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People v. Rubino

May 19, 1999

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
DANIEL A. RUBINO, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE. THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
EDITH A. WILLIAMS, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of McHenry County. No. 97--CF--313 Honorable Ward S. Arnold, Judge, Presiding. Appeal from the Circuit Court of McHenry County. No. 97--CF--311 Honorable Ward S. Arnold, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Rapp

IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS

The State appeals from the McHenry County circuit court's orders excluding from two cases the testimony of two expert witnesses and the laboratory report the experts prepared (collectively, the evidence). In these consolidated appeals, the State argues that the trial Judge abused his discretion when he denied the State's motion to supplement discovery with the newly found evidence. The trial court excluded the evidence as a sanction under Supreme Court Rule 415(g)(i) (134 Ill. 2d R. 415(g)(i)) for the State's inadvertent failure to comply with a discovery order. Although we do not condone the State's unnecessary one-year delay in disclosing the evidence, we reverse the trial court's exclusion of the evidence for the reasons that follow.

We set forth only the facts necessary to resolve the issues on appeal. The defendants, Daniel A. Rubino and Edith A. Williams, were each charged by indictment with unlawful possession of Cannabis sativa plants (720 ILCS 550/8(b) (West 1996)) and unlawful possession of cannabis (720 ILCS 550/4(d) (West 1996)). Shortly after their March 27, 1997, arrest, defendants were released on bond.

On May 22, 1997, the trial court ordered reciprocal disclosure of, inter alia, any laboratory test results and expert witness statements that the State or defendants intended to introduce at trial. Furthermore, if after initial compliance the State identified additional discoverable information, the State promptly was to supplement disclosure to defendants and notify the court. The State included a police report in its timely initial answer to discovery.

On July 17, 1997, defendants stated in a discovery answer that they planned to claim innocence and assert the entrapment defense and did not intend to introduce scientific evidence or expert testimony at trial. Also on that date, defendants moved for the disclosure of the laboratory report. The court then ordered discovery to be completed on August 20, 1997. After granting several continuances on motion by both sides, the court set the two jury trials for June 15, 1998.

On June 2, 1998, the State requested leave to supplement discovery after newly assigned counsel realized that copies of the Illinois State Police crime laboratory report dated July 1997 had not been provided to defendants. The record of the June 9, 1998, hearing reveals that Assistant State's Attorney David Franks had been recently assigned the cases and could not account for his predecessor's failure to disclose the evidence.

The trial court denied the State's motion to supplement discovery and its subsequent motion to reconsider the denial. On June 15, 1998, defendants each filed a speedy trial demand (725 ILCS 5/103--5 (West 1996)).

The State timely filed a notice of appeal and an affidavit of impairment stating that the exclusion of the evidence effected de facto dismissals. We find that we have jurisdiction pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 604(a)(1) (145 Ill. 2d R. 604(a)(1)) in that the effect of the trial court's ruling is to bar the presentation of evidence necessary to prosecute the charges pending against the defendants. We consolidated the causes on appeal.

The parties agree that the State's delay in disclosing the evidence was not intentional or motivated by bad faith. Nevertheless, Supreme Court Rule 415(g)(i) authorizes a trial court to impose sanctions for a party's inadvertent failure to follow discovery orders:

"If at any time during the course of the proceedings it is brought to the attention of the court that a party has failed to comply with an applicable discovery rule or an order issued pursuant thereto, the court may order such party to permit the discovery of material and information not previously disclosed, grant a continuance, exclude such evidence, or enter such other order as it deems just under the circumstances." (Emphasis added.) 134 Ill. 2d R. 415(g)(i).

The State acknowledges on appeal that the imposition of a sanction for the year-long violation was appropriate. However, the State contends that the trial court erred when it imposed the harsh sanction of excluding evidence because a continuance would have sufficiently protected defendants from surprise and prejudice.

The trial court is allowed to exercise its discretion when selecting a Rule 415(g)(i) sanction, but the abuse of that discretion may constitute reversible error. People v. Hawkins, 235 Ill. App. 3d 39, 42 (1992). Although we condemn the discovery order violation, we agree with the State that the exclusion of the evidence was too harsh a sanction and that the trial court's denial of the State's motion to supplement discovery was an abuse of discretion. The goals of discovery are to eliminate surprise and unfairness and to afford an opportunity to investigate. Hawkins, 235 Ill. App. 3d at 41. Discovery sanctions are designed to further these goals and to compel compliance rather than to punish. Hawkins, 235 Ill. App. 3d at 41.

The appellate record reveals that the trial court selected exclusion as a sanction after concluding that a continuance was inappropriate because it would effectively excuse the State's carelessness. The court remarked that a continuance was "no remedy at all[,] really[,] because nobody[,] then[,] is held accountable for these ...


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