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People v. Goins

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division

October 23, 2013

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
TYRECE GOINS, Defendant-Appellant.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 08 CR 1944 Honorable Clayton J. Crane, Judge Presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE HYMAN delivered the judgment of the court. Justices Pucinski and Mason concurred in the judgment.

OPINION

HYMAN, PRESIDING JUSTICE.

¶ 1 A jury convicted defendant Tyrece Goins of aggravated battery of a child and acquitted him of attempted first degree murder. Goins was sentenced to 11 years in prison. Before trial, Goins filed a motion to suppress a statement made to a detective and an assistant State's Attorney during his interrogation. He contends that he had not "voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently" waived his Miranda rights before making the statement because his "mental, educational, emotional and/or psychological state, capacity and condition" prevented him from fully understanding those rights. After hearing testimony from three experts (one retained by the State and two by the defense), Goins' mother, Goins, and the detective and assistant State's Attorney who interrogated Goins, the trial court denied the motion, finding that Goins knowingly and intelligently waived his Miranda rights. See Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).

¶ 2 The matter proceeded to a jury trial, where the State introduced Goins' statement as evidence. The State also presented testimony from the detective and assistant State's Attorney regarding their taking defendant's statement, testimony from Goins' mother concerning Goins' ability to care for his young son and to live independently despite his learning disabilities, and testimony from medical experts about the victim's injuries.

¶ 3 After trial, Goins sought a new trial, asserting that the trial court made several erroneous rulings, including: denying his motion to suppress his statement; limiting Goins' expert's testimony to matters relating to Goins' IQ score; and denying his motion for a mistrial when the State's witness made reference to a scar on the victim and the long-term effects of the victim's injuries. The motion for a new trial also alleged that the State made improper and inflammatory remarks during closing and rebuttal arguments. The trial court denied Goins' motion for a new trial.

¶ 4 In this appeal, Goins argues that the trial court erred in (1) denying the motion to suppress his statement where the evidence did not establish that he knowingly and intelligently waived his Miranda rights, owing to his limited mental capacity inhibiting full understanding of the meaning of his rights; (2) limiting his expert's testimony to information concerning Goins' IQ score; (3) denying his motion for a mistrial where the State's expert testified about a scar on the victim and the long-term effects of the victim's injuries; and (4) denying his motion for a new trial where the State made improper remarks during closing and rebuttal arguments. We disagree and affirm.

¶ 5 We find defendant voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently waived his Miranda rights, where considering the totality of circumstances, including defendant's limited mental capacity, the trial court's finding on this issue was not against the manifest weight of the evidence. Also, we find the trial court properly limited defendant's expert testimony to factors relating to defendant's limited mental capacity and did not deprive defendant of a fair trial based on testimony by the State's expert witness or remarks by the prosecutor during closing and rebuttal arguments.

¶ 6 BACKGROUND

¶ 7 The Taking of the Statement

¶ 8 On January 28, 2008, the State charged Goins by indictment with attempted first degree murder and aggravated battery of a child stemming from injuries sustained by his two-year-old son, Wanya, on December 31, 2007. At the time of the incident, Goins believed that Wanya was his son from a previous relationship. (Later, Goins learned that he was not Wayna's biological father.) Wayne lived with Goins and his girlfriend, Alexandra Smith, in Springfield, Illinois, where Goins was enrolled in a GED program at Lincoln Land Community College.

¶ 9 In December 2007, Goins, Smith, and Wanya visited the Chicago area to celebrate the holidays. Smith returned to Springfield shortly after December 25, 2007; Goins and Wanya remained in Chicago. On December 31, Goins and Wanya were staying at the apartment of Goins' mother, Veronica Goins, and Goins' sister, Donna Goins. On that evening, Goins was home alone with Wanya.

¶ 10 On the morning of January 1, 2008, Goins' mother and sister returned home and noticed that something was wrong with Wanya. The child was moaning. His eyes were rolled into the back of his head. And he would not stand unassisted. Goins' mother called the paramedics and Wanya was taken to Comer Children's Hospital. Due to Wanya's young age, a child abuse team was assigned to evaluate his case and hospital staff contacted the police. The doctors determined Wayna suffered extensive injuries, including severe brain injury, hemorrhages in his brain and retinas, as well as bruises on his forehead and blood inside his ear canal. Wanya's injuries required putting a drain in his head to evacuate excess fluid and blood accumulating on his brain and a cervical collar to stabilize his neck. Also, Wanya was attached to IV tubes containing various medications to keep him stable and treat seizures.

¶ 11 On January 2, 2008, Chicago police detective David Matual interviewed Goins at the hospital. Goins told Detective Matual that at the time of the incident, he had gone to the washroom while Wanya played on the bed. When he returned from the washroom, Wanya had fallen off of the bed and was screaming. Goins did not immediately call 911, but his mother called an ambulance the following morning. Detective Matual informed Goins that he was under arrest and read Goins his Miranda rights. After Goins requested that an assistant State's Attorney (ASA) be present for the interview, Detective Matual brought ASA Marina Para into the interview room. ASA Para advised Goins of his Miranda rights, then transcribed a statement from Goins by hand on a preprinted form used for taking statements. The form contained a paragraph advising Goins of his Miranda rights. The handwritten statement summarized the events that took place on December 31, 2007, leading up to Wanya's injuries.

¶ 12 In the statement, Goins explained that on December 31, 2007, he and Wanya, whose nickname is "Tank, " were staying at his mother's apartment. Goins and Wanya were home alone. His mother was working and his sister went out with friends. At about 8 p.m., Goins and Wanya were watching television when Goins' father called on the landline telephone. Goins' father told Goins that his two-year-old brother passed away that day. Goins stated that the news made him "sad, upset, and frustrated so he threw the phone and it hit a chair and the back piece came off and he put it back on." From that point on, Goins stated that the telephone cut in and out for the rest of the night.

¶ 13 Shortly before 9 p.m., Goins took Wanya upstairs to the bedroom to watch television while sitting on the bed. "Angry, upset, sad, crying, and frustrated, " with " no one home for him to talk to about how he felt, " Goins was "putting his fists on the side of his face and was moving his arms around and was acting more than just crazy because he was so upset." Goins was "hollering" and used his right hand to hit Wanya's head "pretty hard" on the right side. Goins then saw Wanya's head hit the wall. Wanya fell backwards on the bed, and was "screaming very loudly and at a high pitch, which is not how he normally crie[d]." Goins observed that Wanya "was not the same as before [Goins] hit him." Goins picked up Wanya and shook him to see what was wrong with him. Goins saw that Wanya's head was falling to the side and his eyes were rolling back in his head and would not stay open. Wanya could not stand on his own, and his arms were limp. Wanya also began vomiting repeatedly.

¶ 14 Goins said he "was feeling terrible because he had just hurt his son." Goins then called his girlfriend in Springfield and told her that Wanya had fallen off the bed because he was afraid to tell the truth. While Goins was speaking with his girlfriend, the telephone cut out. Goins then called his mother and left her a message. When she returned his call, Goins told her that Wanya had fallen off the bed because he was also scared to tell her the truth. His mother advised Goins to try to keep Wanya awake, but Wanya could not keep his eyes open or his head up. Wanya continued to cry and scream all night. Goins "did not call the police or 911 all night because he was scared and he was the person who hit [Wanya]."

¶ 15 The next morning, around 10 or 11 a.m., Goins' mother arrived home. She tried to wake Wanya and called 911. Because he was still scared, Goins again told his mother that Wanya had fallen off the bed while he was in the washroom. The ambulance arrived and took Wanya to the hospital. Goins did not tell anyone what he did to Wanya until his statement to ASA Para.

¶ 16 On September 15, 2008, Goins filed an amended motion to suppress the statement he made to ASA Para. The motion alleged that Goins did not voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently waive his Miranda rights where his mental deficiencies made him "incapable and unable to appreciate and understand the full meaning of his Miranda rights."

¶ 17 Hearing on Motion to Suppress

¶ 18 On November 18, 2009, the trial court held a hearing on Goins' motion to suppress his statement. Goins presented testimony from two doctors who worked at Forensic Clinical Services. Dr. Fidel Echevarria testified that he examined Goins on January 27, 2009. Dr. Echevarria concluded that Goins was fit to stand trial, but deferred his evaluation on the issue of whether Goins had the ability to understand Miranda warnings. Dr. Echevarria referred Goins to the psychology department for IQ and other cognitive testing. Dr. Echevarria testified that Dr. Eric Neu conducted psychological testing and submitted a report. Dr. Neu's report found that Goins had an IQ of 61, and diagnosed Goins with mild mental retardation. Dr. Echevarria explained that Goins had the ability to read, but had a delay and difficulty understanding certain words. Dr. Echevarria testified that nothing indicated that Goins was malingering. Based on Dr. Neu's report and his own examination, Dr. Echevarria concluded that Goins did not have the ability to understand his Miranda rights at the time of his statement.

¶ 19 Dr. Echevarria testified that during his examination, he asked Goins what each Miranda right meant. When asked what the right to remain silent meant, Goins responded, "I guess you could choose to stay quiet or talk." Dr. Echevarria testified that it would be fair to say that Goins understood the right to remain silent. When Dr. Echevarria asked Goins about the Miranda warning that anything you say can be used against you later in court, Goins explained, "I guess if you give a statement that the State's Attorney can use as evidence of what you told them." Dr. Echevarria testified that Goins' response was an accurate understanding of that Miranda right.

¶ 20 Dr. Echevarria asked Goins about the right to consult an attorney, whether Goins was able to financially afford one or not, and Goins replied, "Well, an attorney is a lawyer so I'm [not] sure what consult, that word is, but I guess it means talk to them. This thing about not having money means that you can get a PD." Dr. Echevarria testified that in his opinion, Goins provided an accurate understanding of that Miranda right. When asked about the right to consult an attorney before, and have an attorney present during, questioning, Goins responded, "[T]hat's a little confusing, it sounds like you can have the lawyer in the room with you when police ask questions." In Dr. Echevarria opinion, Goins' response indicated an accurate understanding of the right to have an attorney present during questioning. Despite Goins' accurate understanding of his Miranda rights at the time of his evaluation, Dr. Echevarria concluded that Goins would have been unable to understand his Miranda rights at the time of his statement.

¶ 21 Dr. Jonathan Kelly also testified on Goins' behalf. Dr. Kelly interviewed Goins twice, on September 30 and October 7, 2009. Dr. Kelly testified that he reviewed Goins' evaluation reports from Drs. Neu and Echevarria. Dr. Kelly's opinion was that Goins would not have had the ability to understand his Miranda rights when questioned by police. Dr. Kelly testified that he went over each of the Miranda warnings with Goins, and Goins was able to read each of the warnings out loud. When Dr. Kelly asked Goins the meaning of the right to remain silent, Goins stated, "Don't know, it will use me in court?" Dr. Kelly asked Goins about the meaning of the warning "anything you say can and may be used against you in court or other proceedings, " Goins responded, "They can use that against me in court, interrogation, the investigate[, ] the officers, they can use the statement against me in court." After Dr. Kelly asked him the meaning of "the right to talk to a lawyer before we ask you any questions and to have him with you during questioning, " Goins stated, "They ask me if I want to talk to them or to a lawyer. It say[s] I have the right to ask them questions or a lawyer. Do I want to talk to a lawyer before they ask me questions, have the lawyer with me during questioning?" Dr. Kelly found Goins' responses to be indicative of Goins' ability to understand his Miranda warnings at the time of Dr. Kelly's interview.

¶ 22 Dr. Kelly testified that Goins stated that he had never had any psychiatric hospitalizations or outpatient psychiatric treatment, and had never taken psychotropic medication. Dr. Kelly also questioned Goins about his adaptive functioning. Goins indicated that he was able to communicate using the telephone, do laundry, cook, and clean. Goins also told Dr. Kelly he had a driver's permit in the past, and was able to dial 911 in an emergency. Dr. Kelly opined that Goins was capable in the area of home living.

¶ 23 During cross-examination, Dr. Kelly testified that he was aware that Goins had met with other doctors and that Goins had not been cooperative with Dr. Susan Messina. Dr. Kelly read Dr. Messina's report, which stated that Goins "avoided direct answers to questions, " replied "I don't know" and "gave her misleading information." Dr. Kelly also testified that when he asked Goins whether he needed treatment of any kind, Goins stated, "I got a bad temper, I be fighting a lot at school, I snap on somebody." Dr. Kelly was aware from reviewing Goins' school records that Goins had been expelled from high school in the eleventh grade for fighting.

¶ 24 In response, the State presented testimony from Dr. Nishad Nadkarni, another psychiatrist from Forensic Clinical Services. Dr. Nadkarni interviewed Goins on December 19, 2008 and reviewed a report prepared by Dr. Messina, police reports, and Goins' statement. Dr. Nadkarni went through each Miranda right with Goins, asked him what it meant, and wrote down Goins' response. When questioned about the right to remain silent, Goins stated, "Thinking I could tell or not tell them." Dr. Nadkarni opined that Goins understood the right to remain silent. Next, Dr. Nadkarni asked Goins about the meaning of the warning that "anything you say may be used against you in court or other proceedings." Goins responded, "They would turn it in" and after Dr. Nadkarni asked Goins, "[W]ho they would turn it in to, " Goins replied, "The judge to find you guilty." Dr. Nadkarni asked Goins about the third Miranda right to speak to a lawyer before and during police questioning. Goins responded that a lawyer in an interrogation situation would tell you "be quiet." Dr. Nadkarni asked Goins about the fourth Miranda right, pertaining to the right to have a lawyer appointed to you if you could not afford a lawyer, and Goins stated that he understood that to mean that a "PD" would be appointed.

¶ 25 Dr. Nadkarni opined within a reasonable degree of medical and psychiatric certainty that Goins would have been capable of understanding his Miranda rights at the time of his statement. Dr. Nadkarni testified that he diagnosed Goins with a rule-out diagnosis of cannabis abuse given his history of marijuana usage and provisionally diagnosed Goins with "borderline intellectual functioning." Dr. Nadkarni testified that he was aware that Goins had been interviewed by other doctors and that at least one doctor had diagnosed Goins with mild mental retardation. Dr. Nadkarni opined that "a condition of mental retardation does not preclude one from understanding Miranda warnings."

¶ 26 Detective Matual testified that he interviewed Goins in an interview room at the police station on January 13, 2008, and Goins was not handcuffed. Detective Matual informed Goins that he was under arrest and read Goins his Miranda rights one by one. After each Miranda right, Detective Matual waited for Goins to respond that he understood the right before going on to the next one. Goins gave the same account of the incident that he told Detective Matual earlier at the hospital. Detective Matual explained to Goins that his account was not consistent with the injuries sustained by Wanya. Goins told the detective that he wanted to tell a State's Attorney what really happened. Detective Matual advised Goins that "somebody will come in to speak to you, she's a lawyer, she's not going to be your lawyer, she's not my lawyer, she's what we call a prosecutor." Detective Matual then left Goins in the interview room and went to find ASA Para.

¶ 27 ASA Para testified that she went to the interview room with Detective Matual. ASA Para introduced herself to Goins and advised Goins of his Miranda rights one by one, asking if he understood each right before proceeding to the next one. Goins stated that he understood each Miranda right. ASA Para explained to Goins that he could provide an oral statement or she could take a written statement in which she would write down what Goins told her and he would review it to make sure it was accurate. Goins chose the handwritten option.

¶ 28 ASA Para testified that she used a preprinted form for the handwritten statement, which contained a paragraph at the top that advised Goins of his Miranda rights. ASA Para testified that she again reviewed the paragraph that explained his Miranda rights. After Goins indicated that he understood each right, ASA Para asked him to write his name underneath the paragraph on the line provided. After ASA Para wrote down Goins' statement, she asked Goins to read the entire first page of the statement to her, which he did. ASA Para then read each page of the statement to Goins, stopping at the bottom of each page to ask Goins if he had any changes to the statement and then having Goins sign the bottom of each page. ASA Para and Detective Matual also signed the bottom of each page. ASA Para made four changes to the statement and defendant wrote his initials where each change was made, indicating that he agreed with the change.

¶ 29 The defense called Goins in rebuttal. Goins testified that he did not read the first page of his statement to ASA Para. Goins testified that he could not have read his statement, because he can not read cursive. Goins was asked to read the typewritten Miranda rights in court while on the witness stand. Goins read the Miranda rights, stumbling on certain words.

¶ 30 After the hearing, the trial court denied Goins' motion to suppress his statement. The trial court noted that "the IQ number hangs heavily over this issue, but that's not [conclusive]." The trial court found that under "the totality of the circumstances, " Goins had the capacity to understand his Miranda rights at the time of his statement.

¶ 31 Evidence at Trial

¶ 32 Goins' jury trial began on September 14, 2011. Detective Matual and ASA Para provided testimony for the State, which was substantially similar to the testimony they each gave during the hearing on Goins' motion to suppress his statement. Veronica Goins, Goins' mother, testified Goins had a stutter his whole life and a lifelong history of learning disabilities, which did not prevent him from "being a good dad, " and taking care of Wanya. Goins was living in Springfield with Wanya and attending a GED program. Wanya could sit up and walk, but was not able to talk yet.

¶ 33 Goins mother testified that when she returned home on the morning of January 1, 2008, Wanya's eyes were rolled in the back of his head, and he was moaning and unresponsive. She called 911 and an ambulance took Wanya to the hospital.

¶ 34 The State also presented testimony from two medical experts. Dr. Sarah Hoehn testified that she was the pediatric critical care attending physician at the time Wanya was admitted to the hospital. When Wanya arrived, he had bruising on his forehead, swelling and evidence of bleeding in the brain, and been left comatose. As a result, doctors monitored pressure on his brain and made an incision in his brain to allow blood and fluid to drain.

¶ 35 Dr. Kelley Staley, an expert in the field of pediatric medicine and child abuse and neglect testified that she was one of Wanya's treating physicians at the hospital. Dr. Staley testified that Wanya had extensive injuries, including a significant and severe brain injury, a black left eye, bruising on his face in the left forehead area, and blood inside his ear canal. Wanya was intubated, and had a bolt placed in his skull where the neurosurgeon had drilled a hole to allow excess fluid and blood accumulating on his brain to drain. A cervical collar was used to stabilize Wanya's neck. And, IV tubes, containing six different medications, kept him alive, decreased the pressure on his brain, and treated the seizures. The presence of bleeding in two areas of Wanya's brain and swelling throughout the brain suggested "a more forceful mechanism for his injury than what was stated as a simple fall off a bed." Dr. Staley also noted that Wanya "had a scar on his elbow that may have been an old cigarette burn." Defense counsel objected and during a short sidebar noted that the trial court had granted a motion in limine barring introduction of Wanya's old injury. The trial court denied defense counsel's motion for a mistrial and instructed the jury to disregard Dr. Staley's statement.

ΒΆ 36 Dr. Staley then testified that Wanya was diagnosed with a schisis cavity, which refers to a type of bleeding in the retina and "is formed after the head undergoes significant forceful trauma." Schisis cavities are caused by "really significant forces acting on the kid's head, " and "not just a small fall, a short fall or a bonk on the head that happens in the course of everyday activity." Dr. Staley opined that Wanya's injuries were "inflicted by some sort of blunt trauma that probably involved shaking or repetitive ...


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