People v. Melock

Decision Date30 July 1992
Docket NumberNo. 69695,69695
Citation599 N.E.2d 941,174 Ill.Dec. 857,149 Ill.2d 423
Parties, 174 Ill.Dec. 857 The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee, v. Robert MELOCK, Appellant.
CourtIllinois Supreme Court

Charles M. Schiedel, Deputy Defender and Peter L. Rotskoff and Charles Hoffman, Asst. Defenders, Office of the State Appellate Defender, Springfield, for appellant.

Roland W. Burris, Atty. Gen., Springfield (Rosalyn B. Kaplan, Sol. Gen., and Terence M. Madsen and Richard S. London, Asst. Attys. Gen., Chicago, of counsel) for the People.

Justice FREEMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Lake County, defendant, Robert Melock, was convicted of four counts of first degree murder. (Ill.Rev.Stat.1987, ch. 38, pars. 9-1(a)(1), (a)(2), (a)(3).) The jury found defendant was eligible for the death penalty on the ground that the murder was committed during a home invasion (Ill.Rev.Stat.1987, ch. 38, par. 12-11(a)(1)) and criminal sexual assault (Ill.Rev.Stat.1987, ch. 38, par. 12-13(a)(1)), statutory aggravating factors. (See Ill.Rev.Stat.1987, ch. 38, par. 9-1(b)(6).) At the second stage of the sentencing hearing, the jury found no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude imposition of the death penalty. Defendant's death sentence has been stayed (134 Ill.2d R. 609(a)) pending direct appeal to this court (Ill.Const.1970, art. VI, § 4(b); 134 Ill.2d R. 603). For the reasons which follow, we reverse.

Summary of Facts

The evidence at trial established that on January 15, 1989, the body of Augustine Melock was discovered on the floor of her Waukegan home. The side door to the victim's home had been broken into and glass in the door had been shattered. The cause of the victim's death was determined to have been the "result of multiple blunt trauma to the head, with strangulation and multiple stab wounds to the neck contributing to the death." Redness in the victim's vagina and rectum was indicative of some type of penetration or irritation.

On January 19, 1989, defendant, the victim's grandson, confessed to the murder. Defendant's "verbatim" statement was read into evidence. At trial, defendant denied having confessed to the murder.

Evidence of defendant's guilt consisted largely of his confession. In addition to the confession, Susan Holloway, a prior-convicted felon, testified that on January 20, 1989, while she and defendant were in holding cells at the Waukegan police department, defendant admitted to her that he had killed his grandmother. Defendant, in his testimony, denied that he made any admission to Holloway.

There was a wealth of physical evidence, including latent fingerprints, blood-stained articles, and hair samples, which was taken from the murder scene and produced at trial. None of this evidence connected defendant to the murder scene.

Natalie Bohrer, the State's forensic science witness, testified that she compared glass fragments from the broken storm door of the victim's home with fragments taken from defendant's shoes. Three of the samples from defendant's shoes had refractive indexes similar to glass fragments from the door.

On re-cross-examination, Bohrer testified that it was possible that the glass fragments had come from the same origin; however, there was no way, based on their refractive index, to tell that two pieces of glass came from the same place. She did not know whether the glass fragments which she compared had come from the same source.

Physical evidence was also taken from defendant's home. Included among the items was a black leather jacket, a pair of black slacks, a white shirt and a pair of Reebok tennis shoes. Maria Yantz, defendant's surviving grandmother, with whom defendant was living at the time of this offense, testified that defendant wore these items on the night of the murder. Yantz also testified that she had washed the jeans, but not the shirt.

Officer William Biang of the Waukegan police department testified that he recovered the clothing from the Yantz home. According to his testimony, the shirt was folded and appeared to have been laundered. Bohrer testified that no blood was found on any of the articles of defendant's clothing.

Bohrer also examined a rug which had been taken from the basement laundry room of the Yantz home. A fragment from the rug contained chromium and iron, a material which was consistent with materials in the blade of the knife suspected to have been used to commit the offense. Additionally, Bohrer examined the inside of the knife sheath. No blood was present.

Defendant alleges numerous errors at all stages of the proceedings. Because we reverse the conviction and remand for a new trial, we need not address all of the issues raised. In the interest of brevity, we will discuss only that additional evidence necessary for a resolution of the issues addressed by this opinion.


Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion to suppress his alleged confession. The motion was denied. On appeal, defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying the motion.

In reviewing a trial court's determination on a motion to suppress, we are mindful of the limited parameters of our review. Absent a determination that the trial court's finding was manifestly erroneous, we will not disturb it. (People v. Reynolds (1983), 94 Ill.2d 160, 165, 68 Ill.Dec. 122, 445 N.E.2d 766.) Further, we note that it is the function of the trial court to determine the credibility of the witnesses and to resolve any conflict in their testimony. People v. Redd (1990), 135 Ill.2d 252, 289, 142 Ill.Dec. 802, 553 N.E.2d 316.

As a preliminary matter, we note that defendant and the State have inextricably intertwined their respective arguments on the issues of arrest and custody. While the two concepts share common features, they are, nonetheless, separate and distinct, and we shall address them as such. Additionally, defendant argues, generally, that his "confession" was the result of illegal police conduct. In this case, defendant's confession was preceded by an admission. While his confession may, ultimately, have been tainted by an illegality, the primary focus of our review, necessarily, concerns the police officers' conduct prior to defendant's admission.

A. Legality of Defendant's Detention

Defendant first argues that the confession was the product of an illegal arrest and was made without the required Miranda warnings. The State argues, in effect, that defendant voluntarily cooperated with the police, and at the time of his admission, defendant was not in custody. Therefore, the State maintains, neither the admission nor the subsequent confession resulted from an illegal arrest, and Miranda warnings were not required. Prior to proceeding with our examination of the facts in this case, we note the propriety of our consideration of the testimony adduced at trial as well as at the suppression hearing. People v. Caballero (1984), 102 Ill.2d 23, 36, 79 Ill.Dec. 625, 464 N.E.2d 223.

Testimony adduced at the defendant's suppression hearing established that on January 15, 1989, Detectives Lou Tessmann and Donald Meadie appeared at defendant's home and asked defendant to accompany them to the Waukegan police station. Defendant agreed. Defendant entered the back seat of the police car, without being handcuffed, and was driven to the station.

Once at the station, defendant was taken to an interview room, given Miranda warnings and questioned. Following the questioning, defendant was transported by the detectives to St. Therese Hospital where hair and blood samples were taken. After leaving St. Therese, the detectives stopped and permitted defendant to purchase cigarettes. Defendant was then transported back to his home. At no time was defendant told that he was free to leave.

Subsequently, on the morning of January 19, Tessmann and Meadie appeared, again, at defendant's home and requested that defendant accompany them to the police station. According to the detectives' testimony, prior to being transported to the station, defendant requested, and was allowed, to brush his teeth and comb his hair. Defendant rode, without being handcuffed, in the back seat of an unmarked police car. The back doors of the car were not locked and were equipped with handles. Defendant was not told that he did not have to accompany the detectives to the police station.

Once at the station, defendant was taken to an interview room, where, from about 9:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m., he was questioned. Miranda warnings were not given.

While at the station, defendant offered to take a polygraph examination to prove the truthfulness of responses he had made to the detectives. At about 11:30 a.m., arrangements were made for such an examination to be administered at the offices of John Reid and Associates in Chicago.

Defendant was transported from the Waukegan police department to the John Reid offices by the interrogating detectives. While en route to John Reid, the detectives purchased food and cigarettes for defendant. The food was purchased at the "drive-thru" window at a McDonald's. The record does not state from where the cigarettes where purchased. In any event, prior to arriving at John Reid, defendant did not leave the vehicle.

The drive from Waukegan to John Reid took about two hours. The detectives and defendant arrived at John Reid at about 2 p.m. Upon arriving, defendant sat in an unsecured waiting area while the detectives met with Michael Masokas and John Reid, the polygraph examiners. Defendant waited alone in the unsecured area for about 30 minutes. In their meeting with the polygraph examiners, the detectives informed Masokas and Reid that defendant was a suspect in the murder of his grandmother and that the purpose of the polygraph examination was to determine whether he had been involved.

Prior to interviewing defendant, Masokas reviewed documents which had been provided him by the detectives. He...

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