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People v. Hannah

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, First Division

June 3, 2013

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
LAROYAL HANNAH, Defendant-Appellant.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 10 CR 10267 Honorable Mary M. Brosnahan, Judge Presiding.

Presiding Justice Hoffman and Justice Delort concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

CUNNINGHAM, JUSTICE

¶ 1 Following a bench trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant Laroyal Hannah was convicted of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon and sentenced to two years of probation. On direct appeal, the defendant argues that: (1) the State failed to prove the corpus delicti of the offense; (2) the trial court erred in denying his pretrial motion to disclose the identity of the confidential informant; and (3) the trial court erred in denying his pretrial motion to suppress his incriminating statement to the police. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court of Cook County.

¶ 2 BACKGROUND

¶ 3 On May 8, 2010, Chicago police officers executed a search warrant for an apartment unit located at 8210 South Drexel Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. In the "complaint for search warrant, " police officer Arshell Dennis (Officer Dennis) averred that on May 6, 2010, confidential informant "J. Doe" informed him that the confidential informant had purchased crack cocaine for $20 from a woman known as "Angela" at 8210 South Drexel Avenue. "Angela" gave the confidential informant crack cocaine from a clear plastic bag that contained numerous other plastic bags of suspected cocaine. The confidential informant told Officer Dennis that he frequently bought crack cocaine from "Angela" at that location, and that after making the purchase on May 6, 2010, the confidential informant smoked the crack cocaine that was purchased from "Angela." After receiving this information, Officer Dennis averred that the confidential informant positively identified 8210 South Drexel Avenue as the address where he had purchased crack cocaine from "Angela." As a result of the search, the police recovered suspected cocaine and a firearm from the residence. Thereafter, the defendant and a woman named Angelica McKnight (Angelica) were arrested.

¶ 4 On June 7, 2010, the defendant was charged with two counts of unlawful use or possession of a weapon by a felon (counts I and II), and one count of possession of a controlled substance (count III).[1]

¶ 5 On September 8, 2010, the defendant filed a pretrial motion to compel disclosure of the identity of the confidential informant (motion to disclose), arguing that disclosure was warranted because the confidential informant may have information that would benefit the defense. Specifically, the defendant argued that because the confidential informant had been to the location at issue numerous times, had information about drug dealings there, and had not mentioned the defendant at all, the informant could provide information as to who lived at the residence and other potentially helpful information to the defense. In response to the motion to disclose, the State argued that public policy outweighed the need for disclosure of the confidential informant's identity, and that the defendant already possessed information that an individual other than the defendant had control of the apartment because the defendant was present at the time the search warrant was executed.

¶ 6 On November 15, 2010, following a hearing, the trial court denied the motion to disclose. The trial court noted that it was required to balance the public policy reasons for nondisclosure of the confidential informant against the defendant's need for disclosure in order to prepare a defense. The trial court noted that the complaint for search warrant mentioned a black female known as "Angela" who was making hand-to-hand drug transactions at the location at issue, but that the defendant was not charged with having committed any hand-to-hand drug transactions. Rather, the trial court noted, the defendant was charged under a theory of constructive possession of the recovered firearm and suspected cocaine. The trial court further stated that the purpose of the search warrant was to establish probable cause for the police to enter the premises and that the confidential informant was not present for the crimes the defendant was charged with committing on May 8, 2010. The trial court found that the defendant did not sustain his burden in showing that disclosure was necessary and that the defendant had not "established anything other than it would be a fishing expedition."

¶ 7 Subsequently, the defendant filed a motion to reconsider the trial court's denial of the motion to disclose, arguing that the burden was on the State to prevent disclosure of the identity of the confidential informant. Following a hearing on December 15, 2010 and February 24, 2011, the trial court denied the motion to reconsider its denial of the motion to disclose. In denying the motion to reconsider, the trial court noted that while the State did not articulate a "point by point basis" against disclosure, an individual who provides information to the police "to get somebody possibly arrested" could be in fear for his safety. The trial court stated that the prosecutors did not know the identity of the informant, but that the information was kept secret by the police "until there is some sort of mandatory disclosure order to the State." The trial court found that the fact that the confidential informant might not have seen the defendant at the residence during the informant's previous visits failed to prove that the defendant did not reside there or that he did not know about the existence of the narcotics. The trial court found that, "in doing the balancing test, " disclosure was not warranted and would only amount to a "fishing expedition."

¶ 8 On December 15, 2010, the defendant filed a pretrial motion to suppress statements that he made to the police at the time the search warrant was executed (motion to suppress), arguing that they were obtained in the absence of Miranda warnings. The State argued that the defendant was not subjected to a custodial interrogation so as to warrant the giving of Miranda warnings.

¶ 9 On February 24, 2011, prior to the start of trial, a hearing on the motion to suppress was held. At the hearing, Officer Dennis testified that at about noon on May 8, 2010, he and eight other police officers executed the search warrant at 8210 South Drexel Avenue in Chicago. He testified that the police officers, with weapons drawn, made a forced entry into the residence. Upon entry, he observed that the defendant was in the bedroom, after which the police officers detained or "secured" the defendant by handcuffing him. Officer Dennis testified that, at that time, the defendant was not free to leave the premises. The police officers then recovered a handgun in the apartment. The defendant then, without having been advised of his Miranda rights, made an incriminating statement to the police about the recovered handgun. Officer Dennis stated that the defendant was not named in the search warrant and that he was not seen violating any laws before he was placed in handcuffs. On cross-examination, Officer Dennis explained that, in order to ensure the safety of the police officers, the defendant was detained before the apartment was searched. Officer Dennis explained that, for the officers' safety and regardless of whether an occupant was the named target in a search warrant, he always detained occupants inside the residence when executing a search warrant. Officer Dennis stated that the police officers initially patted the defendant down, after which the defendant was brought into the living room and handcuffed. Angelica, along with a young child, was also found in the bedroom. Officer Dennis testified that the police then searched the bedroom and found a handgun. Officer Dennis then asked both the defendant and Angelica about the handgun, at which point the defendant responded with an incriminating statement. On redirect examination, Officer Dennis testified that no weapons were found on the defendant's person; that the defendant was handcuffed in the living room; that police officers remained with the defendant in the living room; that Angelica and a young child were found on the bed in the bedroom; and that the police officers also patted Angelica down. Officer Dennis clarified that, after the handgun was recovered from the bedroom, he asked both the defendant and Angelica "whose gun [was] this, " to which the defendant made an incriminating statement to the police.

¶ 10 In denying the motion to suppress, the trial court found that Miranda warnings were not required because, while the defendant and Angelica were detained and not free to leave at the time the search warrant was executed, it was not a "custodial situation akin to an arrest at a police station where the officers had brought them there pursuant to probable cause." The trial court remarked that basically in every search warrant case, police officers secure the premises by gathering the people into one location and detaining them until a search has been conducted. The trial court further found that once the handgun was recovered by the police in this case and Officer Dennis had asked to whom the handgun belonged, the defendant and Angelica could have chosen not to say anything. The trial court stated that Miranda warnings would only have been required had there been any further questioning of the defendant after he had made the incriminating statement to Officer Dennis at the residence.

¶ 11 On February 24, 2011, a bench trial commenced during which the defendant and Angelica, as the codefendant, were tried contemporaneously. Officer Dennis's testimony at trial was similar to his testimony at the hearing on the motion to suppress. Officer Dennis stated that, in executing the search warrant, police officers located the defendant, Angelica and a child sitting on a bed in the only bedroom in the apartment. Both the defendant and Angelica were clothed and awake. The police officers then immediately detained both the defendant and Angelica by patting them down, handcuffing them, and moving them to the living room. After the defendant and Angelica were detained, the police officers photographed the residence and conducted a search of the premises. Officer Dennis searched the bedroom, where he recovered a loaded semiautomatic .22-caliber handgun from between the mattresses on the bed. The handgun was not stored in a case. Officer Hoffman then photographed and inventoried the handgun. A pair of men's jeans and mail addressed to Angelica showing proof of residence at the apartment were also recovered from the bedroom. Officer Dennis also searched the front hall closet of the apartment, where he recovered a clear plastic bag containing suspected cocaine and other suspected narcotics packaging. The plastic bags were also photographed by Officer Hoffman. Officer Watts recovered approximately $1, 100 from the kitchen. In the living room, Officer Dennis also asked both the defendant and Angelica who owned the handgun, and the defendant responded that the handgun belonged to him. Thereafter, the defendant and Angelica were arrested and transported to the police station. At the police station, at approximately 2:40 p.m., the defendant was advised of his Miranda rights and agreed to speak with Officer Dennis. The defendant informed Officer Dennis that he had obtained the handgun in Indiana and that it had been in his possession for about two years. On cross-examination, Officer Dennis testified that neither the handgun nor the plastic bag of suspected narcotics was tested for fingerprints. He also testified that the defendant did not reach between the mattresses for the handgun when the police officers began searching the premises. Officer Dennis testified that a "raid activity summary report" prepared by another officer in connection with this case listed a different address as the defendant's residence. He stated that only one bed was found in the apartment and that it was large enough to accommodate at least two people.

¶ 12 Officer Hoffman testified that he was the inventory officer during the execution of the search warrant in question. Upon entry into the apartment, the police officers secured the defendant and Angelica for the officers' safety by patting them down and relocating them to the living room. Officer Dennis lifted up a mattress on the bed in the bedroom and Officer Hoffman photographed a black handgun located on the box spring. Officer Hoffman then took possession of the handgun, which he described as a loaded .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun. Officer Hoffman also photographed and inventoried a plastic bag containing suspected crack cocaine, which was found in a front closet of the apartment. Other items that were recovered from the residence included United States currency, some narcotics packaging and proof of residence for Angelica.

ΒΆ 13 Following Officer Hoffman's testimony at trial, the State introduced into evidence a certified copy of the defendant's felony conviction in 2001. The parties then stipulated that, if called to testify, forensics expert Mark Palomo (Palomo) would testify with a reasonable degree of scientific certainty that the plastic bag of suspected ...


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