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06/21/89 the People of the State of v. Wardell Woods

June 21, 1989

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

WARDELL WOODS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, SECOND DISTRICT

540 N.E.2d 1020, 184 Ill. App. 3d 688, 133 Ill. Dec. 154 1989.IL.956

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. Emilio B. Santi, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE NASH delivered the opinion of the court. McLAREN and REINHARD, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE NASH

After trial by jury defendant, Wardell Woods, was convicted of unlawful possession of a controlled substance (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 56 1/2, pars. 1402(a)(1), (a)(2)); unlawful possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 56 1/2, pars. 1401(a)(1), (a)(2)); and unlawful possession of cannabis (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 56 1/2, par. 704(c)). A charge of unlawful use of weapons by a felon (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 24-1.1) had been severed, and defendant was tried and convicted of that offense by the court without a jury. He was thereafter sentenced to concurrent terms of 12 years' imprisonment for possession with intent to deliver cocaine, eight years for possession with intent to deliver heroin, and 364 days for possession of cannabis. The possession of a controlled substance charges were dismissed by the State as lesser included offenses of possession with intent to deliver. For the unlawful use of weapons conviction, defendant was sentenced to three years' imprisonment to be served consecutively to the drug-related sentences.

On appeal, defendant, who is black, contends that he was denied equal protection of the laws because the prosecution improperly exercised a peremptory challenge to exclude the only black person in the venire from defendant's jury. Defendant argues that the prosecution's explanation for challenging the black juror was merely a pretext because a white juror with the same allegedly objectionable characteristic was retained. We affirm.

During voir dire, the State exercised a peremptory challenge to exclude Jerome Waites from the jury. Defense counsel objected and asked the State to explain why Waites, the only black person in the venire, was excused. The assistant State's Attorney responded that he excused Waites because Waites had been arrested in the past by the Waukegan police for driving under the influence , and Waites said that the police had treated him rudely. The defendant in this case was also arrested by the Waukegan police, and several Waukegan police officers would be witnesses at the trial.

The trial court found that the prosecution's reason for excusing Waites was adequate. The court stated that it had also taken into consideration the fact that Waites said he had read about defendant's arrest in the newspaper, that Waites had been the victim of a crime in the past, and that Waites had had a negative experience with the Waukegan police department.

Defendant concedes that, at the time the trial court ruled on the State's peremptory challenge, the court was "probably correct" in ruling that the State had presented a race-neutral explanation for excusing Waites. Defendant now argues, however, that the prosecution was not candid in its explanation for excusing Waites because the prosecution did not remove a white juror for the same characteristic that it had found objectionable in Waites and, therefore, the prosecution's challenge of Waites was racially motivated.

During the selection of alternate jurors, venireman Joseph Kukla, who is white, was questioned by the court and stated that he had been convicted of failure to possess a valid firearm owner's identification card, and he was on probation for the offense. He also stated that when he was arrested he felt that "[he] got pretty much run through the wringer on it big time." When the assistant State's Attorney questioned Kukla, the following colloquy took place:

"Q. [Assistant State's Attorney]: Once you were arrested you think that the police officer was doing his job?

A. [Kukla]: Apparently he was. That's what the law tells me. I paid the price for it. I think he could have been a little more human about it and understood my side of it. I never been in trouble ...


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