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12/07/88 the People of the State of v. Willie Skipper

December 7, 1988





533 N.E.2d 44, 177 Ill. App. 3d 684, 127 Ill. Dec. 426

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Gino Divito, Judge, presiding. 1988.IL.1765


JUSTICE RIZZI delivered the opinion of the court. WHITE, P.J., and McNAMARA, J., concur.


Defendant, Willie Skipper, was convicted of aggravated battery and sentenced to five years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. On appeal, defendant argues that his sixth and fourteenth amendment rights to an impartial jury were violated by the trial court's refusal to voir dire the prospective jurors as to any preDisposition regarding a verdict of "not guilty by reason of self-defense." We affirm.

The testimony at trial was conflicting. According to the defense, defendant was walking to the drugstore for his wife on the morning of March 17, 1984. Defendant encountered the complainant, Claude. Claude, who had a bottle of whiskey in his hand, demanded that defendant give him money to buy another drink. Claude also demanded that defendant buy him a newspaper. Defendant informed Claude that he did not have money to buy a drink but that he would buy Claude a newspaper. When defendant bought the newspaper, Claude accused defendant of lying about how much money defendant had. Defendant explained to Claude that the money belonged to defendant's wife and not defendant. When defendant gave the newspaper to Claude, Claude rolled up the newspaper and hit defendant across the nose and face. Defendant then pulled out a knife and chased Claude. When defendant caught up with Claude, Claude also had a knife. The two men began to struggle, the knife was knocked out of Claude's hand and that is how Claude was cut.

According to the State, on the morning of March 18, 1984, defendant and Claude approached a newsstand wherein defendant purchased a newspaper and handed it to Claude. When defendant paid for the newspaper, Claude folded the paper and slapped defendant's face with the paper. Defendant took out a knife and Claude ran away. Defendant chased Claude and sliced the rear portion of Claude's neck with the knife. The two men wrestled, Claude grabbed the knife from defendant and cut defendant with it.

Prior to trial, defendant sought to ask a supplemental voir dire question regarding the prospective jurors' possible prejudice against a self-defense instruction. Defendant's request was denied. Following trial, the jury found defendant guilty of aggravated battery. This appeal followed.

Defendant argues that the trial court erred in refusing to allow him to voir dire prospective jurors regarding any possible prejudice against a verdict of not guilty by reason of self-defense. Defendant further argues that because he was not allowed to voir dire the jurors on this issue, he was denied his constitutional right to an impartial jury and his conviction must be reversed. We disagree.

It is well settled that although a defendant is entitled to a trial by an impartial jury, the court has the right to reasonably regulate the manner in which jurors are selected. (People v. DeSavieu (1983), 120 Ill. App. 3d 420, 426, 458 N.E.2d 504, 509.) Moreover, Supreme Court Rule 234, which governs the conduct of voir dire examination, provides in part:

"The court shall conduct the voir dire examination of prospective jurors by putting to them questions it thinks appropriate touching their qualifications to serve as jurors in the case on trial. The court may permit the parties to submit additional questions to it for further inquiry if it thinks they are appropriate . . .. Questions shall not directly or indirectly concern matters of law or instructions. "(107 Ill. 2d R. 234.)

Thus, it is within the trial court's discretion to ask supplemental questions as well as prohibit any questions which address matters of law or instruction.

This court has had several occasions to address the issue of whether a propounded "self-defense" question on voir dire touches upon a matter of law or instruction. When faced with this issue, we have consistently held that Rule 234 prohibits questions during voir dire which concern the theory of self-defense. See People v. Kindelan (1986), 150 Ill. App. 3d 818, 502 N.E.2d 422; People v. Muhammad (1985), 132 Ill. App. 3d 901, 478 N.E.2d 457; People v. Kendricks (1984), 121 Ill. App. 3d 442, 459 N.E.2d ...

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