Supreme Court Summaries


Opinions filed November 1, 2012


 

People v. Murdock, 2012 IL 112362

Appellate citation: No. 3-07-0438 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).

 

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

      Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Thomas and Karmeier concurred in the judgment and opinion.

      Justice Burke dissented, with opinion, joined by Justices Freeman and Theis.

 

      In 2001, Eric Eppinger was shot to death in Logan Park in Peoria. Sam Clark was wounded in the same incident. This defendant, Germill Murdock, then a 16-year-old, was convicted by a Peoria County jury of first degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm based on evidence presented by the State that he drove Shereaf Flemming and Cortez Trapps to the park, knowing of their plans for a shooting, and after the shootings drove them away. Oral, written and videotaped statements made by the defendant at the police station were introduced at the trial, at which he did not testify. The defendant told a detective that he had just been the driver, that he did not shoot Eppinger, and that Cortez Trapps was the actual shooter. He was sentenced to 24 years’ imprisonment for the murder and 8 years’ imprisonment for the aggravated battery.

      Defendant appealed, complaining that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion to suppress his statements. The appellate court affirmed in 2004, finding that this issue would be better raised in a postconviction proceeding in which the defendant could develop a factual record. Defendant did file such a petition, counsel was appointed, and an evidentiary hearing was held in 2007, but the postconviction petition was denied. The appellate court then reversed, ordering a full suppression hearing, which was held in 2010. The result was a denial of the motion to suppress, which the appellate court affirmed. In this procedural posture, the cause reached the Illinois Supreme Court on the defendant’s appeal.

      Murdock claimed that his statements should have been suppressed as involuntary because, although he was a juvenile, he was interrogated as if he were an adult. Courts have been sensitive to the issue of accepting confessions from juveniles and have given consideration to the question of whether a juvenile officer is present and whether there is an opportunity to consult with a parent or other concerned adult before the confession. No juvenile officer was present here, but the supreme court said the absence of a juvenile officer will not make a juvenile’s statement per se involuntary. Neither should a juvenile’s confession or statement be suppressed merely because he was denied the opportunity to confer with a parent or other concerned adult. This issue is not necessarily dispositive, but is one of all the factors to be considered in assessing voluntariness under the totality of the circumstances.

      In reviewing the facts and evidence presented at the 2010 suppression hearing (rather than at any other judicial proceeding in this case as suggested by the defendant), the supreme court agreed with the circuit and appellate courts that the totality of the circumstances indicated that the statements were voluntary.

      The judgment of the appellate court was affirmed.