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People v. fort

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division

April 30, 2014

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
TASHAWNDA FORT, Defendant-Appellant

Page 293

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 10 CR 243. The Honorable John T. Doody, Jr., Judge presiding.

SYLLABUS

Defendant's conviction for possession of cocaine was reversed and the cause was remanded for further proceedings, where the trial court erred in refusing to suppress defendant's response to an officer's question in the course of the execution of a search warrant as to whether she had anything in her bedroom the police should know about, since defendant was in custody at the time, the officer did not advise her of her Miranda rights before asking the question, and the prosecution failed to present evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the error had no prejudicial effect.

Michael J. Pelletier, Alan D. Goldberg, and Brian E. Koch, all of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Chicago, for appellant.

Anita M. Alvarez, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, Mary P. Needham, and Marci Jacobs, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

JUSTICE NEVILLE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Hyman concurred in the judgment and opinion. Justice Mason dissented, with opinion.

OPINION

Page 294

NEVILLE, JUSTICE.

[¶1] After a bench trial, the trial court found Tashawnda Fort guilty of possessing cocaine. On appeal, Fort contends that the trial court should have granted her motion to suppress evidence of statements she made to police before police reminded her of her right not to answer questions. We find that police obtained the evidence by means of a custodial interrogation conducted without Miranda warnings, and therefore, the trial court should have granted the motion to suppress. Because we find the error prejudicial, we reverse and remand for further proceedings in accord with this opinion.

[¶2] BACKGROUND

[¶3] On November 17, 2009, police obtained a warrant to search a home on the west side of Chicago and Samuel Kirk, who police expected to find in the home, for cocaine and paraphernalia related to cocaine trafficking. Two days later, around 10:30 a.m., Chicago police officer Roberto Delcid and other officers, with guns drawn, forcibly entered the home listed on the search warrant. Inside they found Kirk and several other persons, including Fort. At some point, Delcid escorted Fort upstairs and asked her a question without first telling her about her Miranda rights. Delcid found 47 packets of cocaine in a pillowcase in a room upstairs. Police took Fort into custody and charged her with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

[¶4] Fort moved to suppress evidence of any statements she made in response to the questions Delcid asked when he escorted her upstairs. At the hearing on the motion, Delcid testified that after police gathered most persons in the residence into the living room, under police guard, Fort asked Delcid if he would permit her to get her baby from her bedroom, rather than leaving the baby unattended while the officers executed the search warrant. Delcid testified that he asked his supervisor whether " it was okay to go up there and retrieve the baby." When he escorted Fort to the bedroom door and saw the baby in the room, he asked Fort " if there [was] anything in the room [police] should know about because the room eventually is going to get searched anyway." She told him she had some cocaine inside the pillowcase on her bed.

[¶5] Fort's account of the encounter disagreed with Delcid's in many respects. The trial court found Delcid more credible and held that Delcid did not subject Fort to custodial interrogation. The court permitted Delcid to testify at the trial that Fort told him about the narcotics in the pillowcase on her bed.

[¶6] At the bench trial, Delcid testified that in the bedroom where he found the cocaine in the pillowcase, he also found Fort's state identification card, a pharmacy

Page 295

receipt for Fort, and a letter addressed to Fort. Police systematically searched the entire residence.

[¶7] The trial court held that the prosecution had not proven an intent to distribute the cocaine, so the court found Fort guilty of only possession. The court sentenced Fort to 24 months' probation and the payment ...


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