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People v. Hinton

December 31, 1998


Nos. 83-CR-12156 83-CR-13241 Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Joseph Kazmierski, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Theis

Following a bench trial, defendant Leonard Hinton was found guilty of six counts of murder and sentenced to natural life in prison without parole. On direct appeal, the conviction was affirmed, although three counts of murder were vacated. Defendant filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief pursuant to the Post-Conviction Hearing Act. 725 ILCS 5/122-1 (West 1992). His petition was supplemented thereafter by defendant's court-appointed attorney. The circuit court dismissed the post-conviction petition without an evidentiary hearing on the merits, and this appeal followed. We affirm.


At approximately 5 p.m. on November 25, 1983, defendant was arrested pursuant to a warrant for aggravated battery. The detectives brought defendant to the Area 2 police station, where he was interrogated about an unrelated triple murder. On November 27, 1983, defendant gave a statement confessing to the murders of three individuals.

Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion to suppress his confession, claiming that his statement was the result of police brutality. At the suppression hearing, defendant testified that he suffered substantial abuse at the hands of the police until he ultimately confessed to the murders and that his numerous requests for an attorney were ignored. Specifically, defendant stated that he suffered the following abuse over a period of three days in custody.

Defendant was slapped in the face approximately 20 or 30 times and kicked in the stomach when he denied knowledge of the murders. The officers showed defendant a gun they claimed was the murder weapon. Defendant was struck over his head, on his elbow, and under the chin with the gun. As a result, his chin "bust[ed]" and blood dripped onto the football jersey defendant was wearing. After a lineup, he was slapped in the face again. The officers also pulled defendant away from the wall where his right hand was handcuffed, causing the feeling in his hand to disappear. Twice, a double plastic bag was placed over defendant's head which made him pass out.

According to defendant, an assistant State's Attorney (ASA) then questioned him about the murders. When defendant denied knowing about the murders, the ASA left the room and the officers returned for further beatings.

Defendant was not given any food and was denied use of the bathroom, which caused him to urinate on the floor. Because the officers were upset about the mess, they again kicked and slapped defendant. Defendant further claimed that Lieutenant Jon Burge advised him to confess before the other officers continued what they had been doing. Burge also inquired whether defendant knew about an electric rod.

Subsequently, defendant was brought to a room "down some stairs" where his hands and ankles were handcuffed. He was stripped from the waist down and gagged with some cloth. The officers brought in a black box and a rod with a cord. After turning a knob on the box, the officers placed the rod under defendant's genitals three times, shocking him. At this time, defendant testified that he was ready to talk.

When defendant tried to tell the ASA that he was beaten, she left. Burge returned to warn defendant that they would have to "go through this situation all over again" if he mentioned the beatings and did not sign a statement. Defendant then gave and signed a statement.

The State's witnesses at the suppression hearing consisted of Burge, Detective Leonard Bajenski, Detective Thomas Krippel, Detective Patrick Mokry, and the ASA. All of these witnesses denied that any abuse occurred or that the events occurred as defendant related. Bajenski, Mokry, and the ASA further testified that defendant did not request an attorney.

At the Conclusion of the suppression hearing, the circuit court denied defendant's motion to suppress the statement. Finding that the decision involved a "credibility question," the court made its ruling based on the demeanor of the witnesses and the evidence presented. Consequently, the case went to trial.

At trial, the State presented a witness, Diana Staton. She testified that she heard gunshots the night of the murders. Shortly thereafter, she observed defendant leaving the residence where the murders occurred. Staton also saw that defendant held a gun in his hand as he exited the building. Another witness, David Dixon, testified that defendant told him that "he had to shoot a couple of people" because he was owed money. Defendant's confession also was introduced in which he admitted to the shootings.

Defendant testified on his own behalf. He stated that he shot one of the victims as they were "tussling" over a gun, but he was not aware when he left the scene that the other individuals had been shot. Defendant also admitted that his confession was true except for the part about being owed $200. In addition, the football jersey was marked for identification purposes but it was not introduced as evidence. He identified a mark on the right shoulder as his blood resulting from being hit under the chin by the police. On cross- examination, defendant stated that it was the same shirt he wore on the night of the murders.

The court found defendant guilty. Upon direct appeal, his conviction was affirmed on October 13, 1987. On May 9, 1989, defendant filed a pro se post-conviction petition, prompting the State to file a motion to strike and dismiss. Defendant's petition was supplemented by appointed counsel, and on April 17, 1997, the circuit court denied defendant's petition without holding an evidentiary hearing.

The matter is now before this court on defendant's post-conviction petition, where he presents six claims in support of his ...

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