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People v. Jones

September 20, 2001

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



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Kilbride

Docket No. 90282-Agenda 40-May 2001.

This appeal arises from the second trial of defendant, Robert Jones, for the murder of Dr. Henry Dickerman. The State charged that defendant murdered Dr. Dickerman in August 1992. Following an initial jury trial and guilty verdict, defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court admitted statements made during plea negotiations that should have been excluded pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 402(f) (177 Ill. 2d R. 402(f)). The appellate court agreed and remanded for a new trial. People v. Jones, 4-96-0855 (1998) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).

On remand, the jury again found defendant guilty of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1 (West 2000)) and defendant appealed. With one justice dissenting, the appellate court affirmed. 315 Ill. App. 3d 500. Defendant now appeals to this court, arguing that (1) the trial court improperly ruled on a motion for substitution of judge; (2) the trial court failed to bar additional statements made during the course of plea negotiations; (3) the trial court erred by refusing to instruct the jury on involuntary manslaughter; (4) the State failed to prove a material element of the crime; (5) the trial court improperly allowed the State to amend the charges against him; and (6) his conviction should be overturned pursuant to Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 147 L. Ed. 2d 435, 120 S. Ct. 2348 (2000). We reverse and remand with respect to the first issue and therefore we need not address the others.

I. BACKGROUND

In July 1992, Dr. Dickerman hired defendant to repair and paint his house. Work on Dr. Dickerman's house continued into August. On August 12, 1992, when Dr. Dickerman failed to attend his weekly bridge game, his friends went to his house to check on him. Dr. Dickerman was not home. His friends noticed nothing unusual in the house except that his car was missing from the garage. The next day, they returned with Dr. Dickerman's cousin. Again, they searched the house to no avail. Police similarly searched the house and found no signs of forced entry or foul play.

Dr. Dickerman remained missing. Police eventually learned that several checks were missing from the doctor's checkbook. An ensuing investigation indicated that defendant had deposited several checks against Dr. Dickerman's account, including one for $4,200.

On September 5, 1992, hikers found Dr. Dickerman's partially decomposed body at the bottom of a cliff in Missouri. Dr. Dickerman's car was later located in St. Louis at the Lambert Airport's long-term parking lot.

Investigators searched for defendant and finally located him in October 1992. During the course of their investigation, law enforcement officers interviewed defendant a number of times, including on October 6, 1992, July 12, 1993, July 27, 1994, August 3, 1994, August 15, 1994, and August 16, 1994.

Defendant was eventually charged with forgery. He pleaded guilty and was imprisoned. The investigation into Dr. Dickerman's death continued.

In August 1994, the State charged defendant with murder. In August 1996, following an initial jury trial and guilty verdict, Judge Leo J. Zappa sentenced defendant to 85 years in prison. On appeal, defendant argued, inter alia, that the trial court erred in admitting his August 15, 1994, statements into evidence because it was made during the course of plea negotiations and therefore violated Supreme Court Rule 402(f) (177 Ill. 2d R. 402(f)). Defendant's August 15, 1994, statements stemmed from the July 27, 1994, interview, when 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. When detectives returned to meet with defendant on August 15, 1994, they 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 told defendant they could not negotiate a guilty plea, they indicated that they would relay the information to the State's Attorney's office. The appellate court concluded that defendant's two-page, handwritten, August 15, 1994, statement clearly demonstrated his willingness to plead guilty in exchange for concessions and was a plea-related statement inadmissible pursuant to Rule 402(f). People v. Jones, No. 4-96-0855 (1998) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). That decision is not at issue here.

On March 27, 1998, the State filed a notice of new trial before Judge Zappa. On March 30, 1998, defendant submitted a motion for automatic substitution of judge pursuant to section 114-5(a) of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Code) (725 ILCS 5/114-5(a) (West 1998)). Judge Zappa denied this motion as untimely. On April 8, 2001, defendant filed a motion for substitution for cause pursuant to section 114-5(d) of the Code (725 ILCS 5/114-5(d) (West 1998)), alleging in part that Judge Zappa displayed hostility toward him at the close of his initial trial. Rather than transferring defendant's motion to another judge, Judge Zappa denied it as untimely.

Defendant also filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the July 27, 1994, and August 16, 1994, interviews were inadmissible pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 402(f). The trial court denied defendant's motion, finding that defendant's failure to challenge the July 27, 1994, and August 16, 1994, interviews during his first appeal precluded a subsequent challenge on remand.

In June 1998, a jury again convicted defendant of first degree murder. The trial court sentenced him to 85 years in prison. The appellate ...


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