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People v. Battles

February 01, 2000


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County. No. 96-CF-656 Honorable Kimberly L. Dahlen, Judge, presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Kuehn delivered the opinion of the court

The advent of DNA forensic technology in the late 1980s presented a dilemma for our legislators. On the one hand, the speedy trial statute forbad trial detention beyond 120 days without a trial. On the other hand, DNA evidence could take more than 120 days to generate.

The DNA analysis method exclusively in use at that time involved a test series that spanned several months. By the very nature of the method employed, any DNA testing was going to take a long time to complete. Moreover, several factors converged to assure significant delay before DNA testing could begin.

Normally, testing could not begin until after a suspect was in custody and time toward a speedy trial deadline was already running. The samples necessary for testing could not be harvested without a court order. Once the court-ordered samples were gathered, they had to be packaged and sent to one of a select few forensic labs that specialized in the new technology. These labs serviced DNA testing requests from all over the country. Their services were in high demand.

Thus, a confluence of circumstances present at the inception of DNA testing pressed the State's ability to develop DNA evidence in time for use at the trial of anyone being held in custody. It was clear that DNA testing might not be completed in time for use at a speedy trial setting, no matter how diligent an effort the State made to procure the tests results within the required 120-day time span.

Therefore, our legislature amended the speedy trial statute to accommodate use of DNA evidence that might otherwise be lost to a speedy trial deadline. In 1990, lawmakers added a sentence to the statute. Pub. Act 86-1210, eff. August 30, 1990. It empowers the State to hold a defendant in custody beyond 120 days without a trial where a diligent effort to obtain DNA evidence within 120 days fails. The amendment reads:

"If the court determines that the State has exercised without success due diligence to obtain results of DNA testing that is material to the case and that there are reasonable grounds to believe that such results may be obtained at a later day, the court may continue the cause on application of the State for not more than an additional 120 days." 725 ILCS 5/103-5(c) (West 1994).

The original passage of this provision came at a time when testing labs were in short number and the methods those labs employed were slow. Yet, legislators did not provide a sanctuary from the normal speedy trial term for every case that involved, or potentially could involve, DNA testing. The amendment was designed for use only in those cases where a diligent effort to obtain DNA evidence within the 120-day term had proven unsuccessful. The State was not empowered to expand the normal speedy trial term without showing a diligent but failed attempt to secure DNA testing within the 120-day term. There was no refuge provided for cases where the need for additional time to conduct testing stemmed from the State's neglect or lack of effort.

We are presented a case where the State invoked section 103-5(c) of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (725 ILCS 5/103-5(c) (West 1994)) to obtain refuge from an approaching speedy trial deadline. The State appeared 13 days prior to expiration of the 120-day statutory term and informed the court that it had requested DNA testing. The State asked for another 120 days within which to commence trial. On the 113th day of pretrial confinement, the trial court granted the State's request to hold defendant in custody without a trial for an additional 120 days. Consequently, the State maintained its hold on defendant's freedom while it awaited the outcome of DNA testing. Defendant remained in a Jackson County jail cell for 314 days without a trial.

When the State filed its motion to continue pursuant to section 103-5(c), defendant contested its use and insisted that trial commence as scheduled. Defendant claimed that the State failed to demonstrate a diligent effort to obtain DNA evidence in time for use at the impending trial. His argument proved to be of no avail.

Defendant renewed his complaint in a motion for discharge filed prior to the belated trial. In that motion, he claimed that the State's use of section 103-5(c) to delay proceedings deprived him of his right to a speedy trial. The motion reiterated defendant's earlier argument. Defendant challenged the trial court's finding that the State had made a diligent effort to obtain DNA testing before it employed section 103- 5(c) to postpone trial. The argument failed again.

Defendant elected to proceed by way of a stipulated bench trial. He stipulated to the State's case, which included the DNA evidence developed during trial's delay. The trial court found defendant guilty of home invasion. Defendant currently serves a 20-year prison term imposed upon that finding.

There is only one issue preserved for review. We are asked to decide whether defendant received his statutory right to a speedy trial. Since defendant did nothing to delay trial during the first 197 days of pretrial confinement, the answer to this question resides in the State's use of section 103-5(c). If the State cannot rely upon its use as a sanctuary from the law's normal 120-day speedy trial term, trial's delay beyond 120 days at the State's behest would constitute a breach of the law's guarantee to a speedy trial.

At issue is whether the State made a sufficient showing that it exercised due diligence in its attempt to accomplish DNA testing within the 120-day speedy trial term. We examine what the State presented in support of the due diligence determination in order to unearth whether a basis exists for such a finding. We will not overturn a due diligence determination unless it amounts to a clear abuse of discretion. See People v. Hughes, 274 Ill. App. 3d 107, 111, 653 N.E.2d 818, 822 (1995).

The ultimate question for decision is whether the trial judge abused her discretion when she found that the State had established a diligent effort to procure DNA testing within the 120-day time frame that would have normally defined this defendant's statutory right to a speedy trial.

We turn to a closer examination of the events that led the State to delay trial beyond the 120-day speedy trial term in order to obtain DNA test results.

On the evening of December 18, 1996, Jack Trammel hosted a small party at his Carbondale home. He and his seven guests were rudely interrupted when three men sporting ski masks and bearing arms crashed the party. The intruders assaulted two of the guests during the armed robbery that ensued. The assaults drew blood and some of that blood splattered onto the assailants.

Jack Trammel escaped to a neighbor's home. He was able to summon the police while the crime was still in progress. The intruders made off with the partygoers' marijuana, an assault rifle, and $700 in cash. The intruders did not get far. As they departed the scene of the crime, the police arrived and gave chase. The ensuing escape attempt failed when the getaway car spun out of control and crashed. One of the suspects was able to run and did elude capture that evening. *fn1 The other two, defendant Brent Battles and Stanley Algee, were arrested as they exited the car.

There were blood stains on the car's front seat and floor, on a ski mask removed from the car, and on the suspects' clothing. Two other ski masks were found on the side of the road along the attempted escape route. These items were turned over to the State crime lab, together with samples from the victims and the suspects. The following list chronicles the process by which these evidentiary materials found their way to the Carbondale State crime lab for testing.

December 20, 1996: The blood from the front seat of the getaway car and the blood-stained ski masks were delivered to the crime lab.

December 30, 1996: The defendant's blood-stained coveralls were delivered to the crime lab.

January 3, 1997: The blood samples were drawn from the two assault victims.

January 14, 1997: The State filed its motion for an order requiring the defendant to give blood, hair, and saliva samples.

February 4, 1997: After a hearing on the State's motion, defendant was ordered to provide the State with the requested samples.

February 6, 1997: The defendant's blood, hair, and saliva ...

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