from the Circuit Court of Bureau County, No. 15-JD-30; the
Hon. Marc P. Bernabei, Judge, presiding.
Michael J. Pelletier and Jay Wiegman, both of State Appellate
Defender's Office, of Ottawa, for appellant.
J. Caffarini, State's Attorney, of Princeton (Mark A.
Austill, of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's
Office, of counsel), for the People.
M. May, of Princeton, guardian ad litem.
JUSTICE LYTTON delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Holdridge and McDade concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 Respondent, S.W.N., appeals from his adjudication for
delinquency based on the offense of criminal sexual assault.
Respondent argues that his confession, which was admitted at
trial, should have been suppressed because he did not
knowingly and intelligently waive his Miranda
rights. We vacate the trial court's adjudication of
delinquency, reverse its order denying respondent's
motion to suppress his confession, and remand the matter for
3 The State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship in
which it alleged that respondent, a minor, was delinquent in
that he had committed the offense of criminal sexual assault
(720 ILCS 5/11-1.20(a)(1) (West 2014)). Specifically, the
petition alleged that respondent "knowingly committed an
act of sexual penetration by the use of force or threat of
force by holding B.L. against a wall and placing his penis
into the vagina of B.L." Respondent subsequently filed a
motion to suppress statements, arguing that due to a mental
deficiency he "was not able to sufficiently comprehend
his rights per Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436
4 At the hearing on respondent's motion, Officer
Christopher Erickson of the Princeton police department
testified that he was a certified juvenile officer. At
approximately 3:30 p.m. on August 11, 2015, Erickson drove to
respondent's house in order to interview respondent about
an alleged sexual assault that had taken place in the
bathroom area of Alexander park the previous night. Once
there, Erickson met with respondent and respondent's
mother. He told them that he was investigating a sex crime.
Erickson asked respondent's mother for permission to
interview respondent at the police department, and she
granted him permission. Erickson explained to her that she
could accompany respondent for the interview, but she
declined, telling Erickson to "just take him."
5 Erickson testified that he and respondent made small talk
on the way to the police department. He did not testify as to
what type of vehicle he drove, where respondent sat in the
vehicle, or whether respondent was restrained in any way.
Erickson testified that though he did not place respondent
under arrest, he believed he had probable cause to do so at
that point. Once at the police department, Erickson asked
respondent's permission to record the interview, then
activated the recording device. Erickson testified that he
"[a]dvised [respondent] that he was there on his own
accord and also advised him of his Miranda
rights." The recording of Erickson's interview with
respondent was then played in open court.
6 The video recording begins with Erickson-who appears to be
the only other person in the interrogation room-telling
respondent: "Okay [respondent], I want you to understand
something, okay. You came out to the police department with
me willingly today, correct? Like, I didn't tell you you
had to come, okay?" Respondent nods as Erickson is
speaking. "You understand that you're free to leave,
okay. If you don't want to talk to me, you don't have
to talk to me. You remember how we got in here, okay? Just-at
any time if you don't want to talk to me-if I ask you a
question you don't want to answer, you don't have to
answer it." Respondent continues to nod along, repeating
"yeah" on occasion as Erickson speaks.
7 Erickson then explains to respondent that he is going to
read him his Miranda rights, which Erickson
describes to respondent as "a statement of [his]
constitutional rights." Erickson sets a piece of paper
and pen on the table in front of respondent and states:
"You're not under arrest, okay? I want you to
understand that, okay? I'm just asking you some
questions. You have the right to remain silent. You
understand what that means, okay? [Respondent nods his head
rapidly]. Like I said, you don't have to answer all my
questions. Could I just have you put your initials right here
by number one, saying you understand that? [Erickson points
to paper.] Not saying that-"
then looks up at Erickson, cutting him off midsentence to
ask: "In cursive, or-?" to which Erickson replies:
"However you want to sign your initials, bud."
Respondent then signs his whole name, while Erickson tells
him: "You don't have to write your whole name, just
8 Erickson then continues through the list of rights, reading
each right a second time in slightly different words. For
example, Erickson states: "Anything you say may be used
against you. Okay, so anything you say could be used against
you in court. You understand that? Okay." Respondent
nods his head rapidly as Erickson asks if he understands.
Respondent continues to nod in agreement each time Erickson
reads and rereads a right. Finally, Erickson reads: "I
understand what my rights are and am willing to talk. Is that
true? I mean are you willing to talk to me?" Respondent
nods affirmatively, at which point Erickson sets the pen down
and says "Okay, go ahead and sign your name on that
right there for me if you would please." Erickson
explains again: "You're not under arrest. You know,
if you want to shut this down at any time, feel free to do
so." Respondent nods throughout that statement.
9 Erickson begins the interview by asking open-ended
questions, but approximately 10 minutes into the interview he
shifts almost exclusively to leading questions. Throughout
the interview, Erickson accuses respondent of not being
truthful. Respondent denies any misconduct through most of
the interview, but his story evolves until he ultimately
makes incriminating statements. Early in the interview,
respondent mentions that he played on the Special Olympics
basketball team at his high school. Erickson makes no
response to that statement. At one point in the interview,
respondent volunteers that he had twice been to teen
court-once for a curfew violation and once for stealing a
lawnmower. Throughout the interview, respondent speaks slowly
and has a vacant expression on his face. The recording spans
a total of 50 minutes, which includes a break in which
respondent is given a bottle of water. The actual interview
lasts approximately 43 minutes.
10 Erickson testified that after the interview, he informed
respondent that he would be placed under arrest. Erickson
notified respondent's mother, who then came to the police
11 The State introduced into evidence the Miranda
waiver form that respondent is seen signing in the interview
video. The form reads: "Before any questions are asked
of you, you should know, " then lists four rights.
Respondent's name is printed in the blank space between
the introductory sentence and the rights themselves.
Respondent's signature appears at the bottom of the form.
12 On cross-examination, Erickson elaborated on his training
as a juvenile officer. He explained that in his role as a
juvenile officer he is tasked with making sure an interviewee
understands his or her constitutional rights. Erickson
testified that if a person did not understand their rights,
he was trained to "explain it in a different way that
perhaps they may. The point of the class was that children of
younger ages are developmentally different than adults."
Erickson affirmed that these special steps are necessary
because children are not as knowledgeable and understanding
as adults. He agreed that as a juvenile officer, his duty was
to "look out for" the welfare and best interests of
13 Erickson testified that he had no contact with respondent
prior to meeting him at his house. Nothing in his
interactions with respondent during the car ride to the
police department provided Erickson with any indication as to
respondent's education level or cognitive ability. He did
not ask respondent any questions regarding respondent's
cognitive abilities or intelligence quotient (IQ) level.
Erickson agreed that the manner in which he read the
Miranda warnings to respondent was the same manner
as he would read them to adults of average intelligence.
Erickson acknowledged that he read the Miranda
warnings to respondent "with very little explanation of
what they mean."
14 Erickson testified that respondent's statement
regarding the Special Olympics "led [Erickson] to
believe that [respondent] had somewhat of diminished
cognitive function." Erickson did not ask respondent
about his cognitive impairment because he didn't
"know that [respondent] would have been able to answer
that question." Erickson testified that knowing an
interviewee to be in the "extremely low range in regards
to mental abilities" would not affect the way he read
Miranda warnings to that person and that he would
read the rights to that person in the same way he would to
any adult. On redirect examination, Erickson testified that
respondent appeared to be understanding the Miranda
warnings as Erickson read them.
15 The State called as its next witness Dr. Patricia
Grosskopf, an expert in the field of forensic psychology. She
testified that she performed three tests on respondent as a
part of a cognitive ability examination: the Weschler
Intelligence Scale for Children, Fifth Edition, Integrated
(WISC-V); the Bender Gestalt II Perception Test (Bender
Test); and the Trail Making Test Part A and B (Trails Test).
16 Grosskopf testified that respondent scored a 70 on the
WISC-V, indicative of "extremely low intellectual
function." She characterized the score as an IQ of 70.
Following her examination of respondent, Grosskopf filed a
report, which was entered into evidence. The report clarified
that respondent scored in the second percentile on the
WISC-V, meaning that he performed better than approximately 2
out of 100 peers. His score on the verbal comprehension
index, which measured his "ability to use word
knowledge, verbalize meaningful concepts, and reason with
language-based information, " was in the tenth
percentile, or the low-average range. Respondent's score
on the fluid reasoning index, which measured his
"logical thinking skills and his ability to use
reasoning to apply rules, " was in the 0.1 percentile,
or the extremely low range. Respondent's weakest area of
performance was the working memory index, which measured his
"attending, concentration, and mental control." In
summary, the report concluded, in part, that respondent
"present[ed] with limited concentration and although he
may present as focused, internally he is not." For
treatment, Grosskopf recommended: "Having [respondent]
relay back information to assure that he is on task will be
imperative for success. This should be consistently done, as
[respondent] can give the impression he is focused, when in
fact he is not." Grosskopf also recommended:
"Information presented to [respondent] should be done so
clearly, repetitively, and consistently."
17 Grosskopf testified that the Bender Test and Trails Test
measure executive function. Respondent scored in the normal
range on those tests, indicating no impairment in executive
functioning. Grosskopf explained that executive functioning
controls "[t]he ability to plan and the ability to have
or understand consequences to behavior." Grosskopf's
report described the Bender Test as follows:
"[The Bender Test] is *** used to evaluate visual-motor
functioning and visual perception skills ***. Scores on the
test are used to identify possible organic brain damage and
the degree maturation [sic] of the nervous system.
The [Bender Test] is used to evaluate visual maturity, visual
motor integration skills, style of responding, and reaction
to frustration, ability to correct mistakes, planning and
organizational skills, and motivation."
same report described the Trails Test as follows:
"The [Trails Test] is a neuropsychological test of
visual attention and task switching. It consists of two parts
in which the individual is instructed to connect a set of 25
dots as fast as possible, while still maintaining accuracy.
It can provide information about visual search speed,
scanning, speed of processing, mental flexibility, as well as
executive functioning. It is also sensitive to detecting
several cognitive impairments."
report indicated that respondent's time fell "within
an acceptable range."
18 When asked if she had an opinion regarding
respondent's ability to understand his Miranda
rights, Grosskopf responded: "I don't have the
ability nor would I want to say if, during that interview
[with Erickson], he would understand it." Later, she
said that she had not asked respondent about the
19 Grosskopf testified that she examined respondent over the
course of nine hours and that "he had no problem
comprehending" the testing. Based on her interaction
with respondent, Grosskopf did not believe that respondent
would automatically respond in agreement to a question that
suggested the answer. Grosskopf testified that respondent did
well on reading comprehension and that he would ask questions
if he did not understand something. She opined that
respondent would have understood the questions Erickson asked
during the interview. Grosskopf testified that she
"couldn't give [respondent] a diagnosis of
mental-well, mental retardation is the old terminology, but
impaired extreme functioning." Nothing from her
examination of respondent or her review of Erickson's
interview led Grosskopf to believe that respondent's
statements were not made voluntarily, knowingly, or
20 At the conclusion of the State's case-in-chief,
respondent moved for a judgment in his favor. The trial court
denied respondent's motion.
21 Respondent called as his first witness Andrew Puck, a
driver's education teacher at Princeton High School and
respondent's Special Olympics basketball coach for three
years. Puck testified that he had given respondent driving
lessons the previous spring. Respondent was in a separate
class for "adaptive special needs kids" with a
different instructor, however Puck was respondent's
instructor for the in-car lessons. Puck testified that he was
unable to complete the required six hours of driving with
respondent in the spring "because of [respondent] not
functioning at a higher level." They had planned to
resume lessons in the fall.
22 Puck explained why respondent had difficulties in his
"With [respondent], there are a lot of disconnects. And
*** it has always been typical of [respondent] to where we
would visit something, whether it is basketball or, you know,
driving, and yes, yes, yes; I got it, coach; I got it. And 30