Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Third District; heard
in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of La Salle
County, the Hon. C. Howard Wampler, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE KLUCZYNSKI DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
John L. Barton, a licensed attorney and appointed counsel in a case against Harold Graves (see People v. Graves (1977), 54 Ill. App.3d 1027) was found guilty of contempt for his conduct at the trial of the case in the circuit court of La Salle County. The appellate court, with one justice dissenting, affirmed (54 Ill. App.3d 860), and we allowed Barton's petition for leave to appeal under Supreme Court Rule 315 (65 Ill.2d R. 315).
Barton was appointed to represent Harold Graves in a criminal prosecution in the circuit court of La Salle County. Graves and an alleged accomplice, Mickey Boardman, were both charged, inter alia, with armed robbery. Boardman agreed with the prosecution that he would testify on behalf of the State and against Graves, plead guilty to the lesser offense of burglary, and receive one year probation.
On cross-examination of Boardman, Barton sought to impeach Boardman by having the witness relate the facts pertaining to the agreement with the prosecution. Of particular concern for our purposes are those questions posed by Barton which sought to expose Boardman's knowledge of possible penalties for armed robbery. In reference to Boardman's agreement with the prosecution, Barton asked, "And what were you looking at if you didn't take that deal?" The State's Attorney made a general objection, which the court sustained on the ground that Graves was charged with the same offense as Boardman and "that the penalty ought not to be mentioned to the jury." The purpose of this ruling was to avoid prejudice to the State which might result if the jury were informed of the penalty that Graves might receive if convicted.
At the same time, however, the court acknowledged Barton's legitimate desire to "show that * * * the witness got something in return for testifying." (See People v. Norwood (1973), 54 Ill.2d 253.) Following a short side-bar discussion, the court determined that certain questions, as formulated, could be asked:
"THE COURT: I will allow you to ask the question in this form, what did the police tell you you were going to get if you didn't testify?
MR. YACKLEY [Assistant State's Attorney]: If I could, could I suggest a question, did you know that you would get substantially more?
THE COURT: No, I think that is the first question you should ask, then the second one, what did the police tell you because that is what is in his mind."
Shortly thereafter, the court reiterated: "But first the preliminary question he suggested then the question that I say and I'll allow it to be asked and answered in that form because we have to know what is in his mind. That is what is important not what actually he could get. He might not even know." In response, Barton expressed his understanding of the court's ruling, stating, "I'm sure that is what he is going to testify, Judge."
At the close of these discussions, the witness was recalled and Barton resumed cross-examination:
"MR. BARTON: Mr. Boardman, you're charged with Armed Robbery in this case, aren't you?
Q. And you can't get probation for Armed ...