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People v. Caldwell

OPINION FILED JUNE 7, 1976.

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

v.

JAMES CALDWELL, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. JOHN L. HUGHES, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE DIXON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant James Caldwell was indicted by a Lake County grand jury on five counts of murder and one count of voluntary manslaughter in the killing of T.J. Johnson at Ken's Liquors in North Chicago. Prior to trial, the State moved to nolle prosse the voluntary manslaughter charge. Following a jury trial, defendant was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 40 to 60 years in the Department of Corrections. On appeal defendant contends he was denied a fair trial by the court's failure to allow the parties to personally question the prospective jurors, by the failure of the State's Attorney to comply with discovery, and by the failure of the court to sua sponte give the jury an issues in murder instruction which included the issue of self defense.

At the outset of voir dire the court informed the parties that he would conduct the questioning of the veniremen from questions submitted by the parties. Defendant objected to this method. The voir dire was commenced November 12, 1974, prior to the 1975 amendment of Supreme Court Rule 234 *fn1, so that Rule 234 as it then existed was as follows:

"The judge shall initiate the voir dire examination of jurors by identifying the parties and their respective counsel and briefly outlining the nature of the case. The judge shall then put to the jurors any questions which he thinks necessary, touching their qualifications to serve as jurors in the cause on trial. The parties or their attorneys shall be allowed a reasonable opportunity to supplement such examination, but shall not directly or indirectly examine jurors concerning matters of law or instruction." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 110A, par. 234.

Among the questions asked of the jurors by the court were the following:

1. Do you know of anything in your background that has not yet been inquired about which would prevent you from being a fair, attentive, and impartial juror in this case?

2. Do you know of any reason why you would not wish to be a juror in this trial?

3. Are any of you members of any fraternal organization which excludes blacks from membership or has segregated chapters of blacks?

4. Are any of you members or support any other club, organization or group which excludes blacks or otherwise preaches "white supremacy"?

5. Does the fact that defendant is a black person create any feeling against him on your part?

6. Is there any juror who for any reason feels he might not sit fairly?

7. Would any juror have any personal problem in sitting a full two or three or even four days for this trial?

8. Would any juror prefer to be excused in light of the possibility that this trial may go several days?

As a result of this questioning, the court excused two jurors because of racial prejudice and one juror because of a medical problem which would interfere with his ability to deliberate. The defendant was ...


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