Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

People v. Scott

MARCH 28, 1974.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Adams County; the Hon. JOHN T. REARDON, Judge, presiding. MR. JUSTICE KUNCE DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The defendant was indicted by the Adams County grand jury in a four-count indictment charging murder, rape and kidnapping. During the course of a second jury trial after plea negotiations the defendant pleaded guilty to Count IV charging murder and kidnapping. His first trial ended in a mistrial. He was sentenced to an indeterminate term of 14 to 45 years.

Defendant claims as error on appeal: (1) that the grand jury which indicted him was not properly composed of all those individuals who were qualified to serve; (2) that the trial court erred in accepting defendant's negotiated plea of guilty because it did not adequately determine whether defendant understandingly and knowingly waived his right to jury trial and whether any force or threats were used to induce the plea.

Defendant Cornelius Scott was apprehended on November 28, 1971, pursuant to a complaint and warrant for his arrest for the alleged murder of Esther Bowman, age 77. A preliminary hearing was held on December 14, 1971, and defendant was bound over to the grand jury, which returned the indictments on December 29, 1971. Counts I and II charged defendant with murder while attempting the forcible felony of rape; and Counts III and IV charged defendant with murder while committing the forcible felony of kidnapping. At the time defendant was arraigned on January 4, 1972, the court admonished defendant of his right to trial by jury. Defendant filed a pre-trial motion to strike the indictment alleging that he was denied due process and equal protection of law due to the selection and composition of the grand jury in Adams County because the grand jury was not composed of a representative selection of all the registered voters of Adams County as prescribed by law. The defendant's motion was denied.

The defendant first contends that the composition of the grand jury venire that indicted him was deficient on the grounds that the jury commission of Adams County systematically excluded 18- to 20-year-olds from the selection of the grand jury. Defendant contends that this deficiency violates the Illinois Jurors' Act and constitutes a denial of due process. Defendant's reasoning is developed as follows. The Jurors' Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 78, par. 1 et seq.) states at section 1 essentially that the preparation of the jury list shall be done by the selection of names of "legal voters" from the latest voter registration list of the town and precinct of a given county. Section 2 requires that a petit juror be of the minimum age of 21 years. Section 9 of the same Act in effect requires that a member of a grand jury must possess the same qualifications as provided in section 2 of the Act. In other words, the minimum age for any member of the grand jury must be 21 years. It is clear that Illinois law provides for the preparation of these jury lists by a selection of voters from the latest voter registration list. The jury list in this case from which the grand jury was selected existed in March 1971, prior to the ratification on June 30, 1971 of the twenty-sixth amendment to the United States Constitution which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 and prior to the amendment of the Illinois Jurors' Act effective October 1, 1973, lowering the minimum age for jury service to 18. The defendant was indicted on December 29, 1971.

On December 28, 1971, the attorney general of Illinois issued an opinion stating that the 21-year-old age requirement is "one more of description rather than absolute requirement" and that "persons of the age of 18 years or upward may serve as jurors." (Op. Atty. Gen. Illinois, No. S-381, 1971.) The defendant reasons that the twenty-sixth amendment to the constitution impliedly repealed the age requirements of the Jurors' Act in light of this attorney general's opinion. Defendant contends that a substantial violation of the Jurors' Act automatically constitutes reversible error. The appellee answers that the legislature can set qualifications for jury service subject only to the limitations of due process, i.e., reasonableness and fairness.

The question presented is whether there is evidence of any purposeful and arbitrary exclusion of qualified individuals from service on the grand jury which indicted defendant and whether the doctrine of implied statutory amendment is applicable.

The United States Supreme Court has consistently held that an improperly composed grand jury that reflects prejudice or bias against any segment of the citizenry is contrary to the principles of our democracy and will not be tolerated. This rationale has usually been subscribed to in the context of cases dealing with racial discrimination and in the formulation of grand jury lists. For example, it is a general rule that if a criminal defendant proves his allegations that Negroes were arbitrarily excluded from the grand jury that indicted him, and from the trial jury that convicted him, then neither the indictment nor the conviction can stand. (Peters v. Kiff (1972), 407 U.S. 493, 33 L.Ed.2d 83, 92 S.Ct. 2163.) This rule has uniformly been applied to situations where others than blacks were discriminated against. In Hernandez v. Texas (1954), 347 U.S. 475, 98 L.Ed. 866, 74 S.Ct. 667, the Supreme Court reversed the conviction of a defendant who was of Mexican descent when he was able to show that other persons of Mexican descent were systematically excluded from the jury rolls. Defendant argues that this rationale would apply in a case where a group of society was arbitrarily excluded because of their age when they properly qualified.

Two United States Supreme Court cases are relied upon by the parties: Peters v. Kiff, by defendant; and Carter v. Jury Commission of Greene County (1970), 396 U.S. 320, 24 L.Ed.2d 549, 90 S.Ct. 518, by the State.

First of all, in Carter, black citizens of Green County, Alabama, instituted a class action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama against the county jury commission and its respective officers, alleging racial discrimination in their selection of prospective jurors and against the governor of Alabama, charging that he had deliberately appointed an all-white jury commission in the predominantly Negro county. The three-judge district court found that there had been systematic discrimination in the preparation of the jury list and directed that preparation of a new list in accordance with the laws of Alabama and constitutional principles. On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed. Portions of the opinion that deal with the right of the state to establish specific minimum age qualifications for their jurors are germane to the issues in the case at bar. The Court specifically stated:

"* * * It has long been accepted that the Constitution does not forbid the States to prescribe relevant qualifications for their jurors. The States remain free to confine the selection to citizens, to persons meeting specified qualifications of age and educational attainment, and to those possessing good intelligence, sound judgment, and fair character." (396 U.S. 320, 332, 24 L.Ed.2d 549, 559.) (Emphasis supplied.)

The Court went on to point out that nearly every state in the Union requires that jurors be citizens of the state and the United States, residents of the particular locality wherein the grand jury will sit, and of a specific minimum age, and able to understand English. As to the specific minimum age requirement, the Supreme Court noted that at least two states, Maryland and Nebraska, had minimum age requirements of 25 years. Furthermore, the Court recognized that not only did many states have minimum age requirements, they also had maximum age requirements. It is clear that there are no such ceilings concerning maximum age when dealing with the right to vote. Therefore, if it is invidious to discriminate in the compiling of grand jury lists against voters who are old enough to vote, yet too young to qualify to sit on the grand jury, then it could equally be asserted that it is also invidious discrimination to preclude individuals who are well within the legal age of voting, but are considered to be too elderly to sit on grand jury panels. It is certain that once the state chooses to provide grand and petit juries, whether or not constitutionally required to do so, it must conform to the constitutional criteria in insuring that the selection of membership is free of arbitrariness. This particular rule is predicated upon the clear and discernible fact that to discriminate against an individual because of his race is a brand of inferiority and a throw-back to civil servitude. In other words, the racial classification is inherently invidious and unreasonable. However, the Supreme Court has not ruled as of yet that a classification predicated upon a minimum or maximum age requirement, notwithstanding the right of those individuals not meeting said requirement to vote, is an unreasonable or irrational classification.

In Peters v. Kiff, the petitioner sought a writ of habeas corpus alleging for the first time that Negroes had been systematically excluded from the grand jury that had indicted him and from the petit jury that had convicted him. The Supreme Court through Justice Marshall stated that a state may not subject a defendant to indictment or trial by a jury that had been selected in a discriminatory manner. Justice Marshall noted that "[i]llegal and unconstitutional jury selection procedures cast doubt on the integrity of the whole judicial process." (407 U.S. 493, 502, 33 L.Ed.2d 83, 94.) Marshall went on to state that when a criminal defendant attacks the selection of the jury which either indicted or convicted him on the grounds that certain classes of individuals had been arbitrarily excluded, the harm from such alleged discrimination is so great, any doubt should be resolved in favor of giving the opportunity for challenging the jury to too many defendants rather than to too few. Defendant relies upon this particular passage when exhorting this court to overturn defendant's conviction. However, it would appear that defendant's reliance upon this passage is misplaced because nowhere in the Peters case does the Court state directly or through implication that classification predicated upon age amounts to an invidious or arbitrary discrimination warranting the implementation of the quoted passage.

• 1 We find from these authorities that a State can constitutionally prescribe specific qualifications of age, notwithstanding the fact that an individual may be qualified to vote because he is old enough, and at the same time be disqualified from sitting on a grand or petit jury because he is either too old or too young.

The defendant next argues that the ratification of the twenty-sixth amendment "impliedly repealed" the former age requirement of 21 and upwards for jury service by changing the age of legal voters from 21 to 18. The argument is grounded upon the rule of statutory construction that where two separate statutes were "in pari materia" the two statutes are to be construed in such a way as to accomplish their purposes and the later expression of legislative ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.