Appeal from Circuit Court of Coles County No. 97CF2
Honorable Ashton C. Waller, Judge Presiding
In January 1997, the State charged defendant, Charles C. Drum, with first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 1996)). In September 1998, the trial court denied the State's pretrial motion under section 115-10.2 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Code) (725 ILCS 5/115-10.2 (West 1998)) to admit certain hearsay statements at defendant's trial, and the State brings this interlocutory appeal from that order (145 Ill. 2d R. 604(a)(1)). Because we lack jurisdiction to hear this appeal, we dismiss.
In January 1997, the State filed first degree murder charges against defendant, his brother, Thomas Drum, and their friend, Marcus Douglas, alleging that the three men had killed a man named Shane Ellison. Thomas and Marcus were tried separately in August 1997 and February 1998 respectively. Each testified in his own defense and acknowledged that they were involved in Ellison's death. However, they each attempted to characterize their involvement as minimal and claimed that defendant was the primary aggressor. Marcus testified in Thomas' trial but Thomas refused to testify in Marcus' trial. Juries convicted both men of first degree murder.
In April and May 1998, the State filed two pretrial motions in defendant's case, entitled "Motion For Admission of Tom Drum's Testimony at the Trial of Charles Drum" and "Motion for the Admission of Marcus Douglas' Testimony at the Trial of Charles Drum," in which the State asked the trial court to find that Thomas' and Marcus' prior testimony met the requirements for the new statutory residual hearsay exception contained in section 115-10.2 of the Code (725 ILCS 5/115-10.2 (West 1998)). In September 1998, the court conducted a hearing on the State's motions and denied them, finding that Thomas' and Marcus' testimony lacked sufficient trustworthiness to be admissible under section 115-10.2. The State filed a notice of appeal, and defendant has moved to dismiss this appeal.
II. APPELLATE JURISDICTION UNDER SUPREME COURT RULE 604(a)(1)
The State contends that we have jurisdiction pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 604(a)(1) (145 Ill. 2d R. 604(a)(1)). We disagree and instead hold that when (1) the State files a motion in limine that seeks the admission of evidence and (2) the trial court enters a discretionary ruling--that is, a ruling that we would normally review deferentially--denying that motion, then (3) Rule 604(a)(1) does not confer jurisdiction on this court to hear an interlocutory appeal of that ruling. As the following Discussion illustrates, the interplay between (a) the availability of interlocutory review under Rule 604(a)(1), (b) motions in limine, and (c) the nature and scope of deferential review compels our Conclusion.
A. The Availability of Interlocutory Review under Supreme Court Rule 604(a)(1)
The State's ability to appeal in a criminal case is restricted to those situations described in Rule 604(a)(1). People v. Truitt, 175 Ill. 2d 148, 151, 676 N.E.2d 665, 667 (1997). That rule provides, in pertinent part, as follows: "In criminal cases the State may appeal only from an order or judgment the substantive effect of which results in *** suppressing evidence." 145 Ill. 2d R. 604(a)(1).
Originally, Rule 604(a)(1) conferred appellate jurisdiction to review only trial court orders suppressing illegally obtained evidence. See People v. Van De Rostyne, 63 Ill. 2d 364, 366, 349 N.E.2d 16, 18 (1976). However, in 1980, the supreme court rejected that restrictive view of appellate jurisdiction, citing concerns that too many important legal questions were going unaddressed. People v. Young, 82 Ill. 2d 234, 244-45, 412 N.E.2d 501, 506 (1980). The court explained its decision as follows:
"Although the need for interlocutory review may be the most pressing in regard to search-and-seizure and involuntary-confession cases, due to the frequency with which those cases arise and the need of law-enforcement agencies for reliable guidelines, similar considerations also indicate the value of allowing interlocutory review of orders suppressing otherwise probative and admissible evidence. In some instances when trial courts erroneously interpret constitutional or statutory provisions to require the suppression of evidence, those rulings will affect the development of police practices. [Citation.] More importantly and more frequently, however, erroneous exclusionary rulings frustrate the primary purpose of the trial: to ascertain the truth of the charges. Social policies embodied in statutory or constitutional provisions may justify encumbering the fact-ascertaining process, but the exclusion of otherwise probative and admissible evidence based solely upon an incorrect interpretation of those provisions serves neither the policy represented by the provision nor the public's interest in an accurate resolution of the factual questions involved in the litigation. Permitting such decisions to escape review encourages their proliferation and denies trial courts desirable guidance." (Emphasis added.) Young, 82 Ill. 2d at 245-46, 412 N.E.2d at 506-07.
Young unequivocally struck down the restrictive rule previously in place under Van De Rostyne, but the supreme court did not have occasion in Young to discuss what limits, if any, remained on the State's ability to obtain interlocutory review. The emphasized passage above nevertheless suggests that the supreme court did not intend to create unlimited appellate jurisdiction to hear the State's interlocutory appeals from the sort of discretionary rulings that a trial court traditionally makes in determining whether evidence is "otherwise probative and admissible." Instead, the supreme court in Young focused on the need to review trial court rulings, whether pursuant to statute or constitutional provision, that exclude evidence for reasons other than its evidentiary value. In other words, a distinction ...