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People v. Baker

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

February 6, 2015

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
CLIFFORD W. BAKER, Defendant-Appellant

Modified upon denial of rehearing March 17, 2015.

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Appeal from the Circuit Court of Fayette County. No. 10-CF-130. Honorable Michael D. McHaney, Judge, presiding.

SYLLABUS

On appeal from a 15-year-old defendant's convictions for three counts of home invasion, two counts of first degree murder and his sentences to two mandatory terms of natural life in prison for the murders and 30 years for each of the home invasions and one 30-year term consecutive to the sentences on all other counts after he was tried as an adult pursuant to the automatic transfer provision in the Juvenile Court Act, the appellate court, inter alia, vacated the mandatory natural life sentences and remanded the cause to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing to determine which of the home invasion charges was the less serious offense and to vacate the less serious conviction and sentence and correct the sentencing order.

For Appellant: Michael J. Pelletier, State Appellate Defender, Ellen J. Curry, Deputy Defender, Michelle Zalisko, Assistant Appellate Defender, Amanda R. Horner, Assistant Appellate Defender, Office of the State Appellate Defender, Fifth Judicial District, Mt. Vernon, IL.

For Appellee: Hon. Joshua Morrison, State's Attorney, Vandalia, IL; Patrick Delfino, Director, Stephen E. Norris, Deputy Director, Jennifer Camden, Staff Attorney, Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor, Mt. Vernon, IL.

PRESIDING JUSTICE CATES delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Stewart and Moore[*] concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

CATES, PRESIDING JUSTICE.

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[¶1] I. INTRODUCTION

[¶2] Following a jury trial, the defendant, Clifford W. Baker, was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and three counts of home invasion. He was sentenced to two mandatory terms of natural life in prison for the murders, and a term of 30 years for each of the home invasions, with one 30-year term to run consecutive to the sentences on all other counts. Although the defendant was 15 years old at the time he committed the murders, he was tried as an adult in accordance with the automatic transfer provision in the Illinois Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Juvenile Court Act) (705 ILCS 405/5-130(1)(a) (West 2010)). On appeal, the defendant challenged the constitutionality of the automatic transfer provision, the constitutionality of the sentencing scheme as applied to juvenile defendants, the propriety of certain procedural and evidentiary rulings by the trial court, and the effectiveness of his trial counsel. Our original opinion was issued on February 6, 2015. The defendant filed a petition for rehearing on February 27, 2015. We now issue this modified opinion upon denial of the defendant's petition for rehearing. For the reasons stated, the defendant's mandatory natural life sentences for murder must be vacated and the cause must be remanded for a new sentencing hearing. We affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand with instructions.

[¶3] II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

[¶4] On August 5, 2010, the 15-year-old defendant was charged by information with two counts of first degree murder, under section 9-1(a)(1) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Code) (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 2010)). The charges arose from the shooting deaths of John Michael " Mike" Mahon and Debra H. Tish at their home in Farina, Illinois, on August 4, 2010. Count I alleged that the defendant shot Mike Mahon with a rifle, without lawful justification and with intent to kill him. Count II alleged that the defendant shot Debra Tish with a rifle, without lawful justification and with intent to kill her. The charges were filed in the circuit court pursuant to the automatic transfer provision in the Juvenile Court Act (705 ILCS 405/5-130(1)(a) (West 2010)).

[¶5] On August 9, 2010, the State filed two additional counts of first degree murder

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arising from the deaths of Mike Mahon (count III) and Debra Tish (count IV), but those counts were voluntarily dismissed before the case was given to the jury. The State also filed two counts of home invasion under section 12-11(a)(5) of the Code (720 ILCS 5/12-11(a)(5) (West 2010)). Count V alleged that the defendant knowingly and without authority entered the Mahon-Tish home and intentionally caused injury to Mike Mahon. Count VI was identical to count V, but alleged injury to Debra Tish. In December 2010, the State added another count of home invasion (count VII) under section 12-11(a)(2) of the Code (720 ILCS 5/12-11(a)(2) (West 2010)). Count VII alleged that on August 4, 2010, the defendant knowingly and without authority entered the home of Steve Krajefska and Randy Krajefska and intentionally caused injury to Randy Krajefska.

[¶6] A. The Commission of the Offenses

[¶7] The basic facts regarding the offenses and the identity of the person who committed them were not disputed at trial. The primary issues in dispute were the defendant's mental capacity at the time he committed the offenses and the voluntariness of his confession. An overview of the evidence follows.

[¶8] On August 4, 2010, at approximately 3:30 a.m., Steve Krajefska and his wife, Randy Krajefska, were awakened when someone walked through their bedroom and went into a bedroom closet. Randy switched on her bedside light and walked to the closet. When she was near the closet door, the intruder jumped up, punched her in the jaw, and cut her above her eyebrow with a knife. Randy, dazed by the attack, ran into the bathroom. As Steve stood on the opposite side of the bed, he recognized the intruder as the defendant, a teenager who lived in the neighborhood. The defendant, barefoot and clad only in shorts, was hunched over, as if in " attack mode." He was holding a butcher knife. Steve ordered the defendant to drop the knife. The defendant lunged toward Steve and swiped at him with the knife, but missed the target. The defendant then exited the bedroom and ran from the house.

[¶9] Steve called 911 immediately after the defendant left. While Steve was on the phone with the 911 operator, Randy noticed that the lights were on in the house of their next-door neighbors, Mike Mahon and Debra Tish, so she phoned them. No one answered. As Randy and Steve waited for the police, they saw the defendant walking down the road behind the home of Mike Mahon and Debra Tish and toward his own home. He was screaming. Steve described the scream as high-pitched, " like a woman" would make. Randy though it sounded like a " war whoop."

[¶10] Two Fayette County sheriff's deputies, Steven Coody and Josh Wattles, were dispatched to investigate the reported home invasion at the residence of Steve and Randy Krajefska, in Loogootee, Illinois. Deputy Coody and Deputy Wattles were just outside Loogootee, when they were notified that the defendant had left the Krajefska residence and was last seen walking toward his home. They drove directly to the defendant's home. When Deputy Coody pulled into the driveway, he observed the defendant and the defendant's father standing inside the garage, yelling at each other. The defendant had a manual staple gun, and he was attempting to shoot staples into his neck and chest. As Deputy Coody approached the garage, the defendant pointed the staple gun at him. The defendant was grunting or growling and acting out of control. The defendant's father grappled with the defendant and snatched the staple gun from him. Deputy Coody then ordered the defendant

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to come out and place his hands on the patrol car. The defendant did not comply. He continued to yell as he walked away. Deputy Coody ordered the defendant to turn around and place his hands on the patrol car. The defendant continued to walk the other way. Deputy Coody pulled out his Taser and fired, hitting the defendant in the back with a five-second burst. The defendant fell to the ground. He was handcuffed without a struggle. The deputies helped him to his feet and then conducted a pat-down search. They recovered a cigarette lighter, rolling papers, a bottle of " nitro" pills, and a cell phone. Deputy Coody called for an ambulance. He thought the defendant should be medically evaluated after being tasered.

[¶11] Moments after the defendant was apprehended, Steve Krajefska came up to Deputy Coody and stated that he was concerned about his neighbors, Mike Mahon and Debra Tish. Deputy Coody walked around the Mahon-Tish residence. He noted that the back door was open and that the lights were on inside. He knocked on the door and announced his presence. When he received no response, he entered the house. He walked into the kitchen and saw two rifles lying on the kitchen table. He then entered the living room. He observed two people, partially covered with a sheet, lying on the mattress. As he stepped closer, he observed that both had severe head wounds. It appeared that they had been shot multiple times and that they were dead. Deputy Coody searched the rest of the house but found no one else inside. He advised Deputy Wattles of the situation, and then asked the dispatcher to notify the sheriff, the coroner, and the investigations unit. Deputy Coody and Deputy Wattles secured the scene and awaited the arrival of the Illinois State Police investigators. The deceased victims were later identified as Mike Mahon and Debra Tish.

[¶12] In the meantime, an ambulance arrived. Deputy Coody escorted the defendant to the ambulance. Once the defendant was situated inside, he was given Miranda warnings by Deputy Coody. Medics evaluated the defendant and then transported him to Fayette County Hospital. Trooper Stacey Heselton, a certified juvenile officer with the Illinois State Police, accompanied the defendant to the hospital. Trooper Heselton recalled that during the ride to the hospital, the defendant seemed to be confused, agitated, and talkative, but he was able to respond appropriately to the questions from the medics. The defendant told the medics that he had taken six Cymbalta tablets and some other pills, and that he had consumed beer and some other drink earlier that night. Trooper Heselton remained with the defendant at the hospital. He testified that he told the defendant that he was a juvenile officer. He recalled that he had to remind the defendant about his Miranda rights at one point when the defendant started to blurt out incriminating statements to the medical personnel who were caring for him. Aside from that, he did not initiate any conversations with the defendant, and he did not question the defendant.

[¶13] B. The Defendant's Recorded Statement

[¶14] Special Agent Albert Gallatin, a State Police officer, arrived at the crime scene at approximately 5:45 a.m. While at the scene, he spoke briefly with the defendant's father, Jeff Goldman. Lieutenant Tom Oliverio, Agent Holly Stroud, and Jeff Goldman's girlfriend, Justina Fryman, were present during the conversation. Agent Gallatin told Mr. Goldman that the defendant had been taken to Fayette County Hospital. Agent Gallatin testified that he asked Mr. Goldman for permission

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to speak with the defendant to find out what had happened, and that Mr. Goldman consented. Agent Gallatin stated that Mr. Goldman gave no indication that he wanted to be present during the interview. Agent Stroud corroborated Agent Gallatin's testimony.

[¶15] Agent Gallatin and Agent Stroud left the scene and went to the hospital. Agent Stroud attended in her capacity as a juvenile officer. Trooper Heselton met Agent Gallatin and Agent Stroud in the hallway outside the defendant's room. He advised them that he was a juvenile officer, that he had accompanied the defendant on the ride to the hospital, and that he had been with him since they arrived. He also advised them that the hospital personnel had removed the defendant's shorts and found a small bag of cannabis in one of the pockets.

[¶16] Agent Gallatin testified that when he entered the defendant's room, he observed that the defendant was handcuffed to the bedrails and was sleeping. Agent Gallatin set up a video camera. He then woke the defendant and asked if it would be okay to videotape him. The defendant agreed. Agent Gallatin started the recorder. He then informed the defendant that he had spoken with the defendant's father, and that he had received permission to interview the defendant. Agent Gallatin then asked the defendant if he would agree to a recorded interview, and the defendant agreed. The interview began at approximately 7:18 a.m. and ran approximately 48 minutes. Agent Stroud and Trooper Heselton were present during the interview. They did not ask any questions and they did not take part in the investigation. By all accounts, there was no preinterview questioning or discussion.

[¶17] The video shows that Agent Gallatin gave Miranda warnings to the defendant before asking any questions. Agent Gallatin read each warning and, after each, asked the defendant if he understood it. The defendant indicated that he understood each warning. He also signed a written form. The defendant appeared to be drowsy at the start of the interview, but he seemed to understand the process and his answers were responsive to the questions posed.

[¶18] The defendant told Agent Gallatin that he and his dad got into an argument on the evening of August 3, 2010, and that he took some of his dad's beer from the refrigerator and went to the garage to drink it. As he was drinking the beer, he exchanged text messages with Kelly Lange, a girl he met on a social media site. He then walked over to Mike Mahon's garage and took a container of vodka from the refrigerator. He started to drink the vodka, but it was spicy and made him sick, so he threw it into the garden. The defendant then took some marijuana and some pills out of a drawer near the refrigerator. He went back to his garage and smoked the marijuana. The defendant returned to Mike Mahon's home. This time, he went inside. He entered through the back door. The defendant stated that he found a rifle in the kitchen. He tried to shoot himself in the head with the gun, but it would not fire. He then lit a cigarette and threw it into the trash can. The defendant stated that the cigarette started a fire in the trash can and that the fire caused the smoke alarm to go off. The defendant said that Deb and Mike were asleep in another room, and that Deb woke up when the smoke alarm sounded. The ...


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