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People v. Murray

March 23, 2000


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice South

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Stuart E. Palmer, Judge Presiding.

Defendant, Jamie Murray, was convicted of first degree murder and attempted first degree murder and sentenced to an extended term of 70 years for murder and a consecutive sentence of 30 years for attempted murder for a total of 100 years.

This court affirmed the conviction and sentence in a published decision. People v. Murray, No. 1-97-3419 (September 16, 1999).

On February 28, 2000, the Illinois Supreme Court entered a supervisory order directing this court to vacate its judgment and reconsider the sentence in light of People v. Whitney, No. 85986 (October 21, 1999). Pursuant to that mandate, we hereby vacate the sentence in case No. 1-97-3419, and reconsider the matter pursuant to People v. Whitney.

The two issues on appeal are (1) whether the trial court erred in denying the motion to quash the arrest and suppress defendant's statement, and (2) whether defendant's consecutive sentence was based upon an improper factor and whether the aggregate sentence of 100 years constituted an abuse of discretion.

The evidence adduced at trial was that on July 10, 1994, at approximately 4:45 p.m., the victims, Eric Smith and Tierre Randle, were walking down an alley in the vicinity of 1351 North Lockwood Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, when an individual, later identified as defendant, ran up from behind them, firing several shots, striking and killing Eric and injuring Tierre. Defendant was arrested on a later date and identified in a lineup by two eye-witnesses to the shootings, Tierre Randle and Ellis Walker, Eric's grandfather.

Dr. Edmund Donoghue, chief medical examiner for the Cook County medical examiner's office, testified that the cause and manner of Eric Smith's death were multiple gunshot wounds. It was stipulated that Tierre Randle suffered a gunshot wound to the right foot with an open fracture to the right great toe proximal phalanx or big toe. He was treated and released within 2½ hours of the shooting.

Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion to quash the arrest and suppress his confession. At the hearing, there was a stipulation that defendant was arrested pursuant to an outstanding arrest warrant. The validity of that warrant has never been at issue. What is at issue is the validity of the traffic stop that ultimately led to the discovery of the outstanding warrant. The court did not permit any witnesses to testify, so an offer of proof was made by defense counsel: On January 26, 1995, at approximately 6:30 p.m., defendant was a rear-seat passenger in a vehicle being operated in the vicinity of 175th and Pulaski in the Village of Country Club Hills, Cook County, Illinois. At that time, a village police officer effectuated a traffic stop and asked the driver, Cleveland Fields, for his driver's license. While Mr. Fields was searching for his license, the police officer shined his flashlight into the interior of the car and saw what he believed to be the barrel of a revolver on the floor in front of the driver. He ordered all of the occupants, including defendant, out of the car and handcuffed them. Mr. Fields immediately told the officer that defendant did not know anything about the gun. The officer asked defendant his name, who replied "DeAndre Williams." A computer check on that name revealed that it was one of the aliases defendant used and that there was an outstanding arrest warrant for him out of Chicago. Defendant was transported to the Country Club Hills police department, and the Chicago police were notified. After the Chicago police officers arrived, defendant was "Mirandized," and interrogated. Subsequently, he gave an inculpatory statement regarding the Smith-Randle shootings.

On September 20, 1995, the driver of this vehicle, Mr. Fields, appeared before Judge Reginald Baker in the Sixth District (Markham) and filed a motion to quash his arrest and suppress the evidence, to wit, the revolver. After hearing evidence, Judge Baker granted the motion, stating:

"According to the defendant he was driving down 175th Street obeying all traffic laws. The police pulled him over. He couldn't produce a driver's license, and the police went in and started summarily searching his car, and produced a weapon.

According to the police officer, the police officer pulled out of the police station, observed the defendant commit traffic violations, and then pulled him over for traffic violations in an unmarked unit, and then saw a gun extended from underneath the seat in plain view.

The matter does come down to credibility, because the testimony is diametrically opposed. The Court does find the officer credible. On the other hand, the Court does find the defendant credible. Also the Court would be engaging in a guessing game as to what occurred on January 26, 1995.

It is not customary for unmarked police cars to pull over traffic violators unless there is an egregious violation like a D.U.I. or something like that. But minor traffic violations are generally not customary unless there is other criminal activity afoot. The Court does not know what happened on that particular day. I do not find the officer incredible, but I do not find the defendant incredible either, and the Court would be engaging in a guessing game.

In light of all of that, the Court will give the defendant the benefit of the doubt and motion to suppress ...

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