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03/29/89 the People of the State of v. Louis Holmes

March 29, 1989

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

LOUIS HOLMES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT

FOLLOWING A JURY TRIAL, THE DEFENDANT, LOUIS HOLMES, WAS FOUND GUILTY OF MISDEMEANOR UNLAWFUL POSSESSION OF CANNABIS (ILL. RE

v.

STAT. 1987, CH. 56 1/2, PAR. 704(C)). THE DEFENDANT WAS THEN SENTENCED TO 12 MONTHS' PROBATION AND FINED $300. HE APPEALS.



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, THIRD DISTRICT

536 N.E.2d 1005, 180 Ill. App. 3d 870, 129 Ill. Dec. 955 1989.IL.439

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Knox County; the Hon. Harry C. Bulkeley, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE SCOTT delivered the opinion of the court. STOUDER, J., concurs. JUSTICE HEIPLE, Dissenting.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE SCOTT

The record reveals that on August 22, 1986, Galesburg police officer John Woolsey was dispatched to investigate an anonymous tip that cannabis was growing in the backyard of the defendant's residence. Upon arriving at the defendant's residence, Officer Woolsey knocked on the door. Tiffany Holmes, the defendant's 11-year-old daughter, answered and advised the officer that her parents were not home. Officer Woolsey explained his reason for being there and asked her if it would be all right to look around the yard and garage area. Tiffany replied that Officer Woolsey could go into the backyard.

Officer Woolsey then proceeded to enter the backyard of the defendant's next-door neighbor. From this vantage point in the neighbor's yard, Officer Woolsey observed what appeared to be cannabis plants growing in the defendant's backyard. Officer Woolsey observed a plant approximately four feet tall growing out of a crack in the cement directly in front of the defendant's garage. He also observed two pots that appeared to have cannabis growing in them. Officer Woolsey then radioed for assistance, and while waiting, moved his squad car around to the defendant's garage so that he could secure the evidence.

After Officer Barney Price arrived, the two officers entered the defendant's property without a warrant and began pulling up cannabis plants. As the two officers were attempting to cut down the large four-foot plant growing through the crack in the cement, Officer Price happened to look through a window in the defendant's garage door and observed a Styrofoam cooler that had cannabis leaves laid out on top of it. The officers immediately entered the garage and seized the cannabis and cooler.

Three days after the seizure of the cannabis, the defendant appeared at the police station for an interview. During the interview, the defendant acknowledged that he was aware of the two potted plants and the container of leaves in the garage, but he denied knowing it was cannabis. Subsequently, the defendant was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of cannabis. The defendant's motion to suppress the seized evidence was denied, and he was later tried before a jury.

One of the jurors selected was Irene Welsch, who lived four houses away from the defendant. During voir dire she admitted having heard neighborhood talk about the defendant, but failed to indicate that she had had contact with the defendant's wife. Welsch also remained silent when the court asked all of the veniremen whether there was "[anything] I haven't asked you about, any outside pressure or problems, anything that may be weighing on your mind that might make it difficult for you to decide this case today or give this case your full attention?"

Late on the last day of trial, the defendant became aware of a three-week-old dispute between his wife and juror Welsch. The dispute involved a verbal confrontation between the defendant's wife and Welsch. The defendant was unable to communicate the existence of this dispute to his counsel until after the jury had retired to begin deliberations.

After deliberating, the jury returned a guilty verdict. As a result, the defendant filed a post-trial motion for a new trial, alleging that the failure of juror Welsch to disclose the altercation denied him his right to an impartial jury. The defendant also asserted that the trial court had erred in denying his pretrial motion to suppress. The court subsequently denied the defendant's post-trial motion.

On appeal, the defendant argues that he should be granted a new trial because juror Welsch misled him into believing she was impartial. At the hearing on the defendant's motion for a new trial, the defendant's wife testified that she had had a number of verbal altercations with Welsch in the several weeks immediately preceding the jury selection. Mrs. Holmes testified that during the altercation Welsch accused the defendant's children and pets of trespassing on and littering Welsch's property. Mrs. Holmes further stated that she had not informed her husband of her relationship with Welsch prior to trial because she was not aware that Welsch was being considered as a juror.

The general rule in cases involving information not disclosed during voir dire is that a motion for a new trial will not be granted unless it is established that prejudice resulted; this determination is within the sound discretion of the trial court. (People v. Porter (1986), 111 Ill. 2d 386, 489 N.E.2d 1329.) Mere suspicion of bias or partiality is not sufficient to disqualify a juror. (People v. Collins (1985), 106 Ill. 2d 237, 478 N.E.2d 267.) However, where a juror affirmatively deceives or misleads the court by falsely testifying that she is unprejudiced or impartial, it is a ...


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