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People v. Williams

JUNE 14, 1971.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

JOHN M. WILLIAMS ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Henry County; the Hon. J.P. WILAMOSKI, Judge, presiding.

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE ALLOY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

John M. Williams and Joe Dorris, defendants, were convicted of burglary and sentenced to terms of not less than 6 nor more than 15 years in the penitentiary following a verdict of guilty. Prior to the trial, on March 23, 1970, defendants, represented by the public defender of Henry County, filed a motion for discovery which included a request for "production and copy of any statements, oral or written, made by any witnesses for the State that may have been reduced to writing", and for "production and copy of any oral statements that the defendants may have made that may have been reduced to writing". The State, in its answer to the motion, indicated it had no oral statements made by defendants which had been reduced to writing and that it would have the previous statements of any witnesses ready at the time of trial. The trial court granted the request for production and copy of any oral statements made by defendants and reduced to writing, and the prosecution was ordered to have statements of witnesses for the State ready at the time of trial, for use by defendants for impeachment purposes.

At the trial, the State presented the testimony of the person who owned the car involved in the alleged burglary and his wife, and his uncle. The attorney for defendants was given a copy of the prior oral statements made by these persons to the police which had been reduced to writing. This was in compliance with the court order for such production. It is contended by the defendants that they learned for the first time, that the statements of such witnesses contained references to statements attributed to the defendants by the witnesses. The State asserts that the defendants could not have been surprised by the witnesses' references to conversations with defendants.

• 1 On appeal in this Court, defendants contend that they were denied due process of law by the court's failure to order the production of any oral or written statements of any witness for the prosecution prior to trial. It is claimed, in connection with the statements of the witnesses, that certain discrepancies between the testimony of the witnesses and their statements reduced to writing show how important it was for the defense to be able to view the statements of the three witnesses before trial. Particular emphasis is placed on the case of People v. Crawford, 114 Ill. App.2d 230, in which the court granted a pre-trial motion made by the defense for a copy of all statements of any witnesses in the case. The State's Attorney had refused to comply and was fined $100. The Appellate Court in that case concluded that the trial court had the discretion and authority to allow such pre-trial discovery to assure defendants of a fair trial. That court took notice of the American Bar Association Standards Relating to Discovery and Procedure Before Trial, and also, cited Justice Fortas' special opinion in Giles v. Maryland, 386 U.S. 66, 17 L.Ed. 737, where the Judge emphasized that it should be the prosecution's constitutional duty to disclose voluntarily material in its exclusive possession which is exonerative or helpful to the defense, which material the State would not use affirmatively to prove guilt and which it should not conceal.

In the cause before us, there is a contention made that the defendants were surprised to find certain statements made by witnesses for the State containing elements of conversation with the defendants. At the hearing on the motions filed by defendants for discovery, there were arguments by counsel regarding the allowance of defendants' requests. It is apparent from the record that defendants requested specifically any oral statements made by the defendants to the State which had been reduced to writing. There was no specific reference to statements made by witnesses for the State which contained information the witnesses may have had of facts and circumstances involving the crime or of statements to or conversations with defendants by such witnesses. It is clear, therefore, that the State did not intentionally mislead defendants in this cause.

• 2 We agree with Justice Fortas in Giles v. Maryland, 386 U.S. 66, 101-2, that it should be the duty of the State to voluntarily disclose material in its exclusive possession which would exonerate the defense, which the State would not affirmatively use to prove guilt and which it should not conceal. No such issue is involved here.

In the cause before us, the defendants did have the statements at the time of trial. They only point out minor discrepancies in the statements of the various witnesses with respect to the actual testimony given by such witnesses at the trial. There is nothing in the record which could lead the court to believe that the availability of the statements prior to trial could have resulted in acquittal of defendants. No request for a continuance was made by counsel for defendants at the time of trial, after the witnesses' statements had been tendered and read on behalf of defendants. In considering the motion for new trial, the court concluded that defendants had not been prejudiced by any inconvenience or detriment resulting from not having possession of the statements made by the prosecution witnesses before trial.

We note that in People v. Crawford, 114 Ill. App.2d 230, the trial court permitted a very wide latitude in the field of discovery. The court on appeal confirmed the discretion of the trial court to determine the extent of discovery in the case. In the cause before us, the trial court did not conclude from the pleadings and the arguments which were heard at the time of request for discovery, that production of the witnesses' statements should be required prior to trial. As indicated in People v. Murphy, 412 Ill. 458, motions of this type are addressed to the sound discretion of the court.

We have also noted that a list of all witnesses to be called by the prosecution was delivered to defendants well in advance of trial, including a list of all witnesses who may have had conversations with defendants (naming the persons whose statements are the subject of consideration in this cause). A list of all physical evidence which the State intended to produce was also given to defendants. There is nothing to show that defendants did not have ample opportunity to investigate and examine the witnesses in advance of trial if they had desired to do so. There is, also, nothing to show lack of cooperation from the standpoint of witnesses. Similarly, there is nothing in the record which shows that the attorney for defendants was foreclosed or limited in his time or opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses.

• 3 From an examination of the record, therefore, we conclude that the trial court, in any event, did not abuse its discretion in refusing to order production of any oral or written statements of witnesses for the prosecution prior to trial. The delivery of such statements at the time of trial was consistent with the precedents in this State and afforded defendants ample opportunity for impeachment. As we have indicated, the record supports the trial court in its conclusion that the availability of the statements prior to trial could not have resulted in the acquittal of defendants.

Since we find no reversible error in this cause by reason of the orders entered by the Circuit Court of Henry County referred to in this case, the judgment of the Circuit Court of Henry County is affirmed.

Judgment affirmed.

SCOTT, J., concurs.

Mr. JUSTICE STOUDER specially ...

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