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People v. Jones

August 03, 2000

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ROBERT D. JONES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit court of Sangamon County No. 94CF451 Honorable Leo J. Zappa, Jr., Judge Presiding.

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

Defendant, Robert D. Jones, was charged with the first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1 (West 1992)) of Dr. Henry Dickerman, who disappeared from his home in Springfield on August 12, 1992. Defendant was convicted at a jury trial in August 1996, but this court reversed that judgment and remanded for a new trial. People v. Jones, No. 4-96-0855 (February 23, 1998) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). Following remand defendant was convicted of first degree murder at a jury trial in June 1998 and sentenced to 85 years in prison. Defendant appeals. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

Defendant had been doing some repairs and painting to Dickerman's home at the time Dickerman disappeared. After the disappearance, it was discovered that a number of Dickerman's checks were missing and that checks totaling $6,845 had been made out to defendant. Defendant eventually pleaded guilty to forging a $4,200 check and was sentenced to the Department of Corrections.

Defendant was interviewed a number of times: on October 6, 1992, by a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent; on July 12, 1993, by various Springfield detectives; on July 27, 1994, while in the Big Muddy Correctional Center, by Springfield detectives; on August 3, 1994, while in the Franklin County jail; on August 15, 1994, while in jail; and on August 16, 1994, when he was served with an arrest warrant for first degree murder.

In Jones, defendant argued that the trial court erred in admitting the August 15, 1994, statement into evidence because it was made during the course of plea negotiations, in violation of Supreme Court Rule 402(f) (134 Ill. 2d R. 402(f) ("[N]either the plea discussion nor any resulting agreement, plea, or judgment shall be admissible against the defendant in any criminal proceeding")). During the July 27, 1994, interview, defendant had asked the detectives to inform the State's Attorney that he would plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter in return for a 10-year sentence. In the August 15, 1994, interview, the detectives asked defendant to write out exactly what deal he would be willing to accept. Defendant wrote out a two-page statement setting forth the deal he would accept and that statement was ultimately read into evidence at trial. Although the investigators had told defendant they could not negotiate a guilty plea, they did say they would relay the information to the State's Attorney's office. We concluded that defendant's two-page handwritten statement clearly demonstrated his willingness to plead guilty in exchange for concessions and was a plea-related statement inadmissible pursuant to Rule 402(f).

In his present appeal, defendant argues that the trial court erred on remand when it admitted into evidence the July 27, 1994, and August 16, 1994, statements, which defendant asserts were also plea related. Defendant also argues that the court erred when it refused to reconsider its ruling in the first trial that the two statements were admissible.

A. The July 27, 1994, Interview

In July 1994, while defendant was serving his prison term for the forgery conviction, a detective told defendant's mother to tell defendant that if he thought his crime was less than first degree murder, he should speak with detectives. Defendant subsequently requested to meet with Springfield detectives regarding Dickerman's disappearance.

During the interview, defendant sought to make a deal, but the detectives advised him they did not have authority to negotiate a plea. Defendant asked the detectives to inform the State's Attorney that he would plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter in return for a 10-year sentence to run concurrently with his federal sentence. The detectives indicated they would take the message to the State's Attorney.

Defendant told the detectives he knew they did not have the murder weapon, even though he had not been previously advised that Dickerman's disappearance was being investigated as a murder. (Dickerman's decomposed remains had been found in September 1992, at the bottom of a 20- to 25-foot-high bluff in a fishing and hiking area southwest of St. Louis.) Defendant also inquired about the blood found in the bathroom even though he was never told blood was found there.

Defendant told the detectives that earlier in the week of August 11, 1992, Dickerman had discovered his forgeries. Both men agreed that defendant would do additional work around the house in return for Dickerman's not pressing charges. On August 11, 1992, after returning from purchasing supplies, defendant found Dickerman dead in his living room with a spot of blood on the top of his head. Defendant was unable to resuscitate Dickerman, so he left the house but returned later that evening to place the body on the couch.

B. The August 16, 1994, Interview

During an August 15, 1994, interview, defendant wrote out the deal he would be willing to accept, the two-page written statement we held was erroneously admitted in Jones. The next day, detectives returned and served defendant with an arrest warrant for first degree murder. A detective told him that if the crime was less than first degree murder it would behoove him to speak to the detectives and tell them what happened. Because defendant had earlier told the detectives he was guilty only of involuntary manslaughter and concealing a homicide, one of the detectives brought a copy of the Criminal Code of 1961 to show defendant the statutory definitions of the crimes and to specifically show him the elements of first degree murder. The detective had interviewed defendant on July 12, 1993, August 3, 1994, August 15, 1994, and August 16, 1994. ...


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