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People v. Brannon

November 08, 1999

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
DOUGLAS C. BRANNON, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Vermilion County No. 97CF372 Honorable John P. O'Rourke, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Garman

IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS

8 November 1999

In July 1997 the State indicted defendant, Douglas C. Brannon, on possession of more than 30 but less than 500 grams of cannabis with intent to deliver (720 ILCS 550/5(d) (West 1996)), possession of more than 30 but less than 500 grams of cannabis (720 ILCS 550/4(d) (West 1996)), and unlawful use of a weapon by a felon (720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a) (West 1996)). In November 1998, the trial court granted defendant's motion to suppress evidence and quash his arrest upon its finding that the evidence against defendant was obtained in an illegal search of his vehicle. The State brings this interlocutory appeal pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 604(a). 145 Ill. 2d R. 604(a).

I. BACKGROUND

In December 1996, police officer Rhonda Swisher, a member of the Vermilion County Metropolitan Enforcement Group (VMEG) picked up a Crimestoppers' report from the VMEG mailbox at the Danville police station. (Crimestoppers' reports are taken over the phone by a police officer who records the tip on a Crimestoppers' report form. Callers can remain anonymous but are assigned a number when they file a report. The Crimestoppers program allows for payment to tipsters under certain conditions; the report form contains a section where the recording officer indicates whether the informant is interested in a reward. In this case, the officer noted "yes" in that section.)

The Crimestoppers' report advised that Douglas Brannon, a convicted felon, had a gun and approximately one-half pound of cannabis in the trunk of his car. The report also contained the following details: Brannon lived in the 1300 block of Chandler; he was a white male with black hair, 5 feet 5 inches tall, and 130 pounds; he worked at Lowell's grocery store; and he drove a 1986 black and gray Chrysler LeBaron with a broken or missing rearview mirror.

After receiving the report, Swisher, who already knew of defendant, took several steps to corroborate the details of the report. She first ran a criminal history, and according to her testimony at the suppression hearing, it revealed that defendant had "three dangerous drug offenses arrests, three weapon offenses arrests, with one conviction for dangerous drugs." Swisher spoke with a colleague, Agent Mark Peyton, who told her that he had executed a search warrant at defendant's residence 10 months earlier and had recovered 40 grams of cannabis and a cannabis plant. Swisher also ran a Secretary of State Soundex, which revealed that Brannon lived at 1324 Chandler and owned a 1986 Chrysler four door. Swisher called Lowell's grocery store and verified that Brannon was an employee and would be starting a shift at 4 p.m. that day. She then parked outside Brannon's address and began surveillance.

At about 3:30 p.m., Swisher saw defendant pull out of his driveway. He was driving a gray and black car and the rearview mirror was missing. Swisher followed Brannon in her unmarked car and radioed for a marked unit to make a traffic stop. Over the radio she indicated the driver was "possibly on route with a handgun." Defendant was traveling a route one would logically take to Lowell's grocery store.

In the 1300 to 1400 block of Vermilion, Lieutenant Richard pulled defendant over. Swisher pulled up behind Richard's car; special agent Mark Peyton arrived in a separate unmarked vehicle; and Officers Moreman and Crippin also arrived in separate cars.

Swisher advised defendant that he was pulled over because the police had obtained information that he was carrying a gun and a half pound of marijuana in the trunk of his car. Testimony differed somewhat as to the details of the conversations that followed. Swisher testified that defendant told the officers all he had in the trunk were some coins and that defendant was nervous.

Peyton testified that defendant was extremely nervous, avoided his gaze, and moved around quite a bit. Peyton further testified that he asked defendant if he could search the trunk; defendant said he did not want him to search the trunk; Peyton then took the keys out of the ignition, opened the trunk, and discovered the cannabis and a semiautomatic handgun.

Defendant was arrested and, after a hearing in October 1998, the trial court granted defendant's motion to suppress the evidence and quash his arrest. The trial court made the following findings:

"1. That on December 3, 1996, the [d]efendant was stopped by Danville [p]olice [o]fficers on a city street ...


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