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United States ex rel Bridges v. Evans

July 18, 2005


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge


Darnell Bridges has petitioned the Court under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for a writ of habeas corpus. He was convicted in state court of aggravated battery with a firearm and was sentenced to nine years in prison. Bridges, who was just short of eighteen at the time of his arrest, contends that the Illinois Appellate Court erred by failing to apply special scrutiny in reviewing the voluntariness of his confession. Bridges also argues that he was denied effective assistance of counsel at trial because his attorney failed to move to formally admit impeaching police notes into evidence. The Court concludes that neither of the Appellate Court's holdings was contrary to or an unreasonable application of federal law and therefore denies Bridges' petition.


On December 28, 1998, at around 3:50 p.m., off-duty Chicago police officer Stacy Spires was the unintended victim of a gang-related shooting. Spires had just exited a van outside her mother's house, when she heard gunshots and noticed that her eleven-year-old niece was running toward the house. She chased after the child and took her to the ground. While shielding her niece's body, Spires was shot in the pelvic area.

Troy Agnew, the intended target of the shooting, told police he had seen Bridges near the crime scene. In the early evening of the same day, the police took Bridges into custody at a local grocery store where he was working. Detective Edward Winstead began to question Bridges around 8:30 p.m. Winstead testified at a hearing on a motion to suppress evidence and at trial that after being given the Miranda warnings, Bridges revealed that he and other members of the Mickey Cobras street gang had decided to shoot Agnew, a member of the rival Gangster Disciples gang, to avenge the shooting of a fellow gang member a few days earlier. Bridges said the plan was for two of his companions to shoot while the other four, including Bridges, acted as lookouts. Bridges named and described the other five persons he said were involved.

After detectives had questioned Bridges for about thirty minutes, Bridges was taken to a smaller, more secure interview room. At 11:00 p.m., Bridges was taken from the police station by detective Stanley Turner and other officers, so he could show them the homes of three of the persons he had said were involved in the shooting. The three were taken into custody, and Bridges was returned to the interview room around 12:00 a.m.

Winstead testified he spoke with Bridges again around 3:30 a.m., along with Assistant State's Attorney Cathleen Dillon. Bridges repeated essentially the same account he had given before. After this conversation, Bridges was again returned to the smaller room where he had been kept. Winstead and Dillon questioned Bridges again around 6:10 a.m. During this session, Bridges signed a statement that Dillon had written out. In the statement, Bridges states he "associates with the Mickey Cobras gang" and that he and a friend "stayed on the corner of 72nd and Paulina to look out for the police" and "were going to yell Blue and Whites if he saw any." This session lasted a little over an hour.

Prior to trial, Bridges moved to suppress the statements on the ground they had been given involuntarily. Bridges testified at the hearing. He claimed he had not read the written statement before signing it. He testified that in the initial session with the police, detective Turner had told him that if he did not give a statement, Turner would arrest his parents, and asked Bridges whether he wanted to protect his friends or his parents. Bridges said he asked to speak to his parents, but Winstead replied his parents could not see him because he was seventeen years old. Winstead and Turner both testified and denied Bridges' claims. Bridges also testified that Dillon had likewise turned down his request to speak with his parents, but Dillon denied that Bridges had made any such request.

Bridges' mother, Linda Bridges, also testified at the hearing. She stated that she arrived home around 5:45 p.m. on the day of the shooting, and Turner was there when she arrived. She ultimately agreed to take Turner to her son's location. Turner followed Linda Bridges to a Dominick's grocery store where Bridges worked five nights per week. At the store, Turner questioned Bridges in presence of his mother and the store manager, asking only if Bridges had driven to the store and what time he had arrived at work. Linda Bridges testified she volunteered to take her son to the police station after he finished work if Turner wanted to question him further. She said Turner told her that would be unnecessary.

Ten to fifteen minutes after Linda Bridges and Turner left the store, three other police officers arrived and took Bridges into custody. Linda Bridges testified that she and her husband learned of the arrest from their daughter several hours later, at 12:15 a.m. They drove to the police station, and Linda Bridges met with Turner, who, she said, claimed he had been unaware that Bridges was at the station until around 12:00 a.m. Linda Bridges testified that she and her husband asked if they could see their son, and that although Turner said they could, their request was not accommodated. They later asked Turner again, and he replied that they could see their son after the assistant state's attorney arrived. However, the Bridges were never allowed to see their son.

The trial judge denied Bridges' motion to suppress his statements. After a jury trial, Bridges was acquitted of attempted murder but was convicted of aggravated battery with a firearm and was sentenced to nine years in prison. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the conviction and sentence, People v. Bridges, No. 1-01-0194 (Ill. App. May 20, 2003), and Bridges' petition for leave to appeal was denied by the Illinois Supreme Court.

We take the following recitation of the facts relating to the motion to suppress from the Appellate Court's decision. In his petition and supporting memoranda, Bridges does not attempt to overcome the presumption of correctness that applies in a habeas corpus case to the state court's findings of fact. See Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 546-47 (1981); 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

We note initially, that the defendant was 17 years old at the time of his arrest. From our review of the record, the defendant was less than one month from his 18th birthday. ...

Examining the other factors for this court to take into consideration in order to determine the voluntariness of the defendant's contention, we look to the defendant's intelligence, background, experience, mental capacity, education and physical condition at the time of the questioning. According to the record, the defendant was a senior in high school with plans to continue his education at a trade school. Copies of the defendant's report cards have been made part of the record and reflect that he attended school regularly and received average grades. At the time of his arrest, the defendant lived at home with both parents and other siblings. All of the defendant's siblings graduated from high school and held jobs. The defendant worked as a bagger at Dominick's grocery store after school. Finally, the record reflects no impairment in the defendant's physical condition at the time of questioning. We find nothing in the defendant's intelligence, background, experience, mental capacity, education, or physical condition, that would hinder his ability to give a statement freely and voluntarily.


Detective Winstead testified at the suppression hearing regarding the nature of the interrogation of the defendant. He testified that he met the defendant in a conference room at the police station at approximately 8:30 p.m. on the evening of the shooting. Winstead had the handcuffs removed from the defendant. Winstead spoke with the defendant for about 30 minutes and then put him in a different room. Winstead spoke next with the defendant at about 3:30 a.m. the following morning in a "missing team office." Winstead described that office as a small room with two desks. The defendant was not handcuffed. Winstead once again spoke to the defendant for approximately 30 minutes. About three hours later -- at approximately 6:10 a.m. -- Winstead was with the defendant as he gave a statement to an assistant state's attorney. The taking of the statement took "an hour or more." Winstead testified that the defendant did not ask to speak with his parents, nor did he ask that his parents get him a lawyer. Winstead told the court that neither he nor any other officer threatened or coerced the defendant into giving a statement. Neither Winstead nor any other officer told the defendant that if he did not give a statement the police would arrest his family members. The defendant was given soda pop to drink and allowed to use the bathroom.

While the defendant was kept overnight at the police station, we do not agree with the defendant that this amounted to a "wee hours interrogation tactic[ ]." Winstead testified that at about 11 p.m., shortly after his first conversation with the defendant, the defendant joined Winstead and other officers to "various locations in the 7th district and took into custody, three, three other young men who were involved in the shooting." As noted above, Winstead spoke with the defendant again at 3:30 a.m., and then at 6:10 a.m. ...

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