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People v. Richardson

September 24, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Freeman

Chief Justice Fitzgerald and Justices Thomas, Kilbride, Garman, Karmeier, and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.


Defendant, Andre Richardson, was charged in the circuit court of Cook County with first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9--1(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 2000)). Following a jury trial, defendant was convicted as charged and sentenced to a prison term of 40 years. The appellate court reversed defendant's conviction and remanded for a new trial. 376 Ill. App. 3d 537. We allowed the State's petition for leave to appeal. 177 Ill. 2d R. 315(a). We now reverse the judgment of the appellate court and remand the cause to that court for further proceedings.


Defendant's conviction arose from events occurring on February 9, 2001. At 2:20 p.m., Chicago Police Officer Michael Hayes and paramedics responded to a call of an injured child at defendant's home. Defendant told Officer Hayes that the victim, his 11-month-old daughter, Diamond Clark, had fallen in the bathtub. However, the victim exhibited wounds, including human bite marks, that were inconsistent with a fall in a bathtub.*fn1 Officer Hayes, accompanied by defendant, went to the hospital where the victim was receiving treatment. Upon ascertaining the victim's condition, Officer Hayes arrested defendant for child abuse or aggravated battery of a child. Officer Hayes brought defendant to the 2nd District police station at 3:35 p.m. At that time, defendant had no marks on his face. Officer Hayes processed the arrest report, and turned defendant and the paperwork over to the lockup keeper. At some point after being brought to the 2nd District police station, defendant received a black eye in the lockup. Sometime after 9:08 p.m., defendant gave an inculpatory statement to police, which he repeated in the presence of a Cook County assistant State's Attorney sometime after 12:30 a.m. on February 10.

Prior to trial, defendant sought to suppress the statement he gave to police. His amended motion alleged that defendant had been interrogated by Chicago Police Detectives O'Connell and Zalatoris, Youth Investigator Nolan, and Assistant State's Attorney John Heil. The motion further alleged that defendant had not been advised of his Miranda rights prior to the interrogation, but rather that he had been informed of his rights only after Assistant State's Attorney Heil had arrived. The amended motion further alleged that defendant's "physical, physiological, mental, educational and/or psychological state, capacity and condition" rendered him unable to appreciate and understand the full meaning of his Miranda rights. The amended motion also alleged:

"That the statements sought to be suppressed were obtained as a result of physical coercion illegally directed against the defendant and that such statements were, therefore, involuntary in violation of the 5th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution. [Defendant] was grabbed by one of the detectives and pushed onto a stool. The detectives handcuffed [defendant] to the wall. The detectives repeatedly called [defendant's] mother a bitch, told her to shut up and repeatedly yelled at her. There were two big detectives, one detective was O'Connell. [Defendant] was choked in the lockup where he passed out and hit his face and head and he told [defendant] he would be raped in prison."

The motion alleged additional mental coercion, in that defendant "was told by the detectives if he made a statement, he would go home" and, prior to questioning, "several members of the police department approached and told him that he would never go home." The circuit court held a hearing on the motion.

A. Suppression Hearing

The State presented the following pertinent testimony from several witnesses.*fn2 Michael Nolan testified that, on February 9, 2001, he was a youth investigator assigned to Area 1 headquarters of the Chicago police department. His duties included investigating offenses against children and processing juvenile arrests. At approximately 5 p.m., Nolan was assigned to the investigation of defendant's alleged abuse of his baby daughter. Nolan was also advised that defendant was already in custody at the 2nd District police station, located at 5101 S. Wentworth Avenue. Area 1 of the Chicago police department includes the 2nd District, and Area 1 headquarters is located in the same building as the 2nd District police station. The first floor of the building is known as "the 2nd District," while the second floor is known as "Area 1." Nolan went downstairs to the 2nd District, where he found defendant and the arresting officer, Michael Hayes, in an interview room near the station lockup. Defendant, then 16 years old, was held separated from adult detainees. Nolan spoke with Officer Hayes for a few minutes. Nolan did not notice any facial injuries to defendant.

Nolan then traveled to Wyler Children's Hospital to ascertain the victim's condition. He next went to the crime scene at 4837 S. St. Lawrence Avenue, where he met Chicago Police Detectives John Zalatoris and Edward O'Connell. They returned to Area 1 headquarters between 7:30 and 8 p.m. Nolan again found Officer Hayes with defendant in the same interview room in the 2nd District. This time, however, Nolan observed that defendant's left eye was swollen. Nolan, "very surprised," asked Hayes what had happened, but defendant personally answered the question. Defendant told Nolan that "while he was being processed in the lockup that one of the lockup personnel struck him in the face," or "somebody in the lockup punched him in the eye." Defendant did not ask to go to the hospital and did not complain of any pain. Nolan asked Officer Hayes whether he had contacted his superiors. Hayes informed Nolan that the desk sergeant and the watch commander had been notified, that the incident had been reported to the police department Office of Professional Standards, and that Professional Standards "was already involved."*fn3

Defendant's mother, Ellen Gaston Bronaugh, had arrived at the 2nd District. Nolan then had defendant and defendant's mother brought upstairs to an interview room at Area 1 for questioning. At 9:08 p.m., Nolan and Detectives Zalatoris and O'Connell had a conversation with defendant, who was not handcuffed, in the presence of his mother. Nolan first gave defendant Miranda warnings, and also warned defendant that he could be tried as an adult. Defendant responded that he understood his rights and agreed to give a statement. After defendant gave an innocent explanation, Nolan and the detectives confronted defendant with the several bruises and bite marks on the victim's body. Defendant then gave an inculpatory statement. This interview lasted between 45 minutes and one hour. A Cook County assistant State's Attorney was called.

Nolan testified that neither he nor anyone in his presence pushed defendant onto a stool or punched defendant. At no time did defendant fall or hit his head while attempting to avoid the punches of Nolan or anyone in Nolan's presence. Neither Nolan nor anyone in Nolan's presence cursed or shouted at defendant's mother, told defendant that he would never go home or that he would be raped in prison, or told defendant that if he made a statement he could go home.

Detective Zalatoris testified that on February 9, 2001, at approximately 6 p.m., he and his partner, Detective O'Connell, were assigned to investigate the aggravated battery of a child. They traveled to the crime scene and met Youth Investigator Nolan. Zalatoris learned that defendant was in custody. He, O'Connell, and Nolan returned to Area 1 "maybe a little bit after" 7 p.m.

Zalatoris first saw defendant as he was being led to an Area 1 interview room. Defendant's eye was injured. Prior to meeting defendant, Zalatoris already was informed that defendant received a black eye in the lockup. Zalatoris also learned that the 2nd District had already notified the Office of Professional Standards of defendant's injury. Zalatoris explained that he did not personally document defendant's injury because Professional Standards was going to investigate and would require 2nd District personnel to explain the injury as opposed to any Area 1 personnel. Office of Professional Standards personnel did arrive at Area 1, but Zalatoris did not recall at what time they tried to speak with defendant. In any event, Zalatoris explained that the criminal investigation superseded the Professional Standards administrative investigation and Professional Standards investigators would have to wait to interview defendant until after the criminal investigation was complete.

According to Zalatoris, defendant and his mother had an opportunity to be alone together prior to the 9:08 p.m. interview. In addition to Zalatoris, defendant and his mother, O'Connell, and Nolan were present. Zalatoris asked defendant how he received his injury, and defendant replied that "one of the guys downstairs hit him in the lockup." Defendant, or his mother, never complained of any pain regarding his eye and did not want to go to a hospital. Neither Zalatoris nor O'Connell nor Nolan physically assaulted defendant in any way, including punching him, or causing him to fall and hit his head, or pushing him onto a stool. Zalatoris stated that no one threatened defendant in any way, including telling him that he would never go home again, or that he would be raped in prison. No one offered any inducements to defendant, including promises that if he made a statement he could go home. Zalatoris denied that anyone cursed at defendant's mother or shouted at her. At the conclusion of this interview, all three officers left the room to call a Cook County assistant State's Attorney. Zalatoris had no further interaction with defendant. That was the extent of Detective Zalatoris' interaction with defendant.

Detective O'Connell's testimony was similar to that of Zalatoris in all material respects. Further, on cross-examination, O'Connell testified that the lockup keeper fingerprints arrestees. Defense counsel asked O'Connell whether defendant told him "that the person who was fingerprinting him choked him, and that he finally passed out and bang[ed] his head." O'Connell answered that defendant "said he just got hit" by the lockup keeper. O'Connell denied that he or any of the officers grabbed or pushed defendant onto a stool, or cursed and shouted at defendant's mother, or otherwise threatened or coerced defendant to make a statement.

Cook County Assistant State's Attorney John Heil arrived at Chicago police department Area 1 headquarters at approximately 10 p.m. Heil spoke with Detectives O'Connell and Zalatoris and Youth Investigator Nolan. They told Heil that defendant had a swollen left eye, that the injury occurred in the police station lockup, and that a Professional Standards investigation was under way. Heil, Zalatoris, and Nolan then traveled to Wyler Children's Hospital to ascertain the victim's condition. Heil learned that the victim died either when he was leaving the hospital or upon his return to Area 1.

They returned to Area 1 at approximately 12:30 a.m. on February 10. Heil, along with O'Connell and Nolan, entered an interview room where defendant was sitting, not handcuffed, beside his mother, Ellen Bronaugh. Heil immediately observed that defendant's left eye was swollen. Heil introduced himself to defendant and Bronaugh and explained his role as a prosecutor. Heil next gave defendant Miranda warnings, warned defendant that he would be tried as an adult and, according to Nolan's testimony, informed defendant that the victim had died. Defendant then agreed to speak with Heil. Initially, Heil asked defendant how he received the eye injury. Defendant answered that his eye was injured "while he was in the lockup." Defendant then repeated his oral inculpatory statement. After listening to defendant's oral statement, Heil asked O'Connell and Nolan to leave the room. With only himself, defendant, and Bronaugh present, Heil then questioned defendant regarding his treatment at Area 1. According to Heil: "Defendant told me he had been treated fine. He indicated to me that what he had been telling me was the truth and had nothing to do with what happened earlier with regard to his eye." Defendant acknowledged that the detectives provided him with food and drink, restroom access when needed, and time to sleep. Defendant again told Heil that his eye injury "happened while he was in the lockup." Defendant stated that he was not in pain and did not need medical attention. Heil then asked O'Connell and Nolan back into the interview room. Heil next explained to defendant his options for memorializing his statement. Defendant chose to make a videotaped statement. This session lasted between 30 and 45 minutes.

At approximately 9:27 a.m. on February 10, 2001, defendant made a videotaped statement, which was played in open court. The video shows defendant sitting at the head of a small conference table. Sitting on either side of defendant were Heil, O'Connell, Nolan, and defendant's mother. In the video, defendant received Miranda warnings and stated that his eye injury occurred in the police lockup. It was not caused by the arresting officer or any Area 1 detective. Further, defendant maintained that his statement had nothing to do with his eye injury.

Answering Heil's questions, defendant concluded the statement as follows. Heil and the Area 1 detectives had treated defendant fairly. Defendant's mother was present during questioning, and the detectives allowed defendant and his mother time alone. Defendant slept, ate, drank, and had restroom access. Defendant denied being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Neither Heil, Nolan, nor the detectives made any threats or promises to defendant or his mother in exchange for defendant's statement.

At the conclusion of the State's evidence, the circuit court denied defendant's motion for a directed finding of suppression. The court reviewed the evidence, including the undisputed evidence of defendant's injured left eye, his accusation that a police department employee had punched him in the eye in the lockup, and that the Office of Professional Standards was investigating the incident. The court found that defendant did not complain of any pain; he was not handcuffed; he understood and waived his rights; he was never questioned outside the presence of the youth investigator or his mother; and both defendant and his mother appeared "cool, calm, and collected throughout the statement." The circuit court observed that the motion to suppress alleged that police detectives cursed at defendant's mother. However, the court found: "I've reviewed the statement, watched his mother throughout the 20 minutes, she shakes her head in agreement a few times during the defendant's statement. At no time [does she] appear[ ] in the least bit agitated, nor does the defendant." The circuit court then found that the evidence was "overwhelming that he [defendant] was advised of his rights, understood his rights, was not threatened or coerced in any manner to give a statement implicating himself regarding the death of his daughter." Based on "the totality of the circumstances," including "all of those involved with the taping of the defendant's statement, the Court finds it was given freely and voluntarily and not in violation of any of the defendant's constitutional rights." The circuit court ruled: "Your motion to grant a motion to suppress at the close of the State's case is respectfully denied." The hearing proceeded with the defense presenting its evidence in support of the motion to suppress.

Defendant's mother, Ellen Gaston Bronaugh, was the sole defense witness at the suppression hearing. She testified that at approximately 5 p.m. on February 9, 2001, she received a telephone call from police requesting her presence at the 2nd District police station because defendant "was in trouble." Upon her arrival, she was taken to a room where she encountered two detectives, two uniformed officers, and defendant, who was handcuffed to a pole. She did not have an opportunity to speak with defendant at that time, but he appeared to have no injuries. A question arose concerning defendant's age: defendant had told officers that he was 17 years old, but Bronaugh claimed that he was 16 years old. Officers drove Bronaugh to her home to obtain proof of defendant's age. She returned to the police station in about 20 minutes.

At approximately 5:30 p.m., Bronaugh was standing in a hallway speaking with an officer when she heard defendant "screaming and hollering" from the same room where she had last seen him. Through the open door, she heard defendant shout, "That mother fucker hit me, put me in a choke hold and I passed out." Bronaugh entered the room and saw defendant sitting with a single officer. Defendant told Bronaugh that a uniformed guard in the lockup injured him. He complained that the guard "put him in a full Nelson and he passed out." Bronaugh noticed that defendant "had a big old knot over his eye." Bronaugh asked defendant how his eye was injured. Defendant responded that he hit his face when he passed out. Upon hearing defendant's accusation, Bronaugh began complaining to officers and demanding "to talk to somebody." A sergeant passed by and asked what was wrong. Bronaugh informed him of defendant's injury. The sergeant spoke with defendant and reported the incident. According to Bronaugh, at no time while she was in the 2nd District police station did anyone question defendant regarding the Diamond Clark investigation.

Sometime later defendant and Bronaugh were moved to a room in Area 1, on the second floor of the building. Defendant was not handcuffed at that time. Three detectives entered the room. Defendant received Miranda warnings, and then the detectives left the room. Alone, defendant told Bronaugh that "his eye was hurting." The three detectives reentered the room and began questioning defendant regarding the victim's injuries. Bronaugh repeatedly advised defendant that he was not required to speak with the detectives. According to Bronaugh, this angered one of the detectives: "And he got mad at me, he was like, this bitch. I'm like, your mama a bitch." Bronaugh did not request medical treatment for defendant because they were frightened by the detectives' rude conduct. Also, Bronaugh repeatedly asked to leave the room to telephone her home because, according to her testimony: "I wanted somebody to know where I was and what was going on." The detectives told her she had to stay with defendant because he was underage. Bronaugh was allowed to leave the room and make a telephone call subsequent to defendant's inculpatory statement to Assistant State's Attorney Heil and prior to his videotaped statement. Further, according to Bronaugh, the detectives told defendant that "if he told what happened on the tape, he could go home with me."

Having heard all of the testimony, the circuit court found: "[T]he defendant's mother has borne out what the officers said. They advised defendant of his rights. He acknowledged that he understood his rights. He never requested a lawyer. His mother never requested a lawyer. She never requested medical assistance. He never requested medical assistance." The court ruled: "The statement was freely and voluntarily given and not depriving the defendant at any time of his constitutional rights. Your motion to suppress the statement is respectfully denied." Further, prior to jury selection, defendant filed a motion to reconsider the court's denial of the suppression motion. The court again recounted the evidence adduced at the hearing. The court found that neither defendant nor his mother sought to invoke his rights or seek medical treatment for his eye injury. The court found that none of the arresting officers or the interrogating detectives were involved in the lockup incident, and that the detectives did not question defendant outside the presence of his mother. The court stated that it observed the witnesses and assessed their credibility. The court noted Bronaugh's testimony that one of the detectives cursed her, but the court observed the cool, calm, and ...

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