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People v. Slaughter





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Howard M. Miller, Judge, presiding.


Defendant, Kyle Slaughter, appeals from the order of the circuit court of Cook County that revoked defendant's probation and periodic imprisonment and sentenced him to four years' imprisonment with credit for time already served, based upon defendant's previous plea of guilty to a charge of burglary. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 19-1 (burglary); Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, pars. 1005-6-3, 1005-6-4, 1005-7-2 (revocation of probation).) The trial court found that defendant violated the terms of his periodic imprisonment when he was found to be in possession of cannabis in the work-release facility to which defendant was assigned. On appeal, defendant contends that because the State did not prove a proper chain of custody of the narcotic once it was alleged to have been taken from defendant's person at the work-release facility, the trial court erroneously admitted into evidence the cannabis offered by the State at the court's revocation hearing.

We reverse and remand with directions.


On January 16, 1985, defendant pleaded guilty to a charge of burglary (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 19-1) and was sentenced to three years' probation including six months of periodic imprisonment. The trial court's hearing with respect to defendant's alleged possession of cannabis during this period disclosed the following.

Inmates at the correctional facility in question must sign in and present identification to a guard when they first enter the work-release facility. They are required to leave their money with the guard and proceed to the search room where they are strip searched.

Officer Jerry Earnest of the Department of Corrections facility testified that on Saturday, June 29, 1985, he was assigned to the search room of the facility. He strip searched defendant when defendant entered the facility at about 7:15 p.m., and found two hand-rolled cigarettes within the defendant's wallet. Based upon his training and experience as a corrections officer, Earnest believed that the cigarettes looked, felt, and smelled like marijuana.

Earnest then placed defendant in a detention room and prepared a report of the incident. He testified that he placed the two cigarettes inside an envelope and "dropped" them and a copy of his report in the correctional facility safe. Earnest stated that the safe was of a type that locked with a key and that two persons, the supervising lieutenant and the accountant for the facility, had a key to the safe. Earnest stated that he did not see the cigarettes again, did not take the evidence out of the safe, and was not present when the items were transported and presented to the trial court the following Monday, July 1, 1985.

The parties stipulated that if Assistant State's Attorney Patrick Quinn were called to testify, he would state that on Monday, July 1, 1985, he was present in the courtroom where the instant hearing was being held and that at that time received a white envelope containing hand-rolled cigarettes from the judge who was presiding in this cause. Quinn would testify that this envelope had been presented to the judge, in the presence of Quinn and counsel for defendant, by an individual who identified himself as an employee of the periodic imprisonment unit of the Cook County department of corrections. After leaving the courtroom that day, Quinn placed this envelope in the safe kept in the State's Attorney's office, and on July 10, 1985, turned it over to an investigator for that office.

The defense also stipulated at the hearing that the cigarettes which Quinn gave to his investigator were submitted to the Illinois Department of Law Enforcement Scientific Services and that laboratory analysis revealed that the cigarettes contained six-tenths of a gram of cannabis.

The record indicates that neither the assistant State's Attorney nor the trial court judge was acquainted with or knew the name of the person who was an employee of the correctional facility and who presented to the trial court the envelope containing the cigarettes.

Defendant testified at the hearing that he had had no knowledge of the cannabis until Earnest, while searching defendant's wallet, stated "What's this here" and showed defendant the two cigarettes. Defendant stated that he told Earnest that the cigarettes were not in his wallet when he entered the facility.

The trial court determined that the State established a sufficient chain of custody to allow admission into evidence of the two cannabis cigarettes presented by the State at the hearing. The trial court found that defendant had violated the conditions of his work release because he had been in possession of this cannabis when he entered the work-release facility on June 29, 1985. At a subsequent sentencing hearing, the trial ...

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