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People v. State

November 8, 2002

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MARY BRAGGS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Stanley Sacks, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Quinn

Defendant, Mary Braggs, was charged by indictment with two counts of first degree murder for the deaths of Connie Hall and Donald Rudolph. The initial trial court refused to conduct a hearing on defendant's motion to suppress statements. The trial court subsequently found defendant unfit to stand trial and a discharge hearing was held. At that hearing, the trial court found that the evidence was sufficient to establish defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and remanded defendant to the Department of Mental Health and Development Disabilities (Department of Mental Health) for a period of five years.

On appeal, this court held that the trial court erred when it refused to conduct a hearing on defendant's motion to suppress and directed the trial court to conduct a hearing on remand. People v. Braggs, 302 Ill. App. 3d 602 (1998). This court additionally held that the evidence was sufficient to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for purposes of the discharge hearing.

On remand, the trial court conducted a hearing on defendant's motion to suppress and, in finding that defendant was not mentally competent to waive her Miranda rights, granted defendant's motion with respect to the statements made to the assistant State's Attorney following defendant's arrest. The trial court did not suppress defendant's statement made to detectives shortly after she arrived at the police station. The trial court held that a new discharge hearing was not necessary and reinstated the original order committing defendant to the Department of Mental Health. Defendant now appeals.

On appeal, defendant argues that the trial court improperly denied her motion to suppress in that her statements were not voluntary. Defendant additionally argues that the trial court erred in refusing to hold a new discharge hearing.

For the following reasons, we reverse and remand.

I. BACKGROUND

On July 23, 1993, defendant was indicted on two counts of first degree murder. On June 20, 1996, the initial trial court, after refusing to conduct a hearing on defendant's motion to suppress statements, found defendant unfit to stand trial. The trial court found that defendant, in all probability, would remain unfit indefinitely in light of her mental retardation. The trial court subsequently held a discharge hearing pursuant to Section 104-25 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (725 ILCS 5/104-25 (West 1996)). At that hearing, a Chicago police detective testified that on July 25, 1993, after he advised defendant of her Miranda warnings, defendant told him that she and Connie Hall were in an apartment together on April 28, 1993, when Donald Rudolph returned. Rudolph was drunk and struck both defendant and Hall. Defendant then knocked Rudolph down and he struck his head. Hall became upset, accusing defendant of killing Rudolph, and defendant then stabbed Hall a number of times in her upper body. The trial court found this evidence sufficient to establish defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Defendant was remanded to the Department of Mental Health for a period of five years.

Defendant appealed. On appeal, we remanded the matter for a hearing on defendant's motion to suppress, holding that the trial court erred in refusing to conduct the hearing. Braggs, 302 Ill. App. 3d at 606. We also held that the evidence introduced against defendant, when viewed in its aspect most favorable to the State, was sufficient to establish her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for purposes of the discharge hearing.

On remand, the following evidence was introduced at the hearing on the motion to suppress statements. Chicago police detective Edward Winstead testified that he was assigned to investigate the deaths of Donald Rudolph and Connie Hall. The victims' bodies were both found in a first-floor apartment located on South Prairie Avenue in Chicago on April 28, 1993. Hall died as a result of multiple stab wounds. Rudolph died as a result of strangulation. During the course of the investigation, Winstead began looking for defendant. On May 7, 1993, Survilla Cameron, defendant's sister and guardian, contacted Winstead and informed him that defendant lived with her. Winstead transported defendant and Cameron to Area One and questioned her. Cameron informed Winstead that defendant was mentally incompetent. Defendant was not advised of her Miranda rights. Winstead testified he had difficulty communicating with defendant, that "sometimes she wouldn't answer" questions, and that she was "very slow in answering."

Winstead testified that, in summary, defendant told him that she was in the apartment when two black males came to the door. Defendant heard an argument and hid in the closet. When she came out, defendant saw Hall dead in the bedroom. Defendant said Hall had been stabbed and was wearing white. Defendant said Rudolph was in the front room and that he had been hit in the head with a wrench and had been strangled to death. Winstead testified that defendant's description was "very accurate as to how the victims died and where they were found." Winstead then took defendant and Cameron home.

On the morning of May 9, Winstead questioned defendant at Cameron's apartment with Cameron present. Defendant said that one of the men was named Ron and that he was a friend of Cleo's. Defendant described the other man as a tall black male. Winstead testified that the investigation revealed Ron Thomas was an acquaintance of Cleo and the victims, and when Winstead located him he was with a tall black male named Mike. Later that same afternoon, Winstead picked up defendant and Cameron and took them to Area One. Winstead, in the company of Cameron, showed defendant photographs of Ron Thomas and Mike. Defendant quickly identified the photograph of Mike as being the tall black male. At first she was uncertain of the identity of Ron Thomas, then she was certain it was him. Winstead testified that when he informed defendant the men were at the police station, defendant changed her story. Defendant then said that these were not the two men who came to the apartment and that it was two different men. Defendant said two guys came to the door and she hid in the closet.

Winstead testified that on that same afternoon he took defendant and Cameron to the scene of the crime. Defendant pointed out where the two bodies were found. Winstead testified that her account was consistent with where the bodies were found by the police. Defendant then pointed out the closet she hid in. Upon examining the closet, Winstead testified that defendant "couldn't have possibly fit in there." Winstead then took defendant and Cameron home.

On May 12 Winstead transported defendant and Cameron to the polygraph unit of the Chicago police department. Although defendant was cooperative, the polygraph examination was inconclusive because defendant did not register enough emotion. Again, defendant was returned to Cameron's apartment. Cameron and defendant subsequently moved residences.

On June 25, 1993, at around noon, Winstead picked up defendant and Cameron from their new apartment and took them to Area One for questioning. Prior to the questioning, Winstead informed Cameron the police were now looking at defendant as a potential suspect. Winstead, another detective, defendant and Cameron were present in the interview room. Winstead advised defendant of her Miranda warnings, to which defendant nodded her head in an affirmative manner. Following an hour-long interview, defendant was placed under arrest. An assistant State's Attorney arrived and again advised defendant of her Miranda warnings.

Dr. Philip Pan, a psychiatrist, testified for the defense. On May 16, 1996, Pan diagnosed the defendant as having moderate mental retardation and being unfit to stand trial. Pan testified it was not likely she could be restored to fitness any time in the near future. On August 31, 1999, Pan again evaluated defendant. Pan opined that defendant was incapable of understanding Miranda warnings. Dr. Pan further testified that defendant could give simple answers to questions she understood but she was not capable of abstract thinking. Dr. Pan explained that this meant defendant was unable to think about the higher meaning something may have. Defendant told Dr. Pan she was 29 years old when in reality she was 56. Dr. Pan also testified that defendant was unfit for trial and would not become fit in the future.

Dr. Linda Wertzel, a clinical psychologist, also testified for the defense. On May 21, 1994, Wertzel examined defendant and concluded she was mentally retarded with an I.Q. of 54. Wertzel concluded defendant mathematically functioned at a kindergarten level. Wertzel also concluded that defendant was unable to understand her Miranda rights. Wertzel examined defendant again in October 1999 and concluded she remained unable to understand her Miranda warnings. Dr. Wertzel testified that the defendant was emotionally blunted and passive. She was illiterate and was only able to express herself at a very simple, childish level. Defendant had a limited ability to comprehend more than a one-step command. Defendant was unable to cooperate with her attorney.

In rebuttal, the State called Assistant State's Attorney (ASA) Stan Gonsalves. Gonsalves testified he went to Area One on June 25, 1993, to interview defendant. Prior to meeting defendant, detectives told Gonsalves defendant was a little slow. Gonsalves advised defendant of her Miranda warnings. Defendant did not respond verbally when she was asked if she understood her rights individually. Defendant nodded her head affirmatively after Gonsalves finished giving her the Miranda warnings.

Following the hearing, the trial court, in an 11-page finding, first determined that the issue facing the court was two fold: whether defendant's statement was obtained free of coercion or misconduct; and whether defendant's waiver of her Miranda rights was "knowing and intelligent." The court found that there was not even a suggestion that the police had done anything to coerce the defendant to give a statement. The trial court also found defendant was not in custody until after she confessed to Winstead, and therefore, any statements she made before that point were admissible. The trial court found that Winstead "gratuitously offered" defendant her Miranda warnings on the morning of her arrest even though the warnings were not needed. The trial court found that defendant was in custody following her statement to the police and that she did not knowingly and intelligently waive her Miranda warnings. In doing so, the court relied upon the testimony of Dr. Pan and Dr. Wertzel. The court also relied upon "the testimony of Winstead about how she acted and [Assistant] State's Attorney Gonsalves that she did not respond verbally [when] given her rights. She merely stood silent." The court found that defendant was mentally handicapped and then held "that goes to the weight of those statements, not to whether those statements were admissible." Therefore, the court denied defendant's motion with respect to any statements made before defendant was in custody, but suppressed the statement made to ASA Gonsalves following her arrest.

Defendant's motion to reconsider was denied. The trial court then ruled that the original order of June 27, 1996, committing defendant to the Department of Mental Health, should stand. In recognizing the appellate court's instruction that "in the event that motion [motion to suppress] is granted and the statements of defendant are suppressed, the circuit court shall conduct a new discharge hearing." (Braggs, 302 Ill. App. 3d at 607), the trial court held that a new discharge hearing was unnecessary. The testimony at the previous discharge hearing only involved defendant's unsuppressed statement to the police. Defendant's statement to Gonsalves was not ...


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