Appeal from Circuit Court of Coles County No. 06CF664 Honorable Gary W. Jacobs Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Knecht
PRESIDING JUSTICE KNECHT delivered the opinion of the court:
In December 2007, a jury convicted defendant, Thomas S. Rinehart, of criminal sexual assault, a Class 1 felony (720 ILCS 5/12-13(a)(3) (West 2006)). In February 2008, the trial court sentenced him to 28 years' imprisonment, with 334 days' sentence credit. The written sentencing order did not indicate a mandatory supervised release (MSR) period.
Defendant appeals, arguing (1) he was denied a fair trial where the State improperly questioned the venire, (2) the sentencing judgment should be amended to reflect a two-year term of MSR, and (3) he is entitled to two additional days' sentence credit. We affirm as modified and remand with directions.
During defendant's December 2007 trial, A.A. (born September 15, 1988) testified that in August 2006, she was helping her mother's boyfriend, defendant, move some friends from Mattoon, Illinois. According to A.A.'s testimony, defendant was driving her mother's van. A.A. was alone in the van with defendant. Defendant drove the van off of Route 316 onto a small side road. Defendant told A.A., then 17 years old, to get into the back of the van and to take her clothes off. A.A. testified defendant placed his penis in her vagina. Defendant then told A.A. not to tell anybody about what happened. The incident was not reported to police for two to three weeks. At trial, defendant presented no evidence on his behalf.
In December 2007, a jury convicted defendant of criminal sexual assault. The trial court's sentencing judgment reflected defendant's sentence of 28 years' imprisonment and 334 days' sentence credit. However, the sentencing judgment did not include a term of MSR. Thereafter, defendant received a natural-life MSR term from the Department of Corrections (DOC).
In March 2008, defendant filed a motion for reduction of sentence, which the trial court denied.
On appeal, defendant argues (1) the State's improper questions to prospective jurors asked them to prejudge the victim's credibility and predisposed them to believe her testimony; (2) because defendant was convicted of a Class 1 felony, he should only receive a two-year MSR term; (3) because only the trial court--and not DOC--is authorized to impose sentence, DOC did not have the authority to set his MSR term at natural life; and (4) defendant is entitled to two additional days' sentence credit because he was not taken into custody until the day after sentencing.
The State argues (1) the prosecutor's questioning during voir dire was proper and (2) defendant's MSR term of natural life was within the correct statutory range, but (3) concedes defendant is entitled to two additional days' sentence credit.
A. State's Questioning of the Venire
Defendant first argues he was denied a fair trial where the State improperly questioned the venire. We agree the questions were improper but conclude defendant was not denied a fair trial.
The State argues, and defendant concedes, defendant failed to properly preserve this issue for appellate review by failing to object to the State's voir dire questions or raise the issue in a posttrial motion. See People v. Coleman, 227 Ill. 2d 426, 433, 882 N.E.2d 1025, 1028-29 (2008). Defendant argues this issue should be considered under a plain-error analysis. However, before determining whether plain error occurred, we must first determine whether any error occurred at all. People v. Owens, 372 Ill. App. 3d 616, 620, 874 N.E.2d 116, 118 (2007).
Trial courts have broad discretion in conducting and managing voir dire. People v. Klimawicze, 352 Ill. App. 3d 13, 25, 815 N.E.2d 760, 773 (2004). Accordingly, the standard of review applied to the manner in which the trial court conducts voir dire is abuse of discretion. People v. Boston, 383 Ill. App. 3d 352, 355, 893 N.E.2d 677, 680 (2008). An abuse of discretion occurs where the conduct of the trial court thwarted the selection of an impartial jury. People v. Gardner, 348 Ill. App. 3d 479, 488, 810 N.E.2d 180, 188 (2004).
"A defendant's right to a jury trial mandates a fair trial by a panel of impartial jurors." People v. Gay, 377 Ill. App. 3d 828, 834, 882 N.E.2d 1033, 1038 (2007). "The purpose of voir dire is to assure the selection of an impartial panel of jurors free from either bias or prejudice." People v. Williams, 164 Ill. 2d 1, 16, 645 N.E.2d 844, 850 (1994). "[V]oir dire questions should confirm a prospective juror's ability to set aside feelings of bias and decide the case on the evidence presented." Gay, 377 Ill. App. 3d at 835, 882 N.E.2d at 1038. They must "not directly or indirectly concern matters of law or instructions." Official Reports Advance Sheet No. 8 (April 11, 2007), R. 431(a), eff. May 1, 2007. "[V]oir dire 'is not to be used as a means of indoctrinating a jury, or impaneling a jury with a particular predisposition.'" Boston, 383 Ill. App. 3d at 354, 893 N.E.2d at 680, quoting People v. Bowel, 111 Ill. 2d 58, 64, 488 N.E.2d 995, 998 (1986).
In this case, the State questioned the venire as follows:
"[MS. KIGER (Assistant State's Attorney):] Can you think of some reasons why a sexual[-]assault victim might not immediately report an incident?
[PROSPECTIVE JUROR:] Why they would not report an incident?
[MS. KIGER:] Right away. [PROSPECTIVE JUROR:] The victim? [MS. KIGER:] Correct. [PROSPECTIVE JUROR:] Well, they probably may say it really didn't happen, and then the falling out with the parents. Maybe there was a relationship, you know, age difference relationship. Then the parents found out about it, convinced, you know. Children are children.
[MS. KIGER:] Can you think of a reason why a victim who had had some things happen to them might not ...