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People v. Plummer

June 25, 1999


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 91 CR 21451 Honorable Vincent Gaughan, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Quinn


opinion of the court:

After a bench trial, defendant Johnny Plummer was found guilty of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm in the death of Michael Engram and sentenced to concurrent terms of 50 years, 25 years and 25 years, respectively. Defendant contends that the trial court's refusal to suppress his confession was against the manifest weight of the evidence because when he became a suspect he was not allowed a meaningful opportunity to confer with his family or an interested adult as mandated in the Juvenile Court Act of 1987. 705 ILCS 405/5-6 (West 1992).

Prior to trial, defendant filed motions to suppress statements, quash his arrest and suppress evidence. At the various hearings on the motions, the evidence established that at 6:30 p.m. on August 18, 1991, Chicago police detective Michael Kill was at the scene of a homicide at 5817 South Union. Kill was investigating the murder of Anthony Phillips (Phillips), who had been shot to death at 12:30 a.m. on August 18. Kill saw the defendant near the scene and the defendant gave Kill information regarding the shooting. Defendant was a member of the Gangster Disciples street gang, as was Phillips. They had been together at a party shortly before the shooting. After the conversation, Kill allowed defendant to leave the scene.

At 3:30 a.m. on August 19, Kill was again near the scene of the homicide, talking to two other witnesses on the porch at 5933 South Union. While Kill was speaking to these two witnesses, defendant walked by. Kill asked defendant to accompany him to the police station along with the other witnesses. Kill testified that because defendant was a juvenile, Kill drove to defendant's home at 5708 South Marshfield to inform his mother where they were going. Kill knocked on the door and a woman answered. Kill asked the woman if she was defendant's mother and she said she was. Kill told the woman that defendant had agreed to accompany him to Area Three to assist in the investigation of the murder of Anthony Phillips.

At the police station, the three witnesses were placed in separate interview rooms where they each gave statements about the Phillips homicide. Defendant was not handcuffed and was not advised of his rights under Miranda as he was not a suspect. Defendant was interviewed at approximately 6 a.m.. Defendant told Kill and Detective John Halloran (Halloran) that Lamont Lake had shot Phillips. Halloran then told all three witnesses that he and other police were leaving Area Three to pick up Lake, who lived at 5540 South Union. Halloran testified that he told the witnesses that they could go home but that they would have to return to the police station if Lake was picked up in order to view any lineup. All three witnesses agreed to wait in the police station for the detectives to return. Halloran returned at 3 p.m. with another witness to the Phillips shooting.

On the morning of the same day, Detective Stanley Turner received an anonymous telephone call telling him that a tall, young black man with a dark complexion named "Smokey" from 59th Street was responsible for the murder of Michael Engram. Engram had been shot to death on August 11 at 60th Street and Morgan. Around 4 p.m. Turner learned that an individual named "Smokey" from 59th and Union Streets was in the station assisting police with a different murder investigation. The detective then met with defendant, advised him of his Miranda rights and spoke to him for about 15 minutes. Defendant admitted that his nickname was "Smokey" and that he lived around 59th Street, but he denied any knowledge of the Engram murder. During the conversation defendant was not handcuffed and appeared relaxed and coherent. The detective testified that at that time he did not know defendant's age and did not attempt to contact his family because he was not in custody but was there as a witness.

At 6 p.m. on the same day, Detectives Kill and Kenneth Boudreau again spoke to defendant about the Phillips murder. After asking defendant and the other two witnesses if they would remain in the station in the event any suspects were found, the officers left the station. Detective Kill testified that at the time he was not aware that defendant's nickname was "Smokey" or that he was a suspect in the Engram murder. The detective denied treating defendant in an abusive manner and stated that defendant never asked to see a lawyer or his mother. He further testified that defendant appeared to have good presence of mind and answered all of his questions clearly.

At 7 p.m. Detective Halloran returned to the police station bringing food for the witnesses. While he was talking to Detectives Ball and Anderson, they told him that they had an eyewitness to the Engram murder and requested that defendant stand in a lineup. Halloran denied treating defendant in an abusive manner or having any contact with him regarding the Engram case. He testified that defendant appeared to have no difficulty understanding him and did not ask to speak to anyone.

At 8:30 p.m. defendant stood in a lineup and was positively identified as Engram's killer. Afterward, Detective Anderson spoke with defendant for the first time, advising him of his Miranda rights and that he could be tried as an adult for Engram's murder. After arresting defendant, Anderson asked defendant if he wanted to call his mother. The detective attempted to reach her but was unsuccessful. Then, after a 20-minute conversation with defendant, he notified a youth officer and the felony review unit of the State's Attorney's office. About 11:15 p.m. on August 19, youth officer Frank McCall, Detective Anderson and Assistant State's Attorney Marback spoke to defendant. McCall testified that he introduced himself to defendant and said he was a youth officer. McCall was present for all subsequent interviews. Marback introduced himself, explained that he was not defendant's lawyer and advised him of his Miranda rights and that he could be tried as an adult. After indicating that he understood his rights, defendant confessed to the Engram murder and agreed to give a handwritten statement. At 12:35 a.m. on August 20, Marback again advised defendant of his Miranda rights and then proceeded to write out defendant's statement in defendant's presence. At the Conclusion of the statement, defendant read out loud the Miranda portion of the statement as well as the first few lines of the statement. Marback read the rest of the statement out loud and defendant appeared to read along. Defendant made corrections to the statement, everyone present initialed the corrections and then defendant signed the statement. Afterward, defendant asked to add something to the statement which Marback transcribed. Everyone then signed the addition to the statement. Detective Anderson and Officer McCall both testified that during their conversation with defendant he appeared to understand their questions and his responses were appropriate. They also testified that defendant never indicated that he had been mistreated, struck or otherwise coerced into giving a statement.

Detective Anderson denied taking defendant's shoes and claiming that they matched prints found at the scene of the crime. Officer McCall did not ask defendant if he wanted to speak to a family member because he had been told by another officer that defendant's mother had been contacted. McCall testified that defendant had 12 prior contacts with the police.

At 3:50 a.m. on August 20, 1991, defendant gave a witness statement to Marback and Detective Halloran regarding the Phillips murder.

At one of the hearings on his motions, defendant testified that between 9 and 10 a.m. on August 18, 1991, two detectives took him to a police station where he was placed in a small room and handcuffed to a ring in the wall. His mother was not with him nor did he call her or any of his family members while he was there. He was living with his aunt at 57th and Marshfield at that time. He denied that Detective Kill took him to his mother's house before bringing him to the station. About six hours later, defendant was taken to the scene of Anthony Phillips' homicide. Later, he was returned to the police station, where he was given a hamburger. When he asked to go home or see his mother or a lawyer, Detective Kill laughed, hit him in the face, the stomach and in the side, pulled his hair and left the room. Another detective came to take his shoes and then claimed that the shoes matched the prints from the scene. Another officer told defendant he would get 40 years in prison, where he would be raped. After that, he never left the station prior to making his statements on August 20.

Defendant stated that he only made his statements because he was told that he could go home if he would do so and because he was tired and afraid. Defendant believed that he was in police custody from the time he entered the police station. On cross-examination, he admitted that he was not handcuffed when he spoke with Detective Foley regarding the Phillips case and that he never told him that he wanted to go home. He stated that he cooperated with the investigation because he and Phillips had been in the same gang. He testified that he agreed to go to the crime scene with Detective Kill. However, when they returned to the station from the crime scene, Detective Kill and another officer accused him of murdering Phillips. He testified that he was never advised of his rights by any of the police officers, but he did admit that the assistant State's Attorney gave him his rights ...

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