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People v. Dinwiddie

September 30, 1998


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 93 CR 27569 Honorable Vincent Gaughan, Judge Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'mara Frossard

Following a jury trial, defendant Gordon Dinwiddie was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to 60 years in prison. Defendant appeals, contending that (1) the trial court erred in determining that defendant's statements were voluntary; (2) defendant was denied a fair trial; (3) defendant was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; (4) defendant was deprived of a fair trial by the prosecutor's closing argument; and (5) defendant's sentence of 60 years was excessive. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.


On October 31, 1993, at approximately 5:30 p.m., the victim, 14-year-old Shawn Carey, arrived home from Robichaux fieldhouse. There was a Halloween party going on at the school, and Shawn asked his mother if he could return to the party. Shawn's mother let him return to the fieldhouse, which was four blocks away.

Ardell Moore lived across the street from Robichaux Park. He heard seven or eight gunshots fired in rapid succession and heard a car speeding away. Mr. Moore heard someone yelling for help. He opened his door and saw Shawn fall backward. His wife called 9-1-1. Shawn was taken to Christ Hospital, where he died from a gunshot wound to the back. The bullet removed from the victim's body was fired from a Smith & Wesson 9 millimeter pistol.

Sergeant Sammie Young, an off-duty sergeant with the Cook County sheriff's department, was walking toward Robichaux fieldhouse when he heard the sound of gunfire and vehicles speeding away. Sergeant Young testified that he saw a brown Riviera and a blue Monte Carlo traveling at a fast rate of speed away from the scene.

At 5:45 p.m., Officer Casey Janota and Officer Frank Dragasic received a radio dispatch. The officers began looking for suspects in a brown Buick Riviera and a blue Chevy Monte Carlo. Four .32-caliber cartridge casings were found in the alley where the shooting occurred.

The next day, November 1, 1993, Officer Edward Skeerett and his partner saw a blue 1979 Chevrolet Monte Carlo traveling at a high rate of speed, make a sharp turn and then stop in a vacant lot. Three males exited the car and ran. The officers caught Corey Clark and defendant Gordon Dinwiddie. The car was allegedly stolen. Defendant was arrested, taken to the police station and later released to his father's custody.

On November 2, 1993, around 6:30 p.m., defendant was at home when the doorbell rang. Defendant's stepfather, Mr. Grantlen, answered the door and let two police officers enter with Corey Clark. Mr. Grantlen called defendant into the kitchen. Officer Waller advised defendant that they suspected him of committing murder and read defendant the Miranda warnings. Defendant asked to speak with the officers outside the presence of his ill stepfather. The two officers, Corey Clark and defendant went into the basement.

While in the basement, defendant admitted that, at the time of the shooting, he was driving the Buick and that Corey and James Cockerham were passengers. Defendant said he drove into an area near Robichaux Park where he saw members of a rival gang, the Blackstones. The Blackstones threw gang signs in defendant's direction. Defendant responded by taking a 9 millimeter weapon provided by James Cockerham, reaching across the passenger side of the car and firing out the window toward the boys. Defendant said he gave the weapon back to James Cockerham and sped away.

Defendant was arrested after confessing to the murder. Defendant then directed the police to where they could find James Cockerham. The officers arrested James Cockerham at his home and recovered a .380 semi-automatic and several boxes of ammunition, which were on the table.

At about 7:30 p.m, on November 2, 1993, defendant arrived at the 111th Street police station. Detective McCann learned that there were no youth officers currently available. Detective McCann interviewed defendant after reading him his Miranda warnings. Defendant waived his rights and again confessed to the shooting during his interview with Detective McCann. At about 11:20 p.m., Assistant State's Attorney Caren Armbrust arrived at the police station. Assistant State's Attorney Armbrust identified herself and read Miranda warnings to defendant. Also present were youth officer Burke and Detective McCann. Defendant again confessed to the shooting. Defendant gave a handwritten statement, which he reviewed with Assistant State's Attorney Armbrust before signing. While defendant was alone in the room with Assistant State's Attorney Armbrust, he stated that he had not been threatened or treated poorly by the officers.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty for first degree murder. On October 16, 1996, after hearing testimony in aggravation and mitigation, the trial court sentenced defendant to 60 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Defendant appeals his conviction and sentence.


Defendant first argues that his confession was not voluntary. Specifically, defendant contends that the police took him to the basement of his house and physically coerced him into confessing. Defendant confessed to the murder in the basement. Defendant repeated the same confession at Area 2 and again to Assistant State's Attorney Armbrust with juvenile officer Burke present. Defendant asserts that his mother attempted to see him at the station but was not allowed to do so. Defendant asserts that he was interrogated without the benefit of counsel or his mother and that he was questioned at least twice without a juvenile officer present.

The standard of review on a question of the voluntariness of a confession is whether the trial court's finding is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. People v. Melock, 149 Ill. 2d 423, 448, 599 N.E.2d 941 (1992). A trial Judge need be convinced only by a preponderance of the evidence that the statement was voluntary. People v. McCleary, 208 Ill. App. 3d 466, 567 N.E.2d 434 (1990). Our supreme court has repeatedly stated that "[t]he finding of the trial court on the voluntariness of a confession will not be disturbed unless it can be said that it is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence." People v. Davis, 97 Ill. 2d 1, 20, 452 N.E.2d 525 (1983). This ...

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