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The People of the State of Illinois v. Juan A. Rivera

December 9, 2011


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 92-CF-2751 Honorable Christopher C. Starck, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hutchinson

JUSTICE HUTCHINSON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices McLaren and Bowman concurred in the judgment and opinion.


¶ 1 In May 2009, following a jury trial, defendant, Juan A. Rivera, Jr., was convicted of first-degree murder for the 1992 killing of 11-year-old Holly Staker, the victim. The trial court sentenced defendant to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Thereafter the trial court denied defendant's posttrial motions, and defendant filed a timely notice of appeal. Defendant presents seven issues for review: (1) whether the State presented sufficient evidence to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) whether his constitutional rights were violated when the trial court excluded certain expert witness testimony relating to the effects his psychiatric and psychological conditions were apt to have had on him and on the reliability of his statements during questioning using particular interrogative techniques; (3) whether evidence relating to the victim's sexual history violated the Illinois rape shield statute and the rules of evidence; (4) whether defendant should have been allowed to examine a witness regarding polygraph examinations; (5) whether the trial court violated this court's earlier mandate and Illinois evidence law when it allowed the State to present evidence regarding malfunctions in electronic monitoring units other than the one assigned to defendant; (6) whether defendant was denied the right to present a defense when the trial court excluded defense evidence rebutting the State's claim that defendant knew facts that only the perpetrator could have known; and (7) whether defendant's statements should have been suppressed as involuntary. Because the State's evidence was insufficient to sustain the jury's verdict, we reverse. Accordingly, we do not reach the remaining issues.

¶ 2 On August 17, 1992, police responded to a call in Waukegan after a woman living there, Dawn Engelbrecht, reported that her babysitter, Holly Staker, was missing. The back door to Engelbrecht's apartment had been kicked in. The police found the victim's partially clothed body on the floor of the children's bedroom. The victim had been stabbed multiple times and was pronounced dead at the scene. An investigation led police to question defendant, who purportedly gave incriminating responses to the officers' questions. Defendant later signed a statement in which he confessed to killing the victim.

¶ 3 On November 12, 1992, a grand jury indicted defendant on four counts of first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (a)(2), (a)(3) (West 1992)). Defendant was convicted in a November 1993 jury trial, but on appeal this court reversed and remanded for a new trial. See People v. Rivera, No. 2-94-0075 (1996) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). Defendant was retried in 1998 and was convicted in a jury trial. The jury found defendant not guilty of one count of intentional murder, but guilty of the other three counts of murder: knowledge of great bodily harm (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(2) (West 1992)); in the course of an aggravated criminal sexual assault with a weapon (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(3), 12-14(a)(1) (West 1992)); and in the course of an aggravated criminal sexual assault of a victim under the age of 13 (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(3), 12-14(b)(1) (West 1992)). On appeal, this court affirmed defendant's conviction. See People v. Rivera, 333 Ill. App. 3d 1092 (2001).

¶ 4 In 2004, the trial court granted defendant's motion for DNA testing of material from vaginal swabs taken at the victim's autopsy. In 2005, a forensic testing company tested sperm from a swab stick, and the vial in which it had been held, and made a finding that defendant was "excluded as the source of the DNA obtained from the swab and vial." Both the State and the defense accept the conclusion and no challenge is made to it. The DNA results have been run in the federal and state databases, but no match has been found to date. In 2006, based on the forensic testing company's finding, the trial court granted defendant's petition for relief from judgment pursuant to section 2-1401 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-1401 (West 2006)).

¶ 5 In May 2009, defendant's present jury trial commenced. In its opening statement, the State claimed that the evidence would show that, on August 17, 1992, defendant sexually assaulted the victim by penetrating her vagina and anus, and then defendant stabbed the victim 27 times, including in the neck, the throat, 5 clusters around the heart, and the vagina. The State presented evidence pertaining to the crime scene and the analysis of the physical evidence collected. Evidence technicians took samples of blood found in the bedroom and near the kitchen sink, where it appeared that someone had washed bloodied hands. Technicians lifted fingerprints from the apartment and removed the damaged back door for forensic analysis. They took photographs and samples of bloody streaks near the banister on the front staircase. Investigators discovered a knife broken into two pieces in a neighbor's yard.

¶ 6 Dr. Nancy Jones testified that she performed the autopsy of the victim. Jones testified that the victim had suffered 27 stab wounds, had been strangled, and had incurred massive injuries as a result of having been sexually assaulted vaginally and anally prior to her death. Jones took vaginal and anal swabs, which were sent to the Northern Illinois Police Crime Laboratory (the Crime Lab). The Crime Lab determined that the vaginal swabs tested positive for semen, and spermatozoa were found on slides generated from the swabs.

¶ 7 William Wilson, a forensic scientist with the Crime Lab, testified that he analyzed the damaged back door and determined that some of the damage was caused by a blue object approximately one inch in diameter. Following an investigation, Wilson determined that the handle from a blue mop found on the back porch was consistent in size and color with some of the damage to the door. Deputy Bert Foster reported on a towel found next to the mop.

¶ 8 The State presented evidence of the Lake County police department's investigation and interrogation of defendant. On October 2, 1992, defendant met with officers and agreed to provide samples of his blood and hair. Defendant signed a statement for the officers, reflecting that, on the night of August 17, he had been at a party at Shanita Craig's house, close to where the victim's murder occurred. In the statement, defendant described a male individual, who came and left the party repeatedly, and who later returned sweaty, out of breath, and with a fresh scratch. Defendant indicated that the male individual might have been on "coke" because he was acting paranoid. Following an investigation by the police, it was revealed that there was no party at the Craig residence on August 17.

¶ 9 On October 27, 1992, defendant was transferred to the Lake County jail. Defendant took a polygraph test, which yielded no results. On October 28, 1992, at approximately 9:30 a.m., the police began their interrogation of defendant. In the hours that followed, defendant gave various accounts, including a statement substantively similar to the one he gave police on October 2. On October 29, 1992, Detective James Held and Detective Richard Davis continued the interrogation of defendant and requested that he undergo another polygraph test. Throughout the day and night, defendant continued to give the interrogating police officers, who also included Corporal Michael Blazincic, Detective Meadie, Sergeant Fernando Shipley, and Sergeant Charles Fagan, varying accounts of his whereabouts and activities on August 17. At approximately 3 a.m. on October 30, 1992, Meadie and Fagan left the interrogation to prepare and type a statement summarizing defendant's new version of the events. In that statement, defendant explained that the victim was attired in "a sleeveless shirt and a pair of tight shorts." Defendant stated that he went to the bathroom, and when he returned to the living room, the victim "must have changed clothes, because she was wearing a nightgown or similar type garment." Defendant stated that he and the victim engaged in consensual vaginal and anal intercourse and that he did not use any "protection" during intercourse; defendant stated that he did not think he ejaculated. Defendant stated that the victim left the bedroom and returned with a knife and began striking him. Defendant stated that they continued fighting "and that was when [he] started punching [the victim] not realizing [he] had the knife in [his] hand." At approximately 8:10 a.m., Meadie and Fagan entered defendant's cell with the prepared statement. Fagan read aloud the statement, and defendant signed each page they had drafted. Fagan and Meadie left the cell.

¶ 10 The interrogation continued, and the detectives told defendant that two other investigators wished to interview him, and Sergeant Lou Tessmann and Sergeant Michael Maley joined them. Following further interrogation, Tessmann and Maley left to prepare an investigative report with another version of events; Sergeant David Ostertag continued with the interrogation. At approximately 1:15 p.m., Maley and Tessmann returned and read aloud a statement they had prepared for defendant, again incriminating him in the victim's murder. In this statement, defendant saw the victim "standing at the Mexican lady's front door," and she asked him into the apartment. Defendant stated that he did "not remember what the little kids were wearing, but [the victim] had on some black stretch pants with stirrups on the bottoms and a multi-colored shirt." Defendant stated that the victim was teasing him, which angered him. Defendant stated that he took a knife from the kitchen and they began fighting; the victim "was getting cut by the knife." Defendant stated that he pushed the victim onto the bed and had vaginal and anal intercourse with her. Defendant stated that he could not recall whether he ejaculated on the victim or whether he ejaculated at all. Defendant went to the kitchen sink and washed the knife and his hands. Defendant stated that he left the apartment "through the back door," which he closed behind him. Defendant stated that he "wanted to make it look like a burlgary [sic] break in, so I grabbed a mop that was leaning outside this door in the hallway." Defendant stated that he "then grabbed a towel, that was laying on the floor and wiped any fingerprints off the mop because [he] did not wear gloves." Defendant signed the three-page statement, and he was thereafter charged with the victim's murder.

¶ 11 At trial, Tessmann admitted that he might have asked questions that contained facts of the murder, such as "She had a multi-colored shirt on, right?" Maley admitted that, during the interrogation, he questioned defendant as to whether the victim was really wearing a nightgown.

Maley testified that Tessmann asked questions "about facts in the previous statement that he believed were untrue."

ΒΆ 12 The State called two witnesses, Michael Jackson and Maurice Craig, who both testified that there was no party at the Craig house on August 17, 1992. Jackson further testified that, while defendant was in the Lake County jail, defendant asked him to provide an alibi for him because the police were railroading him for a crime he did not commit. Dawn Engelbrecht testified that, on August 17, 1992, while the police were at her home collecting evidence, a crowd gathered in the street and someone approached her. Engelbrecht testified that, although she later identified defendant as that ...

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