WRIT OF ERROR to the Circuit Court of St. Clair County; the
Hon. JOSEPH E. FLEMING, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE SOLFISBURG DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
This cause is before this court on writ of error by the People of the State of Illinois from an order of the circuit court of St. Clair County, Illinois, dated April 22, 1960, quashing the indictment returned against Trannie Polk charging him with perjury while testifying before a St. Clair County grand jury in October of 1959. The circuit court held that the matter being investigated had been outlawed by the Statute of Limitations and, therefore, the defendant did not commit perjury.
As appears from the indictment, the defendant, a member of the East St. Louis Police Department, was called as a witness in a grand jury investigation of "alleged irregularities and unlawful acts alleged to have been committed by members of the East St. Louis Police Department." Apart from this, the record fails to indicate more precisely the scope of the investigation.
The defendant was examined on October 23, 1959, by the grand jury concerning a robbery which took place at the Paramount Club on September 17, 1955. An indictment was returned on December 22, 1959, alleging that the defendant falsely swore that he did not persuade certain witnesses to change their identification of one of the robbers of the Paramount Club. These are the precise questions and answers:
"Q. I will ask you to state whether or not, you called Isaac Stewart, Rudolph Marian and Robert James to the East St. Louis Police Station on the 26th day of April, 1956?
A. I think they came down to the station on that day if it was the day Eddie Baker was brought back from Chicago.
Q. Is it not true that you persuaded these three men, Isaac Stewart, Rudolph Marian and Robert James, to say that they could not identify the prisoner Eddie Baker as one of the men who robbed the Paramount Club on the 17th day of September, 1955?
Q. Are you now saying that you did not persuade these three men to change their previous identification of Eddie Baker?
A. I am saying that I did not ask them men to do that." and the indictment continued in this language:
"WHEREAS, in truth and in fact, the said Trannie Polk, did persuade Isaac Stewart, Rudolph Marian and Robert James, to change their previous identification of Eddie Baker as one of the persons who participated in the robbery of the Paramount Club on the 17th day of September, 1955, and to say that they could not identify the said Eddie Baker, and so the Grand Jurors aforesaid, upon their oaths aforesaid, do say that the said Trannie Polk, on the 23rd day of October, 1959, while testifying before the Grand Jury aforesaid, did, in manner and form aforesaid, commit wilful and corrupt perjury against the peace and dignity of the People of the State of Illinois, and contrary to the form of the Statute in such case made and provided."
Defendant filed a motion attacking the power and authority of the grand jury to investigate the matter about which defendant was interrogated; attacking the failure of the indictment to show that the grand jury had the power and authority to conduct such an investigation; alleging that the indictment on its face showed that the defendant swore to a matter not material to an investigation within the power and authority of the grand jury to conduct; and attacking the sufficiency of the indictment itself to charge defendant with the crime of perjury; asserting that the alleged testimony of defendant is insufficient upon which to predicate a charge of perjury.
The circuit court of St. Clair County allowed defendant's motion, selecting as its basis for the order that the matter being investigated had been outlawed by the Statute of Limitations and therefore the defendant did not commit perjury; that, in effect, the grand jury lacked the power and authority to make inquiry of the defendant about an incident on which the Statute of Limitations had run.
Neither the Illinois constitution nor the legislature has attempted to define the powers of the grand jury. It has its origin in the common law and has existed for many hundreds of years. Its construction, organization, jurisdiction and method of proceeding were all well known features of the common law before the organization of the State of Illinois and have been recognized and adopted in all our constitutions and in legislation as it existed at the organization of the State. (People ex rel. Ferrill v. Graydon, 333 Ill. 429, 432.) While the grand jury is a necessary constituent part of a court having general criminal jurisdiction, (People v. Sheridan, 349 Ill. 202,) its powers are not dependent upon the court but are original and complete. Its duty is to diligently inquire into all offenses which shall come to its knowledge whether from the ...