People v. Mandoline, 2017 IL App (2d) 150511 (February). Episode 316 (Duration 12:31)
How to test if a confession is voluntary?
Here, the police misconduct did not overbear defendant’s will so as to deprive him of the opportunity to knowingly and intelligently relinquish his rights and give statements to the police.
See also the Understanding Criminal Law resource page.
Felony Murder Facts
One victim died in her sleep after inhaling smoke from a car fire.
A second victim did not die but suffered from serious burns.
The fire was caused by an arson of a car parked in the driveway of the home. The garage door was open.
Domestic Gone Wrong
Defendant had been dating the deceased and was upset with her.
Their relationship had been on the rocks.
He left a part at the home earlier that night where he told everyone that he wished they would all die. In an interview with police he admitted to putting a burning piece of paper in the car’s gas tank.
The circumstances of the interrogation was challenged on appeal. See also this resource page on Illinois confessions.
When Was He Arrested?
Defendant says he was arrested without probable cause.
Turning to the question of when the arrest occurred, we note that the overarching consideration is whether, under all of the circumstances present, a reasonable, innocent person would conclude that he or she was not free to leave.
This test is objective.
A person’s decision to voluntarily accompany police officers means that he or she has not been arrested. In considering whether an arrest has occurred, the court is to consider the following factors:
(1) the time, place, length, mood, and mode of the encounter between the defendant and the police;
(2) the number of police officers present;
(3) any indicia of formal arrest or restraint, such as whether the officers used handcuffs or drew their guns;
(4) the officer’s’ intention;
(5) the defendant’s subjective belief or understanding;
(6) whether the defendant was informed that he or she could refuse to accompany the officers;
(7) whether the defendant was transported in a police car;
(8) whether the defendant was informed that he or she was free to leave;
(9) whether the defendant was informed that he or she was under arrest; and
(10) the language used by the officers.
No single factor is dispositive.
Pursuant to defendant’s arguments, there are three possible times at which the arrest occurred:
- at his house
- upon his arrival at the police department and
- at 8:44 a.m., when he was informed that he would not be allowed to leave.
The parties agree that defendant was under arrest no later than 8:44 a.m.
Therefore, the court analyzed whether defendant was arrested at his home or upon arriving at the department, in light of the factors set forth above as well as the overall circumstances present.
Police First Arrived
Police first arrived at his home at 7:15 am.
The detectives explained that they were investigating a fire that occurred at a party that defendant attended, and they asked to speak with defendant.
Defendant’s mother awakened defendant, and he conversed with the detectives. 2 more detectives arrived, and defendant agreed to accompany the police to the department to answer questions. Defendant asked to grab some items and to use the bathroom, and the police agreed to this request.
As defendant went into his basement bedroom, two detectives followed and observed as he grabbed his wallet, footwear, and keys.
By following defendant unbidden, the detectives made their presence somewhat more ominous and irresistible. However, they were in plain clothes, and it is clear that their purpose was self-protection, to make sure that defendant did not grab a weapon along with the other items he said he wished to retrieve.
Thus, on balance, the time, place, and length of the encounter were reasonable, and the mood was not confrontational. Defendant was not handcuffed and he police were in plain clothes.
At The Police Station
So, once at the police station was the defendant arrested before 8:44 when he asked to leave and they explicitly told him he couldn’t?
Defendant was patted down and Mirandized which is consistent with an arrest.
At the outset of the questioning, when defendant asked whether he needed an attorney, a detective told him that he needed to decide that for himself. Defendant asked whether, if he decided to request an attorney, he would need to remain in the interview room. The detective replied, “Yeah, obviously.”
Thus, not only was defendant not informed that he was free to leave, he was informed that he was, in fact, not free to leave. This factor strongly weighs in favor of an arrest.
In the reviewing court’s analysis these factors are sufficient to tip our calculus to the conclusion that, by around 7:45 a.m., defendant had been arrested.
Was There Probable Cause?
So did they have probable cause to arrest him by this time?
Probable cause does not require proof beyond a reasonable doubt; rather it is the probability of criminal activity, and probable cause can exist even though the evidence does not even support a belief that it is more likely than not that the defendant committed a crime.
The police investigation had determined that the fire that partially consumed the Morgan home had started in Morgan’s car, parked near the garage. The fire department believed that the fire was the result of arson, having found ashes in the car’s gasoline fill tube.
Before the fire started, defendant had attended a party at Morgan’s house.
Defendant and Morgan had dated, but they either had broken up or were in the process of breaking up.
During the party, defendant became extremely upset and engaged in a heated argument with Morgan, ostensibly over a necklace he had given her. The argument was so heated that partygoers restrained defendant and calmed him down before Schopa drove him away from the party.
There was evidence suggesting that the argument between defendant and Morgan turned physical, with defendant pushing Morgan and grabbing her. Defendant called Morgan names while he was demanding the return of the necklace.
At some point, defendant stated to the partygoers that he hoped they would all die.
There was a suggestion that Morgan had been within earshot of this threat, but it was not entirely clear whether she had heard the threat.
After defendant had been driven away and before the fire started, several partygoers observed someone in the shadows near Morgan’s home. They were unable to identify the shadowy figure, but they all believed it to be defendant.
Additionally, one of the partygoers informed the police that defendant told him in a phone conversation that he was returning to Morgan’s home.
Finally, after defendant had dressed in the same clothes he wore to the party, the police observed that the clothes were visibly wet, apparently with sweat, as if defendant had engaged in significant physical exertion, such as running from Morgan’s home to his home.
That morning, when the police arrived at defendant’s home, the temperature was about 70 degrees. Before 7:45 a.m., the police further learned that Sanchez had intervened in the argument between defendant and Morgan, because Sanchez was afraid that defendant was about to strike Morgan. Sanchez reported that he was a friend of Morgan’s and that he knew that defendant and Morgan’s relationship was going so badly that she no longer wanted anything to do with defendant.
Additionally, also before 7:45 a.m., Melissa Czarnik, another friend of Morgan’s, informed the police that defendant had tried to pull the necklace from Morgan’s neck but that Czarnik got in between defendant and Morgan, trying to make defendant back off.
Czarnik also confirmed that defendant was wearing a light-colored T-shirt and baggy khaki shorts at the party.
This constituted sufficient probable cause for his arrest.
Defendant’s Request For An Attorney
Defendant next challenges that he invoked discussion with the police after he had requested an attorney.
Defendant is saying his invocation is not valid because the police essentially ignored his initial request for an attorney made at 8:18 but not honored until 11:26 am.
According to defendant, the detectives told him that he could go home only if he first decided to talk to them again.
Defendant further explained that the detectives told him what to say in front of the camera. When he was returned to the interview room, he followed the script he received during the second smoking break, stating that he approached the detectives to talk about the case again and executing the forms with which he was presented.
Thus, defendant concludes, the police orchestrated the events so that it was actually they and not defendant who provided the impetus for the reinitiation of the discussion about the case.
According to defendant, they studiously ignored all of his invocations of his right to have counsel present and groomed defendant to expect that what he said would not matter.
The trial court did not adopt this version of events.
The Supreme Court clarified that, after an accused has invoked this right, the police cannot show a valid waiver of that right simply by demonstrating only that he responded to further police-initiated custodial interrogation; an individual who has indicated that he wishes to deal with the police only through counsel is not subject to further interrogation by the police until after counsel has been made available to him, unless the accused himself initiates further discussion with the police.
Police will violate this rule if they approach the accused for further questioning without first making counsel available.
The upshot is that any waiver of the right to counsel given in a discussion initiated by the police will be presumed to be invalid, and any statements obtained pursuant to the presumptively invalid waiver will be inadmissible in the State’s case-in-chief.
Was It Valid?
Sometimes police misconduct by failing to honor an invocation of Miranda rights may render invalid a defendant’s reinitiation of the discussion with police.
Here, it is significant that at 10:26 a.m. they finally honored defendant’s repeated invocation.
Defendant’s rights were not altogether ignored.
Here, after an hour of leaving him alone defendant reinitiated the discussion with the police, the detectives once again administered Miranda warnings and defendant expressly waived his rights.
Test For Voluntariness
To the contrary the record demonstrates that defendant did make voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently waiver of his right to counsel after he reinitiated discussions with detectives.
The test for voluntariness is whether the defendant made the decision freely, without compulsion or inducement, or whether the defendant’s will was overborne at the relevant time.
By the 11:36 a.m. waiver, he had been questioned for about three hours, with a break from about 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Defendant had been at the police department for a total of four hours when he made the 11:36 a.m. waiver.
The two hours of defendant’s interrogation conducted after defendant had invoked his right to counsel weigh against voluntariness.
On the other hand, as mentioned above, the police eventually, albeit belatedly, honored defendant’s invocation of his right to counsel, and this tends to mitigate the illegality of the interrogation.
On balance, the interrogation in violation of defendant’s right to counsel tips this factor slightly against voluntariness.
He was allowed to use the restroom and to smoke cigarettes when he asked to do so.
The questioning became intense, but the police did not subject defendant to mental abuse.
Defendant had a headache and perhaps a hangover, but he was not incapacitated as a result.
The reviewing court held that defendant voluntarily gave his statements following the 11:36 a.m. waiver.
Because defendant reinitiated the discussion with Malatia and Evoy and his subsequent statements were voluntarily given, the reviewing court affirmed the trial court’s judgment on this point.
Defendant argues that the detectives’ ignoring his attempts to invoke his right to counsel overbore his will to resist and rendered involuntary his statements after the reinitiation. While this is a concern, it was mitigated when the police stopped the questioning, telling him that they were doing so because he had asked for counsel.
Thus, while continuing the interrogation after his 8:18 a.m. request for counsel arguably led defendant to expect that the police were never going to stop the questioning, the other side of the coin is that, at 10:26 a.m., the police did stop the questioning at defendant’s insistence on his right to counsel, and this should have led defendant to expect that he had been and would be allowed to exercise his rights.
Moreover, when defendant attempted to speak about the case during the second smoking break, Malatia and Evoy flatly refused to engage defendant, explaining that they could not talk about the case with him because he had invoked his right to counsel.
This exchange should have further informed defendant that the police were serious about honoring his right to counsel, even though it might not have been enough to erase the earlier misconduct.
The court said the police significantly rectified their earlier misconduct.
Accordingly, while a concern, the misconduct is not dispositive.
Finally, defendant wanted a jury instruction on foreseeability.
Specifically, defendant offered IPI Criminal 4th No. 7.15A (Supp. 2011) in the following form:
“A person commits the offense of first degree murder when he commits the offense of aggravated arson or arson, and the death of an individual results as a direct and foreseeable consequence of a chain of events set into motion by his commission of the offense of aggravated arson or arson. It is immaterial whether the killing is intentional or accidental.”
Defendant argues that the manner of Morgan’s death was not foreseeable; rather, it was a combination of unforeseeable circumstances that resulted in her home becoming engulfed in flames. According to defendant, the house caught fire only because the garage door had been left open, the door to the mudroom had been left open, and a powerful all-house fan in the attic drew the smoke and flames from the car into the house.
In Illinois felony murder is strict liability.
The State is not required to prove that the defendant could foresee the death or that the defendant intended to commit murder; the State need show only that the defendant intended to commit the underlying felony.
However, where a death is caused by a third party, the felony-murder rule follows the proximate-cause theory, meaning that liability for murder will attach for any death proximately resulting from the unlawful activity, even if the death is caused by one resisting the crime.
This makes sense.
If the death is caused by one outside of the criminal actors, then it would be unjust to impose liability if the mechanism of death was so remote as to be unforeseeable; whereas it remains just to impose liability for an act directly committed by the defendant that caused the death of the victim, even if the precise mechanism of death was not envisioned by the defendant as he was committing the underlying crime.
Accordingly, the foreseeability qualification embodied in IPI Criminal 4th No. 7.15A (Supp. 2011) has been required only in cases in which a third party outside of the criminal actors caused the death.
The comments to IPI Criminal 4th No. 7.15A (Supp. 2011) suggest that it is to be given in situations “where the defendant did not perform the acts which caused the death of the deceased.” IPI Criminal 4th No. 7.15A (Supp. 2011), Committee Comments. Based on the fact that the comments suggest that IPI Criminal 4th No. 7.15A (Supp. 2011) does not apply to a situation in which the defendant is alleged to have committed the act that resulted in the death of the deceased, and the fact that the only cases we have been able to find in which IPI Criminal 4th No. 7.15A (Supp. 2011) has been used are those in which the defendant did not perform the act that caused the death of the deceased, the trial court did not err in refusing defendant’s proposed jury instruction.
Besides, the fact that fire spreads is eminently foreseeable and a burning car parked in the driveway of a home might communicate the flames from the car to the house is obvious.
27 year sentence and conviction is affirmed.