed to have encountered the assailant face-to-face after the shooting. On January 19, 1994, Chicago police officers took defendant to the Area 4 police station for questioning regarding Handy's death. On January 20, 1994, defendant was arrested for the murder of Handy. At the time of the murder, defendant was 15 years old.

Conflicting testimony was offered at the hearing on defendant's motion to quash his arrest and suppress statements. Laron Jackson, testifying on behalf of defendant, stated that he and defendant were walking along the 800 block of North Lawndale Street in Chicago at approximately 8 p.m. on January 19, 1994. At that time, several police officers arrived and stopped Jackson and defendant. The police then searched the two young men, handcuffed them, placed them in a police car and drove them to the Area 4 police station at Harrison and Kedzie Streets. Jackson testified that neither he nor defendant was asked to accompany the police to the station. At the police station Jackson and defendant were placed in separate rooms and questioned. Ultimately, police placed both men in a lineup.

Coloia Wilkerson also testified for the defense. She stated that she, too, was picked up, handcuffed, placed in a police car and brought to the Area 4 station on January 19, 1994. She stated that she saw defendant in a holding room while at Area 4. Wilkerson further testified that, after being held for seven or eight hours at Area 4, she was released between 3 and 4 a.m. on January 20, 1994.

Defendant testified on his own behalf at the hearing. He corroborated Jackson's version of how and when the police took him to the Area 4 station on January 19. After waiting alone in an interview room for approximately 45 minutes, an officer entered the room and began questioning him about the shooting of Handy on January 17, 1994. Roughly 90 minutes after this initial questioning, Chicago police detective Kristen Kato entered the room and began to question defendant. Defendant stated that he asked Kato if he could go home, to which Kato responded that they would have "to wait and see." Subsequently, Kato left defendant alone--locked in the interview room. Kato later returned and proceeded to question defendant "a lot." Defendant testified that he was handcuffed throughout his stay at the police station and that the police denied him the opportunity to make a phone call. Defendant stated that Detective Kato informed him around 9:15 p.m. that defendant was being charged with Handy's murder.

On cross-examination, defendant testified that he informed police he was a juvenile once he discovered he was being charged with murder. He also testified that he was placed in a police lineup some four or five hours after arriving at the police station. On redirect, defendant stated that he was never advised of his rights during the evening of January 19 and early morning hours January 20. On recross, defendant acknowledged that he was presented with a form advising him of his rights, but only after he made his inculpatory statement the next day; moreover, defendant claimed that he never read the form and that no one ever read the form to him.

Chicago police detective Eugene Roy testified for the State. Roy said that, around 8 p.m. on January 19, 1994, he and several other police officers obtained the name of defendant and Jackson from unknown individuals engaged in narcotics sales. These unknown individuals indicated to the police that defendant was "working security" for the narcotics operations near the murder scene around the time of the victim's death. Shortly thereafter, Detective Roy, Detective Kato and three other police officers located defendant and Jackson and asked the two young men to accompany them to the police station. Defendant and Jackson agreed, and the two were searched, placed in separate cars and driven to Area 4. Once they arrived at Area 4, defendant and Jackson were placed in separate interview rooms. The room defendant was placed in was locked. Defendant was never handcuffed. When asked, defendant lied to the police regarding his age and claimed to be 17. Although Roy did not consider defendant under arrest, he and Detective Kato advised defendant of his Miranda rights. This was done as a precaution, in the event that defendant might make a statement inculpating himself in Handy's homicide.

Roy further testified that defendant told the detectives that, while "working security" on January 17, the night of the murder, he overheard an argument between his cousin and the victim. After his cousin disappeared down a gangway, defendant heard the sound of three or four gunshots. Acting on this information, the detectives left Area 4 around midnight in an attempt to locate defendant's cousin and other individuals mentioned by defendant in this initial statement. Coloia Wilkerson was one individual mentioned by defendant. Roy and Kato successfully located her and Cedric Smith and brought them to Area 4. When questioned, Ms. Wilkerson gave an account of January 17, 1994, that differed from that given by defendant. The police then confronted Jackson with Wilkerson's statement. Once confronted, Jackson informed police that defendant carried a 9 millimeter pistol while "working security" on the 17th, that defendant got into an argument with Handy, and that defendant disappeared into a gangway near the building where the shooting transpired shortly before gunshots rang out. Defendant was placed in a lineup at about 4 a.m., but the witness, Robert Banks, could not identify anyone. Following the lineup, police once again advised defendant of his Miranda rights and then confronted him with the statements of Wilkerson and Jackson. Defendant then made an inculpatory statement to Detectives Roy and Kato. Up until he made this inculpatory statement, defendant was free to go home--despite the fact that he was held in a locked room. Defendant was never informed that he was free to leave.

Several other police officers, including Detective Kristen Kato, also testified for the State and essentially corroborated Detective Roy's testimony. Kato expanded upon Roy's testimony, stating that defendant was placed under arrest at roughly 4:30 a.m. After making his incriminating statement, defendant informed the police that he was only 15 years old. A youth officer, Officer Halko, was contacted and he attempted to corroborate defendant's age. At approximately 6:45 a.m., Assistant State's Attorney Lu Ann Rodi arrived to take defendant's statement. Defendant was yet again informed of his Miranda rights, and Assistant State's Attorney Rodi transcribed his statement, which defendant then signed in the presence of Ms. Rodi, Officer Halko and Detective Halko. On cross-examination, Kato testified that the door was not locked when he left defendant alone in the interview room; however, Kato admitted that defendant was not free to move about the Area 4 police station.

After hearing this and other testimony, the trial court denied defendant's motion to quash his arrest and suppress statements. In denying the motion, the trial court specifically found that the defendant voluntarily accompanied the police to the station. This finding was based upon the fact that defendant indicated as much in his written statement. Moreover, when it denied defendant's motion to reconsider, the trial court noted that the locked door on the interview room did not automatically render defendant an arrestee.

The bench trial occurred on April 19, 1996. The State recalled many of the witnesses it had called during the hearing on defendant's motion to quash his arrest and suppress statements. One of these was Assistant State's Attorney Lu Ann Rodi. Ms. Rodi testified that she met with defendant alone and told him that she would talk to him, that she would give him his Miranda warnings when the officers returned, and that they "were going to have a statement." She then transcribed the inculpatory statement given by defendant on January 20, 1994. Through Ms. Rodi's testimony, that statement was admitted into evidence. In his written statement, transcribed by Ms. Rodi, defendant acknowledged that he was apprised of and understood his Miranda rights.

Defendant's statement related the following pertinent facts: On the night of the murder defendant was "working security" near 825 North Lawndale while a friend, Shorty C, was selling drugs. Defendant was armed with a fully loaded, black gun. At approximately 8 p.m., the victim came toward the defendant's position and told him to "get away from the house or I will kick your ass." Defendant responded, "You can't tell me what to do," and a verbal confrontation ensued. This argument continued after the victim entered the house on Lawndale, as the victim shouted at defendant through an open, second-story window. The victim challenged defendant to come inside the house. Defendant tried to gain access to the house, but the door was locked. Defendant ultimately climbed through a window toward the rear of the house. After he entered through the window, defendant saw the victim about 15 feet away with a baseball bat. Defendant shot the victim about three times. As he tried to leave the house, defendant saw another man, to whom defendant said, "Get back in that room this is none of yours." When defendant discovered that both doors were locked, he left the house using the window by which he had entered. Upon leaving the house, defendant threw the gun away in the middle of the gangway. He never went back to look for it. Defendant also stated that, when police found him a few days later, he agreed to accompany them to the police station to tell them what he knew about the shooting.

Robert Banks also testified for the State. Banks lived at 825 North Lawndale as well, but on the first floor. Herb Handy, the victim, lived on the second floor. On the night of the murder, Banks heard the victim come home and go upstairs. He could also hear someone yelling from outside up to the second- floor window. Banks stated that he then heard Handy open a window and yell, among other things, "Come on in, [expletive]," down to the person on the street. The Discussion continued for four or five minutes, in Banks estimation. After the yelling stopped, he saw Handy come downstairs and walk back into the kitchen of the house. Banks then heard a thumping or banging against the wall, followed by gunshots. The thumping sounded like a bat or a stick hitting the wall. Banks jumped up when he heard the gunshots and walked down the hall. He was then confronted by another, unknown man. This other man carried a gun, an automatic, and identified himself as the police; the intruder then instructed Banks to return to his room and lie down on the floor. Banks knew the man was not a police officer and ...

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