Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Leonard
R. Grazian, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE MCGLOON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
After a jury trial, defendant Billy Clark was convicted of murder, attempted murder, aggravated battery and armed violence. He was sentenced to serve concurrent terms of 15 years for attempted murder and 40 years for murder in the penitentiary.
On appeal, defendant contends that the cumulative impact of improper prosecutorial comments during opening and closing arguments denied defendant a fair trial.
We reverse and remand for a new trial.
In his opening statement, before any testimony had been heard and prior to discussing what the State's evidence would show, the prosecutor warned the jury about the defense attorney's tricks:
"It is like thinking of it in terms of slide [sic] of hand. How does the slide [sic] of hand trick work? It works by getting you to take your eyes off the subject that you are supposed to be looking at and look at some distraction.
* * * And if you take your eye off the coin and off the evidence in this case and go chasing after what the lawyers tell you, you are going to be in serious trouble * * *.
* * * [W]hen lawyers ask questions of witnesses, sometimes the form of those questions seem to indicate that the lawyers may know something about the witness or the facts of the case that you haven't heard in evidence. So if the lawyer asks the question, when did you stop beating your wife * * *."
The trial judge sustained defense counsel's second objection and warned the prosecutor to "get into the evidence."
The prosecutor returned to the themes of "attorney's tricks" and "sleight of hand" and tactics employed by the defense attorney during the State's rebuttal closing argument:
"Ladies and gentlemen, you remember the first day of this trial I stood before you * * *. And I was in the process of telling you the tactics the defense attorney will employ during the trial so you can anticipate that happening * * * when I was cut short by an objection by the defense.
Well, what I was telling you about was how defense attorneys use slide [sic] of hand in defending people and I can understand why the defense ...