Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division
from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. No. 09 CR
20467, The Honorables Thaddeus L. Wilson and Erica L.
Reddick, Judges Presiding.
JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court with opinion.
Justice Pierce concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Presiding Justice Hyman concurred in part and dissented in
part, with opinion.
1 Following a jury trial, defendant Raul Soto was convicted
of first-degree murder for the deadly beating of his roommate
and sentenced to 27 years' imprisonment. During the
murder investigation, Soto voluntarily accompanied police to
the police station and cooperated with the investigation.
After spending two nights at the police station, Soto made
three incriminating statements confessing to the murder of
his roommate, Ventura Colin.
2 Soto filed pretrial motions, seeking to quash his arrest,
asserting that his voluntary presence at the police station
transformed into an illegal arrest, and claiming that all
three incriminating statements were inadmissible because they
were (1) the fruit of an illegal arrest; (2) the product of a
deliberate "question first, warn later"
interrogation technique; and (3) the result of an invalid
waiver of his Miranda rights. After hearings on
Soto's pretrial motions, the trial court found that the
police never unlawfully detained Soto. The trial court agreed
with Soto that his first two incriminating statements were
inadmissible mainly because, although the police had probable
cause to arrest Soto for the murder, they failed to give him
Miranda warnings before eliciting an incriminating
statement and the taint from that statement rendered
inadmissible his second statement given minutes after his
first. But the trial court found that Soto's third
incriminating statement, given more than 24 hours later, was
admissible based on the curative measures taken after the
unwarned interrogation. The trial court also found that Soto
voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently waived his
Miranda rights, despite his asserted cognitive
defects and low intelligence level.
3 On appeal, Soto challenges the admissibility of his third
incriminating statement. Finding no error in the trial
court's rulings, we affirm.
5 On October 4, 2009 around 7 p.m., Chicago police officer
Gaspar and his partner responded to a 911 call near 2600
South Kedzie Avenue in Chicago. The officers arrived at a gas
station and saw Soto and his friend, Alberto Alfaro. Soto
spoke only Spanish and Officer Gaspar communicated with him
in Spanish. Soto told Gaspar that his other friend (Colin)
was dead. Soto entered the police vehicle and directed the
officers to Soto's home located at 3158 South Kedzie
Avenue. Soto's "home" at that address was an
abandoned two-story house, filled with empty beer cans and
other junk, with apparently no heat, electricity, or running
water. The officers found Colin dead on a mattress in one of
the bedrooms on the second floor. Soto told the officers that
he found Colin dead after he entered the bedroom that morning
at about 6 a.m. Detective Nickeas of the Chicago police
department also arrived at the scene to investigate and
directed the officers to ask Soto for his assistance.
6 Officer Gaspar asked Soto if he would accompany them to the
Area 4 police station to assist the detectives with the
investigation. Soto agreed, responding that he wanted to find
out what happened to his friend. Officer Gaspar and his
partner transported Soto to Area 4 in a marked police vehicle
with Soto sitting in the back behind a cage separating him
from the officers. Soto was not handcuffed. Officer Gaspar
did not ask Soto if he wanted to find his own way to the
7 After arriving at the station, Officer Gaspar took Soto to
a small, windowless interview room. The interview room was
not earmarked for use only by criminal suspects; instead, the
room was used to interview witnesses and victims, as well as
suspects. Officer Gaspar left Soto in the interview room with
the door open and he was neither handcuffed nor arrested.
Officer Gaspar spoke to Soto exclusively in Spanish.
8 Detective Nickeas returned to the police station after
surveying the crime scene and spoke with Soto in the
interview room with the aid of another detective, who served
as a translator. When Detective Nickeas arrived at the
interview room, the door was unlocked and open. Soto was not
handcuffed, restrained, or shackled to anything. Two other
detectives were also in the room.
9 Through the translator, Soto told the detectives that he
had last seen Colin alive on October 3 before Soto went out
for the night to a bar. The next morning at about 6 a.m.,
Soto went upstairs to wake Colin to go collect cans and found
him dead. Soto tried to call 911 from a pay phone at a gas
station near 28th and Kedzie, but was unable to make the
telephone call. Soto looked for his and Colin's mutual
friend, El Moro, for advice on what to do, but could not find
him. Soto later enlisted Alfaro to call 911 for him.
10 After the detectives spoke to Soto for about 5 or 10
minutes, Soto was told that he was free to leave the police
station. But Soto did not leave and instead slept in the
interview room, explaining that he had no place to go since
his home was a crime scene. The detectives did not provide
Soto with a pillow, blanket or mattress. There was a metal
bench in the interview room on which Soto slept. Although the
detectives did not arrange for alternative lodging, such as a
homeless shelter, it was Soto's decision to sleep at the
station, and he never requested to leave.
11 Because the interview room was located near the desks of
other detectives, who were working on cases, the area was
considered a protected area, and all civilians, including
Soto, were not allowed to freely walk around unescorted.
Therefore, Soto had to ask an officer to escort him to the
restroom. But Soto was not treated any differently than any
other witness at the police station in an interview room.
12 Detective Roberto Garcia first met Soto the following
morning-October 5-after Soto spent the night in the interview
room. Soto was not handcuffed, and the interview room's
door was unlocked. Detective Garcia gave Soto some clothes
because he smelled "really bad, " but he did not
give Soto a paper jumpsuit to wear, which police typically
provide when taking clothes for inventory purposes. Detective
Garcia, who also spoke Spanish, thanked Soto for his
cooperation and told him that he was free to leave at any
time. Soto responded that he was glad to assist and would
stay as long as necessary to help find who killed his
roommate. Soto also indicated that he was homeless and had
nowhere else to go.
13 After speaking with Soto, Detective Garcia went to the
scene and found a receipt dated October 3 from United Metal
Scrap Recycling Company and another one from a liquor store.
He also saw the name "El Moro" painted on a wall in
the first floor bedroom of the house. While in the area,
Detective Garcia directed a search for pay phones because
Soto had told the other detectives that he had attempted to
call 911 from a pay phone earlier on October 4. The
investigation revealed that no phone calls to 911 from pay
phones in the area were made on October 4.
14 Meanwhile, Detective Nickeas went to the scrap recycling
company to ask questions. A worker said he saw Soto there
with two other Hispanic males on the morning of October 3.
15 Detective Garcia returned to the station and sometime
after 5 p.m., asked Soto about his activities on October 3.
Soto responded that he worked an 8 or 10 hour shift doing
construction work with his friend, David Casarubias, and
Casarubias' father, until approximately 5 p.m. Soto then
went home and last saw Colin alive at around 8 or 8:30 p.m.
when Soto left to get beer.
16 Soto also provided Detective Garcia with names of people
who might have relevant information, including El Moro and
Casarubias. Soto further mentioned that he went to his cousin
Herculano Morales's house after finding Colin dead to get
help and advice on what to do.
17 Around 8 p.m., Soto left the police station with Detective
Garcia and his partner to show them where El Moro and the
other individuals lived. Soto was not handcuffed. Soto and
the detectives traveled in an unmarked vehicle and drove
around the neighborhood with Soto pointing out different
locations, including the residences of El Moro, Morales, and
Casarubias. At that time, the detectives did not get out of
the vehicle to approach the houses. The detectives
transported Soto back to the police station and returned him
to the same interview room.
18 Soto remained in the interview room while Detective Garcia
left the police station to locate El Moro and Soto's
cousin at the houses that Soto pointed out, but the houses
that the detective went to were not the correct ones.
Detective Garcia returned to the station and told Soto that
the houses he pointed out were incorrect. Soto said he could
have made a mistake and offered to clarify and show him the
houses again. But Detective Garcia had to start working on a
different investigation and arranged with Soto to continue
the investigation in the morning. Detective Garcia asked Soto
if he would stay in the area and cooperate with the
investigation, and he agreed. Soto spent a second night at
the station again with no blanket, pillow or mattress.
19 The next morning-October 6-Detectives Roger Lara and
Salvador Esparza continued to look for El Moro with
Soto's assistance. Soto traveled with the detectives in
an unmarked police vehicle and again pointed out El
Moro's house, which was just one house away from the
house that Detective Garcia went to the night before. The
detectives approached the house, and an individual identified
himself as Javier O'Campo, who had the nickname "El
Moro." El Moro agreed to go to the police station for
questioning, and the police transported him to Area 4 in a
different squad car.
20 At around 1 p.m., after El Moro arrived at the police
station, Detectives Garcia and Lara interviewed him.
According to El Moro, on the morning of October 3, he along
with Colin and Soto sold some scrap metal that they had
collected. After getting paid, they stopped at a liquor store
to buy beer and picked up a prostitute. The three men and the
prostitute went to the abandoned house where Soto and Colin
lived, and Soto went upstairs with the prostitute while El
Moro and Colin remained downstairs drinking beer. El Moro and
Colin then dropped the prostitute off at her
"working" place, and El Moro brought Colin back to
21 Because of the discrepancies between El Moro's and
Soto's story about what Soto had been doing during the
day leading up to Colin's death, Detectives Garcia and
Lara decided to put them both in the same interview room so
the detectives could question them together. The interview
room was not locked and neither Soto nor El Moro was
22 Detective Garcia confronted Soto about the discrepancy
between what he said he did on October 3 and what El Moro
said about their activities. Soto admitted that he lied and
explained that he was embarrassed about picking up the
prostitute. The rest of Soto's story was consistent with
23 Soto remained at the station for the rest of the day.
Around 7:30 p.m., Soto accompanied Detective Garcia and
another detective to look for Morales, Soto's cousin.
Soto was not handcuffed and sat in the back seat of an
unmarked squad car. When they arrived at Morales' house,
both Detective Garcia and Soto went to the door. Soto was
still not handcuffed. Morales identified Soto as "Ramon
Morales." Detective Garcia then proceeded to interview
Morales while Soto waited in the squad car.
24 Morales described Soto as a street person, who is usually
intoxicated and in some type of trouble. Soto visited Morales
around noon on October 4. Soto appeared troubled and told
Morales that "he had beat somebody up" and wanted
to talk to his sister. Detective Garcia's conversation
with Morales lasted about 10 minutes. Afterward, around 9
p.m., the detectives transported Soto back to Area 4. Once at
the police station, Soto returned to the same interview room
that he had slept in the previous two nights. Soto was not
handcuffed, the interview room's door was unlocked, he
was not processed and he was not told that he was under
25 Around 9:30 p.m., Detective Garcia confronted Soto with
the information he had learned from Morales. Soto clutched
the bench that he was sitting on, shook his head
acknowledging that he had not been truthful, paused for a
second, lowered his head and said in Spanish "Okay. I
killed him. I hit him." At that point, Detective Garcia
immediately stopped the interview because, according to
Garcia, he now considered Soto a suspect.
26 During all prior interviews, the electronic recording
interview system (ERI) was never activated because the
detectives had not considered Soto a suspect. After
Soto's confession, Detective Garcia and his partner
turned on the ERI in a different interview room. Within a few