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People v. Ball

April 17, 2001


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McBRIDE.

Opinion of March 20, 2001, withdrawn.

Not Released For Publication

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Loretta Hall Morgan and Mary Ellen Coghlan, Judges Presiding.

Following a bench trial, defendant Andrew Ball was found guilty of first degree murder and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Defendant now appeals, contending that the circuit court erred in denying his pretrial motions to suppress statements and to quash arrest, and applied an incorrect standard in deciding his motion to quash arrest. Defendant also maintains that the mittimus should be corrected to reflect an additional two days of credit for time served in pretrial custody.

One-year-old Jasmine Williams died on July 15, 1995. An autopsy was performed the following morning. The autopsy revealed that the victim had extensive internal injuries. Her liver had been torn in two, her adrenal gland had been torn, and there were contusions or hemorrhages of the soft tissue around the kidney. There was also internal bruising on the victim's head. The medical examiner found the injuries were consistent with someone punching the victim in the stomach in a violent manner with "a lot of force." It was determined that the victim had died as a result of internal bleeding caused by the blunt trauma.

20-year-old Takesha Williams was the victim's mother and defendant's girlfriend. Defendant, who was 15 years old at the time of the murder, was not the victim's father. After learning from the autopsy that the victim had sustained her injuries sometime in the 24 hours preceding the autopsy, the police contacted Takesha's aunt and asked that Takesha come down to the police station at 8 p.m. on July 16. The police did not request that defendant come to the police station. Takesha, however, wanted defendant to accompany her and he eventually agreed to do so. At 4:30 a.m. on July 17, defendant was arrested for first degree murder after making incriminating statements to police.

Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence and a motion to suppress statements. Hearings were held on the motions and the motions were denied. A bench trial was then held and defendant was found guilty of first degree murder.

The evidence presented at the hearings on defendant's pretrial motions and at trial established the following.

Chicago police detective Greg Pittatsis testified that on July 16, 1995, defendant and Takesha Williams came into the police station at approximately 8 p.m. Pittatsis did not ask defendant to come to the police station. Pittatsis stated that, upon arriving at the station, defendant and the others were placed in a conference room. Defendant and Takesha were then separated so they could be interviewed. Between 8 p.m. and 4:30 a.m., defendant was moved between the conference room and a "regular office" in the violent crimes area of the station. Detective Pittatsis spoke with defendant six times during that time period. He also spoke separately with Takesha six times during that same period. According to Pittatsis, Takesha told him that she had spanked the victim approximately seven times on the arm and five times on the leg in quick succession and that when the victim continued to cry, Takesha took the victim by the arms, shook her and yelled "shut up" approximately five times. Takesha was then arrested at approximately 11:30 p.m.

Detective Pittatsis testified that his first interview with defendant lasted approximately one hour and his second interview lasted approximately 30 minutes. According to Pittatsis, Assistant State's Attorney (ASA) Susan Miller arrived at about 11:40 that evening, following the arrest of Takesha, and was present for all but the first two interviews with defendant. At about 4:30 a.m. on July 17, ASA Miller was about to take a statement from defendant as a witness when defendant asked what was happening with Takesha. When he was advised that she was under arrest for murder, defendant responded that he now wanted to tell the truth about what had happened. At that time, Pittatsis testified, questioning was stopped and he left the office to call defendant's mother. Detective Pittatsis reached defendant's mother by telephone but she declined to come down to the station. Pittatsis then requested a youth officer. Shortly before 5 a.m., youth officer McCluskey arrived. After being told defendant's mother would not come to the station, youth officer McCluskey called her himself and was told that she would not come to the station. Pittatsis, McCluskey, Miller, and Pittatsis' partner, Detective Schorsch, then spoke with defendant, who was not handcuffed. Miller orally advised defendant of his Miranda rights. Miller advised defendant that due to the type of crime he was involved in he could be charged and tried as an adult. Defendant indicated he understood and then proceeded to give an oral statement confessing to striking the victim with his fist a number of times because she would not stop crying. That statement was subsequently reduced to writing and signed by defendant.

According to Detective Pittatsis, defendant was treated as a witness rather than a suspect until 4:30 a.m. when he made incriminating statements. Defendant was not handcuffed at any time and was always in unlocked rooms. Defendant never asked to use the telephone. Detective Pittatsis knew that defendant was 15 years old but did not ask defendant if he wanted to call his mother. Pittatsis testified that defendant was not offered food or drink because he was being interviewed as a witness and witnesses were not offered such things. According to Pittatsis, defendant was free to leave at any time prior to making his incriminating remarks at 4:30 a.m. Pittatsis never informed defendant that he was free to leave because defendant was there voluntarily. Pittatsis acknowledged that, sometime during the evening, he asked defendant if he would be willing to take a lie detector test to verify the information that he was giving about Takesha.

ASA Miller testified that on July 16, 1995, at around 11:30 p.m., she responded to a call from the area three detective division. After speaking with Detectives Schorsch and Pittatsis, she spoke with Takesha and defendant separately. She was informed that defendant was being treated as a witness. Although Miller was unable to recall the length of her first conversation with defendant, she testified that her second conversation with defendant lasted only 15 to 20 minutes. Miller spoke with defendant three times as a witness from the time of her arrival until about 4:30 a.m. At about 4:30 a.m., she was preparing to take a handwritten witness statement from defendant when she and the detectives noticed some inconsistencies between defendant's statement and the statement of Takesha and began to question defendant about those inconsistencies. Defendant asked what was going on with Takesha and was told that she had been arrested for murder. Defendant then stated that Takesha "wasn't the one" and that he wanted to tell the truth. At that point Miller and the detectives terminated the interview.

Youth officer McCluskey then arrived. When asked whether McCluskey had an opportunity to speak with defendant outside her presence, Miller responded "I don't recall. I left him in the room with him. I don't recall." Shortly after 5 a.m., Miller, the detectives and youth officer McCluskey went back in to talk to defendant. Miller advised defendant of his Miranda rights and told him that, even though he was a juvenile, he could be tried and sentenced as an adult for this crime. Defendant indicated to her that he understood his rights. After giving an oral statement, defendant chose to give a handwritten statement. Miller wrote out the statement in the presence of defendant. Defendant indicated to Miller that he had been treated "fine" by the police. Miller testified that she had offered defendant food and drink throughout the night and that he had not wanted anything. Miller had defendant read the first typed paragraph out loud to confirm that he understood how to read and write English. She then read the remainder of the statement to him out loud. Miller made any changes requested by defendant and defendant then signed each page of the statement. According to Miller, defendant was able to respond appropriately to her questions, never indicated he did not understand what she was saying or talking about, and gave intelligent answers to her questions that she was able to understand.

Dr. Michael Rabin testified on behalf of defendant at the hearing on the motion to suppress statements as an expert in the field of forensic psychology. Dr. Rabin had interviewed defendant in October 1996 to determine his IQ, reading ability, and ability to understand and waive his Miranda rights. Defendant had a verbal IQ score of 66, a performance score of 77, and a full scale IQ score of 69. The score of 69 placed defendant in the bottom 2% of the population in terms of intelligence. Dr. Rabin did not believe that defendant would have been able to understand written Miranda warnings because he was in the bottom 1% of the population in terms of reading comprehension. Defendant scored in the average range for verbal comprehension. Dr. Rabin believed that defendant appeared to be average in intelligence but had a borderline intelligence score due to his poor vocabulary and poor educational background. Defendant scored poorly on tests influenced by education, information, and vocabulary, and scored best on tests that focused on practical knowledge, social judgment, and reasoning. On cross-examination, Dr. Rabin testified that he had reviewed a report prepared by a social worker employed in his office that detailed an interview with defendant's mother. The report stated that defendant's mother believed defendant was able to waive his Miranda rights. Dr. Rabin also testified on cross-examination that he ultimately concluded defendant was competent to waive his Miranda rights and was fit to stand trial.

Laura Ball testified that she was defendant's mother. According to Ball, she received a telephone call at approximately 4:45 a.m. on July 17, in which a police officer told her that defendant had confessed to murdering the victim. The officer who called her did not ask her to come down to the police station. Ball subsequently called the police station back and was told that defendant was going to be transferred out of the station and would not be there if she came down. Ms. Ball did not recall telling a social worker in Dr. Rabin's office that she believed defendant was able to understand and waive his Miranda warnings.

Defendant testified that he had accompanied Takesha and two other women to the police station on July 16. They arrived at 7:30 or 8 p.m. After meeting Detective Pittatsis, they were seated in a conference room for about 30 minutes. Defendant asked to use the bathroom and was escorted to the bathroom. He was then escorted to a room that contained nothing but two chairs. He sat by himself for awhile and then tried the door and found it locked. After 30 to 45 minutes, he was brought back to the conference room where he spoke with two detectives. After speaking with detectives, he was brought back to the room with the two chairs and waited for about 30 or 45 more minutes. The pattern then repeated itself. He was brought back to the conference room and then back to the small room more times than he could count.

Defendant told the police that he had not touched the victim and that he had seen Takesha striking the victim.

Eventually, the officers questioning him began to "curse" at him and told him he was going to take a lie detector test. Defendant testified that the officers told him to "tell the f---ing truth" or they would beat him and to "tell the truth before they beat [him] like [he] beat that baby." At one point, defendant was lying on the floor by himself in a room because he was tired and detectives came in and began kicking him in the ribs. When he stood up, they began to hit him in the chest so he fell back down. Defendant acknowledged that he was never handcuffed while at the police station.

Defendant testified that when ASA Miller first questioned him, she did not identify herself as an assistant State's Attorney and he assumed she was with the police. According to defendant, ASA Miller was "cursing" at him along with the police detectives.

According to defendant, the detectives returned 30 minutes after they had been kicking and hitting him and told him they had something for him to sign and if he signed it he could go home. He was seated in a room with ASA Miller, who told him the same thing and showed him a statement that had already been written out. She also told him his mother was on her way. Defendant testified that he had also asked to call his mother about two hours after arriving at the station and was told by a detective that she had been called and was on her way. According to defendant, he asked ASA Miller to read the statement she was asking him to sign but she refused and told ...

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