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People v. Willis

November 18, 2003


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable James L. Rhodes, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Wolfson


Seventy-three hours after he was arrested, Roy Willis confessed to setting a fire that caused a death. We find his arrest was based on probable cause, but that his detention had become unlawful by the time of the confession. We address a question never clearly answered in this State: What is the proper remedy for a violation of the Fourth Amendment right to a prompt probable cause determination by a judge?


After a bench trial, at which defendant's confession represented the great weight of the State's case, Willis was found guilty of criminal damage to property exceeding $300 and sentenced to three years' imprisonment. At trial, defendant attacked the admission of his confession on several grounds, but on appeal he presents us with only two reasons for suppression, both relying on the Fourth Amendment.

First, defendant contends the police lacked probable cause to justify his arrest. Second, he contends his confession should be suppressed because the police failed to take him before a judge for a probable cause determination before he confessed. Although defendant also contended at trial that mistreatment by the police caused him to make an involuntary confession, he does not make that claim in this appeal. While we find the initial arrest was based on probable cause, we conclude the lengthy detention before any judicial intervention violated the Fourth Amendment and that suppression of the confession is the proper remedy. We reverse the defendant's conviction. *fn1


The trial court conducted separate hearings on defendant's motion to quash arrest and his motion to suppress the confession. In discussing the facts, we combine the testimony from the two hearings, summarizing the evidence that is pertinent to the Fourth Amendment inquiries.

Detective Michael Lueser of the Chicago Heights police department testified he investigated a June 14, 1999, fire at an apartment located at 299 East 16th Street in Chicago Heights. Due to the fire, the apartment's occupant, Morgan Beauchamp, died of smoke inhalation. 1 Detective Lueser questioned Beauchamp's neighbor, Ralph Lawson, on June 16, 1999. Lawson told Lueser he saw Kimberly Brodanex visit Beauchamp between 8 and 9 p.m. on June 14, 1999. Lawson said Brodanex occasionally was Beauchamp's girlfriend. On the night of the fire, Brodanex told Lawson she was going to Beauchamp's to get her sweater. Lawson saw Brodanex leave after retrieving her sweater.

At around 9:30 p.m., defendant, who appeared angry, approached Lawson and asked if he had seen Brodanex. Lawson told defendant he saw Brodanex earlier and that she went to 15th Avenue. Lawson observed defendant walk to the back of Beauchamp's building, but lost sight of him for a few minutes before seeing him walk away from the rear of the building. Several minutes later, Lawson smelled smoke and discovered the second floor porch area of Beauchamp's apartment was in flames. Beauchamp appeared on his front porch, and Lawson told him to try to leave the apartment. Beauchamp never reemerged. Lawson told Lueser he did not see anyone else near Beauchamp's porch at the time.

Detective Lueser testified he questioned Brodanex after his conversation with Lawson. Brodanex told Lueser she was sometimes involved with defendant and had lived with him prior to June 14, 1999. On the day of the fire, Brodanex moved out of defendant's apartment because she had a criminal case pending against him for beating her. On the day of the fire, Brodanex moved her belongings from defendant's residence to Beauchamp's rear porch. After she left her belongings at Beauchamp's apartment, she used a pay phone on 15th Avenue, approximately one block away, to call a man. The man picked her up and they drove to Sauk Village. When Brodanex returned, the fire department was at the apartment.

After the fire, Lawson told Brodanex about his earlier encounter with defendant. The next morning, Brodanex went to defendant's apartment to confront him about the fire. Defendant responded, "Why would I have anything to do with that when he had been good to [sic]." Defendant admitted he went to Beauchamp's apartment to look for Brodanex at around 9 p.m. on the night of the fire. Brodanex told Detective Lueser something under defendant's bed smelled like it was burning, although Brodanex did not look under the bed to determine what caused the odor.

Detective Lueser also reviewed the fire marshals' reports. Fire marshal Hitchcock investigated the fire first. His report indicated the fire started in the rear porch ceiling area, but he could not determine the origin or cause of the fire.

On June 24, 1999, fire marshal Mitchell Kuhner issued the official determination as to the cause and origin of the fire. Kuhner concluded the fire was intentionally set on the second floor porch using an open flame without the aid of an accelerant.

Although Detective Lueser made several attempts to question defendant, Lueser did not locate defendant until July 13, 1999. On that day, Detectives Lueser and Bruni found defendant at his residence and asked him if he would accompany the detectives to the police station to discuss the fire at Beauchamp's residence. Defendant agreed to go with the officers. He was not handcuffed and rode in the back seat of an unmarked squad car to the station. The detectives and defendant entered the station through a back door which was accessible only to police personnel. The detectives placed defendant in an interview room where they read defendant the Miranda warnings. The record includes the written Miranda waiver signed by defendant and dated July 13, 1999 at 4:10 p.m. The form states in part:

"I, Roy M. Willis, now being held in custody by the Chicago Heights Police Department state that upon my arrival and detention I was immediately informed of my Constitutional Rights as [f]ollows: ***." (Emphasis added.)

The detectives and defendant briefly discussed the fire. Defendant denied any involvement and denied going to Beauchamp's residence on the day of the fire.

At 8:30 p.m., Detective Lueser advised defendant he was under arrest and took him to the lock-up. Detective Lueser did not have a warrant for defendant's arrest. According to Lueser, defendant was "placed on hold pending further investigation." When asked on cross-examination what further investigation he needed to complete, Lueser replied, "Locate any other witnesses, if possible."

Lueser testified other detectives went to locate Lawson and Brodanex after Lueser began questioning defendant on July 13, 1999, in case the police needed the witnesses to talk to a State's Attorney. Neither witness was brought to the police station that day. Lueser worked from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. each day during defendant's detention. Neither he nor any other officer investigated defendant's case when Lueser was not on duty.

When Lueser returned to work on July 14, 1999, he attempted to locate Lawson, Brodanex, and "any other potential witnesses" and did not speak with defendant. Although Lueser spent a "good portion" of his eight-hour shift working on defendant's case, he admitted it was not the only police matter he worked on that day.

On July 15, 1999, Lueser tried again to locate witnesses and also spoke with defendant for five minutes regarding the polygraph test defendant voluntarily submitted to earlier that day. Defendant did not make any admission regarding the crime.

On July 16, 1999, Lueser contacted Lawson and brought him to the police station. Lueser's partner Detective Bruni brought Brodanex to the police station that same day. At about 5 p.m., 73 hours after defendant's custodial detention began, defendant signed another Miranda waiver and agreed to give Detective Lueser a written statement implicating himself in the crime. The next morning at 7:30, the police presented defendant to a magistrate for a bond hearing. The July 17 hearing was the first time defendant appeared before a judge. The hearing came 87½ hours after the detention began.

Detective Lueser testified defendant never complained about not receiving food during the time he was in the lock-up, nor did he ask to make any phone calls. Lueser denied misinforming defendant about the evidence police had obtained against him, threatening defendant, or promising leniency in exchange for defendant's cooperation. Lueser also testified he never heard any other officer do any of those things. Defendant never complained to Lueser about being threatened, and when giving his statement, defendant answered "yes" when asked if he was making his statement of his own free will and not through fear, inducements, or promises.

The State submitted the two Miranda waiver forms signed by defendant and dated July 13, 1999, and July 16, 1999.

Robert Bartik, a polygraph examiner for the Chicago police department, testified he administered a polygraph test to defendant at about 4:45 p.m. on July 15, 1999. Defendant signed a form acknowledging he was volunteering to take the test, and Bartik advised defendant of his Miranda rights. At the conclusion of the test, Bartik informed defendant he did not pass the polygraph test.

Chicago Heights police sergeant Jeff Bohlen testified the police were attempting to locate Lawson and Brodanex after defendant was detained, so they could speak with the State's Attorney and identify defendant. Bohlen testified the State's Attorney usually wanted to speak with witnesses before filing formal charges against a suspect.

The trial court found the police had probable cause to arrest defendant and denied his motion to quash arrest. Although the court determined the purpose of defendant's detention was to elicit a statement, the court found defendant voluntarily gave his statement and denied his motion to suppress.

Following the bench trial, defendant was convicted of felony criminal damage to property and sentenced to three years' imprisonment.


I. Defendant's arrest

Defendant contends the trial court erred in denying his motion to quash arrest and suppress his statement because the police lacked probable cause to arrest him on July 13, 1999.

When reviewing decisions on motions to suppress where the facts are undisputed, as they are here, we apply a de novo standard of review. People v. McDaniel, 326 ...

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