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People v. Christensen





Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Fourth District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Woodford County, the Hon. William T. Caisley, Judge, presiding.


On April 16, 1982, the circuit court of Woodford County dismissed a 15-count indictment against the defendant, Douglas Christensen, because he had been denied a speedy trial under both section 103-5 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (the speedy-trial statute) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 103-5) and the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 1003-8-9). The appellate court reversed. (113 Ill. App.3d 938.) We granted the defendant's petition for leave to appeal to this court. 87 Ill.2d R. 315.

At the time the defendant was originally indicted on July 24, 1980, on 10 counts of murder, two counts of involuntary manslaughter, two counts of aggravated battery, and one count of concealment of a homicidal death, he was serving a sentence for an unrelated crime in the Federal penitentiary at Texarkana, Texas. On August 8, 1980, the circuit court of Woodford County issued a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum, and on September 12, 1980, a request for temporary custody of the defendant was filed under the provisions of article IV(a) of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 1003-8-9, art. IV(a)). The defendant was sent to Woodford County, taken into custody there on October 19, 1980, and arraigned on October 27. On December 19, 1980, after the defendant was granted a continuance, trial was set for February 17, 1981.

On February 2, a certificate was issued on the prosecutor's motion to compel the attendance of witness Craig Myers. On February 13, 1981, after Myers failed to appear in Illinois voluntarily to testify for the State in accord with an earlier agreement, the prosecution moved for a 60-day continuance. The trial court found that there was good cause for the continuance under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers, and the prosecution requested that the court not make its ruling under the Illinois speedy-trial statute which allows the State to request an extension of no more than 60 days beyond the 120-day speedy-trial period when a witness cannot be located. The trial court granted a continuance until April 6, 1981, but on March 17, the prosecutor indicated to the court that Myers was still missing and unlikely to be found soon. The State moved to dismiss the case with leave to reinstate the charges after Myers was found. When the trial court responded that this could not be done, the prosecutor moved to nol-pros the indictment, and stated on the record that the State intended to refile the charges after Myers was located. The defendant was returned to Federal custody in Texas three days later.

Seven months later, on October 29, 1981, a new indictment was returned against the defendant; all 15 counts were identical to the charges in the indictment that had been nol-prossed. On November 6, 1981, the State requested temporary custody of the defendant, and the Federal authorities offered to deliver temporary custody to the Woodford County authorities as of February 21. On February 26, the defendant filed a pro se demand for a speedy trial under the speedy-trial statute (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 103-5). The trial judge calculated that the defendant's incarceration from October 19, 1980, through the date of the nolle prosequi on March 17, 1981, excluding the continuance requested by the defendant, which tolled the statute, accounted for 89 days of the 120-day speedy-trial period. Since the defendant was reindicted on identical charges, the trial judge included the entire period from March 17, 1981, through April 16, 1982. The trial judge further held that even if this entire period was not includable, the period from February 21, 1982, when the defendant was again made available by the Federal authorities for return to Woodford County, had to be counted. The appellate court held that the nolle prosequi tolled the speedy-trial period, and that article IV(e) of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers did not apply.

The question to be decided is whether the indictment against defendant was improperly dismissed under either the Interstate Agreement on Detainers or the Illinois speedy-trial statute. We turn first to the Interstate Agreement on Detainers.

Article IV(e) of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers provides:

"If trial is not had on any indictment, information or complaint contemplated hereby prior to the prisoner's being returned to the original place of imprisonment pursuant to Article V(e) hereof, such indictment, information or complaint shall not be of any further force or effect, and the court shall enter an order dismissing the same with prejudice." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 1003-8-9, art. IV(e).

The trial judge read the plain language of article IV(e) as requiring dismissal of the second indictment since, in his view, the two indictments were identical and had to be treated as one. The appellate court viewed the two indictments, despite the identity of their contents, as separate; it reasoned that once the trial court nol-prossed the first indictment, there no longer was any case before the court to dismiss with prejudice. 113 Ill. App.3d 938, 941.

We disagree with the construction of article IV(e) proposed by the State and adopted by the appellate court. Such a narrow reading of the term "indictment" is inconsistent with the purposes of the agreement as stated in article I, and with the mandate of article IX that "[t]his agreement shall be liberally construed so as to effectuate its purposes." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 1003-8-9, art. IX.) Article I provides, in pertinent part:

"[C]harges outstanding against a prisoner, detainers based on untried indictments, informations or complaints, and difficulties in securing speedy trial of persons already incarcerated in other jurisdictions, produce uncertainties which obstruct programs of prisoner treatment and rehabilitation. * * *" Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 1003-3-9, art. I.

The State suggests that the purpose of the interstate agreement is to avoid leaving untried indictments when prisoners are returned to their original places of incarceration. While we agree that avoiding the shuttling back and forth of prisoners is one goal of the interstate agreement (Neville v. Friedman (1977), 67 Ill.2d 488), it is not the only one. The broad language of article I contemplates many kinds of occurrences which can delay the final disposition of charges and may result in two types of uncertainties. Questions about where the prisoner will be and for how long prevent development of a coherent long-term rehabilitation program. Equally important, uncertainties in the prisoner's mind about when a charge once raised will be finally disposed of interfere with his ability to benefit from the rehabilitation programs available to him. United States v. Mauro (1978), 436 U.S. 340, 359-60, 56 L.Ed.2d 329, 346-47, 98 S.Ct. 1834, 1846-47.

Legislation making the United States a party to the agreement was passed with virtually no debate because the Attorney General's office recognized the benefits and supported the bill. (See United States v. Mauro (1978), 436 U.S. 340, 353, 56 L.Ed.2d 329, 342-43, 98 S.Ct. 1834, 1843-44.) The legislative history of that bill, Public Law 91-538, now 18 U.S.C. App. (1982), is relevant, because Congress addressed precisely the question we face here: the effect of State ...

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