Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed April 19, 2012

People v. Hunt, 2012 IL 111089

Appellate citation: 403 Ill. App. 3d 802.

      JUSTICE KARMEIER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.  Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Thomas, Garman, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

      Justice Freeman specially concurred, with opinion.

      This appeal concerns pretrial suppression motions. No trial has yet occurred.

      In April of 2002, a man named Shakir Beckley was fatally shot in Chicago. In May, this defendant, Tavares Hunt, became a suspect in that case while he was already in the Cook County jail in connection with an unrelated matter.

      The sole issue for the Illinois Supreme Court to decide in this appeal by the State is whether the defendant’s statements to an inmate-informer should be suppressed pursuant to the court’s decision in People v. McCauley, 163 Ill. 2d 414 (1994). In McCauley, it was held that the Illinois Constitution was violated when a suspect was questioned at a police station while an attorney who, unbeknownst to him, had been retained by his family and was trying unsuccessfully to gain access to him. This Illinois ruling provides greater right-to-counsel and due-process protections to a suspect than have been held to be applicable under the United States Constitution.

      In this case, a fellow inmate approached police and said he thought he could get the defendant to make incriminating statements concerning the Beckley homicide. Police set up the inmate-informer to wear a wire and to talk to the defendant. A judicially authorized overhear was arranged for, with the inmate as the consenting party. On July 31, 2002, the defendant, who was still incarcerated at the county jail on the unrelated matter, was told that he would be taken to the police station for a lineup. He called the attorney who had been appointed to represent him in that other matter and left a message asking counsel to come to the police station for the lineup. According to counsel, that attorney spent about 45 minutes waiting for access to the defendant during the same time period during which the inmate-informer was conversing with the defendant in an otherwise empty room and listening to his allegedly incriminating statements. By the time counsel reached the defendant, these conversations were over. Hunt was subsequently indicted by the grand jury for the Beckley homicide, and he sought to suppress his statements, initially with success. The appellate court affirmed and the State appealed.

      In this decision, the supreme court held that the defendant was not subjected to police “custodial interrogation” when he conversed with the inmate-informer and that, thus, neither McCauley (nor Miranda) were applicable. The police were not required to give Miranda warnings, and defendant had no right to counsel. Neither were police required to tell the defendant that the attorney in the other matter was seeking access to him. Therefore, there should be no suppression on McCauley grounds. The appellate court was reversed, and a decision which it had issued earlier on this question in People v. Perkins, 248 Ill. App. 3d 762 (1993), was expressly overruled. The cause was remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings.