The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Wolfson
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County.
Honorable Henry R. Simmons, Jr. Judge Presiding.
This was an aggravated criminal sexual assault trial. Three of the prospective jurors said that sexual assaults has touched their lives, either as victims or as having relatives or close friends who were victims. One of the prospective jurors sat on the case. Whether these jurors should have been excused for cause is a central issue in this appeal. We conclude there was no reversible error.
While the issues on appeal relate only to jury selection and sentencing, the factual setting of this case sheds light on the trial court's decisions.
The victim S.A. was unable to testify at trial. She committed suicide two weeks after the defendant sexually assaulted her.
On January 15, 1997, at about 12:30 p.m., S.A. and her boyfriend Ben Paul had lunch in a dining hall at the University of Chicago. After lunch, S.A. went to a general chemistry discussion session. When S.A. left Ben, she did not have any abrasions or injuries on her face.
After the discussion session, S.A. was to meet Ben at about 6:00 or 6:30 and drive him to work. She did not take Ben to work that evening.
On January 15, 1997, at about 7:45 p.m., S.A. walked into the University of Chicago Bernard Mitchell Hospital emergency room on 901 East 58th Street. She approached University of Chicago police officer Earl Robertson and told him she had just been raped.
Officer Robertson testified S.A. "was rather shook up." She had "two bruises on each side of her face" and looked as if she had been crying. After speaking to S.A., Officer Robertson escorted her to the triage.
Once S.A. was in the triage, she gave a description of the attacker. She described him as a black male, between 5'6 and 5'10, between 145 and 155 pounds, with a tattoo on his chest of a name on a heart.
S.A. also described the attacker's car. She said it was a large two-door car, maroon in color, with no license plates or inside door handles. She remembered seeing the word "Caprice" or "Classic" on the car.
In the triage, S.A.'s "vitals" were checked by nurse Mona Harris. Nurse Harris testified that when she asked S.A. what happened, S.A. said she had been sexually assaulted. Nurse Harris asked her what type of penetration had occurred. S.A. replied it was vaginal penetration.
Nurse Harris then continued her assessment of S.A.'s condition. Nurse Harris said S.A. "appeared upset but contained and her vital signs were abnormal which is indicative of being upset or stressed."
S.A. told nurse Harris she was "cold and wet." Nurse Harris saw that S.A. was shivering, she "had [fresh] abrasions on her face and neck," and "the bottom of her jeans were wet and her shoes and socks were soaked." Nurse Harris took S.A. to a treatment area, so she could warm up and rest.
While in the treatment area, S.A. was examined by emergency room nurse Mary Louise Steinway and treated by medical doctor Kenneth Jung. Nurse Steinway testified S.A. appeared "very quiet, afraid, [and] scared." Nurse Steinway noticed S.A. had abrasions on her face.
During Nurse Steinway's examination of S.A., she asked S.A. to explain what caused her to come to the hospital. S.A. replied that she had been walking on a street when she was suddenly abducted. A man dragged her against her will into his car. While being forced into the car, she scraped her right foot against the door. The man drove S.A. around for a long while, through various streets. He finally stopped at an abandoned building and forced her inside. S.A. struggled with him. But the man was able to force her into a room, throw her down on a mattress, and commence to rape her by penetrating her vaginally with his penis and ejaculating in her.
When S.A. was asked how she got the wounds on her face, she replied that during the struggle, the man scratched her face and bruised it when he "slammed [her] up against the wall."
Dr. Jung collected semen from S.A.'s vagina. The semen was shown to match the DNA profile of the defendant. Specifically, only one in 16 billion African-American men would be expected to exhibit such a profile.
S.A. was discharged from the emergency room at about 11 p.m. She left the hospital with Susan Art.
Susan Art is the Assistant Dean of Students for the University of Chicago. Dean Art testified she was the "sexual assault dean on call" on January 15, 1997. She came to S.A.'s aid at about 8:00 p.m. that night, at the hospital.
When Dean Art first saw S.A., she noticed S.A. was shaking and having a hard time speaking. Dean Art saw that "the skin seemed to be worn off" the left side of S.A.'s face, and she had bruises on her neck. Dean Art stayed with S.A. while she was being examined and treated.
Dean Art and S.A. left the hospital with Chicago Police detective Darlene Kapers and University of Chicago policewoman Debra Rockymore (formerly Debra Poe) shortly after 11 p.m. All four women got into a squad car and went to the area S.A. was abducted, the 5600 block of Woodlawn Avenue. From there, they took a "circuitous" route to the area where S.A. said she was sexually assaulted, the 4300 block of Berkeley.
On Berkeley, there were three dilapidated houses. There also was a parked car that attracted everyone's attention. The officers at the scene said the car was a maroon or burgundy two-door Chevy with no license plates. The car was parked in front of 4321 Berkeley. There were men in the car.
Detective Kapers stopped the squad car behind the car on Berkeley, opened the door of the squad car, drew her gun, and ran around to the back of the other car. Detective Kapers left her car door open, so Dean Art put her arm over the front seat and made S.A. lie down. Dean Art also put her head down.
After about five minutes, Detective Kapers came back and moved the car forward, away from the other car, then she got out again. This time she closed the car door behind her.
The officers removed the men from the car and asked them to lift their shirts. One of the men in the car, identified as the defendant, had a tattoo on his chest of a heart with a name on it. He was immediately placed under arrest.
The officers then searched the defendant's car. In it, they found S.A.'s school books and her school identification card from the University of Chicago.
After some time, Detective Kapers returned to the squad car and took Dean Art and S.A. to Area One, police headquarters. At Area One, S.A. was interviewed by police detectives and a state's attorney. Dean Art and S.A. remained at Area One for five hours, until about 5:30 a.m. Then Dean Art took S.A. home to her mother.
The defendant testified that although he did have sexual intercourse with S.A., the intercourse was consensual.
According to the defendant, he was staying part-time at 4321 South Berkeley. On the afternoon of January 15, 1997, he was at the Berkeley building. He met his cousin, his father, and his father's friends in front of the building. At some point, he said S.A. walked up alone from 44th Street and Berkeley.
Defendant did not know S.A., but he had the impression his friend Bernard Gaines knew her. Defendant noticed S.A. had scrapes on her cheek and marks on both sides of her face.
Just after meeting S.A., he and S.A. went into the Berkeley building together. She said she was cold.
Defendant said he did not drag S.A. into the building. S.A. followed him into the building, up the stairs, and into his room on the third floor. S.A. was not happy and appeared "gloomy." So, they sat on the couch and just talked.
After talking for about an hour, defendant massaged S.A.'s feet. Afterwards, S.A. walked over to a bed. Defendant followed her, sat on the bed, and continued talking to her. As they talked on the bed, S.A. took off defendant's shirt and pants. She then took off her own clothes, but not all of her clothes. She left her bra and socks on.
Defendant and S.A. then had sexual intercourse without a condom. It lasted "around thirty seconds" and he ejaculated inside of her.
Defendant said he did not force himself on S.A. After having sexual intercourse, they stayed on the bed for a couple of hours.
Defendant said he borrowed his father's 1976 maroon Chevy Caprice to drop S.A. off at 53rd and Ellis. Defendant gave S.A. his beeper number. She then opened the car door, herself, and left. That was the last time he saw or spoke to S.A.
Later, defendant went back to 4321 Berkeley. He was sitting in his father's Chevy Caprice when police drove up and ordered him to get out of the car. The police arrested him at 11:45 p.m. on January 15, 1997.
On February 20, 1997, defendant was indicted for five counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault, three counts of aggravated kidnapping, and three counts of kidnapping.
The trial judge conducted voir dire of the first panel of prospective jurors. The judge called their names. He then explained the charges brought against the defendant, reviewed the indictment, and explained trial procedure and the defendant's presumption of innocence.
The trial judge first asked the prospective jurors general questions relating to their ability to sit as jurors. The trial judge then asked each prospective juror about answers he or she gave on the jury service forms. Only the responses of prospective jurors Charlyn Leeper, Gail Eisenberg, and Sandra Brunson are relevant to this appeal.
"THE COURT: Ms. Leeper, you indicate you live in a south suburb. You work as a sales coordinator. And you indicate that you have one child under the age of three. You indicate that a family member or close friend had been a victim of a crime. Can you tell us about that?
THE PROSPECTIVE JUROR: My mother and two of my sisters were raped.
THE PROSPECTIVE JUROR: My mother about three years ago. My sisters about 15 years ago.
THE COURT: Was anybody arrested in those cases?
THE PROSPECTIVE JUROR: NO.
THE COURT: Would those cause you to be unfair in this case?
THE PROSPECTIVE JUROR: Probably.
THE COURT: You indicate that a member of your family had been a party to a lawsuit. ...