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People v. Pitchford

May 30, 2000


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Gordon

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Daniel Weber, Judge Presiding.

The defendant, Shadrach Pitchford, was convicted of aggravated discharge of a firearm (720 ILCS 5/24-1.2(a)(2) (West 1992)), attempted first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/8-4, 5/9-1 (West 1992)) and first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1-A(2) (West 1992)). On appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress statements because the attorney who was retained for him was not present during his interrogation by the police and that the trial court abused its discretion by improperly limiting the impeachment of a key prosecution witness. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm.


The relevant events in this case grew out of the arrest of the defendant for the shooting death of Anthony Crothers. Before trial the defendant made a motion to suppress statements he made while in police custody, which was denied by the trial court. The defendant was tried before a jury and was represented by counsel. He was convicted of aggravated discharge of a firearm, attempted first degree murder and first degree murder.

At the pre-trial suppression hearing Gregory Moore testified that he is a police officer with the Bellwood Police Department. Moore averred that on October 10, 1993, he learned the identity of the defendant, who had not yet been arrested. The next day he received a call from Mary Jackson, who identified herself as an attorney for the defendant. Jackson advised Moore that she would bring the defendant into the police station to turn himself in the next day. However, neither Jackson nor the defendant arrived at the police station on October 12, 1993; consequently, officer Moore telephoned Jackson's office, but was unable to reach her. Jackson returned Moore's call later that day and stated that she could not locate the defendant, but that she would try to bring him into the station the next day. On October 13, 1993, Jackson again telephoned officer Moore to let him know that she did not know where the defendant was. Moore averred that during these conversations Jackson never asked him to call her immediately if the defendant was arrested, never told him not to question the defendant and never told him that she wanted to be present if the defendant was questioned. On October 14, 1993, defendant was arrested by an officer from the Forest Park police department, but was later taken into custody by Bellwood police. Officer Moore read the defendant his Miranda rights when he was taken into custody by Bellwood, and the defendant signed a Miranda waiver.

Marianne Jackson testified for the defense that she is an attorney licensed in the State of Illinois. She averred that before defendant was arrested, both defendant and his mother spoke to her and she became the defendant's attorney. On October 11, 1993, she spoke to an officer at the Bellwood Police Department and told that officer that she was the defendant's attorney and that she wanted to surrender the defendant. Jackson and the officer agreed on a place and time and she told the officer that although she was surrendering her client, she did not want him to be questioned. She gave the officer her name and telephone number. The next day Jackson again spoke with the officer to let him know that she would not be able to surrender her client that day and they agreed that she could surrender him the next day. The defendant failed to meet Jackson for the surrender on that day and she spoke with the Bellwood police officer again to inform him that the defendant did not show up. Jackson averred that the officer said that he would let her know when they picked up the defendant, but could not recall if she again instructed him not to question the defendant. Jackson stated that she never appeared at the Bellwood Police Department in connection with this matter.

Leroy Jacobs testified for the State that he was the Investigative Division Commander for the Bellwood Police Department on October 15, 1993. At about 1 o'clock in the morning Jacobs had investigator Blazina bring the defendant from the cell area into his office. Jacobs testified that while he had heard that an attorney had called before the defendant was arrested and offered to surrender the defendant, he had no knowledge that an attorney had been retained on the defendant's behalf, and he did not receive any telephone calls or other information indicating that a lawyer was at the station who wanted to see the defendant. Jacobs allowed the defendant to make a telephone call. Jacobs averred that he did not know whom the defendant called. *fn1 After making the call, the defendant told Jacobs that he would "tell [him] about it." Jacobs asked the defendant if he was going to say that he shot the man on 25th Avenue. The defendant said "yes" and Jacobs told him to wait, because he wanted him to talk to investigator Blazina. Jacobs then took the defendant to Blazina's office.

Richard Blazina testified for the State that he is a detective with the Bellwood Police Department. Blazina averred that during his shift from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. on the night of October 15, 1993, he did not receive any information that there was a lawyer at the station who wanted to see the defendant. He was aware that an attorney had called the station about surrendering the defendant. At around 1 a.m. he brought the defendant from his cell to Jacobs's office. Jacobs later brought the defendant into Blazina's office and told Blazina that he had admitted to shooting the victim.

Blazina further stated that the defendant agreed to talk to the State's Attorney. The assistant State's Attorney, Barbara Bailey, read the defendant his Miranda rights. The defendant indicated that he understood each right and that he wanted to talk to her. The defendant then made a statement implicating himself in the death of Anthony Crothers. Bailey wrote out the statement, which was then signed by the defendant, Bailey and Blazina. The statement included a Miranda waiver. The defendant's motion to suppress was denied and the case proceeded to trial on the merits.

At trial the State called Nathaniel Jefferson who testified that he lives with his girlfriend, that he has a conviction for possession of a controlled substance and that he was friends with Crothers, the deceased. He also averred that he had known the defendant for 17 or 18 years. On October 10, 1993, at around 4 o'clock in the morning he was with Crothers at the Amoco gas station at 25th Avenue and St. Charles. He went to the cashier to make a purchase, while Crothers was cleaning the trunk of their car. When Crothers yelled "Nathan, look out," Jefferson turned and saw a man who was wearing a hood, had a scarf over part of his face and was aiming two guns at him. The man's face was exposed from his nose up to his eyes and Jefferson recognized him as the defendant. The defendant then began shooting and Jefferson ran. When he returned to the gas station, Crothers had been shot and was lying in the alley. Jefferson was the State's only eyewitness to the murder of Crothers.

Jefferson also testified that he had recently sustained a head injury which causes him to have difficulty remembering things. He further averred that he uses heroin, but that he was not using heroin on October 10, 1993, because he had recently been released from the hospital and was on medication. He had used drugs prior to October 10, 1993, and answered "yes" when asked if he was "using drugs now." While Jefferson was not permitted to state the last time he had used drugs, he averred that he had not used drugs within six hours of 9 a.m. that morning, but that he had used drugs within the past 24 hours.

Debra Bobo testified for the defense that she lives with Nathaniel Jefferson and that she was living with him on the day he testified. The State made several objections to Bobo's testimony regarding Jefferson's drug use which the trial court sustained. The defense made an offer of proof, pursuant to which Bobo testified that Jefferson uses drugs "every day and all day." She further stated that when Jefferson is awake, a couple of hours usually passes between drug usages. On the morning of his testimony, Jefferson called Bobo and spoke to her before he testified. She determined from that conversation that he was under the influence of drugs.

The defendant was convicted of aggravated discharge of a firearm, attempted first degree murder and first degree murder. He was sentenced to 75 years in prison for murder, 60 years for attempted murder, and 30 years for ...

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