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People v. Sutton

January 24, 2002


Appeal from Circuit Court of Jersey County- No. 99CF122 Honorable Thomas G. Russell Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Myerscough


In August 2000, the trial court granted defendant Tommy Lee Sutton's motion in limine precluding the introduction of evidence regarding any deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing and results. The State filed an interlocutory appeal pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 604(a) (134 Ill. 2d R. 604(a)), arguing the trial court erred in (1) finding Supreme Court Rule 412 (134 Ill. 2d R. 412) required disclosure of notes and supporting documentation relative to DNA reports as part of mandatory disclosure, (2) finding Rule 412 made the State the responsible party to obtain a court order requiring the crime lab to disclose supporting documentation relative to DNA reports, and (3) suppressing DNA evidence as a sanction for a discovery violation. We reverse and remand.


In July 1999, defendant was charged with attempt (first degree murder) and aggravated battery of Jerry Rulo. 720 ILCS 5/8-4(a), 9-1(a)(1), 12-4 (West 1998). In the same month, defendant's attorney filed a motion for discovery pursuant to Supreme Court Rules 412(a) and (c) (134 Ill. 2d Rs. 412(a), (c)), requesting:

"1. The names and addresses of persons whom the State intends to call as witnesses, together with their relevant written or recorded statements, memoranda containing substantially verbatim reports of their oral statements, and a list of memoranda reporting or summarizing statements and disclose [sic] of same to defense counsel, if found to be substantially verbatim reports of oral statements;

2. Any written or recorded statements and the substance of any oral statements made by the accused or by a co[]defendant and a list of witnesses to the making and acknowledgment of such statements;

3. Any reports or statements of experts made in connection with the particular case, including results of physical or mental examinations and [of] scientific tests, experiments or comparisons;

4. Any books, papers, documents, photographs or tangible objects which the prosecuting attorney intends to use in the hearing or trial;

5. Any record of prior criminal convictions, which may be used for impeachment of persons whom the State intends to call as witnesses [at] the hearing or trial;

6. Any material or information within its possession or control which intends [sic] to negate the guilt of the accused as to the offense charged."

Defense counsel also requested that blood found on the alleged weapon, a breaker bar, be tested for DNA. The State filed a petition for an order requiring defendant to submit to blood testing pursuant to Rule 413(a)(vii) (134 Ill. 2d R. 413(a)(vii)) and provided the results of the DNA testing to defendant in February 2000. The results indicated that the blood on the breaker bar belonged to the victim, Jerry Rulo, and not defendant.

In March 2000, new defense counsel, Mr. O'Gara and Mr. Stobbs, entered appearances and filed a motion for continuance. This was defendant's fifth continuance. In April 2000, new defense counsel filed a motion for pretrial discovery requesting essentially the same material and information sought in defendant's July 1999 motion for discovery. Specifically:

"1. A list of the names and known addresses of all witnesses the State intends to call at trial.

2. A copy of any written confession made by the [d]efendant together with a list of witnesses to its making and acknowledgment.

3. A list of witnesses to the making of any oral confession by the [d]efendant herein.

4. Any physical evidence relating to this case which is in the State's possession.

5. Any material or information known to the State which tends to negate the guilt of the [d]efendant as to the offense charged in the above entitled case or which would tend to reduce his punishment should he be convicted.

6. A list of the day, time, and place of the alleged incident."

The State provided new defense counsel with copies of all discovery materials provided in response to the discovery request of the previous defense counsel. Included in that original discovery was the DNA report from the Illinois State Police crime lab (crime lab), which identified the blood on the breaker bar as belonging to the victim. Over the next several months, the State filed nine more supplemental discovery answers. In the April 2000 supplemental response, the State listed Michael Brown of the Illinois State Police Metro East Forensic Lab as a potential witness. Brown prepared the DNA report. The record indicated that Brown was in training at the time of the DNA testing in January 2000. The record also reflected that on February 14, 2000, Brown signed the DNA report as a forensic scientist. Following one more continuance, over the State's objection, the cause was set for trial by jury on August 14, 2000.

In July 2000, defendant filed his answer to the State's discovery request. The answer indicated that defendant's investigator met with crime lab witnesses, including Michael Brown. The record indicates that the investigator did not ask him any questions regarding the DNA report.

On July 17, 2000, defendant filed a motion for additional discovery of specific DNA information, requesting, in part:

"(2) Telephone logs, log sheets, work sheets or any other written memoranda produced by or for forensic laboratory technicians or any other expert or witness made in connection with tests, analysis, blood[-]alcohol tests/results or studies performed on ...

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