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People v. Salinas

March 31, 2004


[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Bertina Lampkin, Judge Presiding.

[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Quinn

[8]  Defendant, Roel Salinas, and two co-defendants, Ruben Alvarez and Miguel Martinez, were indicted on two counts of first-degree murder for the shooting death of Arnold Mireles. Defendant was indicted on two additional counts of solicitation of murder for hire and one count of solicitation of murder. Following a simultaneous jury trial consisting of three separate juries, defendant was convicted on two counts of solicitation of murder for hire and sentenced to concurrent 40-year prison terms. Alvarez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to an extended prison term of 80 years and Martinez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 50 years' imprisonment.

[9]  Defendant appeals his conviction and sentence, arguing (1) the State failed to prove him guilty of the offense of solicitation of murder for hire beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the circuit court committed plain error by allowing the presentation of a portion of testimony in defendant's case before the wrong jury; (3) the circuit court erred by denying his motion to suppress his confession; (4) the admission of Alvarez's confession before defendant's jury was a violation of Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123, 20 L. Ed. 2d 476, 88 S. Ct. 1620 (1968); and (5) he was deprived of a fair trial due to prejudicial remarks by the State during closing argument. For the following reasons, we affirm. We will address defendant's reasonable doubt argument in this opinion. Defendant's other contentions will be addressed in a dispositional order under Supreme Court Rule 23 (166 2d. R. 23) issued contemporaneously with this opinion.


[11]   On the evening of December 29, 1997, Mireles was walking home from work when he was approached from behind and shot once in the back of his head. He died as a result of his wound.

[12]   Mireles was a community activist who worked at the Juan Diego Community Center (the Center), located at 8802 South Exchange Avenue in Chicago. As an employee of the Center, Mireles took photographs of dilapidated buildings and made reports to the housing court in order to have the buildings' owners make the necessary repairs to the properties. Mireles' reports often cited properties owned by defendant, which caused defendant to appear in housing court on many occasions, whereafter he was jailed and ordered to pay fines until his properties were brought into compliance with municipal building codes.

[13]   One of defendant's properties that was the focus of Mireles' efforts was located at 8822 South Exchange Avenue. Martinez resided at that address with his wife, Sema, and Alvarez, his close friend. At a December 19, 1997, housing court appearance, defendant presented the court with a handwritten warranty deed dated July 10, 1997, which showed that he conveyed the property to Martinez. Thereafter, Martinez received notices of municipal code violations containing complaints gathered by Mireles, which required him to appear in housing court.

[14]   At the hearing on defendant's motion to suppress his confession, Chicago police detectives Michael Baker and William Foster and Chicago police sergeant Michael Kennedy each testified that, on January 15, 1998, they were assigned to investigate the murder of Mireles. Baker, Foster and Kennedy each interviewed defendant at separate times after advising him of his Miranda rights, which defendant waived. Baker, Foster and Kennedy consistently testified that they neither hit defendant nor prevented him from sleeping. They did not threaten defendant or promise him that he would only be a witness and not a suspect. Defendant was not shown statements from the co-defendants. At no time during the interview did defendant appear to be physically or mentally exhausted. Defendant never asked to speak to an attorney.

[15]   Chicago police officer Robert Tovar testified that, on January 15, 1998, at 4:50 p.m., he conducted a polygraph examination of defendant. Prior to the examination, defendant signed a form stating that he voluntarily agreed to take the examination. Following the examination, Tovar confronted defendant with respect to certain issues in which he felt defendant was untruthful. Defendant then provided Tovar with a statement regarding his involvement in the murder of Mireles.

[16]   Cook County Assistant State's Attorney (ASA) Robert Milan testified that he and ASA Tom Mahoney interviewed defendant after advising him of his Miranda rights. Following the interview, defendant agreed to provide a statement. Defendant signed each of the eight pages of the statement. Defendant was allowed to make changes to the statement, which he initialed. Defendant also identified and initialed two photographs of co-defendants Alvarez and Martinez.

[17]   Defendant testified that when he was brought to the police station, he was aware of Mireles' death. Detective Baker slapped defendant in the head three or four times. The interrogating police officers asked defendant if he had paid Martinez to kill Mireles. Defendant asked to speak to his lawyer, but the officers did not allow him to make a telephone call. Defendant testified that he had not slept. ASAs Milan and Mahoney did not advise him of his Miranda rights. Milan told defendant that he was only going to be a witness. Milan promised defendant that if he signed some papers, he would be allowed to go home. Defendant read only one or two pages of the "report" that Milan gave him. Defendant then signed the papers because he thought he would be released. Defendant did not tell Milan that Baker hit him.

[18]   Following the presentation of evidence and argument, the circuit court denied defendant's motion to suppress his confession. At trial, the following pertinent evidence was presented to defendant's jury.

[19]   Donald Rowans testified that on December 29, 1997, he was with his friend, Michael Quiroz, at Quiroz's residence, located at 8812 South Exchange Avenue. At approximately 11 p.m., Rowans heard one gunshot, whereafter he and Quiroz left Quiroz's apartment. While walking, Rowans saw a man lying face-down on the ground near the corner of 89th Street and Exchange Avenue. Rowans approached the man and observed that he was bleeding and not breathing. Quiroz flagged down a passing car and told the motorist to call the police. After Rowans and Quiroz spoke to the police, Rowans and his girlfriend, Patricia, went to a restaurant where they saw both Alvarez and Martinez. Rowans testified that Alvarez was a member of the Bishops gang. Rowans also testified that Martinez resided at 8822 South Exchange Avenue with Martinez's wife, Sema, and Alvarez.

[20]   At the restaurant, Rowans told Alvarez and Martinez that "somebody got killed on the corner." Alvarez and Martinez gave Rowans and Patricia a ride home in Martinez's car. Rowans learned afterward that the deceased was Mireles. Later that night, Rowans and Quiroz went to Martinez's house, where he saw Sema, five other girls and Alvarez's brother, Juan Santo. While there, the police arrived and, again, Rowans spoke to them.

[21]   On December 30, 1997, at approximately 6 p.m., Rowans returned to Martinez's house. Alvarez and Rowans then went outside. Alvarez told Rowans to look for a shell casing near Rowans' gangway. Later than night, Alvarez went to Rowans' apartment. There, Rowans told Alvarez the he heard a gunshot prior to finding Mireles' body and that it sounded like it came from a .38-caliber or .44-caliber weapon. Alvarez responded, "no, it was a 9 [millimeter weapon]." Rowans testified that Alvarez told him the 9-millimeter "was a sweet gun and that he hate[d] to lose it." Alvarez also told Rowans about how he shot Mireles. According to Rowans, Alvarez stated that he had "seen the guy walking down the street, and he ran in the house and grabbed his hoody, and he left out and ran back down the street. And he said he was going to shoot him from [Rowans'] gangway but he crept up on him from the back and got within a few feet and shot him." After Alvarez shot Mireles in the head, Mireles fell to his knees and Alvarez turned and ran toward Rowans' apartment. Alvarez's gun jammed, and when he unjammed it, a shell casing fell. Alvarez did not have time to look for the casing and continued running. Alvarez told Rowans that he used a Glock handgun to shoot Mireles and that Mireles "never knew what hit him."

[22]   On cross-examination, Rowans testified that he did not know defendant personally at the time of Mireles' murder. Rowans was not a close friend of Alvarez's, but nevertheless, Alvarez confessed to Rowans that he shot Mireles. Alvarez's description of the events conflicted. He had told Rowans that he shot Mireles from a gangway, but also stated that he shot Mireles from close range. Rowans did not challenge Alvarez's separate accounts of the shooting. Alvarez never told Rowans that someone was going to pay him for killing Mireles. Rowans did not know who Mireles was and had never spoken to him. Rowans told police about Alvarez's confession one month after the murder when officers found him and brought him to the police station.

[23]   Marvin Wilkins testified that on December 29, 1997, at approximately 11 p.m., he heard a gunshot while sitting in Rowans' living room at 8842 South Exchange Avenue. Wilkins then opened a window in the apartment and saw two men dressed in black, hooded sweaters running from Exchange Avenue toward an alley. Wilkins observed that one man was heavier than the other and that their hands were light in color.

[24]   Wilkins testified that, when he saw the men running, he did not see a gun in either of the men's hands. According to Wilkins, the men were not African-American. He could not see their faces. Wilkins testified that he believed the two men he saw were either white or Mexican. Wilkins also saw a body lying on the ground at the corner of 89th Street and Exchange Avenue.

[25]   Cindy Garcia testified that on December 29, 1997, she resided at 8822 South Exchange Avenue with Martinez, Sema, Alvarez and four other girls, Rita Bautista, Mabel Rodriguez and Evelyn and Lorena Carbajal. She lived in Martinez's apartment because she ran away from her parents' home. According to Cindy, Alvarez and Little Casper were Bishop gang members. Martinez worked as a roofer. Cindy testified that the building at 8822 South Exchange Avenue was in bad condition. The walls were cracked, there was no heat available and, if Cindy wanted to take a shower, she had to fill up a bucket of water and pour it over herself. Cindy stayed in a second bedroom in the apartment with the four other girls.

[26]   Cindy testified that during the evening of December 29, 1997, Martinez and Alvarez left the apartment and returned with food for everyone. Later that night, Martinez and Alvarez entered the second bedroom and took a blanket. Alvarez was wearing black pants and a black "hoodie." Martinez and Alvarez then left the apartment. Fifteen minutes later, Cindy heard one gunshot while sitting in the second bedroom. After another 20 minutes had passed, Martinez and Alvarez returned to the apartment, Alvarez still wearing the same clothing as when he had left. Alvarez entered the second bedroom, returned the blanket and asked the girls for their shoe sizes. He then changed clothes with Rita and left the apartment with Martinez. The girls checked the blanket for bullet holes, but did not find any.

[27]   When Martinez and Alvarez returned to the apartment, Evelyn accused Alvarez of killing the man on the corner. Alvarez told her "to shut the fuck up." Cindy testified that several days later, she was with Mabel, Rita and Evelyn when Martinez, Alvarez and Robert Espinoza, also known as Casper, arrived. Alvarez told the girls that "someone was snitching on his name" and that "something was going to happen for whoever snitched."

[28]   Rita testified that she was a 17-year-old runaway living with Martinez at 8822 South Exchange Avenue on December 29, 1997. Rita stated that Alvarez was a member of the Bishops gang. While she lived in Martinez's apartment, she never saw either Martinez or Alvarez working to improve the property. She described the poor condition of the property, stating that the house lacked windows, the ceiling was falling, the shower was broken and cockroaches were prevalent. Rita's description of the events that occurred on December 29, 1997, was consistent with Cindy's testimony. Rita exchanged clothes with Alvarez in the bathroom after he determined that she had the largest shoe size among the five girls in Martinez's apartment. When Rita asked Alvarez why he wanted to exchange clothes with her, he told her "just to put them on." Several days later, Alvarez told the girls that he would find out who snitched on him once his lawyer gave him a discovery package and that "something bad might happen" to that person. Rita also testified that she saw Alvarez carrying a black gun in his waistband "almost every day." She saw the gun a week prior to the shooting and then saw it afterwards at a New Year's Eve party. Rita made an in-court identification of Alvarez's gun. Rita explained that she recognized Alvarez's gun because she had seen it so many times and once had taken it away from him.

[29]   Mark Loevy Reyes testified that he is an attorney for the City of Chicago assigned to housing court and that the city had filed numerous building code violation complaints against defendant and the properties he owned. Reyes described the buildings as being in deplorable condition with violations ranging from peeling and lead-based paint, to exposed electrical wiring, missing smoke detectors and collapsing walls and ceilings. Reyes testified that defendant was represented by counsel in most of the matters and that while most, if not all, of the cases were dismissed because defendant made some effort to correct the violations, it was nevertheless necessary to enjoin use of two of the apartment buildings until they became habitable. Reyes stated that Mireles always was present in housing court for defendant's cases and that he was most helpful to the city in pursuing these matters. Defendant once was jailed for nonpayment of fines with an amount of fines assessed totaling approximately $10,000 to $15,000 at the time of Mireles' death.

[30]   Chicago police detective John Murray testified that he was assigned to investigate Mireles' death on January 13, 1998. Murray located Crispin Uvalle and brought him to the police station for questioning. Murray showed Uvalle a photograph of Alvarez. After speaking to Uvalle, Murray attempted to locate Alvarez.

[31]   On January 14, 1998, at approximately 4 a.m., Detective Murray proceeded to 8822 South Exchange Avenue, where he spoke to defendant and Sema, who both agreed to be transported to the police station for questioning. Defendant was advised of his Miranda rights and was interviewed by Murray and his partner, Detective Bob Rodriguez. Following Martinez's interview, Murray continued searching for Alvarez and the five girls who had lived with Martinez. Murray went to Casper's house in Cicero and, after speaking to Delores Espinoza, Casper's mother, he went to a residence in Cicero located at 1803 South 61st Court. Murray searched a closet in the basement, where he found Alvarez hiding behind clothes. Murray also found a 9-millimeter Glock semiautomatic pistol hidden behind a mirror by the bar. Murray took Alvarez into custody without incident.

[32]   Detective Murray testified that he interviewed Alvarez after advising him of his Miranda rights. Murray also interviewed Casper, which led to a second conversation with Alvarez. Murray then located and interviewed Cindy, Rita, Mabel, Lorena and Evelyn at the police station. Following those interviews, Murray contacted the felony review unit of the Cook County State's Attorney's office. Murray also sought the location of defendant. Martinez and Alvarez were charged with first-degree murder in the Mireles case. Murray identified the Glock 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol and bullets that were loaded into the weapon, which he recovered from 1803 South 61st Court.

[33]   Chicago police detective Paul Alfini testified on direct examination that on December 29, 1997, he spoke with Rowans about the shooting. Alfini canvassed the crime scene, but found no physical evidence. Thereafter, Alfini went to Martinez's residence and spoke to both Martinez and Rowans. On January 15, 1998, Alfini spoke to Detective Rodriguez about the status of the investigation in the Mireles case. Alfini then located defendant at his workplace and brought him to the police station for questioning.

[34]   Following cross-examination of Detective Alfini before only the Martinez jury, the circuit court excused the Martinez jury and stated, "[o]nly Mr. Alvarez's jury is in the courtroom." The record notes the presence of the Alvarez jury rather than defendant's jury for the continuation of Alfini's testimony, however, the transcript also shows that defendant's attorney cross-examined Alfini.

[35]   Detective Alfini continued to testify on direct examination that he was present in an interview room with defendant and Detective Baker. Defendant was advised of his Miranda rights, which he waived. Defendant stated that he knew Mireles from previous encounters in court due to building code violations on defendant's properties. Defendant stated that "he had nothing against Arnold Mireles," and that Mireles was "just doing his job." Defendant had sold Martinez his property at 8822 South Exchange Avenue and helped Martinez get a loan. Martinez previously worked for defendant by fixing defendant's buildings. ...

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