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06/22/95 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. IGUSTER NUNN

June 22, 1995

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
IGUSTER NUNN, PARIS LEE NUNN, LEONARD THOMAS, WILLIAM SEWELL, PAUL THOMAS, LEONARD COLLIER AND GREGORY YOUNG, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Reginald H. Baker, Judge Presiding.

The Honorable Justice Theis delivered the opinion of the court: Hoffman, P.j., and Cahill, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Theis

JUSTICE THEIS delivered the opinion of the court:

In 1984, after a jury trial, the defendants in this case were convicted for the murder of John Thomas. The convictions were affirmed by this court but remanded for a hearing pursuant to Batson v. Kentucky (1986), 476 U.S. 79, 90 L. Ed. 2d 69, 106 S. Ct. 1712. ( People v. Nunn (1989), 184 Ill. App. 3d 253, 541 N.E.2d 182, 133 Ill. Dec. 345.) On remand, the trial court determined that the defense had made a prima facie case of discrimination and asked the State to provide race-neutral reasons for the exercise of each of the peremptory challenges that the State used to exclude 28 minority venirepersons. After the State articulated several reasons for excluding each juror, the trial court concluded that the State had not violated Batson and therefore upheld the murder convictions. The defendants appeal this decision. We affirm the majority of the decision of the trial court but remand this matter for the trial court to make findings regarding the challenges to several venirepersons and the prospective alternate jurors.

On September 7, 1983, eight men were seen beating John Thomas with weapons including a cane, a pipe and a chain. Because of the injuries which he sustained, Thomas soon died.

The men were subsequently tried for this crime in a joint trial. Seven of the men, the defendants in this case, William R. Sewell, Iguster Nunn, Paris Lee Nunn, Leonard Thomas, Paul Thomas, Gregory Young and Leonard Collier, were tried by a jury. All of these defendants were African-American.

Jury selection began on October 30, 1984. Of the total venire, composed of 73 individuals, 44 were white and 29 were African-American. During jury selection, the State exercised 26 peremptory challenges; 22 of those 26 challenges, approximately 85%, were used to exclude African-American venirepersons. After voir dire, four African-American jurors and eight white jurors were seated. The parties also selected three alternate jurors. The State used seven peremptory challenges during the selection of alternate jurors. Six of the challenges, approximately 86%, were used to exclude African-American venirepersons. Ultimately, one alternate juror was white and two were African-American.

During voir dire, defense counsel repeatedly asked the court to declare a mistrial, because the State was using its peremptory challenges to keep African-Americans from serving on the jury. The court asked defense counsel if they had "authority" to support their position. Because this occurred before the decision in Batson, defense counsel could provide no authority to support their position and the trial court denied their motion.

Once jury selection was completed, a joint trial was conducted. After the trial, the jury found the defendants, William R. Sewell, Iguster Nunn, Paris Lee Nunn, Leonard Thomas, Paul Thomas, Gregory Young and Leonard Collier, guilty of murder. The jury also found the defendants, Leonard Collier, Gregory Young and Paris Lee Nunn, guilty of armed robbery.

The defendants appealed their convictions and sentences. The convictions and sentences were affirmed. ( People v. Nunn (1989), 184 Ill. App. 3d 253, 541 N.E.2d 182, 133 Ill. Dec. 345.) However, this court remanded the matter for a Batson hearing.

"Each of the defendants who was tried by a jury maintains that the State exercised its peremptory challenges to systematically exclude blacks from the jury. (Citation.) Because this argument presents a factual question properly resolved by the trial court, we remand the matter with respect to each of these defendants for a Batson hearing. (Citations.) If the court determines on remand that the State did not exercise its peremptory challenges in a racially discriminatory manner, these defendants' convictions shall stand affirmed. If the trial court determines on remand that the State did exercise its peremptory challenges in a racially discriminatory fashion, the trial court shall hold new trials with respect to each of these defendants." Nunn, 184 Ill. App. 3d at 276-77, 541 N.E.2d at 198.

The Batson hearing was conducted in 1991. After the defendants had presented arguments and evidence, the trial court determined that the defendants had established a prima facie case of discrimination. The burden then shifted to the State to provide race-neutral reasons for challenging each of the 28 prospective minority jurors that it excused. The State provided several reasons for excluding each of the minority venirepersons. After the State had provided its reasons, the trial court reviewed the State's reasons for excluding each of the minority venirepersons, with the exception of several venirepersons and the prospective alternate jurors, and determined that there had been no violation of the defendants' equal protection rights. The court therefore refused to order new trials. The defendants appeal the trial court's decision.

The defendants were tried on these charges in 1984 and subsequently convicted. While the defendants' appeals were pending, Batson v. Kentucky (1986), 476 U.S. 79, 90 L. Ed. 2d 69, 106 S. Ct. 1712, and Griffith v. Kentucky (1987), 479 U.S. 314, 93 L. Ed. 2d 649, 107 S. Ct. 708, were decided. Batson has been held to apply to cases pending on direct review when Batson was decided, such as this case. Griffith v. Kentucky (1987), 479 U.S. 314, 93 L. Ed. 2d 649, 107 S. Ct. 708; People v. Harris (1994), 164 Ill. 2d 322, 329, 647 N.E.2d 893, 897, 207 Ill. Dec. 400.

"In Batson ***, the United States Supreme Court reaffirmed the principle that the State denies a defendant who is a member of a racial minority equal protection of the laws when it puts him on trial before a jury from whom members of his race have been purposefully excluded." ( People v. Andrews (1993), 155 Ill. 2d 286, 292, 614 N.E.2d 1184, 1188, 185 Ill. Dec. 499.) Therefore, when a defendant claims that the State discriminated in the process of jury selection, courts employ the three-step Batson test. ( Batson, 476 U.S. at 96-98, 90 L. Ed. 2d at 87-89, 106 S. Ct. at 1723-24.) "Under our Batson jurisprudence, once the opponent of a peremptory challenge has made out a prima facie case of racial discrimination (step 1), the burden of production shifts to the proponent of the strike to come forward with a race-neutral explanation (step 2). If a race-neutral explanation is tendered, the trial court must then decide (step 3) whether the opponent of the ...


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