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07/18/96 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. JAMAAR M. PRYOR

July 18, 1996

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JAMAAR M. PRYOR, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria County, Illinois. No. 93-CF-14. Honorable Joe R. Vespa, Judge, Presiding.

Released for Publication August 29, 1996.

Present - Honorable William E. Holdridge, Presiding Justice, Honorable Michael P. Mccuskey, Justice, Honorable John F. Michela, Justice. Presiding Justice Holdridge Delivered The Opinion OF The Court: McCUSKEY and Michela, J.j., concurred.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Holdridge

PRESIDING JUSTICE HOLDRIDGE DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Following a bench trial the defendant, Jamaar M. Pryor, was convicted of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9--1(b)(6)(West 1994)) and sentenced to a prison term of 52 years. The defendant maintains on appeal that: (1) he was denied his constitutional right to confront witnesses; (2) he was denied effective assistance of counsel; and (3) he was not proven guilty of the offense of first degree murder beyond a reasonable doubt. We affirm.

FACTS

The defendant was charged with the shooting death of Ivan Douglas, who was found in the early morning hours of January 1, 1993, lying beside the front stoop outside an apartment in the Warner Homes.

At a November 1, 1993, hearing on a defense motion to produce informants, defense counsel informed the court that police reports revealed two potential witnesses who wished to remain anonymous because of fear for their safety. Those individuals told the police that they had observed the shooting. The police reports indicated that the two witnesses were shown photographs and one witness identified someone other than the defendant as the shooter, and two other individuals, also not the defendant, as involved in the crime.

Defense counsel argued that the two witnesses were obviously favorable to the defense and requested that their names be disclosed or that they be produced. The prosecutor noted that she did not have the names and asked for a week to produce them or take other appropriate action. The court ordered the People to produce all photographs, notes and statements possessed by the police relating to the two confidential witnesses.

One week later an agreed order was entered providing that the names of the two confidential witnesses would not be released, but the witnesses would be produced at trial. It was also agreed that the two witnesses would meet with defense counsel prior to trial. In fact, it was noted in the record that on the day the agreed order was entered, defense counsel had already spoken to one of the two confidential witnesses.

On December 13, 1993, a scheduling conference was held wherein defense counsel informed the court that the parties had agreed that the two confidential witnesses would be allowed to testify in chambers in order to protect their anonymity. The People agreed to produce the witnesses for trial. Defense counsel informed the court that he had spoken to one of the witnesses and he believed that the presence of both witnesses was crucial to his defense. The judge ordered that both witnesses be produced at 8:30 a.m. on the morning of trial, so that defense counsel would have time to talk to them before their testimony.

The bench trial began on February 9, 1994. The prosecutor informed the court that the two confidential witnesses were available. Defense counsel informed the court that, after discussing the matter with the defendant, he and the defendant had decided that the defendant would waive his right to be present during the testimony of the two witnesses. The judge noted for the record that this was an unusual procedure and asked the defendant if he was sure he wanted to waive his right to be present. The defendant reiterated his wish to do so.

Defense counsel informed the court that he believed that the witnesses' testimony was crucial to the defense, but the witnesses had repeatedly stated that they wanted to testify anonymously. Defense counsel told the court that he had assured the witnesses that he would agree to their demands because he did not wish to alienate witnesses who were potentially favorable to him. The trial judge asked the prosecutor if the witnesses were the People's witnesses, and was told by the prosecutor that they were. The judge then asked the defendant again if he was voluntarily waiving his right to be present when these witnesses testified. Once again the defendant indicated that he understood his right and voluntarily waived it.

The judge, both attorneys, and the witnesses then retired to an adjoining jury room. Defense counsel again noted on the record his belief that the witnesses were crucial to his defense. The judge again asked whether they were the People's witnesses or defense witnesses. Defense counsel stated they were defense witnesses. The ...


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