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People v. Smith

August 28, 2002

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
LAMONT SMITH, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Robert Bertucci, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cerda

UNPUBLISHED

Defendant, Lamont Smith, appeals after a jury verdict finding him guilty of first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery. The arguments that we address are that (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence on the basis that there was no probable cause to arrest him without a warrant; (2) the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his confession on the basis that it was not voluntarily made; (3) defendant was denied a fair trial by the admission into evidence of incriminating grand jury testimony of a person who was deceased at the time of trial; (4) defendant was denied a fair trial by gruesome photographs of the murder victim and the murder scene; and (5) defendant was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

BACKGROUND

Defendant was charged with attempted armed robbery and the first- degree murder of Annie Hamler occurring on January 20, 1997.

Defendant filed a motion to quash arrest and to suppress evidence, arguing that his arrest was made without a warrant or probable cause.

At the hearing on the motion, Chicago police detective Alfonso Bautista testified that at about 4 a.m. on December 8, 1997, defendant was arrested for criminal trespass to a vehicle. After he was released, he was arrested again, for the murder of Hamler, around 8 or 8:30 a.m. of the same day, pursuant to a stop order. There was no warrant for defendant.

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The trial court denied the motion to quash arrest, finding that there was probable cause to arrest defendant.

Defendant also filed a motion to suppress his statements. He argued that he was not informed of his rights, that his statement was not made voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently, that he was physically and psychologically coerced, and that he had elected to consult with an attorney prior to further questioning.

At the hearing on the motion to suppress, Detective Bautista and his partner, Detective Paul Lopez, testified about defendant's interrogation. Defendant did not testify.

At 9 a.m. on December 8, 1997, Detectives Bautista and Lopez met defendant at the police station. When they entered the room, defendant was handcuffed to a ring on the wall. Defendant was unhandcuffed, the detectives introduced themselves, and Detective Lopez read defendant his Miranda rights. Defendant said he understood those rights and wished to speak to them. Both detectives questioned defendant for 20 to 30 minutes. When they left, defendant was not handcuffed. The detectives spoke to defendant again that day at 5 or 6 p.m. They readvised defendant of his rights. They talked to defendant about taking a polygraph. The interview lasted half an hour.

On December 9, the detectives spoke to defendant for half an hour around 9:30 or 10 a.m. Defendant was again advised of his rights. Around 5 or 6 p.m., the detectives interrogated defendant for about 30 minutes, and defendant denied involvement and agreed to take a polygraph. They transported defendant to another location for a polygraph at 6 p.m. Defendant was handcuffed in the car on the away to the exam. The polygraph questioning lasted 40 minutes. Defendant was transported back to the police station. They questioned defendant for 1½ to 2 hours beginning at 7:30 p.m. Defendant was readvised of his rights. Defendant was not handcuffed. Defendant was told that he did not pass the polygraph.

Detectives Lopez and Bautista spoke to defendant at 10 a.m. on December 10 for 20 minutes. Defendant was again advised of his rights. Defendant said he did not want to talk to them and that he was afraid. The detectives left about 10:20 a.m.

At about 10:20 or 10:40 p.m. on December 10, Detective Lopez had another conversation with defendant. During that questioning, defendant admitted for the first time that he participated in the crime. At about midnight, Assistant State's Attorney Steve Klaczynski arrived and questioned defendant for 20 minutes, again advising defendant of his rights. Defendant admitted to the assistant State's Attorney that he was involved. Defendant said he wanted to think more about whether to give a statement, and the assistant State's Attorney left the room. Detective Lopez remained, talking with defendant for 60 or 90 minutes. Detective Lopez called the assistant State's Attorney back into the room, and defendant repeated his statement. The questioning lasted 30 to 40 minutes, ending about 12:30 or 12:45 a.m.

At 1 a.m. on December 11, the detectives had a discussion with defendant and drove defendant, who was handcuffed, out to Harvey, where defendant pointed out a house where the third offender lived. They did not find the other man. At 3 a.m., defendant was taken back to the police station. Detective Lopez interviewed defendant again, in the presence of the assistant State's Attorney who readvised defendant of his rights. Defendant said he understood his rights. The questioning lasted 45 to 60 minutes. Defendant again admitted being involved in the case, but defendant said that he did not want to give a written statement.

Defendant was brought to a courtroom at noon on December 12. The detectives denied that they psychologically or physically coerced defendant. They also denied that defendant ever said he wanted to talk to a lawyer.

The room in which defendant was interviewed was either 8 by 10 feet or 12 by 10 feet and contained a bench, a table, and some chairs. There was no bed, couch, clock, or windows. During his custody, defendant was given food, drinks, and cigarettes and was allowed to use the bathroom on request. Defendant was not handcuffed during any of the interrogations.

The motion to suppress was denied.

Prior to trial, the State filed a motion to present to the jury statements made before a grand jury by witness Jessie Hodges, who had since died. Hodges had testified that defendant had admitted his involvement in the murder. The trial court granted the State's motion. Hodges' statements were read to the jury.

Lakisha Hamler testified at the trial that the victim was her aunt. The victim lived in her apartment at 111 N. Wood Street with four children and a boyfriend, who was involved in selling drugs with someone named "Sco."

Hamler further testified that, on the morning of January 20, 1997, someone knocked on the door of the victim's apartment, identifying himself as "Tonio." The victim opened the door, and someone struggled with her, trying to pull her into the hallway. The person held the victim in a choke hold, asking where the "stuff" was. She could not tell how old the person was because it was dark in the hallway. He wore a black, hooded sweater and black pants. The man turned her aunt around, and another man came from around the corner and shot her aunt in the face. She did not get a chance to see the man with the gun, but she saw that he was wearing black, including a black baseball cap.

Hamler further testified that later that day she viewed a photo array. She identified the photo of Desmond Hampton as the person who struggled with her aunt before she was shot. Later that day, she also observed a lineup with five people. She again identified Hampton. She again looked at a lineup on December 11, 1997. Defendant was in the lineup, but she was not able to identify him as being involved. She initially was positive of her identification of Hampton but later told the police she was wrong.

Detective Paul Lopez testified that Lakima, Lakisha, and Monique Hamler identified Hampton as the man struggling with their aunt.

Sebrina Brown testified that she was one of the three offenders involved in this case. On November 17, 1997, she was interviewed by the police. The State agreed to dismiss three murder counts in exchange for her testimony. She pled guilty to attempted armed robbery. The State would recommend that she be sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment.

Brown further testified that on January 18, 1997, she was with Jerry Dixon, when a man approached Dixon asking if he wanted to buy a shotgun. Dixon bought the gun, which he asked her to keep until the morning. Dixon did not come the next day to retrieve the gun.

Brown further testified that on January 20, 1997, defendant came to her home. Defendant asked if he could use the gun in a robbery. They agreed to rob someone of drugs or money.

Brown further testified that they went outside to a car where someone she did not know was sitting. The man was light skinned and had a tear-drop tattoo on the left side of his face. They drove to 111 N. Wood Street. After they arrived, defendant grabbed the gun and told her that he was planning to take "some packs that old girl is holding for Sco." By "packs," he meant drugs. "Sco" was the drug dealer in the neighborhood. The other man took the gun away from defendant when the two men got out of the car; she remained in the car.

Brown further testified that, when defendant and the other man returned from the building, defendant told the other man that he thought that the other man had shot "old girl." Defendant described the victim to her, and she told defendant that the victim was "Nook," which was Annie Hamler's nickname. They drove to Harvey. Later, she went home, and she dropped the gun into the incinerator.

Brown further testified that in June 1997 she spoke to her boyfriend, Jesse Hodges, about the incident. They had been boyfriend and girlfriend about 1½ years. However, at the end of 1996 until the beginning of 1997, she was defendant's girlfriend. She stayed friends with defendant.

Johnny Patterson testified that, on the morning of the day of the murder, he was in the parking lot near 140 N. Wood Street. He saw defendant, who said he was planning to rob "Sco people." Defendant took off in a burgundy car driven by a light-skinned black man wearing a dark leather jacket. The other man had a teardrop tattoo on his "left side." Defendant was wearing a black jacket and a skullcap. Patterson testified about his prior convictions.

Chiao Viscardi, a former assistant State's Attorney, testified that she met with Hodges about this case on December 12, 1997, while he was in custody. After the interview, she presented him to a grand jury, where he testified under oath. She was the only lawyer who asked questions; no lawyer cross-examined Hodges.

The grand jury transcript was published to the jury. Hodges testified that no one had made any threats or promises to him. He was in the Gangster Stone gang while defendant was a member of the Four Corner Hustlers gang. Defendant went out with Brown before Hodges did. ...


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