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09/02/94 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. CHRISTOPHER DENT

September 2, 1994

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
CHRISTOPHER DENT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY. HONORABLE JOHN MORAN, JUDGE PRESIDING.

Released for Publication October 14, 1994. Petition for Leave to Appeal Denied December 6, 1994.

Murray, Gordon, McNULTY

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Murray

PRESIDING JUSTICE MURRAY delivered the opinion of the court:

After a jury trial defendant, Christopher Dent (Dent), was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to 45 years' imprisonment. He appeals, raising two issues: (1) whether the trial court erred by failing to conduct a Batson hearing (see Batson v. Kentucky (1986), 476 U.S. 79, 90 L. Ed. 2d 69, 106 S. Ct. 1712), and (2) whether Dent was denied a fair trial due to prosecutorial misconduct. Upon a thorough review of the record, we find no error in the trial court's determination that no Batson hearing was required and we affirm Dent's conviction.

Dent was charged with and found guilty of the August 4, 1990, shooting death of his former girl friend, Melanie Hill. The killing took place at 6726 Glenwood in Chicago at the apartment of Hill's then-current boyfriend, Sidney Crooks (Crooks). Crooks was an eyewitness to the murder and testified at trial.

Before discussing the evidence presented at trial, we shall discuss the jury selection that took place and which is being called into question by Dent on appeal.

When jury selection began the trial court called 12 venirepersons' names and seated them in the jury box. The Judge conducted voir dire of the first six persons and then tendered them to the parties. Both the State and defense were asked if they had any further questions for these prospective jurors. Neither party did so. A side bar was then held in chambers.

During the side bar the court noted that the defense requested criminal history sheets on all prospective jurors. The State responded that whenever any prospective juror had a criminal history and did not reveal this information during voir dire, there would be a motion to remove him for cause. The State then noted that one prospective juror, Isguerra, had an arrest for unlawful use of a weapon and did not reveal this during voir dire. The State also noted that another juror, Schultz, who admitted during voir dire that he was a convicted felon, had a very extensive criminal background, which was then reviewed. Soon thereafter the following colloquy took place:

"THE COURT: What about -- do you have anything else Mr. Woods? Mr. Woods?

MR. BILYK (prosecutor): Judge, I think that it must be a mistake. There is no record on Mr. Woods. I can't -- he can't be 41 years old, living in the city of Chicago, unemployed and not have been arrested.

THE COURT: Well, that's not true. But, it appears he lives at 5335 South Federal. High crime area. I am surprised he wasn't a victim. I think he sort of -- was a victim. He said a woman --

MS. KOCH (defense): He knew got killed." *fn1

After this exchange the State indicated that it would excuse Mr. Woods, moved to have Isguerra removed for cause and moved to have Schultz removed for cause. The court granted the motion on Isguerra, but denied it as to Schultz. The State then excused Schultz. The Defense chose to excuse another prospective juror (Wentz). Thereafter, the side bar in ...


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