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People v. Woolley

February 22, 2002


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Fitzgerald


Docket No. 88210-Agenda 2-November 2001.

Defendant, Martin M. Woolley, was convicted in Henry County of six counts of murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (a)(2), (a)(3) (West 1994)), one count of armed violence (720 ILCS 5/33A-2 (West 1994)), one count of armed robbery (720 ILCS 5/18-2(a) (West 1994)), one count of robbery (720 ILCS 5/18-1(a) (West 1994)), and one count of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon (720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a) (West 1994)). Defendant was sentenced to death. On his direct appeal, this court vacated defendant's conviction for armed violence and vacated defendant's death sentence. People v. Woolley, 178 Ill. 2d 175 (1997). The cause was remanded to the circuit court for a new capital sentencing hearing. Woolley, 178 Ill. 2d at 215. On remand, defendant was again sentenced to death and appealed directly to this court.

Defendant raises 13 issues on appeal. Because we agree with defendant that the trial court erred in informing a panel of prospective jurors that defendant had previously been sentenced to death in this case and in denying defendant's motion for a mistrial, we need not address defendant's remaining issues. We vacate defendant's death sentence and remand this cause for a new sentencing hearing.


Defendant was charged with the shooting deaths of Rane Baldwin and Diana Turley. The evidence presented at defendant's trial is fully set forth in our first opinion in this case. See Woolley, 178 Ill. 2d 175. We will discuss only those facts necessary to the disposition of this appeal.

On direct appeal to this court, we affirmed defendant's convictions for murder, armed robbery, and unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon, but vacated defendant's death sentence and remanded for a new capital sentencing hearing. On remand, the trial court conducted a second sentencing hearing. The first panel of jurors was brought into the courtroom to hear introductory remarks by the trial court. During introductory remarks, the trial court informed the prospective jurors that defendant previously had been convicted by a jury of the murder charges. The trial court further told the panel:

"[A]s the trial was pending, the State gave notice to the defense that they would be seeking the death penalty from the jury should the jury return any verdicts of guilty on one or more of these first-degree murder counts. The jury came back with a return of, of the death penalty on these counts."

Further, the trial court informed these jurors that the murder convictions were appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court and that the court affirmed the first degree murder convictions, but vacated the jury's imposition of death. The trial court stated:

"They vacated the jury's imposition of the death penalty and gave reasons that they concluded as to why the death penalty should be vacated. They remanded the case back to Henry County for a new trial on the sentencing aspect of the case. The Supreme Court affirmed the convictions of first degree murder, [and] reversed the death penalty with instructions for it to remand it back to this court for *** a new penalty phase. *** [T]he errors that the Supreme Court ascribed to [sic] reversal of the death penalty [sic] will not be repeated before this jury."

The trial court admonished the jurors not to consider the result from the first jury with the following statement:

"I admonish you at this time that you are to disregard the result that was rendered by the first jury. You may, after your consideration of this case, return the same verdict. You may return a different verdict. That is entirely up to you. All I'm saying is do not be influenced by the mere conclusion of the first jury. You decide the case on the merits of the evidence that you hear in this court room. The result, of course, will be up to you as a group of twelve jurors. This jury was held in this county and I don't know to what extent some of you present have recollections of that trial here first hand or from reading newspapers or hearing media accounts."

Defense counsel did not object during the trial court's introductory remarks. However, the next day, defense counsel moved for a mistrial and stated:

"[Y]esterday when the court spoke to the jury pool as a group, which I do not object to, and did not object to, I think there may have inadvertently been a statement made to the jury pool that may be in error. I think that the court in the explanation of what led us to this stage of the proceeding mentioned to the jury pool that the original jury had sentenced Mr. Woolley to death and the Illinois Supreme Court vacated the death."

Defense counsel based his argument on two cases, People v. Hope, 116 Ill. 2d 265 (1986), and People v. Davis, 97 Ill. 2d 1 (1983), in which this court held that the jury should not have any knowledge of what a prior jury had done in a particular case because such knowledge could influence the jury. The trial court denied the motion for a mistrial, stating that a double homicide in such a small county, such as Henry County, would be ...

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