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People v. Armstrong

December 29, 2000

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
V.
MICHAEL ARMSTRONG,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 95 CR 33433 The Honorable Richard L. Samuels, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cousins

Defendant-appellant, Michael Armstrong, and Wardell McClain, who is not a party to this appeal, were each charged with first degree murder pursuant to sections 9-1(a)(1) and (a)(2) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 1998)), for the beating and burning of Richard Will. Armstrong was sentenced to 90 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. On appeal, defendant argues that: (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence; (2) counsel provided ineffective assistance of counsel by not moving to suppress statements under the fifth amendment (U.S. Const., amend. V); and (3) the trial court erred in sentencing him to an extended term of 90 years' imprisonment.

Prior to trial, Armstrong filed a motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence based upon a violation of his fourth amendment rights. The motion asserted that Armstrong was seized from his home without probable cause. The following facts were elicited at the hearing on that motion.

On October 18, 1995, at approximately 1 a.m., Officer Haynie of the Ford Heights police department stopped a vehicle and arrested the driver on an outstanding warrant. The vehicle's passenger, Richard Will, who was also the vehicle owner, was not allowed to drive his vehicle. Officer Haynie instructed Will to walk to a phone booth located approximately two blocks away to call someone to pick him up. Officer Haynie called for a tow truck and took the driver to the police station.

While at the station, Officer Haynie received a call that a man was being burned and beaten in the 1600 block of Berkley in Ford Heights. When Officer Haynie arrived, he observed that the victim was Will. The victim was lying in the street in the fetal position, he had been severely beaten, his hair was smoking, and there was a smoldering flame in his groin area.

At 8 a.m. on the same day, Officer Haynie told juvenile officer Donna Bankston that a man had been beaten and burned. At approximately 11 a.m., Officer Haynie was informed by Ford Heights police department dispatcher Sue Wright that there were numerous anonymous phone calls "stating that Michael Armstrong was involved in the burning of a white guy." Officer Bankston also received an anonymous phone call at approximately 2 p.m. on the 18th of October. She testified:

"The subject on the phone had stated that a MA was involved with the beating and burning of *** the white guy that was burnt up. *** He stated that MA was Michael Armstrong who lived at 1600 Greenwood." She stated that she did not recognize the voice of the caller.

Officer Haynie testified that on the morning of October 19, 1995, the Bloom Trail High School police liaison, Officer Haskins, called the police department and left a message that he wanted to see Officer Haynie. During their meeting, Officer Haskins told Officer Haynie that one of the students had come to him in confidence and told him that he spoke to "somebody else" who had spoken to "Stacy Pickens," who said that "Michael Armstrong did that shit." Officer Haynie then placed a phone call to Officer Bankston to have her locate Armstrong. Officer Bankston told Officer Haynie that Armstrong was already at the station.

In fact, on the morning of October 19, Officer Bankston went to the home of Armstrong. When Armstrong answered the door, Bankston asked him if his grandmother was at home and he responded that she was. Officer Bankston testified that defendant "called upstairs for his grandmother to come down, and she yelled down, she asked who was it, and he said it's Lady Red, which is me, Officer Bankston." Officer Bankston also testified:

"I stated to her that I needed to talk to Michael and that I needed to bring him to the station to talk to me.

She stated okay, it would be no problem as long as she knew he was with me. I told her I would bring him right back, I just needed to talk to him, and if anything occurred that I would give her a phone call.

***

I told her I was taking him to the Ford Heights Police Department."

Armstrong's grandmother testified at the suppression hearing, stating that "when I seen her they was getting in the car, the police car," and she denied ever speaking to Officer Bankston. Officer Bankston transported Armstrong to the police department in a marked police car. He was not handcuffed and was seated in the front seat of the police car.

Officer Bankston further testified that she and Armstrong entered the station through the front doors. At the police station, Officer Bankston read Armstrong his Miranda rights and his juvenile rights from preprinted forms. When Officer Haynie returned to the police station on October 19, he spoke with dispatcher Wright, who related that she received more anonymous calls stating that Michael Armstrong was involved in the burning. The record indicates that Armstrong was interviewed by Officer Bankston in a open lounge at the police station. Officer Bankston asked Armstrong if he knew anything about the beating and burning of the victim. Armstrong told her, and later Officer Haynie and the assistant State's Attorney, about his involvement in the beating and burning of Will. Armstrong relayed the following account:

"After midnight on October 18th, 1995, me and my friends went over to 16th and Berkely in Ford Heights which we called Vietnam. I was with Michael Evans, Wardell McClain, Lewis McDonald, Marvin Drummond, Keith Clinton and a guy named Marquis.

When we got to the corner, we saw this white guy running toward us from the Bronx which is near 17th and Ellis. We yelled at him freeze, we the police. Me and Mike grabbed the white guy out of the bushes and me and my friends jumped him.

We all punched and kicked him in his face and body. *** Wardell lit the guy's hair on fire with a lighter. Then Marvin poured some lighter fluid from a plastic bottle onto the white guy's body. Mike helped Wardell light the guy on fire again.

Before when Wardell lit the guy's hair on fire, we let the fire rise on the guy's head a little and everyone got a laugh out of it. Then I stomped the guy's head with my shoe and put the fire out. Then Mike and Wardell lit the guy up again while he was on the ground getting stomped.

I knew they were gonna kill the guy when they did that again.

I left with Keith and we went to my house. All the other guys met up with us there except for Mike. Mike showed up later. I learned later from my grandmother that the guy died."

Officer Bankston then told Armstrong that he was under arrest. At the time of his arrest, Armstrong was 16-years-old and resided in Ford Heights, Illinois, with his grandmother, Patsy Armstrong, his guardian. He was in the ninth grade and was receiving "special education."

The trial court denied Armstrong's motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence. Subsequently, the court found Armstrong guilty of two counts of first degree murder. He was sentenced to an extended term of 90 years' imprisonment for the murder.

As the reviewing court, we are asked to review several issues upon appeal. Armstrong first contends that his statements and fingerprinting should have been suppressed as the "fruits of an ...


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