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People v. Clay

June 07, 2004


[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable John J. Moran, Judge Presiding.

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

[8]  A jury found defendant, Jerry Clay, guilty of a first degree murder and an armed robbery that occurred at a currency exchange. On appeal defendant argues that the trial court should have suppressed his confession because police lacked probable cause to arrest him. We hold that the discovery of a wallet containing defendant's identification on the sidewalk outside the currency exchange did not give police probable cause to arrest him. We remand for a hearing to determine whether intervening circumstances make the confession admissible despite the illegal arrest. Defendant also argues that the trial court erred by allowing a witness to testify about an armed robbery at a different currency exchange five months before the robbery at issue. We find the similarities between the two crimes insufficient to earmark the crimes as the work of the same man. We reverse and remand for a new trial.


[10]   On December 22, 1998, around 10 a.m., three men entered a currency exchange together. One asked for change for a dollar. After receiving the change that man picked up the receiver of a pay phone in the exchange. The other two men left the exchange, and the one who received change left shortly thereafter. One of the three men returned a few minutes later. He asked a different employee for change. He received change and went to the pay phone.

[11]   Terry Madden, an employee of United Armored, carried a green bag with various papers and cash from an armored truck into the exchange. The man who had gotten change met Madden at the door and fired a bullet point-blank through Madden's forehead. The man took the green bag and left in a blue compact car. Madden died minutes later.

[12]   Although several employees of the exchange saw the shooting, and one gave the shooter change, none could remember much about his appearance. Witness described him only as "a male black about 25 to 30 years in age, between five-foot-seven to six-foot in height" wearing "a waist length jacket with blue jeans and *** a ski mask." They described the men who entered the exchange with him only as "male blacks."

[13]   Police found a wallet on the sidewalk near the exchange. Inside, an officer found identification for defendant and a temporary permit for a Chevy van registered in the name of Theotis Coleman. At the police station officers traced the address listed on the registration for the van. Several officers set up surveillance near that address.

[14]   A white Mustang stopped near the address. Two men and a woman got out of the car. Around 2:30 p.m., defendant, with a woman and a child, left the address and got into a car. Officers stopped the car nearby and asked defendant his name. When he told them, they escorted him to a police department vehicle, which brought him to the police station. At the station they found that defendant had more than $2,000 in cash and a set of keys. Officers also arrested Roosevelt Clay as he drove away from the same address in a different car. At the time of the arrest, Roosevelt had more than $8,000 in cash sewn into the lining of his jacket and bill of sale for a car.

[15]   After 9 p.m. that day, a state trooper found a black backpack on an expressway ramp. Inside the backpack he found a green bag and some papers belonging to the currency exchange where the murder occurred. He also found a letter addressed to Veronica Clay.

[16]   Police found the door to Veronica's apartment ajar. When their knock elicited no answer, they entered. They found Madden's keys inside. They spotted a blue compact car parked near the building. An officer contacted the registered owner of the vehicle, who told the officer she sold the car to Roosevelt Clay, and she intended to send him title once he completed the promised payments for the car.

[17]   Fifteen hours after the murder and eleven hours after the arrests, defendant admitted his involvement in the robbery. He named Tony Williams as the murderer and Roosevelt as the getaway car driver. Police arrested Williams on February 1, 1999, and Williams admitted his involvement in the robbery, but he named defendant as the shooter.

[18]   Williams, Roosevelt and defendant agreed to simultaneous trials. One jury decided the case against Williams and a separate jury decided defendant's case, while Roosevelt opted for a bench trial.

[19]   Before trial defendant moved to quash arrest and suppress his statements. The prosecution conceded that police arrested defendant when they took him from his car to the police vehicle for transport to the police station. The arresting officer admitted that he did not see defendant violate any laws or ordinances prior to the arrest. The officer testified that he found the wallet with defendant's identification on the street near the currency exchange shortly after the murder. The prosecutor asked:

[20]   "Did you determine *** at that time that he fit the general description of one of the four male blacks that entered into that currency exchange at 10:00 in the morning?"

[21]   The officer said he so determined. On cross-examination he clarified that witnesses described the men who entered the currency exchange as "three male blacks." The officer did not testify to any further detail for any of the men other than the shooter. The officer did not describe the clothing defendant wore when arrested, and he did not testify ...

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