Appeal from the Circuit Court of Crawford County; the Hon. A.
Hanby Jones, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE HARRISON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Defendant was charged by information with the offense of attempted murder based upon an incident which occurred in a tavern in Crawford County. The defendant affirmatively raised the defense of diminished capacity along with other affirmative defenses prior to trial. The case proceeded to trial on June 25, 1984, a jury was sworn, and the State presented its evidence, and then rested. Thereafter, defendant began presentation of its case in chief. On June 28, 1984, during a meal recess, one of the jurors indicated to the sheriff of Crawford County, Richard Hunnicutt, that he was concerned over his ability to render an impartial verdict in the case because of a prior drinking problem. The sheriff reported the incident to the trial judge, A. Hanby Jones, who thereafter held a hearing in his chambers.
Judge Jones first examined Sheriff Hunnicutt, who testified that he had just been with the jurors during a luncheon recess at the Elk's Club in Robinson. In the sheriff's words, a juror by the name of Hatton told him that "[h]e could not give a partial [sic] judgment because of his drinking problem in later years." The Sheriff added that the juror told him that because he had been a heavy drinker, he could not be impartial. The sheriff went on to state that the other jurors overheard every word of this conversation, which prompted some discussion among them.
The judge next examined the juror, Donald D. Hatton, who confirmed that he told the sheriff that because of his problem, he had reservations about his ability to be fair. Hatton stated that the other jurors overheard him. In particular, the alternate juror told him: "You're going to stick it to me yet." The judge thanked Hatton for his honesty, and commented that his only concern was whether Hatton's remarks influenced any of the other jurors. The court then inquired if the State's Attorney had any questions of the juror and the following colloquy ensued:
"STATE'S ATTORNEY: You're saying that you had a prior drinking problem?
JUROR HATTON: Yes, definitely. Really did.
STATE'S ATTORNEY: Why would a prior drinking problem affect your deliberation?
DEFENSE COUNSEL: Judge, I object. That's just improper. You've conducted your inquiry. We've got our record
THE COURT: Do you have any questions?
DEFENSE COUNSEL: Absolutely no questions."
At the conclusion of Juror Hatton's testimony, the following exchange occurred:
"DEFENSE COUNSEL: Thank you, Mr. Hatton. I think Jon [State's Attorney] and I ought to talk. It might save the county a lot of money.
STATE'S ATTORNEY: Put that on the record.
DEFENSE COUNSEL: Put that on. Ten ...