Appeal from Circuit Court of Macon County No. 00CF140 Honorable John K. Greanias, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Turner
In May 2002, a jury convicted defendants, Michael Slover, Jr., Michael Slover, Sr., and Jeanette Slover, of the first degree murder of Karen Slover. Michael, Jr., and Michael, Sr., were also convicted of concealment of a homicidal death. All three defendants were sentenced to prison and filed a notice of appeal with this court. In September 2002, the State filed a motion to release defense exhibits for scientific testing. The trial court granted the motion and found no just reason for delaying the appeal.
On appeal, defendants argue the trial court had no jurisdiction to order testing of defense exhibits because those exhibits are part of the record on appeal. The State argues defendants' appeal must be dismissed because the trial court's order did not constitute a final order or judgment from which defendants could appeal. We affirm.
In May 2002, a jury convicted defendants Michael Slover, Jr., and his parents, Michael Slover, Sr., and Jeanette Slover, of the first degree murder of Michael, Jr.'s former wife, Karen Slover. Michael, Jr., and Michael, Sr., were also convicted of concealment of a homicidal death. In June 2002, the trial court sentenced all three defendants to 60 years' imprisonment. Michael, Jr., and Michael, Sr., also received five-year prison sentences for their convictions of concealment of a homicidal death. In July 2002, defendants filed motions to reduce their sentences, which the trial court denied. Thereafter, defendants filed a notice of appeal (No. 4-02-0587).
In September 2002, the State filed a motion, naming all three defendants, to release defense exhibits for scientific testing. The motion indicated three defense exhibits admitted during defendants' trial contained some animal hairs unsuitable for identification, along with some possible cat hairs, that were taken by police from a 1992 Bonneville. Further, Mary Slover, the daughter of Michael, Sr., and Jeanette, and the sister of Michael, Jr., formerly lived at a house in Springfield that a forensic scientist identified to have cat and dog hairs following an investigatory examination. The State indicated a petition had been filed under the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (705 ILCS 405/1-1 through 7-1 (West 2000)) in Macon County case No. 00-JA-12, alleging the biological son of Michael, Jr., and the adopted son of Mary was a neglected and abused minor. The State had filed an expedited petition for termination of parental rights. The State indicated the doctor who performed canine deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing in the defendants' murder case was willing to perform feline DNA testing of the State's enumerated exhibits and the cat hair from Mary's former residence. The State submitted "the release of the three defense exhibits for feline DNA testing would advance the interests of justice in the pending juvenile case of [No.] 00-JA-12."
In September 2002, the trial court held a hearing on the State's motion. Defendants' counsel argued the trial court had no jurisdiction as their appeals had been filed. If the court did have jurisdiction, defendants argued, the State wanted to subject the cat hair to destructive testing, which would be prejudicial to defendants if the appellate court ordered further proceedings in the trial court. The trial court found it had jurisdiction to rule on the matter, stating it had authority to enter orders with regard to property in its custody. The court also found the State presented good cause for destructive testing of the evidence. As a condition of the testing, the court required a photograph taken to identify the exhibits.
Defense counsel requested the clerk be directed to file a notice of appeal. The trial court found its order was governed by the civil appeal rules pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 612 (177 Ill. 2d R. 612). In its written order pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 304(a) (155 Ill. 2d R. 304(a)), the court concluded there was no just reason for delaying the appeal. Per defense counsel's request, the trial court stayed its order until further order by the court. This appeal followed. In October 2002, Jeanette filed a motion to join in the interlocutory appeal. She later filed a notice of appeal in November 2002. In February 2003, this court allowed Jeanette's motion for leave to file a late notice of appeal.
A. Appellate Court Jurisdiction
Before we determine whether the trial court had jurisdiction to consider the State's motion, we must determine whether this court has jurisdiction to consider defendants' appeal. In their appellate brief, defendants contend this court has jurisdiction pursuant to Supreme Court Rules 603 and 606 pertaining to criminal appeals (134 Ill. 2d R. 603; 188 Ill. 2d R. 606). The State argues we must dismiss defendants' appeal. The trial court issued an order pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 304(a), finding no just reason for delaying appeal of its order granting the State's motion to release defense exhibits for scientific testing.
Supreme Court Rule 304(a) provides, in part, as follows:
"If multiple parties or multiple claims for relief are involved in an action, an appeal may be taken from a final judgment as to one or more but fewer than all of the parties or claims only if the trial court has made an express written finding that there is no just reason for delaying either enforcement or appeal or both. *** In the absence of such a finding, any judgment that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties is not enforceable or appealable and is subject to revision at ...