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People v. Martinez

April 02, 2004


[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit Will County, Illinois No. 93-CF-912 Honorable Daniel J. Rozak, Judge, Presiding

[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Lytton

[8]  Defendant was charged with two counts of murder. At trial, he was forced to wear an electronic stun belt. He objected and asked the court to have the belt removed. The court refused, but failed to make findings supporting its decision as required by People v. Boose, 66 Ill. 2d 261 (1977). We reverse, finding that the court's failure to consider the Boose requirements amounted to a denial of defendant's due process rights.

[9]  Defendant, Rene Martinez, was charged with two counts of murder. Pursuant to the Will County Sheriff's "standard operating procedure," he was forced to wear an electronic stun belt in court. The belt is worn around the waist and has prongs that are attached to the wearer over the left kidney region. These prongs are powered by two nine volt batteries. The belt is activated by remote control, and upon activation, delivers an eight second, 50,000 volt shock that cannot be stopped. The shock often knocks its wearer down, incapacitating the person for up to 45 minutes. Activation of the belt may also cause immediate and uncontrollable defecation and urination.

[10]   Before and during the trial, defendant objected to wearing the belt: "[the guards] just told me I have to wear some type of belt that's going to make me defecate and urinate on myself. *** I am scared as heck wearing this to me. *** [I]f I have to wear it, I don't want to be in this courtroom. *** [T]ry me in absentia."

[11]   The trial court found that defendant had done nothing to justify use of the belt, but refused to remove it because he did not want to disrupt the sheriff's standard operating procedure. The court stated that it would not "tell the Sheriff how to run his jail." The judge elaborated: "[jail officials] tell me now that it is standard operating procedure, even if it's a [sic] 80-year old lady who is in custody with the cuffs off and going to trial on a Class 4 Felony, it's worn in court now. And I am not going to change the Sheriff's Department's policy."

[12]   The trial commenced, and defendant was convicted. He was sentenced to 60 years imprisonment.

[13]   Defendant argues that he was denied a fair trial because the trial court failed to apply the appropriate test for shackling a defendant in the courtroom. The state responds that since defendant was not prejudiced, any error by the court was harmless.

[14]   Shackling of the accused should be avoided if possible because: (1) it tends to prejudice the jury against the accused; (2) it restricts his ability to assist his counsel during trial; and (3) it offends the dignity of the judicial process. People v. Boose, 66 Ill. 2d 261, 265 (1977). The decision to shackle a defendant is left to the discretion of the trial judge, and he may select the physical restraints most suitable in light of all the circumstances. Boose, 66 Ill. 2d at 266. An accused should never be placed in restraints in the presence of the jury "unless there is a showing of a manifest need for such restraints." Boose, 66 Ill. 2d at 265-66.

[15]   The trial judge must state for the record his reasons for allowing the defendant to remain shackled and must give the defendant's attorney an opportunity to present reasons why the defendant should not be shackled. People v. Buss, 187 Ill. 2d 144, 216 (1999). Factors to be considered by the trial judge in making this determination include:

[16]   the seriousness of the present charge against the defendant; defendant's temperament and character; his age and physical attributes; his past record; past escapes or attempted escapes, and evidence of a present plan to escape; threats to harm others or cause a disturbance; self-destructive tendencies; the risk of mob violence or of attempted revenge by others; the possibility of rescue by other offenders still at large; the size and mood of the audience; the nature and physical security of the courtroom; and the adequacy and availability of alternative remedies. Boose, 66 Ill. 2d at 265-66.

[17]   Courts must consider these criteria when deciding whether it is appropriate to shackle a defendant in the presence of the jury. If the factors weigh in favor of shackling, then the defendant may be restrained. See Buss, 187 Ill. 2d at 217-18. Failure to properly consider the Boose factors is a due process violation. Boose, 66 Ill. 2d at 269. A Boose analysis must be performed in bench trials as well. In re Staley, 67 Ill. 2d 33, 37-38 (1977)

[18]   The court in this case never made a Boose analysis; it simply deferred to the judgment of the sheriff. The trial court stated that it did not matter what specific circumstances the individual presented, any defendant in custody and charged with a felony had to wear the belt. This refusal to consider each defendant's circumstances individually directly contravenes our supreme court's holding in Boose.

[19]   Before shackling a defendant, Boose requires that the trial court consider various factors, state for the record its findings on those factors and give defendants an opportunity to explain why they should not be shackled. Here, the trial court abdicated that responsibility by allowing the sheriff to make the determination. The court indicated that it had no choice because of the sheriff's policy. We believe the opposite is true. The court must rigorously control its own courtroom procedures, and, consistent with the mandates of due process, protect the rights of the parties and the public. By adhering to the sheriff's draconian shackling policy without first evaluating its constitutionality, the trial court failed to protect defendant's right to a fair trial.

[20]   The State argues that the court's failure to analyze the Boose factors was harmless error. However, Boose itself provides that no matter how "strong the evidence against an accused may be, a fair trial, in all its stages, is a fundamental requirement in a criminal prosecution and when such requirement is not met, it amounts to a denial of due process of law." Boose, 66 Ill. 2d at 268. Forcing defendants to wear the electronic stun belt without first engaging in a case-by-case Boose analysis violates the right to a fair trial. Therefore, defendant must be granted a ...

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