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People v. Clay

June 21, 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]  The trial court, after a bench trial, found defendant, Roosevelt Clay, guilty of felony murder and armed robbery. On appeal defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and the court's decision to admit evidence of an oral statement defendant made while in police custody. We find the evidence sufficient but we hold that defendant's statement was not admissible. Police elicited defendant's statement after his illegal arrest by confronting him with a written statement obtained illegally from a co-defendant. Because police obtained the written statement through their misconduct, the written statement cannot attenuate the connection between defendant's illegal arrest and his subsequent oral statement. We reverse and remand.


[10]   On December 22, 1998, around 10 a.m., three men entered a currency exchange and one of the men asked for change for a dollar. After receiving the change the three men left. One of the men returned and picked up the receiver of a payphone in the exchange. Terry Madden, an employee of United Armored, carried a green bag, containing various papers and cash, from an armored truck into the exchange. The man at the payphone put down the receiver. He 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.

[11]   Although several employees of the exchange saw the shooting, none could remember much about the appearance of any of the men who entered the exchange. One witness said the car in which the shooter left looked like a Maxima, while another said it was a Honda. Police found a wallet on the sidewalk near the exchange. Inside an officer found identification for Jerry Clay and a temporary permit for a Chevy van registered in the name of Theotis Coleman. Police also found in the wallet a slip of paper with a phone number bearing the legend, "C-Note." At the police station officers traced the address listed on the registration for the van. Several officers set up surveillance near that address.

[12]   Several men and some women entered and left that address while police continued surveillance. After 1 p.m. defendant, David Clay and David Cook left that address and drove off in a Cutlass. Officers stopped the car nearby and placed all three men under arrest. They also arrested Jerry Clay after he left the same address.

[13]   A detective read defendant his rights at the police station. After a lineup an officer told defendant that a witness said defendant and Cook had been in the exchange before the murder. Defendant said he had not been anywhere near the murder scene, and he provided an alibi. By the time of trial the prosecution abandoned the identification police told defendant they received. According to the prosecution's theory, defendant did not set foot inside the exchange, and David Cook had nothing to do with the crime. The prosecution admitted that no witness positively identified either Cook or defendant in the lineup.

[14]   After 9 p.m. on the day of the murder, 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. An expert later found Jerry's fingerprints on the letter and fingerprints of Tony Williams on the documents.

[15]   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 Honda parked near the building. An officer contacted the registered owner of the vehicle, who told the officer she sold the car to defendant, and she intended to send him the title once he completed the promised payments for the car.

[16]   Fifteen hours after the murder and eleven hours after the arrests, Jerry admitted his involvement in the robbery. He named Tony Williams as the murderer and defendant as the getaway car driver. Defendant continued to deny any involvement, and he denied owning a blue Honda. Police then searched Jerry and defendant. Defendant had $8,100 in cash sewn into the lining of his jacket and a bill of sale for the blue Honda police found near Veronica's apartment, along with a passport, an old ad for a car, and a phone number on a piece of paper labeled "C-Note." Defendant said the cash was his, but he could not explain where it came from. Jerry had more than $2,000 in cash and a set of keys to Veronica's apartment.

[17]   Around 11 a.m. on December 24, 1998, an attorney for Jerry came to the station. Police permitted the attorney to speak with defendant as well as Jerry. The attorney told police not to question Jerry in the attorney's absence. Jerry also asserted that he did not want to discuss the case with police unless his attorney accompanied him.

[18]   Shortly after 7 p.m. on December 24, 1998, Jerry signed a statement that an assistant State's Attorney handwrote. When an officer told defendant about the signed statement, defendant asked to see it. As he read over the statement, defendant said, "that's exactly what he said." A detective asked defendant what he meant. Defendant pointed to part of the statement about a discussion between Jerry and Williams in the car after the murder. Defendant asked for some time to think about whether to discuss the matter with police any further. Later defendant asked an officer about the possibility of immunity if he told police what he knew.

[19]   Police arrested Williams on February 1, 1999. Williams admitted his involvement in the robbery, and he, too, named defendant as the driver of the getaway car.

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

[21]   Before trial defendant moved to quash arrest and suppress his statements and the papers and money taken from him at the police station. The trial court held that police arrested defendant without probable cause and set the matter for a hearing on attenuation.

[22]   Jerry also moved to quash arrest and suppress his statements. The court found the arrest proper and separately considered evidence concerning the voluntariness of his statements. Police officers testified that they repeatedly reminded Jerry of his rights before he told them about his participation in the robbery. Officers gave Jerry food and allowed him to sleep, and according to the officer, no officer struck Jerry or used any physical force against him. Shortly after Jerry's attorney left the police station, Jerry knocked on the door of the interview room and asked to speak further with the officers, without his attorney. A few hours later the assistant State's Attorney handwrote the statement Jerry signed. Police then confronted defendant with the signed statement.

[23]   Jerry's attorney testified that when he spoke to Jerry at the station Jerry told him he did not wish to speak further to police without the attorney. The attorney next saw Jerry a few days after Jerry signed the written confession. Jerry explained that after the attorney left, two officers used physical force to convince Jerry that he should knock on the door of the interview room and ask to speak to them further. The attorney presented a picture he took of a bruise the police work left on Jerry. The attorney elaborated that Jerry looked "like he had gone maybe a minute and a half of a round with someone."

[24]   During argument on the motion the court, twice asked the prosecution why Jerry had knocked on the door of the interview room to resume questioning. The court noted that according to the prosecution, Jerry merely repeated the story he had already told orally when he agreed to sign the handwritten statement. The court asked, "What would compel him then to want to tell it to them the same way all over again?" The prosecution suggested possible motives and added that Jerry, who did not testify, could best answer the question.

[25]   The court did not suppress the oral statements Jerry made before his attorney came to the police station, but the court disallowed the handwritten statement signed a few hours after the attorney left the station. The court said, "based on the evidence presented as to what proceeded thereafter, [Jerry's] motion to suppress statements is granted in part. That being the part of everything after [his attorney] was present."

[26]   Although the court suppressed the handwritten statement, the court found that the statement Jerry signed, along with other circumstances, served to attenuate the connection between defendant's illegal arrest and the statements defendant ...

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