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People v. Kronenberger

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, First Division

March 10, 2014

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
CHRISTOPHER KRONENBERGER, Defendant-Appellant

Page 770

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 07 CR 2266. Honorable Jorge L. Alonso, Judge Presiding.

Affirmed.

SYLLABUS

Defendant's conviction for first-degree murder was upheld over his contention that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his incriminating statements to the police, including a videotaped confession, since the use of the videotaped confession was a harmless duplication of the oral statement he made to the police, regardless of whether it was involuntary or a violation of his Miranda rights, and other evidence, such as telephone records and the testimony of other witnesses, corroborated the body of evidence that overwhelmingly established defendant's guilt.

Michael J. Pelletier, State Appellate Defender, Alan D. Goldberg, Deputy Defender, Office of the State Appellate Defender, Chicago, Illinois (Todd T. McHenry, Assistant Appellate Defender, of counsel), for APPELLANT.

Anita Alvarez, State's Attorney, Chicago, Illinois (Alan J. Spellberg, Michelle Katz and Annette Collins, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for APPELLEE.

JUSTICE CUNNINGHAM delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Connors and Justice Hoffman concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

CUNNINGHAM, JUSTICE

Page 771

[¶1] Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant Christopher Kronenberger was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 60 years of imprisonment. On appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court committed reversible error by denying his motion to suppress his incriminating statements to

Page 772

the police. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court of Cook County.

[¶2] BACKGROUND

[¶3] On October 12, 2005, Chicago police officers began investigating the death of Alexander Duran (Duran), whose body was found in the driver's seat of a burned vehicle in Marquette Park in Chicago. Duran's body was burned beyond recognition and the medical examiner was unable to determine the cause of death. During their investigation, the police obtained Duran's cellular telephone records, which revealed that Duran had received and made several calls before his death to a telephone number that was traced to the defendant. In January 2006, the police questioned the defendant regarding the telephone calls to Duran. The defendant invoked his right to an attorney and was later released.

[¶4] In February 2006, police officers arrested Edward Kozeluh (Edward) on a drug charge unrelated to the instant case, and he volunteered to provide the police with information concerning Duran's murder. Edward informed the police that his son, Emil Kozeluh (Emil), and the defendant had talked about a murder that they committed by shooting a man in the head and burning him in his car. Edward told the police that another young man from the Marquette Park area was also involved in the crime. Upon further investigations, the police discovered from the defendant's telephone records that he had called David Pina's (Pina) residence on October 12, 2005. The police then questioned Pina, who informed them that the defendant had offered him money in exchange for burning a car in the park.

[¶5] On December 26, 2006, shortly before midnight, Chicago police officers arrested the defendant at the Westmont police department, where he was detained on an unrelated matter, and transported him to Area One Chicago police station for questioning regarding Duran's death. At approximately 3:30 a.m. on December 27, 2006, the defendant gave a videotaped statement in which he confessed that he had intended to rob Duran, but had not expected Emil to shoot the victim or set the fire. Subsequently, the defendant was charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery, burglary, arson, and concealment of homicidal death.

[¶6] On May 16, 2007, the defendant filed a pretrial motion to suppress his incriminating statements to the police (motion to suppress), and filed an amended motion to suppress on May 22, 2007. In the amended motion to suppress, the defendant alleged that he was not provided Miranda warnings prior to interrogation, that the police did not scrupulously honor his invocation of the right to remain silent or his request for an attorney, and that his statements were obtained as a result of psychological and mental coercion.

[¶7] On February 27, 2008, a hearing on the amended motion to suppress was held.[1] At the hearing, the defendant testified that on December 26, 2006, two police officers transported him from the Westmont police station to the Area One Chicago police station. En route, the police officers, without advising him of his Miranda rights, asked him a few questions about the homicide in Marquette Park. The defendant responded that he knew about the homicide because he had been questioned about it on a previous occasion. Upon

Page 773

arrival at Area One, the police placed him in an interview room, where he was not advised of his Miranda rights and was questioned by Detective Nolan--the same detective who had questioned him about the incident in January 2006.[2] The two transporting officers, who were waiting outside the interview room, entered the room and began questioning the defendant about the murder without first advising him of his rights. During the interrogation, the defendant asked to use a telephone, and the defendant was allowed to use one of the officers' cellular telephone to call his uncle. During the telephone call, the defendant asked his uncle to " grab a card out of [the defendant's] wallet, a lawyer's card," and the uncle indicated he would call the attorney on the defendant's behalf. After the call concluded, the police officers asked the defendant if he was requesting a lawyer, and that, if the defendant had asked for a lawyer, they would not be able to speak with him anymore. The defendant testified that, at some point in the interrogation, another officer entered the room and began questioning him without first giving Miranda warnings. According to the defendant, he spoke with a series of officers during the interrogation, spoke with the transporting officers more than once, and informed the transporting officers that he " didn't want to talk." However, the transporting officers' conversation with him did not end. The defendant also testified that he told another officer that he " didn't want to speak to him," but that officer told the defendant he was being a " pussy" and that he should " man up." The defendant then asked for an attorney and the officer left him alone in the interview room. After an hour, one of the transporting officers came into the interview room and brought him downstairs for fingerprinting. According to the defendant, the transporting officer told him that he had " [expletive] up" by not talking with the investigating officers, and that the defendant had made him " look bad" for refusing to talk to the police. After fingerprinting, the transporting officer told the defendant that he had " one more chance" to speak with the detectives and brought him back into the interview room. At the hearing, the defendant denied telling the transporting officer off camera that he wanted to speak to any of the officers. However, he acknowledged that once back in the interview room, he told an officer that he wanted to have a conversation about the murder in Marquette Park.

[¶8] On cross-examination, the defendant testified that he was familiar with Miranda warnings, but did not recall whether any police officers advised him of his rights after he was placed in the interview room. He admitted that he did not ask for an attorney after calling his uncle, but that the officers continued to speak to him about the murder and the defendant continued to answer their questions. At no time after the transporting officers entered the interview room and began questioning him about the murder did the defendant request an attorney. Rather, it was only after 2 a.m., when he was speaking with Detective Brogan, that the defendant requested the presence of an attorney and the detective then left him alone in the interview room. In the interview room after fingerprinting, Detective Brogan asked him, " what's the story? You asked for a lawyer, so now you want to revoke that? You want to talk to me?" The defendant answered in the affirmative and

Page 774

conversed with the detective about the murder. On redirect, the defendant claimed that, after calling his uncle, one of the officers told him that the interview would only cease if the defendant started talking to them. He testified that he told the transporting officers several times that he " didn't want to talk to them" by saying he " was done."

[¶9] Detective Gary Bush (Detective Bush) testified at the hearing that on December 26, 2006, he and Officer Joseph Biggane (Officer Biggane) arrested the defendant and transported him from the Westmont police station to Area One Chicago police station for questioning. They informed the defendant that he was under arrest for the murder of Duran and advised him of his Miranda rights in the police vehicle. The defendant acknowledged that he understood those rights. En route in the police vehicle, neither Detective Bush nor Officer Biggane questioned the defendant about Duran's murder; rather, the defendant asked whether the murder for which he was under arrest was the murder in Marquette Park. When they responded in the affirmative, the defendant continued to talk and stated that he and Emil had planned to rob the victim, but that the defendant did not know Emil was going to shoot him. At that point, Detective Bush told the defendant to wait to talk about the incident with the detectives at the police station. Upon arriving at Area One about midnight on December 27, 2006, they placed the defendant in an interview room, and Detective Bush notified Detectives Nolan and Murray of the defendant's arrival. Neither Detective Bush nor Officer Biggane stood outside the interview room listening to the defendant's conversation with Detectives Nolan and Murray. At about 1 a.m., Detective Bush and Officer Biggane returned to the interview room a second time and asked the defendant information required to complete the arrest report, and asked him " what was going on with the case and the content of what he had spoken to the detectives about prior to [them] being in the room." After 40 minutes, Detective Bush and Officer Biggane left the interview room. At about 1:43 a.m., Detective Brogan entered the interview room and spoke with the defendant. Shortly before 3 a.m., Detective Bush and Officer Biggane met with the defendant for the third time when they took him to the first-floor lockup area for processing. As they entered the stairwell, the defendant asked what was going on, to which they explained that he was being processed for his arrest. In response, the defendant said he " didn't want to go down for murder" and that he wanted to talk to the detectives. At that point, Detective Bush stopped the defendant and told him that the investigating officers had informed Detective Bush and Officer Biggane that the defendant had invoked his right to an attorney. Detective Bush then readvised him of his Miranda rights, after which they continued walking down the stairs and the defendant stated that he wanted to speak with the detectives. Detective Bush then explained to the defendant that he would have to wait until after processing before he could speak with the detectives in the interview room. At about 3:20 a.m., after the defendant's arrest had been processed, Detective Bush and Officer Biggane escorted him back to the interview room, after which Detective Bush had no further contact with him. At the hearing, Detective Bush denied ever telling the defendant, during the time he was removed from the interview room for processing, that he " [expletive] up," that he made the detective " look bad," or that he only had " one more chance" to speak with the detectives. On cross-examination, Detective Bush testified that, when he reentered the interview

Page 775

room at about 1 a.m., he had been told by other officers that the defendant did not want to talk to them about the crime. Detective Bush clarified that " [i]t's not that he refused to talk to them. It's that he wasn't telling the truth."

[¶10] Following arguments, the trial court denied the amended motion to suppress the videotaped statement. In its ruling, the trial court noted that it had reviewed the videotape and recounted in great detail the contents of the videotaped interrogation. The trial court found Detective Bush, one of the transporting officers, credible and that he had advised the defendant of his Miranda rights in the police vehicle. The trial court found that the defendant did not invoke his Miranda rights until 2:10 a.m., when he asked for an attorney, after which the police ceased conversing with him. The trial court further found that the defendant reinitiated conversation with the police and thereafter confessed to his involvement in the crime.

[¶11] On December 29, 2008, the defendant filed a motion to reconsider the court's denial of the amended motion to suppress. On September 11, 2009, the trial court, after reexamining the videotaped interrogation, denied the motion to reconsider by adopting the court's earlier findings in denying the amended motion to suppress.

[¶12] Prior to trial, the trial court, granted the defendant's motion in limine to bar evidence of the defendant's prior juvenile conviction for first-degree murder, and the parties agreed to redact the videotape and transcripts to exclude any mention of gang affiliation and his prior juvenile record. The trial court also granted the State's motion in limine to prohibit the introduction of evidence at trial regarding, inter alia, the defendant's potential sentence or his lack of an adult criminal background.

[¶13] On June 15, 2010, a jury trial commenced. The State presented the testimony of multiple witnesses. Testimonial evidence was presented that the victim, Duran, owned a green Cadillac and that his cellular telephone number was (708) 214-1978. Susan Hardcastle (Susan) testified that on October 12, 2005, she lived near Marquette Park and, at about 9 p.m., she smelled smoke, which she thought was burning rubber. Susan ...


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