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The People of the State of Illinois v. Ernesto Gonzalez

December 7, 2011

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ERNESTO GONZALEZ, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court , of Lake County. Honorable Charles D. Johnson, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Zenoff

JUSTICE ZENOFF delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices McLaren and Bowman concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 Defendant, Ernesto Gonzalez, appeals from his convictions of aggravated assault of a peace officer (720 ILCS 5/12-2(a)(6) (West 2008)) and resisting a peace officer (720 ILCS 5/31-1(a) (West 2008)). He contends that the trial court failed to comply with Illinois Supreme Court Rule 431(a) (eff. May 1, 2007) when it denied his counsel the opportunity to question prospective jurors directly during voir dire. For the following reasons, we reverse and remand for a new trial.

¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 3 Defendant was charged by information with aggravated assault of a peace officer, resisting a peace officer, and obstructing a peace officer (720 ILCS 5/31-1(a) (West 2008)). In December 2010, a jury trial was held.

¶ 4 Before trial, the court told the attorneys the following:

"Obviously you've both tried cases in front of me before. We're going to----the Court is going to do the vast majority of the questioning on voir dire. If you have any specific questions that you'd like me to ask, let me know. I'm going to limit your guys' contact with the jury not because I don't like you or anything, but just for the sake of being expeditious. Obviously then we will do strikes at the bench. If you have one for cause, let me know. If not, I'll ask about peremptories. No back-striking."

There were no objections. Later, the court told the potential jurors, "I and the attorneys are going to ask you some questions."

¶ 5 After some initial questioning by the court, the court asked the attorneys if they had any specific questions that they would like asked. Defense counsel gave the court some questions and the court agreed to ask them. The following colloquy then occurred:

"[Assistant State's Attorney]: Just so I understand, do you want----are we permitted to follow up?

THE COURT: No. [Assistant State's Attorney]: Okay. THE COURT: This is the new regime."

There were no objections. The trial court asked the venire the questions that defense counsel requested.

ΒΆ 6 After additional questioning by the court, defense counsel moved to strike a prospective juror. The court denied the motion, ...


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