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People v. Gostele

June 21, 2000

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
V.
STEVEN R. GOSTELE,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. No. 95--CF--2407 Honorable John L. Petersen and Grant S. Wegner, Judges, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Rapp

Defendant, Steven R. Gostele, appeals his first-degree murder conviction, alleging a violation of his constitutional right to a public trial (U.S. Const., amend VI; Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §8). We affirm.

I. FACTS

The facts necessary for a sufficient understanding of this appeal are as follows. In November 1995, defendant was indicted for, among other things, first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9--1(a)(2) (West 1994)) in the stabbing death of his estranged wife, Cathie Gostele. The case proceeded to trial in June 1998.

On the fourth day of trial, the trial judge, Judge John L. Petersen, outside the presence of the jury, had the following exchange with a courtroom security officer:

"THE COURT: Lieutenant Johnson, in this type of case is it the policy that there be two security officers in the courtroom?

LIEUTENANT JOHNSON: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: Okay. Then I have to do one of two things. The issues in this case are such that they require the undivided attention of the jury as well as myself and the lawyers. People pay no attention to the signage in what I call the vestibule. So, we have two options, either to have an additional officer outside to enforce that, or to close the door. Can we do either?

LIEUTENANT JOHNSON: Let me check with what I have goin' on downstairs. We have been real busy this morning.

THE COURT: There have been all kinds of people standing at the window for various lengths of time.

One time I asked the officer in the back of the courtroom to have people step out, and what happens is every time somebody, out of curiosity, peers through the window, the eyes of all the jurors, the lawyers can't see this, switch to who is that, what are they doing, that's the facial expression, and I do the same thing myself, it's an automatic reflex.

And given the nature of the case, we need to avoid that, whichever action it takes.

LIEUTENANT JOHNSON: See what I can do for you."

The next day, the trial court addressed the courtroom. Again outside the presence of the ...


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