People v. Thornton

Citation170 N.E.3d 123,2020 IL App (1st) 170753,446 Ill.Dec. 297
Decision Date31 March 2020
Docket NumberNo. 1-17-0753,1-17-0753
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Charles E. THORNTON, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

2020 IL App (1st) 170753
170 N.E.3d 123
446 Ill.Dec.

The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Charles E. THORNTON, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 1-17-0753

Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, Second Division.

Opinion filed March 31, 2020.

James E. Chadd, Patricia Mysza, and Maggie A. Heim, of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Chicago, for appellant.

Kimberly M. Foxx, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg and Daniel Piwowarczyk, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

JUSTICE LAVIN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

¶ 1 Following a jury trial, defendant Charles Thornton was found guilty of home invasion and the aggravated criminal sexual assault of victims D.P. and S.F. He was sentenced to a total term of 72 years' imprisonment for the offenses. On appeal, defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence, including incriminating statements, collected while he was in police custody. As justification for his claim, defendant maintains police arrested him based on an anonymous, uncorroborated tip absent reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Defendant also maintains police arrested him based on an unconstitutional investigative alert, rather than a warrant. He argues alternatively that the investigative alert was not supported by probable cause, which he claims also justifies suppression of the evidence. We affirm.


¶ 3 Defendant's Arrest and Motion-to-Suppress Hearing

¶ 4 Defendant was arrested and charged with invading the home of 57-year-old D.P. and then brutally beating and raping both her and her 63-year-old friend S.F. on the Sunday morning of July 11, 2010, just before the ladies' planned church outing.

¶ 5 That same day,1 the rape victims provided Detective Kenneth Wiggins with a physical description of defendant as a black male, between 5'7? and 5'8?, and around 150 to 160 pounds. According to them, he also had a chipped front tooth and tattoos on both his upper arms. Based on this description, Detective Wiggins created a five-person photo array containing similarly described individuals, although the array unwittingly did not contain defendant's

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image. Detective Wiggins presented the photo array to the victims on July 13, 2010. D.P. was unable to identify her attacker from that array, while S.F. identified an individual who was clearly not defendant since his photo was not part of the array.

¶ 6 As discussed in more depth later, during the course of the rapes, defendant informed the victims that he had been shot in the mouth or face, resulting in his chipped tooth. S.F. relayed this detail to the police and her son, M.F. M.F. then conducted his own investigation in the neighborhood in search of someone who had been shot in the mouth. M.F.'s search uncovered defendant's name, which M.F. promptly relayed to Detective Wiggins on the evening of July 13. Detective Wiggins pulled defendant's physical characteristics, which matched the descriptions provided by the victims.

¶ 7 As a result, on July 14, Detective Wiggins put together another five-person photo array, this time including defendant's image. From that array, S.F. tentatively identified defendant, meaning that, while she was not completely sure he was her attacker, the photo certainly looked like him. D.P. again did not identify anyone. Defendant, it was discovered, had a previously listed address of 6100 S. Sangamon Street, only a block or so from D.P.'s house, where the rapes were committed. In addition, it was learned that defendant had indeed been shot in the mouth, having been the victim of an aggravated battery with a firearm, and had tattoos on both his upper arms. Consequently, that same day Detective Wiggins issued an investigative alert for defendant that included his photo. Detective Wiggins testified that "there was no need for a warrant" given that he had issued the investigative alert first.

¶ 8 Several days later, in the early morning hours of July 19, Chicago police officer Len Jarvis received an anonymous 911 call,2 transmitted over the police radio, as he was working patrol. The call reported a person wanted for two criminal sexual assaults was sitting on the porch of 1000 W. 61st Street and wearing a green and white shirt and also green shorts. Officer Jarvis arrived at the address and saw that defendant (who bore that description "to the T") was the only one walking on the street. Defendant ultimately turned into a yard at 945 W. 61st Street, and Officer Jarvis later identified defendant in court as the person he observed walking down the street that evening. Although Officer Jarvis did not specifically testify to the exact length of time between the 911 call and his observation of defendant, his testimony indicates it was a very short period, as he stated the call "came out * * * that somebody was wanted matching [the defendant's] description in that vicinity. We were touring that area and [the defendant was] right there."

¶ 9 Officer Jarvis and his partner then approached defendant and inquired as to his name, which defendant provided. Officer Jarvis handcuffed defendant for safety reasons, then stated defendant was not under arrest but they wished to run his name in the police system. Officer Jarvis stated that, assuming there were no problems, defendant would be "on [his] way." Defendant sat in the back of the open-door police wagon for several minutes along with the other police officer while Officer Jarvis ran defendant's name through the I-CLEAR investigative alert system. On doing so, the investigative alert, together

170 N.E.3d 129

with the attached photo, emerged that defendant was wanted for two criminal sexual assaults. The alert also contained defendant's height, weight, and fact that he had tattoos, among other details. Finding probable cause based on the investigative alert, Officer Jarvis placed defendant under arrest and Mirandized him. See Miranda v. Arizona , 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). Officer Jarvis indicated that the entire interaction with defendant lasted only several minutes.

¶ 10 Relevant to this appeal, defendant, while acting pro se , filed a motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence. Testimony reflected the above-stated facts,3 with defendant calling as his witness Officer Jarvis and the State calling Detective Wiggins to testify. Defendant argued there was no probable cause for his arrest. He noted that Detective Wiggins issued an investigative alert instead of obtaining a warrant, yet this bypassed the constitutional requirement that a warrant be issued based on probable cause and supported by an affidavit. Defendant was subsequently represented by counsel,4 who added that defendant was illegally arrested at the outset by Officer Jarvis based on a phone call from an anonymous, unreliable informant, who provided insufficient information for the arrest. Counsel further argued that the investigative alert did not give rise to probable cause to arrest.

¶ 11 The State responded that probable cause existed and was sufficient to support defendant's arrest in this case. The State argued that Officer Jarvis was justified in asking for defendant's name and also had probable cause at the time he arrested defendant based on the investigative alert. The State noted that Detective Wiggins testified as to his personal knowledge of probable cause underlying the investigative alert. The facts showed that Detective Wiggins was given defendant's name as a possible suspect and, upon investigation, learned that defendant bore the same tattoos and facial injuries as described by the victims. In addition, one of the victims tentatively identified him as the suspect from the photo array, and he lived near one of them. All this justified a warrantless arrest since there was probable cause for the arrest. The trial court agreed with the State and denied defendant's motion.

¶ 12 Defendant's Trial and Sentencing

¶ 13 The cause then proceeded to trial, where evidence established that on the Sunday morning of July 11, 2010, D.P. was waiting for her friend S.F. to pick her up for church from D.P.'s home at 6040 S. Sangamon Street in Chicago. D.P. suffered from seizures and could no longer drive.

¶ 14 The doorbell rang. Thinking it was a neighbor, D.P. opened the door only to find a black man she did not recognize before her, who immediately pushed his

170 N.E.3d 130

way into her home while hitting her. The man, later identified as defendant, pushed her on the floor and took off her clothes. D.P. fought him but to no avail. He pulled her into the bedroom while continuing to take off her clothing and hit her, then attempted to have sex with her.

¶ 15 Meanwhile S.F. had arrived at the home around 7:30 a.m. On approaching the door, she saw one of D.P.'s shoes and her glasses in the vestibule. Believing that D.P. might be having a seizure, S.F. entered the apartment to the dining room, whereupon a naked man "jumped out," then beat her over the head, kicked her, knocked her down, and pulled on her clothes. Defendant stated, "bitch, you shouldn't had come in here, but I'm glad you did." Defendant then beat S.F. in the head and face with a silver metal ashtray and pulled her down to...

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3 cases
  • People v. Little
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • May 5, 2021
    ...Ill.Dec. 408, 174 N.E.3d 99 ; People v. Bahena , 2020 IL App (1st) 180197, ¶¶ 59-64, 446 Ill.Dec. 448, 170 N.E.3d 1014 ; People v. Thornton , 2020 IL App (1st) 170753, ¶¶ 45-50, 446 Ill.Dec. 297, 170 N.E.3d 123. We note that our supreme court recently handed down its decision in People v. B......
  • People v. James
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • March 30, 2021
    ...201 L.Ed.2d 9 (2018). Reasonableness under the fourth amendment generally requires a warrant supported by probable cause. People v. Thornton , 2020 IL App (1st) 170753, ¶ 25, 446 Ill.Dec. 297, 170 N.E.3d 123. Probable cause exists where the facts and circumstances, considered as a whole, ar......
  • People v. Butler
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • December 17, 2021
    ...that some time passed before police apprehended defendant has little relevance to the probable cause analysis here. See People v. Thornton , 2020 IL App (1st) 170753, ¶¶ 4-8, 446 Ill.Dec. 297, 170 N.E.3d 123 (finding probable cause where the defendant was arrested eight days after the rapes......

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