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07/26/96 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. CHERYL NATHAN

July 26, 1996

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
CHERYL NATHAN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Livingston County. No. 94CF145. Honorable Charles E. Glennon, Judge Presiding.

Released for Publication August 27, 1996. As Corrected August 30, 1996.

Honorable Robert J. Steigmann, J., Honorable Frederick S. Green, J., Honorable Rita B. Garman, J., Concurring. Justice Steigmann delivered the opinion of the court.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Steigmann

JUSTICE STEIGMANN delivered the opinion of the court:

In January 1995, a jury convicted defendant, Cheryl Nathan, of one count of aggravated battery on a correctional officer (720 ILCS 5/12-4(b)(6) (West 1992)), and the trial court later sentenced her to three years in prison. Defendant appeals, arguing that the trial court committed plain error by permitting the State to amend the indictment. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

Count I of the indictment charged defendant with aggravated battery on a correctional officer "in that *** defendant, in committing a battery, *** without legal justification knowingly caused bodily harm to Robert Raines, in that she struck [him] about his face." Count II of the indictment charged defendant with aggravated battery on a correctional officer "in that [she], in committing a battery, *** made physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with [the officer], in that she struck [him] about his face."

At trial, correctional officer Raines and defendant both testified that defendant struck Raines in the face, spit on him, and bit his hand. However, defendant testified that she struck Raines accidentally, and she spit on him only after he hit her, and bit him only after he choked her. At the close of all evidence, the trial court permitted the State to amend both counts of the indictment to conform to the evidence. In the first count, the phrase "and bit him on his hand" was added after the word "face"; in the second count, the phrase "bit him on his hand, and spit upon his face" was added after the word "face."

II. ANALYSIS

Although defendant argues that the trial court erred by permitting the State to amend the indictment (because such amendments were substantive), she acknowledges that she made no objection at the time the court did so, nor did she raise this issue in a post-trial motion. Thus, defendant concedes that this court can review her claim of error only if we conclude that the alleged error amounts to plain error under Supreme Court Rule 615(a) (134 Ill. 2d R. 615(a)). We conclude that the circumstances of this case fall far short of constituting plain error.

In People v. Keene, 214 Ill. Dec. 194, 169 Ill. 2d 1, 17, 660 N.E.2d 901, 909-10 (1995), the supreme court held that plain error is

"marked by 'fundamental unfairness' [which] occurs only in situations which 'reveal breakdowns in the adversary system,' as distinguished from 'typical trial mistakes.' [Citation.] Put differently, what must be affected by the asserted error must be something 'fundamental to the integrity of the judicial process.' [Citation.] Essentially, the fairness of the trial must be undermined."

Not only do we conclude that the trial court's grant of the State's motion to amend the indictment does not constitute plain error, we hold that it does not constitute any error at all. An indictment may not be broadened nor a material element of the offense altered by amendment except by the grand jury. People v. Glass, 232 Ill. App. 3d 136, 147, 597 N.E.2d 660, 668, 173 Ill. Dec. 686 (1992). However, an indictment may be amended at any time, pursuant to section 111-5 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963, when the defect in the charge is a matter of form. 725 ILCS 5/111-5 (West 1992); People v. Griggs, 152 Ill. 2d 1, 32, 604 N.E.2d 257, 271, 178 Ill. Dec. 1 (1992). In People v. Coleman, 49 Ill. 2d 565, 567, 276 N.E.2d 721, 722 (1971), a murder case, the indictment originally alleged that the defendant stabbed the deceased. During the presentation of the State's case, the trial court permitted the State to amend the indictment by adding, alternatively, that the defendant asphyxiated the deceased with a bedsheet or blanket. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred by permitting the amendment, but the supreme court held that the means or manner by which an offense is committed is generally a formal part of the indictment which can be amended. The court explained as follows:

"The gist of the offense with which the defendant was charged *** was the overt act of intentionally taking the life of his wife. Of this[,] the defendant was adequately informed by the indictment. He could not claim that the allegations of the amendment as ...


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