People v. Wilson, 2020 IL App (1st) 162430 (March). Episode 761 (Duration 14:17)
Minor had severe learning disabilities and probably didn’t understand his Miranda warnings.
A grand jury indicted defendant with multiple counts related to the shooting death of the victim.
Defendant filed a motion suppress his statements to the police based on his alleged inability to understand his Miranda rights.
Defendant was only 16 years old.
Independent witnesses saw a struggle in the car.
They heard two shots go off and the shooter exited the car and ran. He was never arrested. The victim then got out and fell to the ground. Then the defendant was seen getting out the passenger side front seat and he also ran away.
The Actual “Confession”
The statement that defendant made to police was a rambling mess of confusion. It was hard to follow any exact story line. He did admit to being in the car when the victim was shot he named the shooter but his version of events did not match the evidence.
State’s Theory Of The Case
In the State’s closing argument, it posited that defendant worked together with AJ to rob the victim by threatening him with a firearm inside his vehicle.
The State observed that Morgan put up a fight, which resulted in two gunshots being fired inside the vehicle, one of which hit him and ended his life.
Afterward, according to the State, defendant ran from the scene. The State highlighted that defendant did not get help, did not call 911 or explain to anyone what happened, but rather ran after AJ.
The State further noted that defendant and AJ were friends and defendant even told the detectives that AJ no longer had the firearm.
The State posited that the evidence clearly showed that defendant went into the victim’s car to rob him, and based on the law, when the victim ended up dead after the planned robbery, defendant was guilty of first degree murder, regardless of whether he or AJ was the one who shot Morgan.
The Expert Witness
The defense expert was a forensic clinical psychologist, who before starting her own practice had worked for 10 years as the clinical director of the Cook County Juvenile Court Clinic.
Part of the doctors evaluation included interviews with the paraprofessional who helped manage defendant’s current IEP, and he told her that defendant “tends to say he understands things when he doesn’t because he wants to appear as cognitively advanced as you would expect a person his age to be.”
Defendant had a learning disability.
In third grade, his full-scale IQ was 81, which was classified as “below average”; in sixth grade, his full-scale IQ was 62, which was classified as “extremely low”; in ninth grade, his full-scale IQ was 70, which was classified as “borderline.”
Defendant’s prior academic achievement tests demonstrated a lack of academic advancement between third and ninth grade.
In third grade, his reading comprehension was at a first-grade level, and by ninth grade, his reading comprehension only had advanced to a second-grade level.
At the time of his arrest his reading comprehension and spelling abilities were at a third-grade level, his math abilities were at a fourth grade level, and his sentence comprehension was at a fifth-grade level.
Could He Understand Miranda?
Right To Remain Silent
With regard to understanding his right to remain silent, defendant stated that he “thought he had the right to be quiet.”
When pressed by the doctor as to why he did not remain quiet, defendant explained that he thought “the police would make him talk no matter what.” According to defendant, “if the police wanted him to talk, *** he had to.”
Right To An Attorney
With regard to understanding his right to an attorney, defendant stated that he thought it meant he “could have an attorney at court” but did not know he could have an attorney with him at the police station.
Based on the doctor’s review of the video recorded interview, she observed that the detectives never explained to defendant how to assert his right to an attorney.
Defendant also told her that he was too scared to ask the detectives to explain his right to an attorney any further.
The State Had Their Own Expert
He Was Truant
The state expert pointed out that defendant missed 33 days of school and was tardy 39 times between first and eighth grade. She considered this “a significant amount of days to miss school” and noted that both absenteeism and tardiness would impact academic achievement and IQ tests.
She reviewed a 2007 psychological report about defendant, and she observed that the report indicated defendant understood right from wrong but would often make poor choices.
A psychological report from 2012 further noted that he had a “mild cognitive disability,” which the state doctor observed was in contrast with a previous cognitive assessment that determined defendant had “borderline intelligence.”
He Used Drugs
Defendant told her that he regularly used marijuana and alcohol prior to his arrest in the instant case, and defendant even acknowledged to her that he was “high” when being questioned by the detectives.
Defendant added that he did not believe he talked to them due to his use of marijuana that day.
In The Video
The State doctor observed that he exhibited no evidence of “difficulty understanding the questions,” no difficulty “tracking the conversation,” and did not show any signs of confusion or cognitive deficits.
About the Miranda rights the detectives gave him, he told her that he “wasn’t really paying attention” and was more focused on why he was at the police station.
The Trial Court’s Ruling
The trial judge denied the defense motion to suppress the statement.
The court asserted that “what is really dispositive in this case and what I’m basing my decision on,” rather than “what the experts said,” was observed on the video recording of defendant’s interview with the detectives.
The court observed that, when a detective informed defendant of his Miranda rights, defendant indicated when he did not understand. According to the court, “when someone asks a question about their Miranda rights, *** that indicates some cognitive process” and showed that defendant was actively listening.
Because defendant did not simply answer yes to every question but rather “asked for further clarification” at times, the court found this evidence of “someone who understands what’s going on and wants to know where, exactly, things are going.”
Lastly, the court pointed out that defendant initially denied knowing anything about the shooting but later discussed what he knew. This, according to the court, showed defendant “processing information” and “making rational decisions.”
The court also noted that there was one report of defendant that indicated he had a cognitive disability, with which the state expert disagreed. The court agreed with her and determined that defendant had a learning disability, not a cognitive disability.
The court concluded that defendant fully understood his Miranda rights and made a conscious decision to waive them.
In the defendant’s closing argument, defense counsel contended that the State had presented “absolutely no evidence” that defendant shot the victim, robbed him, attempted to rob him, or entered his vehicle without permission.
Counsel highlighted police testimony that there were four people inside the vehicle.
Counsel argued that there was no evidence that defendant “hooked up” with AJ and concocted a plan to rob the victim or shoot him. Counsel conceded that defendant should have remained on the scene and talked to the police but remarked that he was a 16-year-old boy who could not be expected to react to such a situation like an adult would.
Counsel concluded that the only evidence in the case was that defendant “was there,” positing that his “mere presence does not mean he did it.”
Conviction & Sentence
The jury ultimately found defendant guilty of first degree murder, but found the State failed to prove that he was armed with a firearm during the commission of the offense.
The court was “moved” by defendant’s age and lack of a criminal background and found a near-maximum sentence unwarranted. Conversely, the court found a minimum or near-minimum sentence inappropriate, as such lenience “would deprecate the seriousness of the crime.”
The court ultimately sentenced defendant to 37 years’ imprisonment on count I, merging the remaining counts.
Defendant contends that the trial court incorrectly denied his motion to suppress his statements to the police where the evidence showed he lacked the ability to understand his Miranda rights.
In support of this contention, defendant highlights that, at the time of his arrest,
- He was 16 years old
- With an elementary school level reading comprehension,
- Had a history of learning disabilities,
- Consistently scored below average on IQ tests, and
- Had special needs in school.
Due Process & Involuntary Confessions
Under the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment, no state may “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” U.S. Const., amend. XIV.
The United States Supreme Court “has long held that certain interrogation techniques, either in isolation or as applied to the unique characteristics of a particular suspect, are so offensive to a civilized system of justice that they must be condemned under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Miller v. Fenton, 474 U.S. 104, 109 (1985). “Courts frame the legal inquiry usually through asking whether the defendant’s confession was voluntary.” People v. Richardson, 234 Ill. 2d 233, 252 (2009).
Thus, under the fourteenth amendment, due process demands the exclusion of involuntary confessions.
The Fifth Amendment
The fifth amendment to the United States Constitution, which applies to the states through the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment, also protects against involuntary confessions by protecting the right against self incrimination. U.S. Const., amend. V; Richardson, 234 Ill. 2d at 252.
“The concept of voluntariness includes proof that the defendant made a knowing and intelligent waiver of his privilege against self-incrimination.” People v. Braggs, 209 Ill. 2d 492, 505 (2003). The Miranda warnings are the procedural safeguards that help protect the privilege against self incrimination. Colorado v. Spring, 479 U.S. 564, 572 (1987).
Waiving Your Miranda Rights
When a criminal suspect waives his Miranda rights, he is “not required to know and understand every possible consequence of a waiver of the Fifth Amendment privilege for it to be knowingly and intelligently made.” Braggs, 209 Ill. 2d at 515.
The critical inquiry is whether the defendant was fully aware of the nature of the rights he waived and the ramifications of such a decision. Stated otherwise, “the defendant need not understand far-reaching legal and strategic effects of waiving his or her rights or appreciate how widely or deeply an interrogation may probe; however, the defendant must at least understand basically what those rights encompass and minimally what their waiver will entail.”
When determining whether a defendant understood his Miranda rights and made a knowing and intelligent waiver of them, we must consider the totality of the circumstances. Richardson, 234 Ill. 2d at 253; Braggs, 209 Ill. 2d at 515.
Factors include the defendant’s age, intelligence, background, mental capacity, education, and conduct. Richardson, 234 Ill. 2d at 253-54; Braggs, 209 Ill. 2d at 515. ¶ 45
Great Care With Juvenile Defendants
When the defendant is a juvenile, great care “must be taken to assure *** that his statement was not the result of ignorance of rights or of adolescent fantasy, fright, or despair.” Richardson, 234 Ill. 2d at 254.
The opportunity to consult with a concerned adult is critical when a juvenile suspect is being questioned by the police.
Furthermore, when the defendant has limited mental capacity, particular attention must be given to this fact, although an intellectual deficit does not, by itself, render a Miranda waiver invalid. In re W.C., 167 Ill. 2d 307, 328 (1995).
As our supreme court has observed:
“It is generally recognized that the mentally retarded are considered more susceptible to police coercion or pressure than people of normal intellectual ability, they are predisposed to answer questions so as to please the questioner rather than to answer accurately, they are more likely to confess to crimes they did not commit, they tend to be submissive, and they are less likely to understand their rights.”
Braggs, 209 Ill. 2d at 514.
Double Whammy Of Circumstances
In this case, defendant had what can only be described as the double-whammy of circumstances.
First, he was only 16 years old when he waived his Miranda rights.
As the United States Supreme Court has observed, “the law has historically reflected the same assumption that children characteristically lack the capacity to exercise mature judgment and possess only an incomplete ability to understand the world around them.” J.D.B. v. North Carolina, 564 U.S. 261, – 19 – No. 1-16-2430 273 (2011).
Second, defendant also had intellectual limitations.
In his most recent IQ test, he scored a 70, but just three years prior, in sixth grade, he had scored a 62. Three years prior to that, however, in third grade, defendant scored an 81.
Based on these IQ tests, defendant undoubtedly was significantly below average on the intelligence spectrum, a fact concluded to by his expert witness. Defendant’s repeatedly low IQ scores were also consistent with his poor academic achievement, where he universally performed below his age group, including having only a reading-comprehension level of that of a second grader despite being in ninth grade.
The Code Uses The Term “Mental Retardation”
Further evidence of defendant’s intellectual limitations can be seen by looking at the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code. See 405 ILCS 5/1-100 et seq.. Prior to 2012, section 1-116 defined the term “mental retardation” as “significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning which exists concurrently with impairment in adaptive behavior and which originates before the age of 18 years.” 405 ILCS 5/1-116.
The term “mental retardation” was replaced by the term “intellectual disability” in January 2012, though the definition remained the same. See Pub. Act 97-227, § 94 (eff. Jan. 1, 2012) (amending 405 ILCS 5/1-116).
Notably, this court has previously described “[m]ental retardation” as “requiring an IQ of less than 70” and even “less than 75.” In re S.W.N., 2016 IL App (3d) 160080, ¶ 73 (citing People v. Jones, 2014 IL App (1st) 120927, ¶ 59; People v. Daniels, 391 Ill. App. 3d 750, 754 (2009)).
In Braggs, 209 Ill. 2d at 514, when our supreme court observed the myriad of issues that are involved with questioning people who were “mentally retarded,” the court “was referring generally to persons below a range of ‘normal intellectual ability.’ ” In re S.W.N., 2016 IL App (3d) 160080, ¶ 73 (quoting Braggs, 209 Ill. 2d at 514).
Police Played It Straight
During the detectives’ interview with defendant, they allowed him the opportunity to consult with a concerned adult, his mother, who remained present during the entirety of the questioning, including when they informed defendant of his Miranda rights.
Moreover, at no point during the interview did defendant’s mother suggest to the detectives that defendant was limited intellectually, and the detective himself testified that he was unaware of any learning defects or cognitive issues that defendant might have had.
Furthermore, there is no evidence or suggestion that the police used any improper techniques with defendant before his mother arrived. In fact, when she and the detectives entered the interview room, defendant was sleeping and not handcuffed.
The Video Evidence
It is true that when the detective informed defendant of his rights, defendant indicated he understood them. However, defendant was answering “yes” in a purely perfunctory manner, and his mechanical affirmative responses cannot be viewed as satisfactory evidence that he actually understood his rights.
Merely because defendant stated he understood something did not actually mean he did, and he tended to say he understood things to compensate for his intellectual limitations. See People v. Daniels, 391 Ill. App. 3d 750, 792
(2009) (“defendant’s affirmative responses to questions regarding her understanding of Miranda warnings are of little value where defendant lacks the ability to understand those warnings.”).
Defendant Was Not Asking Questions
Defendant did indicate to that he did not understand his right to an attorney free of charge if he could not afford one.
The trial court relied in large part on defendant’s interaction with the detective about this right, characterizing defendant as asking a question about his Miranda rights. In turn, the court found defendant’s “question” about his right to an attorney indicative of “some cognitive process” and showing “someone who understands what’s going on and wants to know where, exactly, things are going.”
The video evidence merely showed defendant said “no” when asked if he understood his right to an attorney free of charge, which can hardly be viewed as defendant affirmatively asking a question.
Moreover, when the detective attempted to explain this right in further detail, he stated “if you can’t afford an attorney, the State will pay for an attorney for you.” The detective essentially repeated what he had just stated, only adding that “the State,” a vague entity for sure for a 16-year-old, would pay for defendant’s attorney.
In response, defendant stated “uh, all right.”
Defendant’s hesitation and equivocation is hardly convincing proof that he actually understood the detective’s clarification.
Active Listening Means Nothing
Additionally, while defendant may have been actively listening to the detective, as observed by the court, we cannot equate active listening to actual understanding of Miranda rights.
Things Have Changed When It Comes To Minors
The detective Otto informed defendant of his Miranda rights in the same manner he would have to any intellectually normal adult, which at the time was perfectly proper.
However, approximately four years after this detective read defendant his Miranda rights, our legislature passed Senate Bill 2370, which became Public Act 99-882, a juvenile justice bill directly related to defendant’s circumstances. Under Public Act 99-882, § 10 (eff. Jan. 1, 2017) (adding 705 ILCS 405/5-401.5(a-5)):
“(a-5) An oral, written, or sign language statement of a minor, who at the time of the commission of the offense was under 18 years of age, is presumed to be inadmissible when the statement is obtained from the minor while the minor is subject to custodial interrogation by a law enforcement officer, State’s Attorney, juvenile officer, or other public official or employee prior to the officer, State’s Attorney, public official, or employee: (1) continuously reads to the minor, in its entirety and without stopping for purposes of a response from the minor or verifying comprehension, the following statement: ‘You have the right to remain silent. That means you do not have to say anything. Anything you do say can be used against you in court. You have the right to get help from a lawyer. If you cannot pay for a lawyer, the court will get you one for free. You can ask for a lawyer at any time. You have the right to stop this interview at any time.’; and (2) after reading the statement required by [the preceding paragraph], the public official or employee shall ask the minor the following questions and wait for the minor’s response to each question: (A) ‘Do you want to have a lawyer?’ (B) ‘Do you want to talk to me?’ ”
In the legislative history to Public Act 99-882, Representative Currie highlighted that the bill: “ ‘simplifies the Miranda warning for people up to the age of 18 since a lot of research shows that young people don’t understand the right to waive their opportunity to have a lawyer or waive their opportunity to speak. They often think that if they do anything like that the judge will hold it against them.’ ” 99th Ill. Gen. Assem., House Proceedings, May 26, 2016, at 87 (statements of Representative Currie).
Research from our legislature showed that “only 20 percent of minors compared to 42 percent of adults understand the Miranda warnings.” 99th Ill. Gen. Assem., Senate Proceedings, Apr. 14, 2016, at 55 (statements of Senator Van Pelt); accord Kenneth J. King, Waiving Childhood Goodbye: How Juvenile Courts Fail to Protect Children from Unknowing, Unintelligent, and Involuntary Waivers of Miranda Rights, 2006 Wis. L. Rev. 431, 433 (2006) (observing that research has shown “only 21 percent of all children, as compared to 42.3 percent of adults, comprehend the meaning and significance of the Miranda warnings” and “about 55 percent of juveniles, as compared to 23 percent of adults, did not understand at least one component of the warnings”).
These concerns about juveniles understanding their Miranda rights are the same ones we have in this case, though ours are exacerbated by defendant also having intellectual limitations.
We recognize that the expert opinions in this case were contradictory, a fact highlighted by the trial court, but the court then went on to make its ruling primarily based upon the video evidence.
While the court certainly was in the superior position to determine their relative credibility and weigh their testimony accordingly, it does not appear based on the record that the court meaningfully considered their various opinions, either as supporting the conclusion that defendant understood his Miranda rights or supporting the conclusion that he did not.
That is to say, we are not reviewing the court’s findings with respect to the experts, but rather the court’s findings with respect to the video evidence. To that end, we cannot reconcile the court’s findings of fact based on the video evidence with what is known generally about juveniles and understanding their Miranda rights and what is known about those with intellectual limitations and understanding their Miranda rights.
But more importantly, we cannot reconcile the court’s findings of fact with regard to the video evidence with what is known about defendant, a 16-year old with documented intellectual limitations, who informed the detectives that he understood his Miranda rights in a purely mechanical manner.
Consequently, the trial court erred in denying defendant’s motion to suppress. While defendant’s statements were not a true confession akin to saying, “I did it,” they were incriminating and implicated him in the robbery that turned into a murder.
Therefore, the improper admission of defendant’s statements to the police was not harmless, and his conviction cannot stand.
“The cornerstone of the double jeopardy clause is ‘that the State with all its resources and power should not be allowed to make repeated attempts to convict an individual for an alleged offense, thereby subjecting him to embarrassment, expense and ordeal and compelling him to live in a continuing state of anxiety and insecurity, as well as enhancing the possibility that even though innocent he may be found guilty.’ ” People v. Williams, 188 Ill. 2d 293, 307 (1999) (quoting Green v. United States, 355 U.S. 184, 187-88 (1957)).
The accountability statute further states that “mere presence at the scene of a crime does not render a person accountable for an offense; a person’s presence at the scene of a crime, however, may be considered with other circumstances by the trier of fact when determining accountability.” See also law on accountability.
In order to prove that the defendant had the intent to promote or facilitate an offense, the State must prove that (1) there was a common criminal design with the principal offender or (2) the defendant shared the criminal intent of the principal offender.
No Shared Intent
In fact, the evidence demonstrated just the opposite.
According to the witness, when defendant exited the vehicle, he was in shock, hysterical and could not even respond to the witness’s question about what happened.
Nor is there evidence that defendant knew AJ was even armed before arriving at the victim’s vehicle. Defendant therefore cannot be held accountable for AJ’s actions based on a shared-intent theory of accountability.
No Common Design
But the shared-intent theory of accountability is one of two distinct manners in which a person can be held accountable for another’s actions. See Fernandez, 2014 IL 115527, ¶ 13. Unlike the shared-intent theory, under the common-design theory of accountability, the State does not need to prove that the defendant and the principal shared the same intent concerning the charged crime. People v. Phillips, 2014 IL App (4th) 120695, ¶ 43. Rather, the State only needs to prove that the defendant “had the specific intent to promote or facilitate a crime.” Id. (quoting People v. Houston, 258 Ill. App. 3d 364, 369 (1994)).
We therefore focus on whether there was evidence of a common criminal design with AJ, or in other words, whether there was evidence that defendant had the intent to promote or facilitate a robbery or vehicular invasion (which itself was predicated on a theft) of the victim.
As our supreme court found long ago, “where murder is committed during a robbery, all participants in the robbery are deemed equally guilty of murder and it is immaterial who fired the fatal shot.” People v. Johnson, 55 Ill. 2d 62, 67 (1973). It is the fact that the defendant and a co-offender had a common criminal design to begin with that makes him responsible for any act in furtherance of that criminal design. See 720 ILCS 5/5-2(c).
The State need not present evidence of a verbal agreement between co-offenders. People v. Perez, 189 Ill. 2d 254, 267 (2000). But a conviction based upon accountability cannot rest merely based on a defendant’s presence at the scene, even coupled with his knowledge that a crime is being committed. In re W.C., 167 Ill. 2d at 338. Instead, the trier of fact may infer a common-criminal design based upon the circumstances of the crime, including the defendant’s presence during the commission of the crime, his “flight” from the scene, his failure to report the crime and his “close affiliation” with any co-offenders after the commission of the crime. People v. Batchelor, 171 Ill. 2d 367, 376 (1996).
In this case, the evidence showed that robbery was the original motive in the case. In defendant’s statements to the police, he told them that AJ had demanded the victim’s stuff. Additional evidence supports this, including the fact that the face of the victim’s diamond watch was missing and one of his earrings was on the curb next to his car.
The question is whether the circumstance demonstrated a common criminal design between AJ and defendant.
The evidence is uncontroverted that defendant was present at the scene when the robbery occurred. In fact, he could not be any closer, as by his own admission and the witness’s testimony, he was in the victim’s vehicle. This circumstance is not as persuasive as in cases where there is evidence that the defendant was with his co-offender immediately before the commission of the offense. See People v. Jaimes, 2014 IL App (2d) 121368, ¶ 39 (sufficient evidence to convict the defendant of first degree murder under a theory of accountability where, in part, he “instigated the altercation when he disparaged” rival gang members, was driving a vehicle slowly while his co-offender was armed with a rifle, and “stopped abruptly, which allowed his co-offender to get out of the vehicle and shoot” the rifle at the rival gang members”).
Though defendant in his statements to the detectives briefly mentioned that AJ might have been in the barbershop earlier that night, there is no evidence that defendant arrived to the scene at the same time as AJ.
Similarly uncontroverted is the fact that defendant ran away from the scene of the crime. However, “absent other circumstances indicating a common design, presence at the scene and flight therefrom do not constitute prima facie evidence of accountability.” People v. Willis, 2013 IL App (1st) 110233, ¶ 79 (quoting People v. Foster, 198 Ill. App. 3d 986, 993 (1990)).
In many cases, those other circumstances that indicate a common design arise from flight with any co-offenders, which can constitute a close association with those co-offenders after the commission of the crime. See People v. Ealy, 2019 IL App (1st) 161575, ¶ 32 (sufficient evidence to convict the defendant of first degree murder under a theory of accountability where he and his co-offender “ran back to the red car” and “fled the scene together”); People v. Garcia, 2019 IL App (2d) 161112, ¶ 30 (sufficient evidence to convict the defendant of first degree murder under a theory of accountability where the “defendant fled with his co-offenders after the shooting” and he “attempted to evade police by driving recklessly through two counties”).
In this case, it was clear that defendant fled the scene, what was not as clear was whether defendant maintained a close association with AJ following the shooting.
At trial, the witness testified that defendant and AJ went in different directions after exiting Morgan’s vehicle. But, in his prior inconsistent statement, which the State introduced substantively, he testified that they ran from the scene in the same direction. Even accepting the witness’s prior statement as the truth, all his statement showed was that defendant went in the same direction as AJ, not that they left the scene together.
Additionally, during defendant’s interview with the detectives, he told them he saw AJ the day after the shooting. But this statement contained no more detail than this bare assertion. We have no idea if defendant merely saw AJ in passing in the neighborhood or hung out with him, though defendant claimed to the detectives that he stopped hanging out with AJ after the shooting.
Without any more detail, defendant’s mere assertion that he saw AJ the following day does not tend to establish that he had a common design with AJ to rob the victim.
It is further undisputed that defendant failed to report the shooting.
But we can conceive of a variety of reasons why a 16-year-old boy would not come forward and report the robbery and shooting to the police, especially given that he was in the vehicle when the crimes occurred.
While defendant did not report the shooting to the police, there was also no evidence that he confided in anyone, even a family member, about what he witnessed. Given the circumstances of this 16-year-old defendant happening to be in a vehicle where a robbery turned murder occurred, we likewise can conceive of many reasons why he would be afraid to tell even a family member about what happened.
We acknowledge that, when defendant talked to the detectives six weeks after the shooting, he was not always truthful with them, including giving multiple accounts of his actions at the time of the shooting. Nevertheless, defendant consistently denied any involvement in a robbery plot and consistently denied having a firearm.
All told, the evidence at trial showed merely that defendant was in the vehicle where the victim was robbed and shot and that he fled from the scene. Even when viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, in particular defendant’s presence in a vehicle when someone he described as his best friend in the past approached, defendant’s flight in the same general direction as AJ after the shooting, his possible association with AJ after the shooting, his failure to report the robbery and shooting to the police or confide in anyone about it, his inconsistent answers to the detectives six weeks after the shooting, and his knowledge of the victim’s flashy jewelry, the State presented nothing concrete showing that AJ and defendant had hatched a scheme to rob the victim.
Defendant’s guilt can only be sustained if the State showed that defendant and AJ shared a plan to rob the victim, and that evidence is utterly lacking.
Consequently, we do not find a rational trier of fact could have found all the essential elements of the offense proven beyond a reasonable doubt. We accordingly reverse defendant’s conviction outright.
We reverse defendant’s conviction.
- In re S.W.N., 2016 IL App (3d) 160080 (July). Episode 210 (Duration 11:57) (Minor had an IQ of 70, otherwise voluntary confession suppressed.)
- People v. Edwards, 2017 IL App (3d) 130190-B (January). Episode 300 (Duration 5:42) (17 Year Old With 5th Grade Reading Level And Mental Disorders Gives A Voluntary Statement)
- People v. Daniels, 391 Ill. App. 3d 750, 792 (2009) (“defendant’s affirmative responses to questions regarding her understanding of Miranda warnings are of little value where defendant lacks the ability to understand those warnings.”)