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People v. Kruger

January 29, 2002


Appeal from Circuit Court of Vermilion County No. 99CF357 Honorable Claudia S. Anderson, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cook


The State appeals from an order of the trial court granting the motion in limine of defendant, Joshua W. Kruger, to exclude from evidence the results of a test performed on blood found on an automobile door handle, which item the trial court had earlier suppressed. After tendering a notice of appeal, the State declined to participate in further proceedings in the trial court, which then granted defendant's motion for a directed verdict and entered a judgment of not guilty on all charges. We reverse in part, vacate in part, and remand for a trial.


In August 1999, defendant was indicted on seven counts of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (a)(3) (West 1998)) based on the July 1999 death of Peter Godels, as well as two counts of home invasion (720 ILCS 5/12-11(a)(2) (West 1998)), two counts of residential burglary (720 ILCS 5/19-3(a) (West 1998)), and one count of attempt (robbery) (720 ILCS 5/8-4(a), 18-1(a) (West 1998)).

In July 1999, the Vermilion County sheriff's department obtained statements from Barbara Johnson and Jeff Holmes that implicated defendant in Godels' murder. According to Johnson and Holmes, defendant planned to rob Godels with them, and they drove by Godels' residence two days before the murder but "chickened out." Johnson told police that defendant said that he still wanted to do it. Holmes told police that defendant later admitted the crime and stated that he had to "whack the dog." That Godels' dog had been beaten was not publicly known at the time of Holmes' statement.

For purposes of obtaining a search warrant, two investigators went to an apartment building to determine the number of defendant's unit and locate defendant's vehicle. When defendant arrived and parked his car, the investigators pulled ahead of defendant's vehicle and exited at the same time as defendant. The investigators approached defendant and noticed bullets and a handgun inside defendant's vehicle. After the investigators arrested defendant, they called for a tow truck, which removed defendant's vehicle to a secure location.

Later that same day, police obtained a search warrant for the vehicle commanding that the vehicle be searched and that the following items be seized: "clothing belonging to [defendant], clothing bearing evidence of bloodstains, shoes, crowbar, ski mask, and gloves, any bludgeon, tire iron, or object capable of causing the blunt force trauma to the victim or other items which constitute evidence of the offense of [m]urder."

In August 1999, an Illinois State Police crime scene technician searched the vehicle and seized various clothing articles, a chrome casing from the front passenger door, a steering wheel cover, and a door strap and an ash tray from the right rear passenger door. The technician also took various tapings for fingerprint identification and a swabbing of a stain on the bottom of the steering column.

In October 1999, an Illinois State Police forensic scientist tested blood from a stain on the chrome casing. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) from the sample was amplified using polymerase chain reaction, and it matched Godels' DNA profile.

On July 19, 2000, defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence seized as beyond the scope of the warrant. The motion was called for hearing on July 26, 2000, and the State's Attorney asked to recess the evidentiary portion of the hearing on the suppression motion because the crime scene technician was not available to testify at that time. The trial court set the next hearing on August 21, 2000, which hearing was later rescheduled for 1 p.m. on August 28, 2000.

On August 28, 2000, but prior to the hearing, the trial court entered a written order granting in part defendant's motion to suppress. The trial court excluded the tapings and fingerprint evidence because they were not in plain view nor were they described in the warrant. The trial court apparently concluded that the tapings and fingerprint evidence were not listed among the items to be seized, without noting that the warrant also provided for a search of the vehicle. However, the trial court determined that any bloodstains obtained from the swab were admissible, as were "any items taken from the vehicle which were in plain view." That afternoon, defense counsel orally requested the trial court to clarify whether it had suppressed items "physically removed from the vehicle," namely, the steering wheel cover, the chrome casing, the door strap, and the ashtray. The trial court responded, "Right. Not plain view." The State did not appeal the August 28, 2000, order.

On October 31, 2000, defendant filed a sixth motion in limine, seeking to bar the State from mentioning or eliciting any testimony regarding the DNA test that matched blood found on the chrome casing with Godels' DNA. Defendant's motion contended that the blood evidence was inadmissible for the same reason as the chrome casing and was "nothing more than '[f]ruits of the poisonous tree' (evidence found from anything illegally seized)."

On November 1, 2000, the trial court called the case for trial and held a hearing on pretrial motions that morning. During brief argument on the sixth motion in limine, defense counsel contended that the chrome casing was suppressed and that the defense should be allowed to rely on that ruling. The State's Attorney responded that he did not understand that the court was suppressing the chrome casing and requested the trial court to reconsider its ruling. He represented that the crime scene technician had to remove the chrome casing because it could not be swabbed for blood. The State's Attorney argued that the chrome casing was within the scope of the warrant and that the police had probable cause to search without a warrant. The trial court denied the State's oral motion to reconsider and granted defendant's sixth motion in limine. Although the trial court had previously determined that any bloodstains obtained from swabbing were admissible, the court ...

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