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03/31/87 the People of the State of v. Rama Sundaresh

March 31, 1987

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

RAMA SUNDARESH, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, SECOND DISTRICT

506 N.E.2d 672, 153 Ill. App. 3d 930, 106 Ill. Dec. 872 1987.IL.404

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. Lawrence D. Inglis, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

Presiding Justice Lindberg delivered the opinion of the court. Hopf and Dunn, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE LINDBERG

Defendant, Rama Sundaresh, M.D., was charged with 15 counts of delivery of a controlled substance in an indictment returned by a Lake County grand jury. Defendant was found guilty of all charges by a jury and was subsequently sentenced by the court to a 4-year term of imprisonment. Defendant now appeals from this judgment of the circuit court.

Defendant argues on appeal that: (1) the trial court erred in denying a defense motion to poll the jury during trial about a prejudicial newspaper article, and (2) the trial court abused its discretion in denying probation and in sentencing defendant to an excessive 4-year term of imprisonment. This second contention need not be addressed because we reverse and remand for a new trial based upon the first issue raised by defendant.

During the trial of this case, the court took precautions against the jury's being prejudiced by newspaper reports. The jurors were questioned during voir dire about whether they had read any newspaper articles about the case. Also, during voir dire and several times during the trial, the court admonished the jurors not to read any newspaper articles about the case. However, on the last day of trial, immediately prior to closing arguments, defense counsel moved that the court ask the jury if any of them had read anything about the case because that day the local newspaper had published an article about the trial.

The Discussion concerning this motion was as follows:

"MR. BLOCK [for the defense]: Second, I looked in the News Sun today and there was rather a large article about this case. I know the Court's been admonishing the jurors not to read the newspapers. The jury did not come into the courtroom prior to lunch and the paper does come out around 11:30 right before lunch. I would ask the Court to inquire of the jury if in fact they have read any articles regarding this case and what bothers me is there's a lot of things in the article that were not presented in evidence, things which are substantially prejudicial to my client so I would ask the Court to inquire.

THE COURT: The Court has repeatedly adnauseum [ sic ] over and over again been admonishing the jury. Do you have any reason to believe that they have read it?

MR. BLOCK: I have no reason to believe the jury has read anything, but there are comments in here, Judge, that refer to possible deaths that may have occurred from accidental overdoses that my client may have given somebody and I think -- usually I wouldn't even bring this to your attention, but I think the serious prejudicial impact that may occur with statements like that that weren't presented in court, you know, leads me to make this rather unusual request.

I mean I could show you the --

MR. GIBSON [for the State]: I haven't read the article, Judge --

MR. BLOCK: -- article, Judge. If you want to read it, Judge. Frankly, I don't want you to even see the information because there may be a sentencing hearing in this case, but I have to bring it to the ...


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