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12/07/89 the People of the State of v. Samantha Walker

December 7, 1989

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

SAMANTHA WALKER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, THIRD DISTRICT

547 N.E.2d 1036, 191 Ill. App. 3d 382, 138 Ill. Dec. 610 1989.IL.1910

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Will County; the Hon. William Penn, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE BARRY delivered the opinion of the court. WOMBACHER, P.J., and HEIPLE, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE BARRY

Defendant Samantha Walker appeals from her convictions for the offenses of residential burglary, robbery, and theft, for which she was sentenced to six years in prison.

Walker, who is black, was tried before a jury in the circuit court of Will County. The State used peremptory challenges to excuse all three black members of the venire, and at the end of the jury selection, defense counsel objected to the racial composition of the jury. The trial Judge found that the defendant had established a prima facie case of discrimination under Batson v. Kentucky (1986), 476 U.S. 79, 90 L. Ed. 2d 69, 106 S. Ct. 1712. After the prosecutor stated his reasons for exercising the challenges, the trial court ruled that the State had not systematically excluded minority members of the jury panel on the basis of race.

The testimony at trial disclosed that 90-year-old Willie Wesley invited defendant to stay in his home when she had nowhere else to go. Wesley had known defendant all her life and had raised her mother. After defendant had been there for three days, Wesley became suspicious that she was taking his money, some of which he carried in his shirt pocket and a larger amount in his pants pocket. When he caught her crawling on the floor of his bedroom at 3 a.m. going through some clothing, he ordered her to move out. He did not see her again.

A short time later, defendant was visiting a friend, Rosie Smith, who needed money for a car payment. Defendant and Rosie Smith happened to meet two brothers, Terrion and Toroyana Caruth, whom they knew, in the hallway of an apartment building. At defendant's request, the men agreed to go to Wesley's home. The women stayed in the car while the young men went to the door and asked Wesley if they could use his phone because they had had an accident. He let them in, and after making a telephone call, the two left only to return a short time later. Again they asked to use the telephone, and Wesley let them in. While one man went to the telephone, the other grabbed Wesley from behind, took $9,000 out of the hip pocket of his pants, and threw him to the floor. Both men then ran out to the car and drove away. Defendant and Rosie Smith each received $2,000 while the Caruth brothers divided the rest of the money.

When defendant was first questioned, she denied any involvement in the robbery and said she had heard about the robbery through the newspapers. A few days later during a subsequent interrogation, defendant related the facts as set forth above. At trial, defendant presented no evidence, and the jury returned a verdict of guilty on the charges of burglary, robbery, and theft. After sentencing, this appeal was perfected.

Defendant first contends that the State did not meet its burden of establishing a racially neutral reason for each of the excluded black jurors, particularly Mrs. Linda Gant. As to the other two, Corda Page was excused because he had voted "not guilty" while serving on a criminal jury four years earlier in a case which ended in a mistrial, and Leon Harvey was excused because his 17-year-old daughter had been convicted of theft. We agree with the trial court that in both of these cases, the reasons given were racially neutral.

As to Gant, the prosecutor gave several reasons including the fact that the State's Attorney's office has had a number of cases where the defendant's last name was "Gant" and that she answered the voir dire questions very quickly without any time for reflection. Furthermore, she lived near the crime scene and had a 14-year-old daughter who might have known defendant. Also, Gant is employed by the Illinois State Police at the Joliet crime lab, which the prosecutor felt could be a potential problem.

Defendant argues that these reasons are "shams." She asserts that Gant's address in Joliet is about three miles from Wesley's home in Lockport and, in the footnote of her brief, asks this court to take judicial notice of the distance between the streets involved. Defendant argues that there is nothing to indicate that she and Gant's daughter were in school together. Defendant also disparages the other reasons given by the State. It is not necessary for us to analyze these arguments, however, because, in our view, the State met its burden when it pointed out the fact that Gant is employed by the Illinois State Police at the Joliet crime lab.

Defendant asserts that the State accepted a white juror whose son is employed by the Will County sheriff's department, which indicates that the prosecutor's excuse as to Gant was not racially neutral, and she further asserts that Gant is a data entry operator, not directly involved ...


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