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People v. Fields

June 15, 2001


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Alexander County. No. 99-CF-35. Honorable Mark Clarke, Judge, presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Chapman.

Rule 23 Order filed May 22, 2001; Motion to publish granted June 15, 2001

On January 12, 2000, the defendant, Faygie Fields, was tried before a jury and convicted of two counts of aggravated battery to corrections officers at Tamms Correctional Center (Tamms), where Fields was incarcerated. Fields was sentenced to four years' imprisonment to run consecutively with a previously imposed sentence. Fields contends on appeal that (1) the trial court erred in denying without an evidentiary hearing his motion to dismiss the charges as selective, vindictive, and retaliatory, (2) he was denied a fair trial because of the types of security measures taken in the courtroom, and (3) the prosecutor's comments during closing argument were prejudicial. We affirm.


On October 19, 1998, Fields twice committed aggravated battery to a corrections officer when he reached through the chuckhole in his cell door and grabbed the keys of an officer and then struck the metal cover of his chuckhole when a different officer was attempting to lock it down. Neither officer sustained serious injury. Immediately following this incident, disciplinary reports were provided to the assistant warden, and Fields was recommended for a year of segregation time, one year's demotion, and the loss of good-conduct credit.

Almost three months later, on January 7, 1999, Fields and three other inmates filed a class action lawsuit against various Department of Corrections (DOC) officials (Robert Boyd v. Donald Snyder, No. 99-280-DRH). On January 28, 1999, two weeks after the class action was filed, DOC began to investigate the October 19, 1998, incident. On March 26, 1999, DOC sent a referral letter to the Alexander County State's Attorney recommending that Fields be criminally prosecuted for the incident. Criminal referrals were also made on two of Fields' coplaintiffs in the civil litigation. During pretrial motions it was agreed that (1) there were 389 nonviolent inmate-on-staff assaults between Tamms' opening in March 1998 and when charges were filed against Fields, (2) only eight or nine inmates from Tamms have ever been criminally prosecuted for aggravated assault and battery for alleged improper contact with Tamms correctional officers, and (3) Fields and his two coplaintiffs make up three of that group.

Fields sought an evidentiary hearing and further discovery regarding the selection and referral of Tamms cases for prosecution. The trial court found that Fields failed to make a prima facie showing that the prosecutor had improper motives, and the court denied Fields' motion. In Fields' motion for reconsideration, Fields argued that there was clear evidence that DOC had the ability to prevail upon the prosecutor to prosecute those whom DOC selects. The trial court denied Fields' request for reconsideration.

Prior to the trial, the State argued that Fields should be shackled during his jury trial. The trial court ruled that Fields' legs would be shackled, and the court ordered that the courtroom be arranged in such way so that the jury could not see the shackles. In addition, the trial court ordered a number of uniformed guards stationed in the courtroom. One guard was behind the defense table, one guard was at each entrance to the courtroom, and a group of guards was seated in the front row of the spectators' seats.

The trial consisted of testimony from both of the corrections officers involved and one corrections officer who witnessed the incident. The defense laid out during the opening statement and the closing argument was that the incident was so insubstantial that it should not result in criminal liability. During his closing argument, the prosecutor stated, "[T]o suggest that no crime was committed, a little incident as was made mention of in the defendant's opening statement, *** is insulting to your intelligence." The prosecutor also stated, [The defense's theory] simply does not make any legal or logical sense whatsoever." Also, in rebuttal, the prosecutor added, "How dare this attorney try to insult your intelligence and your sense of right and wrong by suggesting this defendant has a right to act in the way he clearly has." The trial court found that the prosecutor's comments during closing argument were harmless error. Fields appeals.


1. Selective and Vindictive Prosecution

Selective prosecution and vindictive prosecution, though often argued simultaneously, are actually two separate claims. "[S]elective prosecution requires a showing that the defendant '(1) ... [was] singled out for prosecution while other violators similarly situated were not prosecuted; and (2) the decision to prosecute was based on an arbitrary classification such as race, religion, or the exercise of constitutional rights.' " United States v. Monsoor, 77 F.3d 1031, 1034 (7th Cir. 1996) (quoting United States v. Cyprian, 23 F.3d 1189, 1195 (7th Cir. 1994)). Vindictive prosecution exists if the defendant can show that the prosecution was pursued in retaliation for the exercise of a protected statutory or constitutional right. Monsoor, 77 F.3d at 1034. In determining if the prosecution was retaliatory, a court will look at "whether '(1) the prosecutor harbored genuine animus[] and[,] (2) absent this motive, defendant would not have been prosecuted.' " Monsoor, 77 F.3d at 1034 (quoting Cyprian, 23 F.3d at 1195). Fields is only entitled to a hearing on either claim if he offers " 'sufficient evidence to raise a reasonable doubt that the government acted properly in seeking [to prosecute]' " (Monsoor, 77 F.3d at 1034 (quoting United States v. Benson, 941 F.2d 598, 611 (7th Cir. 1991))).

Fields argues, as did the defendant in Monsoor, that it is not required that the prosecutor himself harbor animus against the defendant but that if the referring agency harbors the animus, it can be imputed to the prosecutor. See Monsoor, 77 F.3d at 1034. However, the court in Monsoor went on to clarify that such animus may be imputed only when a defendant can establish that the agency in some way prevailed upon the prosecutor to make the decision to prosecute. Monsoor, 77 F.3d at 1035.

In the case sub judice, Fields conceded at a motion hearing that (1) he is not alleging any type of misconduct by the prosecutor and (2) the prosecutor "in most cases" does make an independent determination of whether to prosecute an inmate after receiving the referral letter from DOC. Fields suggests, however, that it is DOC that makes the decision ...

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