777 N.E.2d 360 (Ill.App. 2 Dist. 2001), 2-98-1662, People v. Rivera

Docket Nº:2-98-1662.
Citation:777 N.E.2d 360, 333 Ill.App.3d 1092, 267 Ill.Dec. 557
Party Name:The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Juan A. RIVERA, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:December 05, 2001
Court:Court of Appeals of Illinois

Page 360

777 N.E.2d 360 (Ill.App. 2 Dist. 2001)

333 Ill.App.3d 1092, 267 Ill.Dec. 557

The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Juan A. RIVERA, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 2-98-1662.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District.

December 5, 2001.

As Modified Upon Denial of Rehearing March 21, 2002.

[333 Ill.App.3d 1093] G. Joseph Weller, Deputy Defender (Court-appointed), Office of the State Appellate Defender, Elgin, James Geis (Court-appointed), Chicago, for Juan A. Rivera.

Michael J. Waller, Lake County State's Attorney, Waukegan, Martin P. Moltz, Deputy Director, Cynthia N. Schneider, State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor, Elgin, for the People.

Modified Upon Denial of Rehearing


HUTCHINSON, Presiding Justice

In 1993 a jury convicted defendant, Juan A. Rivera, of the offense of first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1 (West 1992)). The trial court imposed a sentence of natural life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Defendant appealed, and this court reversed his conviction and remanded the cause for a new trial. See People v. Rivera, No. 2-94-0075, 284 Ill.App.3d 1134, 237 Ill.Dec. 242, 708 N.E.2d 1282 (November 19, 1996) (unpublished order pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 23). In October 1998 defendant was retried, and a jury again convicted defendant of the offense of first-degree murder; the trial court sentenced defendant to natural life in prison. Following the trial court's denial of his posttrial motion, defendant timely appeals. We affirm.

Eleven-year-old Holly Staker was raped and murdered on August 17, 1992, while

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she was baby-sitting at Dawn Engelbrecht's home in Waukegan. Engelbrecht returned home early from her work when learned her five-year-old son, Blake, had been locked out of her house and that Holly was not answering. She found her two-year-old daughter, Taylor, on a bed in the children's bedroom and Holly's body on the floor. Defendant was incarcerated for an unrelated crime sometime after Holly's murder. An investigation led police to interview defendant, as he had made several statements to another prisoner, Edward Martin, regarding the murder. Defendant made inculpatory statements to police officers and later provided written statements to the officers. On November 12, 1992, defendant was indicted for Holly's murder.

In November 1993 defendant was tried and convicted on three counts of first-degree murder, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Defendant appealed his conviction and sentence, and this court reversed and remanded for a new trial. See People v. Rivera, No. 2-94-0075 (November 19, 1996) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).

Prior to retrial, defendant filed a motion to authorize funding to hire an expert witness. Defendant sought to engage the services of Richard Ofshe, a social psychologist, to present an expert's testimony in the field of false confessions. In January 1998 the trial court heard arguments on defendant's motion. The trial court was concerned with the nature and admissibility of the expert's testimony and determined that further inquiry was needed before it would render a decision to authorize the funds. At a subsequent hearing the trial court reiterated its desire to conduct a Frye hearing to determine the admissibility of Ofshe's anticipated testimony. Defendant submitted a memorandum to the trial court concerning evidentiary rules and the Frye standard and in it questioned whether a Frye hearing was even necessary under the circumstances of the case.

On February 23, 1998, the trial court conducted an extensive hearing and, on March 2, 1998, determined that false confession evidence of the type proposed by Ofshe would be inadmissible. The trial court reasoned that the false confession evidence testimony that Ofshe would render added "little or nothing to what [the jurors] can glean from the testimony themselves." The trial court also noted that, under the Frye standard, it was not convinced that Ofshe's type of testimony had general acceptance within the psychiatric, psychological, or sociological community. The trial court ruled that it would not authorize the expenditure of funds and denied defendant's motion.

Trial commenced on September 16, 1998. The record reflects that the State's case was premised mainly upon circumstantial evidence, as the physical evidence failed to identify any particular suspect. Edward Martin testified that in mid-September 1992 he had a conversation with defendant while they were both being held in the Lake County jail. Defendant told Martin that he knew who killed Holly and that he had approached Engelbrecht on her front lawn on the evening of the murder. Defendant told Martin that the night of the murder he was at a party at the Maurice Craig residence and that another individual kept leaving and returning to the party. Defendant told Martin that, after approximately 50 minutes, the individual returned to the party but was nervous and had blood on him. Defendant told Martin that they smoked some marijuana, did some more partying, and then the individual left and hasn't been seen or heard from since. Defendant also opined

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that Holly was a tease and she deserved all 27 stabbings. Defendant said neither of Engelbrecht's children had seen anything happen because her son was not there and her daughter was in another room. Martin relayed to the police defendant knew who had killed Holly.

Michael Jackson testified that in August 1992 he was living at the [333 Ill.App.3d 1095] Craig residence. Jackson testified that on August 17, 1992, there was no party at the Craig residence. Jackson was acquainted with defendant and knew him from the neighborhood. On October 28, 1992, Jackson went to the Lake County sheriff's office and met defendant in a conference room. Defendant told Jackson that the officers were trying to "railroad" him and asked Jackson to tell the officers that they were together on the day of Holly's murder. Jackson responded that he did not want anything to do with the rape and murder of a little girl and would not say what defendant wanted him to say. Jackson reported his conversation with defendant to the officers.

Alejandro Ontiveros also testified that on August 17, 1992, there was no party at the Craig residence. Maurice Craig testified that he, his mother, and siblings lived a few blocks from Engelbrecht's residence in August 1992 and that there was no party at his house on August 17, 1992.

Michael Blazincic, an officer with the Lake County sheriff's department, investigated Holly's murder and interviewed defendant. Defendant told Blazincic that, on the day of Holly's murder, he was at a party at the Craig residence. Defendant noticed that another individual by the name of Robert had appeared at the party and left several times throughout the course of the party. Defendant told Blazincic that, after Robert returned to the party the third time, he appeared to be very nervous and had some scratches on his face; Robert told the people at the party that he had fallen. Thereafter, the people at the party heard police sirens and saw flashing lights. Defendant stated that he and some others left the Craig residence and went in the direction of where the emergency vehicles were going; Robert went in the opposite direction. Defendant had not seen him since.

Blazincic and Lieutenant Fernando Shipley of the Waukegan police department confronted defendant with inconsistencies regarding statements he had made to them during the interview. Defendant admitted to Shipley that he had lied but did not offer a reason.

Officer Donald Meadie of the Waukegan police department and Assistant Commander Chuck Fagan also interviewed defendant regarding his explanations for his whereabouts on the night of Holly's murder. After approximately 45 minutes, defendant appeared to bow his...

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