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June 19, 1996


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 93-CM-1574. Honorable Roy F. Lawrence, Judge, Presiding.

Released for Publication July 23, 1996.

Presiding Justice McLAREN delivered the opinion of the court: Rathje and Hutchinson, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mclaren

PRESIDING JUSTICE McLAREN delivered the opinion of the court:

Following a jury trial, defendant, Ernest Banks, was convicted of criminal trespass to a residence (720 ILCS 5/19--4 (West 1992)). The court sentenced him to one year of court supervision and 40 hours of public service employment. Defendant appeals, raising the following issues: (1) whether his conviction was improper because his entry into the home was authorized; and (2) whether the trial court usurped the jury's fact-finding role with its answer to a jury question. We reverse and remand the cause for a new trial.

Most of the evidence presented at the trial was undisputed. Ronald and Sandra Gales, along with their 17-year-old daughter, Amy, lived at 5522 Middaugh in Downers Grove. Defendant dated Amy from 1991 to early 1993. They remained friends after they stopped dating.

Ronald did not like defendant; he described his relationship with defendant as "hostile." Sometime in late 1992 or early 1993, Ronald had a conversation with defendant about whether defendant was allowed in the Gales' home. Sandra had gone to Amy's room late one evening and found defendant and Amy in bed together. Defendant had entered the house through Amy's window. Ronald testified that he told defendant then that he was not allowed in the house in the future unless he was invited in by a parent and that he must enter the house through the front door. Defendant testified that Ronald told him that he was not allowed to enter the house through a bedroom window, but denied that Ronald ever told him that he was not allowed in the house. Ronald testified that his dislike of defendant was a result of this incident and because he was "picky" about his daughter's boyfriends. He denied that it had anything to do with defendant being African-American.

On the morning of March 24, 1993, Ronald dropped Amy off at school and then returned home. His normal routine was to go to work after dropping Amy off, and he testified that he was not sure why he returned home instead. Upon arriving home, Ronald went to Amy's bedroom and found a note on her nightstand. Ronald discerned from the note that defendant was on his way to the house.

Shortly thereafter, Ronald saw defendant coming across the yard with a duffel bag in his hand. Ronald went upstairs, retrieved a cordless phone and a gun, and then went back downstairs to wait for defendant. When Ronald heard the back door opening, he dialed 911. Ronald concluded that defendant must have heard him on the phone, because the door slammed right after it was opened. Ronald looked outside and saw defendant running away. Ronald testified that he had never changed his mind about defendant being allowed in the house, and he never told Amy that she could give defendant a key to the house.

Defendant testified that on the date in question he had called Amy and asked if he could come over to study for a test. She said that it would be all right, and she told him that she would leave a key for him on the back porch. When defendant arrived at the Gales' residence, the key was where Amy said it would be. Defendant opened the door about a foot and a half and heard someone talking. He then shut the door and began to walk away. He was arrested when he reached the street.

Amy corroborated defendant's story that he was coming over to the house to study. She told him that it would be all right, and she left a key for him. She also wrote a note to him and left it in her bedroom. In the note, she told him to "have a nice day" and wrote "if anyone comes you know what to do." Amy testified that defendant was only allowed in the house with permission, but gave equivocal responses when asked who was authorized to give that permission.

Glen Treckler, the police officer who arrested defendant, testified that defendant told him that he had a key to the house and that he was "going there to just to [sic ] be there for awhile." Treckler further testified that defendant said that he had been told in the past by the father that he was not supposed to be on the property.

During its deliberations, the jury sent out several questions. The first was, "What constitutes authority according to the charge as stated?" The court responded, "For the purposes of this case, a person acts 'without authority' when he acts without a reasonable belief that entry into the residence is authorized." A while later, the jury sent out a note saying, "The jury cannot come to a unanimous decision concerning People v. Banks. Please advise." The judge then had the jury brought into the courtroom. He asked for the numerical breakdown of their vote. The foreman responded that the last two ballots had been six and six and seven and five. The jury could not decide if they needed more information, so the judge told them to keep deliberating.

The jury later sent out three more questions: (1) "Can you elaborate on the word 'authorized?'" (2) "Does Amy (a minor) have the authority to give permission to enter her parents [sic ] home?" and (3) "Does authorization originate from the homeowner or from the ...

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