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People v. R.T.

May 16, 2000


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 95-JD-14939 The Honorable Christopher J. Donnelly, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Cousins

The respondent, a minor, was charged by petition with three counts of first degree murder for the fatal shooting of a Chicago police officer. The trial court denied a motion by the State to have the respondent tried as an adult. This court affirmed. In re R.T., No. 1-- 96--0519 (1996) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).

The respondent then filed a motion to suppress, which the trial court denied after a hearing. After a bench trial the respondent was adjudicated delinquent and committed to the Department of Corrections, Juvenile Division.

The respondent now appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in denying the motion to suppress. In a supplemental brief, the respondent also argues that he must be resentenced, because the statute under which he was sentenced (705 ILCS 405/5-33 (1996)), has been found to violate the Illinois Constitution.

We affirm.


Frank Mathews picked up R.T. at his house on the evening of September 15, 1995. Mathews was a past boyfriend of R.T.'s older sister, Kanika. Mathews showed R.T. a handgun that he had bought and then he placed it in the car. Later that night, as they were driving to the lake, they noticed that they were low on gas. R.T. suggested that they snatch a purse in order to get money for gas. R.T. saw a woman standing in the street by a black sport utility vehicle (SUV) talking to a man and another woman. The man was off-duty police officer James O'Connor. As they drove by, R.T. leaned out of the window and grabbed the woman's purse, knocking against her and breaking her ankle in the process. O'Connor got in the SUV and pursued them, flashing his lights and honking his horn. O'Connor then pulled alongside them. They could see that O'Connor had a gun and was telling them to pull over.

A few blocks later, the SUV passed them and stopped, blocking their way. O'Connor exited. Mathews put his hands up, keeping the handgun in his lap. R.T. ducked down because he thought there would be shooting. O'Connor said "Put your hands up!" Mathews shot O'Connor and started to drive away. O'Connor returned fire, hitting Mathews. The car went out of control, hit a fire hydrant and then crashed into a wall. Both O'Connor and Mathews died of their injuries. R.T. climbed out a window and ran away, but was apprehended a few blocks from the scene of the crash.

R.T. was charged by petition for delinquency with first degree murder under an accountability theory and also under a felony murder theory. The State moved to have him tried as an adult, but the trial court denied this motion. We affirmed the trial court's decision on appeal. In re R.T., No. 1--96--0519 (1996) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). Then R.T. filed a motion to suppress incriminating statements he had made. He argued that his statements should be suppressed because the police had not allowed his mother to see him before or during questioning and because he did not have the capacity to understand Miranda warnings.

At the hearing on the motion to suppress, Chicago police sergeant James McDonnell testified as follows. Around 3 a.m. on September 16, 1995, McDonnell was on patrol in a marked police car when he picked up a call about a traffic accident nearby. As he approached the scene of the crash, he saw R.T. coming out from behind a van. When R.T. saw the police car, he retreated back behind the van but reemerged in response to McDonnell's order. McDonnell saw that R.T. had numerous cuts on his face. R.T. explained that he had been in a traffic accident. McDonnell heard something on the police radio about someone being shot at the scene of the accident. He asked R.T. if he had been shot, and R.T. said that he had not but that the gun was in the car with his brother.

McDonnell then read R.T. his rights. After each right he asked R.T. if he understood and R.T. said "yes." At that point Chicago police officer Alex Horstein drove up. McDonnell asked Horstein to stay with R.T. and told him that paramedics were coming. Then he went to investigate the crash.

Horstein testified that he was summoned to the scene of the accident by Sergeant McDonnell. He heard McDonnell read R.T. his rights and R.T. say that he understood them. Shortly after McDonnell left, the paramedics arrived and began administering first aid to R.T.. While treating R.T.'s cuts, the paramedics asked him what had happened. Horstein heard R.T. say that they had been "doing some purses" to get some money and that the gun was in the car with his brother. The paramedics took R.T. to the hospital, and Horstein followed in his squad car.

Doctors treated R.T. in a curtained-off area. Horstein stood outside the curtain. Another officer came by and told Horstein that R.T. had shot and killed Officer O'Connor. Horstein then heard R.T. say "I didn't kill no policeman." Later, R.T. asked Horstein to come over to the bed and told him: "I didn't kill nobody. I didn't shoot no policeman. All we were here for, we did some robberies to get some money." Shortly thereafter another officer came and took over for Horstein.

Chicago fire department paramedic George Radka, one of the paramedics that treated R.T., testified that R.T. told him that "We have been robbing purses; they're shooting my car and hit the wall." Radka told a nearby police officer that someone might be chasing R.T. with a gun and he asked R.T. to repeat his statement to the officer. The officer listened but did not ask any ...

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