People v. Jones

Decision Date17 June 1993
Docket NumberNo. 70704,70704
Citation189 Ill.Dec. 357,156 Ill.2d 225,620 N.E.2d 325
Parties, 189 Ill.Dec. 357 The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee, v. Ronald JONES, Appellant.
CourtIllinois Supreme Court
Rita A. Fry, Public Defender, Chicago (Karen E. Tietz and Ronald P. Alwin, Asst. Public Defenders, of counsel, and Suzanne Isaacson, law student), for appellant

Roland W. Burris, Atty. Gen., Springfield, and Jack O'Malley, State's Atty., Chicago (Terence M. Madsen, Asst. Atty. Gen., Chicago, and Renee Goldfarb and Sally L. Dilgart, Asst. State's Attys., of counsel), for the People.

Justice HEIPLE delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant, Ronald Jones, was found guilty by a jury of murder and aggravated criminal sexual assault in the circuit court of Cook County. Before trial defendant requested a bench sentencing hearing. The trial judge found defendant eligible for the death penalty under the Criminal Code of 1961 (the Criminal Code), section 9-1(b)(6) (Ill.Rev.Stat.1985, ch. 38, par. 9-1(b)(6)). At the aggravation/mitigation phase, the judge found no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude the sentence of death. He therefore imposed the death penalty under the Criminal Code, section 9-1(h) (Ill.Rev.Stat.1985, ch. 38, par. 9-1(h)). The death sentence was stayed (134 Ill.2d R. 609(a)) pending direct review by this court (Ill. Const.1970, art. VI, § 4(b); 134 Ill.2d R. 603). We now affirm the convictions and the penalty of death.


The following facts were adduced at trial. On March 9, 1985, Debra Smith (the victim) went dancing with her sister until about 2 a.m. on the early morning of March 10. The two sisters then parted company and the victim went to her apartment at 6941 S. Harper in Chicago. She talked with her live-in fiance, James Roberson, and told him that she was hungry and was going to go to Harold's Chicken Shack, about 3 1/2 blocks away.

On her way to Harold's, she met her friend Sarah Upton, and they talked for a while. While they were talking a man known as "Bumpy" approached the women, grabbed Sarah, and asked them for 50 cents so that he could buy a drink. Sarah identified defendant as the man who approached them. Defendant is known as "Bumpy" because of his acne problem. Bumpy held Sarah tightly and again asked for 50 cents. The victim told Bumpy to let Sarah go, and Sarah eventually gave him the 50 cents.

At 5:10 a.m., Detectives Peter Valesares and Al Grestheim received a call regarding a homicide. They arrived at the scene and found the victim's body. She was naked from the waist down except for one sock, she had been beaten, and there were stab wounds to her face and neck. There was a trail of blood leading to the Crest Hotel, which was abandoned, and the soles of her sock and bare foot were dirty, suggesting that she had walked from the Crest Hotel after she had been disrobed. Further investigation showed that there was semen in her vagina and that she was drunk at the time she was murdered.

On May 25, 1985, a 33-year-old woman, B.B., called the police to report that she had been raped at knifepoint. One or two weeks later she identified defendant, who was then arrested on June 4, 1985.

On June 9, 1985, Sarah spoke with police about seeing Bumpy talking with the victim shortly before she was murdered. It was on this day that defendant became a suspect in the Smith case. Three weeks later, on July 1, defendant was released when B.B. failed to show up at the preliminary hearing against defendant for the rape.

In late August or early September 1985, the police received the vaginal swabs taken from B.B., which apparently implicated defendant. The police then began to look for defendant to place him under arrest.

On October 4, 1985, Detectives Steven Hood and John Markham located defendant on the street. Defendant was not violating any laws at that time. The detectives placed him under arrest, and took him to police headquarters. They advised him of At trial, defendant testified that he did not have intercourse with either Smith or B.B. He denied killing Smith, and claimed that his statements had been coerced by the police through beatings. He testified that the purpose of the trip to the Crest Hotel was so that the police could tell him what happened to make his confession more accurate.

[189 Ill.Dec. 361] his Miranda rights [156 Ill.2d 236] and questioned him about THe smith murder. defendant initially denied involvement, but later changed his story. In this second version of the events, defendant claimed that the victim had agreed to have sex with him for $10, and they went to the abandoned Crest Hotel. After intercourse he refused to pay her, and she pulled a knife out of her bra. They fought until the victim "apparently got stuck" because she lay still, and defendant got scared and ran away. He later threw away his clothes. Defendant agreed to accompany the police officers to the Crest Hotel, where he indicated all of these events supposedly took place. He later signed a statement basically reiterating this story.

As evidence of the beating, defendant provided pictures of a bump on his head that enlarged after his arrest. The State presented expert and lay testimony indicating that the swelling was actually a sebaceous cyst caused by blockage of a sweat gland. The defendant admitted that he had been treated for an acute acne problem that waxes and wanes and which causes him to "break out in bumps."

The jury found defendant guilty of murder and aggravated criminal sexual assault. At the sentencing hearing, the judge found him eligible for the death penalty and, finding no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude the imposition of the death penalty, sentenced defendant to death. This direct appeal followed.


Defendant alleges that there were nine errors committed at trial that warrant reversal of his conviction.

The first error alleged by defendant is that the trial court wrongfully denied his motion to quash his arrest. This motion was based on his allegation that the police officers acted without probable cause when they arrested him. Further, since the arrest should have been quashed, the statements that he gave to police as a result of that arrest were erroneously entered into evidence as fruit of the poisonous tree.

Probable cause is established when police " 'have knowledge of facts which would lead a reasonable man to believe that a crime has occurred and that it has been committed by the defendant.' " (People v. Wright (1985), 111 Ill.2d 128, 145, 95 Ill.Dec. 787, 490 N.E.2d 640, quoting People v. Eddmonds (1984), 101 Ill.2d 44, 60, 77 Ill.Dec. 724, 461 N.E.2d 347.) The trial court's decision that probable cause was established will not be disturbed unless manifestly erroneous. People v. Clay (1973), 55 Ill.2d 501, 505, 304 N.E.2d 280.

At the hearing on defendant's motion, Detective John Markham testified that he and Detective Steven Hood arrested defendant on October 4, 1985, less than a half a block away from where the victim's body had been found. Before the arrest, they knew that Sarah Upton had met and talked with the victim and defendant shortly before the murder. They knew that defendant grabbed Upton that night and demanded money, and asked them, "[A]ren't you afraid walking down the streets at night, don't you know people get killed?"

Markham also testified that defendant was believed to have robbed and raped B.B. about three months after the murder, and that the rapes occurred under similar circumstances, including the location (the B.B. rape took place about a block and a half away from the Smith rape), the time (both rapes occurred at about 3:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning), the race and age of the victims (both were black women in their late twenties) and the fact that both rapes were performed at knifepoint in an abandoned building. Defendant's identity was not in doubt, as B.B. unequivocally identified defendant in a lineup. Detective Markham testified that while defendant Finally, Markham testified that the police learned from neighbors that defendant frequented the area of the crime and they knew of his extensive criminal record. All of this information made him a suspect in the Smith rape and murder.

[189 Ill.Dec. 362] was in custody they took blood and colon specimens from him, but did not interview defendant because they felt that interviewing him while in custody for the B.B. rape would not be the right thing to do. At trial, it came out that B.B.'s vaginal swab did not come back until late August or early September, at which time the police began looking for defendant.

This knowledge more than adequately supports defendant's arrest. Although this information alone would certainly not be enough to convict a man, it easily establishes probable cause.

Defendant makes much of the time lapse between the arrest for the B.B. rape and the October arrest for the Smith rape and murder. He argues that the police did not know any more information in October than in June. Therefore, there was no basis for the arrest.

This argument misconstrues the issue to be resolved. The issue is not whether the arrest occurred at the earliest possible moment in time. Rather, the issue is whether, at the time of the arrest, the police had facts which would lead a reasonable man to believe that a crime had occurred and that it was committed by Ronald Jones. We conclude that they did. Further, defendant's argument ignores the fact that the B.B. vaginal swabs were not received until late August or early September. The trial court's determination that there was probable cause to arrest defendant was not manifestly erroneous, and we will not disturb that decision.

Defendant's next two allegations of trial error concern the admissibility of evidence that defendant raped another woman. First, he argues that allowing this evidence was error because no modus operandi was shown, making...

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