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People v. Bassett

OPINION FILED MAY 13, 1980.

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

v.

JAMES FRANKLIN BASSETT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. DONALD W. MORTHLAND, Judge, presiding.

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

On the snowy evening of January 7, 1979, Kevin Ryan, 21 years old, left his trailer to walk up the road to a service station for a pack of cigarettes.

Shortly thereafter, his body was found about 4 feet off the road. The lower part of his brain stem had been sheared, causing instant fatal brain hemorrhage.

Defendant Bassett was convicted by a jury of reckless homicide and was sentenced to an extended term of 6 years' imprisonment to be served consecutively with a prior 5-year sentence for aggravated battery (see People v. Bassett (1980), 78 Ill. App.3d 1202 (Rule 23 order), conviction affirmed by this court).

We affirm.

First, the defendant argues on appeal that reversible error occurred when the trial court failed to dismiss a juror who had read a newspaper article about the defendant's prior conviction and sentence for aggravated battery.

On the morning of the second day of trial, defendant's counsel informed the trial court that an article, which concerned the defendant's prior conviction for aggravated battery, had appeared in the previous evening's Champaign-Urbana News Gazette. The reported battery had occurred at the time that the defendant was arrested on the reckless homicide charge. Two of the jurors indicated that they had read the article. Both jurors were questioned individually by the trial court and counsel in chambers as to the extent of their contact with, and knowledge of, the article. One juror was dismissed when he informed the court that he could no longer be impartial.

A second juror, Edward Sideman, acknowledged that he was familiar with the article's contents. The following dialogue then took place between the prosecutor and the juror:

"PROSECUTOR: Would you be able to continue to be a fair and impartial juror in this case in light of that [the article]?

JUROR: I think so.

PROSECUTOR: Can you put that aside and not consider that when you are determining what the facts are in this case?

JUROR: I think so.

PROSECUTOR: You understand that this is ...


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