Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County. Honorable E. Dan Kimmel &Honorable Ronald R. Eckiss, Judges, presiding. No. 09-CF-86
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Welch
The text of this decision may be changed or corrected prior to the filing of a Petition for Rehearing or the disposition of the same.
JUSTICE WELCH delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Presiding Justice Chapman and Justice Stewart concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 The State appeals from an order of the circuit court of Jackson County that dismissed the criminal prosecution against the defendant, Elijah S. Lacy, and discharged him from custody because he was not brought to trial within the statutory speedy trial period. For reasons that follow, we affirm.
¶ 2 On February 8, 2009, the defendant, Elijah S. Lacy, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. He remained in custody throughout these proceedings. The defendant requested and was granted several continuances, tolling the running of the speedy trial period. Trial was scheduled for February 1, 2010.
¶ 3 On January 25, 2010, the eighty-third day of the speedy trial period attributable to the State, and six days before trial was scheduled to begin, the State sought a continuance and an extension of the speedy trial period pursuant to section 103-5(c) of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (725 ILCS 5/103-5(c) (West 2010)). That section provides as follows: "If the court determines that the State has exercised without success due diligence to obtain evidence material to the case and that there are reasonable grounds to believe that such evidence may be obtained at a later day the court may continue the cause on application of the State for not more than an additional 60 days." 725 ILCS 5/103-5(c) (West 2010).
¶ 4 The State's motion alleged that a necessary and material witness to the murder, the only eyewitness, was unavailable for trial due to her high-risk pregnancy and her doctor's travel restriction. She had been subpoenaed and would be available to testify at a later date. The defendant objected to any continuance, arguing that the witness could not identify the defendant and was not material. The State's motion was granted over the defendant's objection, and trial was rescheduled for April 26, 2010.
¶ 5 On April 19, 2010, the State filed a "pretrial motion regarding witness availability." The motion alleged that Dale Reamy, the crime scene technician who had processed the murder scene and collected all the evidence, was unavailable to testify at the scheduled trial because he was serving with the military reserve in Afghanistan. The motion sought the agreement of the defendant to instead allow the testimony of police officer Paul Echols, who had been present at the crime scene when Reamy was processing it and collecting evidence.
¶ 6 The motion alleged that if the defendant refused to agree, the State would be forced to seek another continuance of the trial until Reamy was available to testify. The defendant did not agree to the State's proposal, insisting on his right to cross-examine Reamy. Accordingly, the State proceeded with a second motion pursuant to section 103-5(c) for a continuance and an extension of the speedy trial period in order to procure Reamy's presence at trial. The defendant objected on the ground that the statute provides for only one 60-day extension of the speedy trial period, which the State had already exercised with respect to the eyewitness. The State's motion was granted over the defendant's objection, and trial was rescheduled for July 19, 2010.
¶ 7 On July 9, 2010, a different judge was assigned to hear the defendant's jury trial. On July 15, 2010, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss based on the violation of his statutory right to a speedy trial. The motion alleged that the 120-day speedy trial period provided by section 103-5(a) of the speedy trial statute (725 ILCS 5/103-5(a) (West 2010)) plus the additional 60 days permitted under section 103-5(c) had elapsed on June 26, 2010, and that the trial scheduled for July 19, 2010, was set outside of the speedy trial period.
¶ 8 After hearing argument and taking the matter under advisement, on July 19, 2010, the circuit court "reluctantly" granted the defendant's motion to dismiss the charges and discharged him from custody. The court found that it was the 203rd day of the defendant's pretrial incarceration that was attributable to the State and that this exceeded 180 days (the initial 120-day speedy trial period plus the 60-day extension allowed by section 103-5(c)). Noting that the speedy trial statute must be liberally construed in favor of the defendant, the court held as follows: "[T]he State can request multiple continuances per 103-5(c) upon proper proof of due diligence. This was ...