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The People of the State of Illinois v. George Williams

April 29, 2011

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
GEORGE WILLIAMS,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit Peoria County, Illinois. No. 08-DT-173 & 08-TR-14549 Honorable Albert L. Purham, Jr., and Honorable Rebecca Steenrod, Judges, Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Holdridge

JUSTICE HOLDRIDGE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Justice Lytton concurred in the judgment and opinion. Justice McDade specially concurred, with opinion.

OPINION

A jury convicted the defendantof driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) and failure to yield. The trial court sentenced him to 18 months of conditional discharge with community service and alcohol treatment conditions and imposed over $1,300 in fines and costs. On appeal, the defendant argues that he is entitled to a new trial because the trial court did not strictly comply with the requirements of Illinois Supreme Court Rule 431(b) (eff. May 1, 2007) during voir dire. Alternatively, the defendant argues that he is entitled to a $5 credit against the DUI fine for the one day that he spent in custody on that charge, as required by section 110--14(a) of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (the Code) (725 ILCS 5/110-14(a) (West 2008)). We affirm the defendant's conviction and modify the lower court's judgment to reflect a credit of $5 against the DUI fine.

FACTS

Jury selection in the defendant's trial began on March 10, 2009. At the beginning of the voir dire, the trial court addressed all of the members of the venire collectively and stated, in relevant part:

"You must follow the laws as I give it [sic] to you. You may not use your own ideas about what you think the law should be in deciding this case. ***

Under the law, a defendant is presumed to be innocent of the charges against him and this presumption remains with him throughout every stage of the trial and during your deliberation on a verdict. It is not overcome unless from all the evidence in this case you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. The State has the burden of proving the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt and this burden remains on the State throughout the case. ***

The defendant is not required to *** prove his innocence nor is he required to present any evidence on his own behalf. He may rely on the presumption of innocence. ***

*** [I]t's essential during the course of the trial that you not arrive at any decision or conclusion of any kind until you've heard all the evidence, the argument of the lawyers, and my instructions on the law. I'm going to repeat that more than once because you might be back in the jury room at a break or something. I'm going to tell you, don't make your mind up about anything. Now is not the time to do that. ***

*** [W]hen deciding this case, you must not allow sympathy or prejudice to influence you. Our system of law is based on the principle that a jury will decide the case on the law and evidence only. If you're selected as jurors, that's the oath that you'll take and I'm sure you'll be faithful to it if you are selected."

The trial court then seated the potential jurors in groups of sixand questioned them both as a group and individually. Five of the six persons seated in the initial group were eventually chosen to serve as jurors. While addressing this group, the trial court stated that "you must follow the law as I give it to you even if you disagree with it." The court then asked each potential juror a series of questions, including whether he or she would "follow the law even if you disagree with it," "hold the State to the burden of proving all elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt," and "presume the defendant is innocent as he sits here now and *** throughout the course of the trial." Each individual chosen to serve as a juror answered "yes" to each of these questions. The defense raised no objections during voir dire.

After the jury was empaneled, the State presented its evidence. The State called three witnesses. Cindy Henry testified that, on the evening of April 21, 2008, she was driving her pickup truck eastbound on Starr Street in Peoria, approaching the intersection with Folkers Street. She saw another vehicle traveling toward her going westbound on Starr. Just as she reached the intersection of Starr and Folkers, the other vehicle made a left turn in front of her (turning from Starr onto Folkers). Henry put her car in neutral and hit the brakes, but the vehicles collided; the passenger's side of Henry's car hit the passenger's side of the other vehicle. The vehicles pulled over, and one of the residents of that area called the police.

Peoria police officer Winfred Fallert was dispatched to the scene. Fallert testified that he had been trained and educated as an accident investigator and accident reconstructionist and that his primary responsibility is investigating auto accidents. Fallert also testified that he had received training in DUI detection and had personally arrested over 200 DUIs and assisted in "probably over a hundred" other DUI arrests. At the accident scene, Fallert spoke with the defendant, who identified himself as the driver of the car that had collided with Henry's pickup truck. According to Fallert, the defendant smelled of alcohol, his speech was slurred, and he did not have a steady balance. Fallert testified that the defendant admitted that he had a few beers or drinks that evening, although he did not include this information in his police report. In addition, Fallert thought that the defendant was confused as to which way he had been going at the time of the accident.*fn1 In Fallert's opinion, the defendant was under the influence of alcohol. ...


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