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09/30/87 the People of the State of v. Barbara Boyle

September 30, 1987

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

BARBARA BOYLE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Before we address the other issues the defendant raises, we set forth further relevant evidence adduced at trial, which began on April 1, 1985, and ended on April 14, 1985. The evidence showed that sometime after 6 p.m. and before 6:50 p.m. on November 3, 1977, Arthur Gusewelle was shot twice in the back of the head and Vernita Gusewelle was shot three times in the back of the head in their farm home in Hamel. There was no evidence of a forced entry. Vernita's body was found by medical personnel face down on the kitchen floor. Clogged by blood, her watch had stopped at 6:50 p.m. Arthur Gusewelle expired at 9:27 that evening after having called the operator for help and stating he had been "robbed." When medical personnel arrived, he indicated he had been robbed by "a couple of guys." The witness, who had attended him, indicated that Arthur's speech was "so slurred you couldn't hardly understand him." A Madison County deputy sheriff counted five .22-caliber ammunition casings in the area where Vernita's body was found. The house had been ransacked extensively, but police could never establish that anything was missing.

APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIFTH DISTRICT

514 N.E.2d 1169, 161 Ill. App. 3d 1054, 113 Ill. Dec. 158

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon. P. J. O'Neill, Judge, presiding. 1987.IL.1471

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE LEWIS* delivered the opinion of the court. KARNS, P.J., and KASSERMAN, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE LEWIS

The defendant, Barbara Jean Boyle, was charged by indictment with three counts of murder in the deaths of her husband, Ronald Gusewelle, and his parents, Arthur and Vernita Gusewelle. A jury found her guilty of the murder of her husband and not guilty of the murders of his parents. The trial court denied her post-trial motion for a new trial and sentenced her to a term of 50 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. She appeals, presenting 14 issues for our review: (1) whether the trial court erred in denying her motion to dismiss "In View Of The Pattern Of Highly Improper Conduct By The Prosecution"; (2) whether the trial court erred in denying her motion to dismiss "Despite Extensive And Prejudicial Pre-Indictment Delay"; (3) whether the trial court erred in denying defendant's motion for relief from pretrial publicity "Where Pretrial Polling And Jury Voir Dire Indicated That The Community Had Been Significantly And Negatively Affected By Pervasive Pretrial And Trial Publicity"; (4) whether the trial court erred in excluding from evidence the favorable results of a polygraph examination administered to the defendant, "As It Was Conclusively Proved That Such Examinations Are Reliable And Do Not Impinge On The Function Of the Jury; And Whether Such Exclusion Violated The Defendant's Right To Due Process Under The Illinois And United States Constitutions"; (5) whether the defendant's due process rights under the United States and Illinois constitutions were violated "By the State's Failure To Abide By An Agreement Not To Prosecute Based On Her Submission To A Successful Polygraph Examination"; (6) whether the defendant's due process rights were violated because the testimony of the prosecution's chief witness was "Secured By Means Of An Impermissible 'Contingent' Agreement And The Trial Court Erred in Denying A Motion To Exclude Said Testimony"; (7) whether the trial court erred in admitting hearsay statements "Because Those Statements Did Not Meet The Requirements For Admissibility Under The Co-Conspirator's Declaration Exception To The Hearsay Rule And The Admission Of These Statements Violated Defendant's Right Under The Confrontation Clause"; (8) whether the trial court erred in allowing "ATF Agent McGarvey To Testify As To Statements Allegedly Made By Co-Defendant Handy Where Said Statements Were Not Provided To The Defense Prior To Trial Although Specifically Requested"; (9) whether the trial court erred in allowing "ATF Agent McGarvey To Testify As To His Agency's Opinion Or Conclusion Regarding Defendant's Guilt And Said Testimony Deprived Boyle Of A Fair Trial"; (10) whether statements made by Lori Elam, since deceased, were improperly excluded as hearsay "Where Those Statements Fell Under The Statements Against Penal Interest Exception To The Hearsay Rule and Said Exclusion Violated Defendant's Right To A Fair Trial"; (11) whether the trial court's failure to give a jury instruction "Requested By The Defendant Violated The Defendant's Constitutional Right To Due Process And Deprived Her Of A Fair Trial"; (12) whether the defendant's right to due process was violated because the jury returned a verdict based on insufficient evidence; (13) whether the trial court improperly denied the defendant's motions for mistrial and new trial on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct; (14) whether the sentence of 50 years is unduly harsh.

To facilitate understanding of some of the issues the defendant raises concerning pretrial matters, a thumbnail sketch of the facts of the case is appropriate at this juncture, although a fuller statement of the evidence adduced at trial appears below. We note that the record on appeal in this case consists of more than 5,000 pages. At trial the State put on evidence to show that the defendant, in conjunction with Glennon Engleman, planned the murder of her husband, Ronald Gusewelle, in order to obtain the proceeds of numerous insurance policies on his life, many, if not most, of which she herself purchased through the mail. The defendant and Ronald Gusewelle were married on May 28, 1976. Upon his death on March 31, 1979, at the age of about 33, 14 insurance policies on his life were in effect, the proceeds of which amounted to approximately $194,000. Nine of the policies named the defendant as the beneficiary; five of the policies were for credit life insurance. The State sought to show that after having planned the murder of Ronald Gusewelle, but prior to its occurrence, the defendant learned of the relative wealth of his parents, and, together with Engleman, planned their murders in order to augment Ronald's estate. Arthur and Vernita Gusewelle were murdered on November 3, 1977. The net estate of Arthur Gusewelle, who briefly outlived his wife, amounted to $522,000 after taxes and costs and was divided equally between Ronald and his brother, Richard Gusewelle. The net value of Ronald Gusewelle's estate was approximately $597,000. The defendant appears to have inherited his entire estate pursuant to the terms of his will, which is in evidence. The principal witness for the State was Robert Handy, who testified pursuant to a plea agreement concerning his part in the murders of the three Gusewelles. According to his testimony, they had each been shot by Glennon Engleman. The State sought to show that Engleman, who did not testify, had received compensation from the defendant for his part in the slayings. One of the witnesses called by the defendant was Andre Jones, who, while awaiting sentencing upon three convictions of murder unrelated to the three Gusewelle murders, had confessed to having killed Ronald Gusewelle. Jones later recanted his confession, indicating that he had obtained information about the murder of Ronald Gusewelle in part from Robert Miller, a deputy sheriff with the St. Clair County sheriff's department. A videotape of Jones' retraction was played to both the grand and petit juries, and a transcript of the videotape recording is in evidence. In it, Jones stated that Detective Miller, to whom he had made the confession, had threatened him and had furnished him not only with police and autopsy reports concerning the death of Ronald Gusewelle that had enabled him to confess to the slaying but also with money and "Valiums." Jones indicated further in the video-taped retraction that he had obtained at least some of the same information from his attorney at the time, Robert Gagen. Robert Miller testified at trial but not before the grand jury. He denied having given any such information to Andre Jones and denied having threatened or induced him to confess. Robert Gagen testified at trial that he had received such police reports through discovery prior to meeting with his client in anticipation of a hearing with respect to the imposition of the death penalty.

On August 9, 1984, the defendant was charged by indictment, subsequently amended, with committing the murders of Arthur, Vernita, and Ronald Gusewelle. On October 30, 1984, the defendant filed a motion for relief from the effects of pretrial publicity, asking the court, inter alia, to distribute a detailed questionnaire to prospective veniremen in Madison County "in order to ascertain the extent of bias which exists with regard to the instant case." The defendant asked the court to fashion a remedy to counter any bias it might determine to exist, including dismissal of the indictment or change of venue. On December 7, 1984, the defendant filed an "Omnibus Motion to Dismiss Indictment," stating as grounds that her rights to a fair trial and an impartial jury under the fifth, sixth, and fourteenth amendments to the Constitution of the United States and under the laws of the State of Illinois had been abrogated by the misconduct of the State's Attorney and that the State's Attorney had abused the grand jury process by failing to present "clearly exculpatory evidence to the grand jury which returned the Indictment," by having had improper contact with the grand jury foreman and two other members of the grand jury, by having presented extraneous material to the grand jury, by having used the grand jury "as a discovery device to prepare for the pending trial," and by having breached "the veil of secrecy in releasing to the public and press matters which were before the grand jury." The defendant stated further in the motion that the State's Attorney and his agents had improperly commented to the press and public concerning the case "in order to inflame and prejudice prospective jurors" and that "certain evidentiary matters of a highly prejudicial nature were purposely 'leaked' to the press prior to the completion of the grand jury proceedings in conjunction with the effort to prejudice the case." In further support of the motion the defendant said:

"The State's Attorney combined with the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois to deprive the Defendant of her right to extradition proceedings in the State of Florida where she was arrested. The United States Attorney, at the apparent bidding of the State's Attorney, utilized a federal grand jury to return an indictment against the Defendant so that she could be removed from Florida without the necessity of extradition. Upon the Defendant's return to the District of Southern Illinois, the federal indictment was dismissed and she was released to the Madison County authorities."

The defendant stated also that the "extraordinary delay between the occurrence of the offenses alleged in the Indictment and the return of said Indictment was unreasonable and unnecessary and has severely prejudiced the Defendant's defense and constitutes a denial of her right to due process."

On February 21, 1985, the trial court conducted an extensive hearing on the defendant's omnibus motion to dismiss and her motion for relief from the effects of pretrial publicity. The defendant called several witnesses to testify, including Donald Weber, the State's Attorney at the time in question whose conduct was addressed by the defendant's omnibus motion. A market research manager testified for the defendant concerning the results of a survey of 402 registered voters of Madison County. The survey was conducted for the defendant to determine opinions about and awareness of this case among registered voters in Madison County. Another of the defendant's witnesses was Robert Miller, who testified that he had not provided Andre Jones with information concerning the death of Ronald Gusewelle or in any way coerced the confession from him. Testifying for the State at the hearing was Dennis Kuba, a special agent with the Illinois Division of Criminal Investigation, who stated that he and Deputy Donald Spaul had interviewed Robert Miller on September 5, 1984. According to Special Agent Kuba, Robert Miller had told them that he had had two interviews with Andre Jones, during the first of which "Andre Jones verbally admitted to the murder of a white subject at Coleman's Plaza in East St. Louis." Robert Miller had asked Detective Stone of the East St. Louis police department if he was familiar with such a murder. Detective Stone advised Detective Miller that "a white person by the name of Ronald Gusewelle had been murdered by -- in Coleman's Plaza and his body had been discovered there." Detective Miller recalled, according to Special Agent Kuba, having read newspaper articles about the murder of Ronald Gusewelle following his conversation with Detective Stone so that "when he went back to reinterview Andre Jones he was somewhat familiar with that investigation." Detective Miller had stated in the interview with Special Agent Kuba and Deputy Spaul that he might have "inadvertently surrendered some information to Andre Jones during the interview."

In an order entered March 4, 1985, the trial court stated with regard to the defendant's motion for relief from pretrial publicity that the courts in Illinois have indicated a preference for delaying the decision as to a change of venue until jury voir dire. The court stated further that the defendant had not demonstrated sufficient cause for departing from the traditional practice of using jury voir dire as the best test for determining whether a defendant could obtain a fair trial in that county and therefore denied her request for a change of venue at that time, adding that the request might be renewed if it became appropriate following voir dire of the jury. In the order of March 4, 1985, the court, after careful consideration evident in the order, denied the defendant's omnibus motion.

In her brief the defendant contends that the prosecution abused the grand jury process by failing to present to the grand jury exculpatory evidence, namely, Detective Miller's statements that he did not provide Andre Jones with information concerning the death of Ronald Gusewelle or in any way coerce a confession from him. The defendant asserts in her brief that "Detective Miller's testimony would have significantly affected the grand jury's evaluation of the retraction." Addressing the omission of testimony by Detective Miller before the grand jury, the trial court stated in its order denying the defendant's omnibus motion that the matter

"must be viewed in the context of the totality of the evidence that was before the Grand Jury. When all of that evidence is considered, and when it is remembered that the Grand Jury was making only a probable cause determination, this Court cannot find that the defendant suffered actual and substantial prejudice by the failure of the prosecutor to present the evidence in question."

As the supreme court stated in People v. Creque (1978), 72 Ill. 2d 515, 527, 382 N.E.2d 793, 798, cert. denied (1979), 441 U.S. 912, 60 L. Ed. 2d 384, 99 S. Ct. 2010, "A defendant may not challenge an indictment on the ground that it is not supported by adequate evidence. (People v. Jones (1960), 19 Ill. 2d 37.) Guilt or innocence is to be determined at trial." Traditionally, an indictment has not been quashed because of a lack of proper grand jury evidence unless all evidence before that body has been subject to suppression. (People v. Mack (1982), 107 Ill. App. 3d 164, 437 N.E.2d 396.) There is no suggestion of that here. However, even if a defendant could challenge an indictment on the ground of inadequacy of evidence, the instant record would not support such a challenge. Although we have a part of the transcript of proceedings before the grand jury when that body heard evidence concerning the Gusewelle murders, we do not appear to have the report in its entirety, as the trial court seems to have had. Hence, we have no basis for disagreeing with the trial court's Conclusions as set forth above. We do, however, have the transcript of the entire proceedings before the petit jury, before whom Robert Miller testified essentially as he had testified at the hearing on the defendant's omnibus motion to dismiss. Nevertheless, the petit jury found the defendant guilty of the murder of Ronald Gusewelle beyond a reasonable doubt, a far more exacting standard of proof, needless to say, than that of probable cause. There is nothing in this record to suggest that, had the grand jury heard the testimony of Robert Miller as it was given at the hearing on the defendant's omnibus motion to dismiss and at trial, the evidence upon which to make a determination of probable cause would have been insufficient. Since Detective Miller's testimony plainly did not affect significantly in the defendant's favor the petit jury's evaluation of Andre Jones' retraction, we think -- assuming that an indictment might be so challenged -- that her point concerning the potential impact upon the grand jury is not well taken.

With respect to the defendant's contention concerning the prosecutor's contact at lunch on apparently two occasions with the grand jury foreman and other members of the grand jury, the trial court stated in its order as follows:

"The defendant has also complained that the prosecutor had improper contact with the Grand Jury foreman and other members of the Grand Jury. This allegation has been proved by the evidence, but the defendant has again failed to show how she suffered actual and substantial prejudice. Absent that showing, the defendant is not entitled to a dismissal. The Court allowed inquiry into this area by examination of Mr. Weber during the hearing on the Motion to Dismiss, and Judge Romani had previously held an in camera inquiry of the Grand Jury concerning this matter. The Court has considered the evidence at that hearing and received the Grand Jury transcript, and is satisfied that the defendant was not prejudiced."

As we have indicated, the record on appeal includes part of the proceedings before the Madison County grand jury, including that of September 6, 1984, when Judge Romani examined the grand jury concerning these allegations. His examination of the grand jurors makes clear beyond question that the defendant suffered no prejudice as a result of any unauthorized contact between the prosecutor and the grand jurors.

The defendant maintains that "the trial court erred in denying [her] motion to dismiss the indictment on the ground that [she] has not demonstrated sufficient prejudice, because the State's Attorney's conduct vitiated the indictment per se, and thus, no prejudice need be shown." A trial court has inherent power to dismiss a charge when due process so requires (People v. Lawson (1977), 67 Ill. 2d 449, 367 N.E.2d 1244), but this should rarely be done (People v. Mack (1982), 107 Ill. App. 3d 164, 437 N.E.2d 396.) In Illinois, to support a dismissal of a charge, prosecutorial misconduct must result in actual and substantial prejudice to a defendant. (People v. Mack (1982), 107 Ill. App. 3d 164, 437 N.E.2d 396.) Nevertheless, the defendant invites us to adopt a rule of per se invalidation -- which we decline to do -- principally on the basis of United States v. Mechanik (1984), 735 F.2d 136, the holding of which the Supreme Court ultimately rejected in United States v. Mechanik (1986), 475 U.S. 66, 89 L. Ed. 2d 50, 106 S. Ct. 938. In Mechanik two witnesses testified simultaneously before the grand jury in violation of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(d). The court of appeals rejected the argument that defendants must show that a Rule 6(d) violation prejudiced them before an indictment may be dismissed. A divided court of appeals sitting en banc agreed. (United States v. Mechanik (1985), 756 F.2d 994.) In Mechanik the defendants had not learned about the joint testimony until the trial had begun. The trial court took the motion to dismiss the indictment under advisement until the Conclusion of the trial, the petit jury returned a verdict of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and the trial court subsequently denied the defendant's motion for dismissal of the indictment. The Supreme Court held that "however diligent the defendants may have been in seeking to discover the basis for the claimed violation of Rule 6(d), the petit jury's verdict rendered harmless any conceivable error in the charging decision that might have flowed from the violation." (475 U.S. 66, 73, L. Ed. 2d 50, 58, 106 S. Ct. 938, 943.) The court reasoned that "the petit jury's subsequent guilty verdict not only means that there was probable cause to believe that the defendants were guilty as charged, but that they are in fact guilty as charged beyond a reasonable doubt. Measured by the petit jury's verdict, then, any error in the grand jury proceeding connected with the charging decision was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt." (475 U.S. 66, 70, 89 L. Ed. 2d 50, 56, 106 S. Ct. 938, 942.) In the instant case, the petit jury's verdict aside, Judge Romani's in camera examination of the grand jurors displayed that error on the part of the prosecutor was, like that in Mechanik, harmless, having caused no prejudice to the defendant.

The defendant contends similarly that the prosecutor's presentation of "Improper and Inflammatory Material to the Grand Jury" requires dismissal of the indictment in the absence of resultant prejudice to the defendant. The material to which she refers is the presentation to grand jurors of 96 slides, one of which was a slide of the elder Gusewelles' residence. Of this presentation the trial court stated in its order:

"The defendant complains that former State's Attorney Weber presented improper material to the Grand Jury, and the evidence sustains this allegation. It is undisputed that former State's Attorney Weber presented a certain photographic slide show to the Grand Jury, which was the same slide show he presented in other settings to potential voters in his re-election compaign [ sic ]. At the request of counsel, the Court has now viewed the slide presentation, although without the benefit of the explanatory remarks from the former prosecutor which accompanied the presentation to the Grand Jury. Most of the slides depict various crime scenes from disposed [ sic ] cases on which the Grand Jury would not be hearing evidence. The only slide pertaining to the Gusewelle case was an exterior view of a residence. There were also several slides which memorialized high praise for the former prosecutor, and some which depicted him receiving some sort of 'awards.'

While the slide presentation might have had some educational value for the Grand Jury, if handled properly, it was mainly an attempt of the former State's Attorney to aggrandize himself in the eyes of the Grand Jury. As such, it was highly improper. There is, however, no evidence that the Grand Jury was thereby pressured or influenced to return an indictment against the defendant, and a due process violation has not been established."

Former State's Attorney Weber testified as follows about the slide in question and his comments about it: "The slide was a slide of Art and Vernita Gusewelle's house, and it precedes the home -- a picture of the Kubeys (ph) down in Granite City, and I just say after we go though a number of murders that we have solved, I said there are still some murders that aren't solved, and we hope some of these new scientific methods will help us be able to solve them." Defendant argues," As with the other grounds raised above, it is the Defendant's contention that the action of the State's Attorney requires a per se dismissal of the indictment without reference to any actual prejudice suffered by the Defendant. Therefore, the trial court improperly denied the Defendant's motion to dismiss." We disagree and, as we have already stated, decline to adopt the per se rule defendant proposes. The defendant having suffered no prejudice as a result of the prosecutor's misconduct, the trial court did not err in denying her motion to dismiss on that basis.

The defendant asserts that her motion to dismiss the indictment ought to have been granted because of collusion between former State's Attorney Weber and Federal authorities in order to deprive her of her right to an extradition hearing in Florida. As the State points out, the only person to testify concerning this matter was former State's Attorney Weber, who indicated that the Federal indictment had been obtained somewhat hastily in order to avoid a potential problem arising out of the running of a statute of limitations. Contrary to the defendant's claim of collusion, the witness testified that the Federal indictment had not been obtained for the purpose of avoiding extradition proceedings. Thus, the trial court observed correctly in its order that "[the] evidence simply does not sustain this claim."

Although the defendant makes other contentions with respect to the first issue she raises for review concerning "The Pattern Of Highly Improper Conduct By The Prosecution," it is not necessary to address them in detail. We have considered each of them and find no basis in either the record or the law for disturbing the trial court's ruling in this regard denying her omnibus motion to dismiss the indictment.

We turn to the second issue defendant raises, whether the trial court erred in denying her omnibus motion to dismiss the indictment despite extensive and prejudicial preindictment delay. In People v. Lawson (1977), 67 Ill. 2d 449, 367 N.E.2d 1244, which considered the question of whether preindictment delay in three cases, consolidated on appeal, was so prejudicial as to be a denial of due process, the supreme court set forth the requirement that, where there has been a delay between an alleged crime and indictment or arrest or accusation, the defendant must come forward with a "clear showing of actual and substantial prejudice" (emphasis in original) (67 Ill. 2d 449, 459, 367 N.E.2d 1244, 1248). If the accused satisfies the trial court that he or she has been substantially prejudiced by the delay, the court said, the burden shifts to the State to show the reasonableness, if not the necessity, of the delay. "If this two-step process ascertains both substantial prejudice and reasonableness of a delay, then the court must make a determination based upon a balancing of the interests of the defendant and the public. Factors the court should consider, among others, are the length of the delay and the seriousness of the crime." (67 Ill. 2d 449, 459, 367 N.E.2d 1244, 1248.) In the trial court's order of March 4, 1985, it stated:

"Under People v. Lawson 67 Ill. 2d 443 [ sic ], which authorizes a dismissal on due process grounds as the result of pre-indictment [ sic ] delay, the defendant must come forward with a clear showing of actual and substantial prejudice. This the defendant has failed to do. Even assuming prejudice, the State has met its burden of showing the reasonableness and necessity of the delay. It is clear that until certain evidence became available to the State in the spring or early summer of 1984, this case was not prosecutable. Applying the test mandated by Lawson of balancing the interests of the defendant and the public, and considering such factors as the length of the delay and the fact that defendant is charged with three murders, the Court finds that the defendant is not entitled to a dismissal based on a denial of due process because of pre-indictment [ sic ] delay."

The defendant disputes the trial court's finding that she was not prejudiced by the delay and, stating that the trial court did not reach the issue of whether the delay was reasonable, maintains that the prosecution did not and could not meet its burden under Lawson of showing that the delay was either reasonable or necessary. She argues that "by failing to conduct the balancing test mandated by Lawson, the trial court improperly denied the Defendant's motion to dismiss." She contends that she demonstrated actual and substantial prejudice inasmuch as "the testimony of an extremely important witness, Lori Elam, was lost to the defense due to Elam's death and the unique Illinois rule regarding the admissibility of statements against penal interest. If the prosecution had not been delayed, Elam's exculpatory evidence would have been available to the defendant." However, at the hearing on her omnibus motion to dismiss the indictment, the defendant appears to have put on no evidence and made no offer of proof concerning Lori Elam. At no time does the defendant indicate when Elam died. Furthermore, former State's Attorney Weber testified concerning facts relevant to the delay. Andre Jones, who had confessed to the killing of Ronald Gusewelle in September of 1979, maintained as late as May of 1984 that he was responsible for Ronald Gusewelle's death. Later, in May of 1984, Jones recanted the confession. The State's Attorney's office first received reports in February or March of 1984 from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms concerning "various crimes . . . committed by a person and others, by the name of Engleman." The witness stated that he had been informed that Robert Handy had been approached by Federal authorities about testifying against Glennon Engleman but that Handy had "refused to deal." In June or July of 1984, the witness said, he had, with police officers, approached Handy, who agreed to give a statement concerning the Gusewelle murders and to testify. The witness stated that, "[until] Handy agreed to testify, we didn't have sufficient evidence to base an indictment, I don't think." The record in the instant case supports the trial court's Conclusions and refutes the defendant's contentions. Ruling in accord with the requirements of People v. Lawson, the trial court did not err in denying the defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment on the basis of preindictment delay.

With respect to the third issue the defendant presents for review, concerning the trial court's denial of her motion for relief from pretrial publicity, she maintains that pretrial polling and jury voir dire indicated that the community had been significantly and negatively affected by pervasive pretrial and trial publicity. She argues that, "notwithstanding the self-serving assertions of the prospective jurors, [the defendant was] patently unable to obtain a fair trial in Madison County and that the trial court erred in denying Boyle's motion for change of venue, request to be permitted to send confidential questionnaires to prospective jurors, and motion for new trial." As the trial began, following voir dire, the defendant renewed her motion for change of venue. In denying the motion the trial court made the following observations:

"The Court in the Jury selection process was generous in the exercise of excusals for cause, and the Court at no time denied the defense a challenge to a juror for cause. The Court notes further that the defense did not exhaust all peremptories. We went through 59 jurors to get the regular panel of 12. Of those included on the Jury, there do not appear to be any who have been exposed to any prejudicial or inflammatory matter. Most had only, if any knowledge at all, only a general knowledge of what the Defendant was charged with and the names of the victims. Counsel for both sides were given the opportunity to explore fully any knowledge the jurors might have had about this case and any opinions they might have reached.

The Court is satisfied that these jurors will give the the [ sic ] Defendant a fair trial."

The report of the proceedings of voir dire is included in the record on appeal. We have read the entire transcript. The comments of the trial court are a fair and accurate assessment of the voir dire conducted in this case, which was extensive, careful, and thorough.

The general rule in Illinois is that a defendant is entitled to a change in venue when it appears that there are reasonable grounds to believe that prejudice against the defendant actually exists and that by the reason of this prejudice there is a reasonable apprehension that defendant cannot receive a fair and impartial trial. (People v. Knippenberg (1979), 70 Ill. App. 3d 496, 388 N.E.2d 806.) The decision whether to grant a change in venue is discretionary with the trial court, and, absent an abuse of that discretion, the decision will not be reversed. (People v. Knippenberg (1979), 70 Ill. App. 3d 496, 388 N.E.2d 806.) There is nothing in the instant record to suggest that the jurors selected were anything less than fair and impartial. In Knippenberg, as in the case at bar, a poll had been conducted to determine the attitudes of voters in the county in question. There we said:

"That defendant can point to potentially harmful publicity within a community as indicated by the survey does not, standing alone, establish proof of community ...


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