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People v. Causey

June 27, 2003

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
LETORRIES CAUSEY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
NORMAN WALLACE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 99 CR 10863 Honorable Dennis J. Porter, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Gallagher

UNPUBLISHED

Following simultaneous jury trials, defendants Letorries Causey *fn1 and Norman Wallace were convicted of the first degree murder and armed robbery of Ricardo Epps. The trial court sentenced each defendant to 52 years for murder and a concurrent 20-year sentence for armed robbery. On appeal, Causey contends that his counsel was ineffective for failing to renew his motions to quash his arrest and suppress his statement after two police detectives testified at trial that Causey did not confess his involvement in Epps' murder until he had been at the police station for approximately 19 hours. In addition, both defendants assert that the jury was improperly instructed as to the legal definition of felony murder and that their sentences are excessive. For the reasons stated below, we affirm defendants' convictions. However, because each defendant's sentences must be served consecutively and not concurrently, we remand this case to the trial court for resentencing.

Epps was assaulted and murdered in the early morning hours of October 19, 1997, and his body was found in a lot in the 800 block of North Sedgwick Street in Chicago. A nearby 55-gallon garbage can was blood-stained, blood spatters were found on the grass, and pieces of trash were scattered about. An autopsy indicated that Epps died of blunt head trauma due to an assault. Police located no witnesses to the crime. Approximately 18 months later, Causey and Wallace were arrested and charged with Epps' murder.

At a hearing on Causey's motion to quash his arrest, the trial court heard the following relevant testimony. Causey testified that between 9:30 and 10 p.m. on April 24, 1999, three police officers stopped him as he walked down Larrabee Street. The officers handcuffed Causey and took him to a police station at Chicago and Clark, where he was strip-searched. Causey testified he was 20 years old at the time and that the officers knew him and had stopped him two or three times before.

In opposition of Causey's motion, Chicago police detective Barrett J. Moran testified that in February 1999, he was assigned to investigate Epps' murder. Moran reviewed police reports indicating that an eyewitness to the murder had identified several suspects, including Causey. At about midnight on April 24, two officers brought Causey to Area 3 police headquarters. When Detective Moran spoke to Causey about an hour later, at 1 a.m. on April 25, Causey sat in an unlocked interview room and was not handcuffed. At that time, Causey confessed his involvement in Epps' murder. Moran stated that Causey was brought to Area 3 for an interview and that he had been free to leave until he made his inculpatory statement.

Chicago police officer Thomas Parham testified that he and his partner stopped Causey and told him that Area 3 detectives wanted to speak with him. He testified that Causey voluntarily accompanied them to the station. Although the officer patted Causey down before Causey got into the squad car, Causey was not handcuffed or searched. Contrary to Causey's testimony, the officers did not strip-search him or take him to Chicago and Clark. The trial court denied Causey's motion to quash his arrest, finding that Causey voluntarily went to Area 3.

The trial judge then heard testimony on Causey's motion to suppress his statement. Detective Moran testified that he first spoke with Causey at about 12:30 or 1 a.m. on April 25. Detective Robert Browne was also present. Causey was not handcuffed. Detective Moran read Causey his Miranda rights. After about 45 minutes, the detectives left the room. The detectives returned 10 minutes later and spoke with Causey for another 15 or 20 minutes. Detective Moran showed Causey several photographs of people that Causey had mentioned. The detectives spoke with Causey again for about 15 minutes, until approximately 3 a.m.

Detective Moran testified that he, Detective Browne and Cook County Assistant State's Attorneys Trev Minert and Tony Benish met with Causey between 11 p.m. on April 25 and 2 a.m. on April 26. During that time, Causey did not ask for an attorney or to call his family and was not handcuffed. The detective stated that Causey was never beaten, threatened or told what to say.

On cross-examination, Detective Moran said that according to the arrest report, Causey was arrested at 12:30 a.m. on April 26. Regarding his first conversation with Causey at about 1 a.m. on April 25, Detective Moran stated that he read Causey the Miranda warnings prior to the interview. Causey told the detective he was nearby when Epps was killed. Causey then said two people approached him and asked him to be a lookout while they attacked and robbed a man whom they thought had money. Causey said the victim was hit in the head with a garbage can and that he kicked the victim a few times. Causey said he was supposed to "get money for it" but that he did not receive any money.

Detective Moran stated that as of 1 a.m. on April 25, Causey had not incriminated himself in Epps' murder. Causey's counsel impeached the detective with his prior testimony that Causey had confessed his involvement in Epps' death by that time, to which Detective Moran replied that Causey had started to give a statement at 1 a.m. The detective denied that he or Detective Browne kicked, choked or threatened Causey or prevented Causey from making a phone call. On redirect examination, he said Causey was arrested "when we finished our whole investigation."

Assistant State's Attorney Benish testified that at about 4 a.m. on April 26, Causey gave a statement recorded by a court reporter. Benish read portions of the statement in which Causey said he was given food and drink and allowed to smoke and use the bathroom. Benish said Causey was not threatened or coerced into making his statement.

Causey testified, reiterating his account of being strip-searched at Chicago and Clark. Causey said he was handcuffed while the detectives drove to Area 3, where they led him to a small windowless room and handcuffed him to a wall. Causey said he told the detectives he did not know Epps. Causey said he was not read his Miranda rights or allowed to call his grandmother. Causey said the detectives choked and pushed him and that his inculpatory statement reflected what they told him to say. On cross-examination, Causey admitted he had been arrested 22 times for various offenses. The parties stipulated that Causey had a 1998 felony conviction for possession of a controlled substance.

The trial court denied the motion to suppress Causey's statement, finding that the statement was intelligently, knowingly and voluntarily made. The trial court determined that in light of the testimony that police were investigating other suspects while questioning Causey, it was reasonable that Causey was not charged with a crime immediately after his initial interview. Although the court found that Causey's initial statement "perhaps was not quite as inculpatory as Detective Moran made it out," the court found Causey's testimony to be not credible. At trial, the State established that police sought to question several men regarding Epps' murder, including Wallace (nicknamed Big Spank), Floyd Rogers (Fuzz), Lorenzo Williams (Zoe) and two other men. Detective Browne testified that at about 1 a.m. on April 25, he and Detective Moran questioned Causey about Epps' murder. Causey told the detectives that he encountered a group of people, and a man was lying on the ground. Causey said Fuzz struck the man on the head twice with a garbage can, and a man Causey referred to as Spanky kicked Epps. Causey identified a photo of Wallace as Spanky and also identified photos of Rogers and Williams.

Detective Browne testified that upon resuming work on the afternoon of April 25 for his next shift, he went to Wallace's home at about 5:30 p.m. and brought Wallace to Area 3 for questioning. After Detective Browne and Detective Moran spoke to Wallace for about 45 minutes, they met alternately with Causey and Wallace from about 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. During that period, Causey told the detectives that Fuzz approached him and Wallace in the lot on Sedgwick Street and asked Causey and Wallace to be lookouts while he robbed a man. When Fuzz struck the man, he and Wallace kicked ...


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