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The People of the State of Illinois, Appellant v. Romney Adams

January 20, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Burke

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

Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Karmeier, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.


¶ 1 The primary issue in this appeal is whether a prosecutor may properly argue to a jury that a police officer's testimony should be believed because he would not risk "his credibility, his job, and his freedom" by lying, when no evidence that those consequences would occur was introduced at trial. The appellate court held that such argument was improper and, under the facts of this case, constituted plain error. 403 Ill. App. 3d 995. We agree with the appellate court that the prosecutor's argument was improper but disagree with the court's conclusion that the argument amounted to plain error.

¶ 2 Background

¶ 3 The defendant, Romney Adams, was indicted in the circuit court of Will County for unlawful possession of a controlled substance. At defendant's jury trial, Sergeant Joe Boers of the Will County sheriff's police testified for the State. Boers told the jury that on the evening of March 3, 2006, he was on patrol in his police car with Officer Hillary Buck of the New Lenox police department and Deputy Kevin Schumacher of the Will County Forest Preserve police when he observed a tan Oldsmobile sitting in a liquor store parking lot. Boers entered the car's license plate number into a police computer and learned that the registered owner was defendant and that his driver's license had been suspended.

¶ 4 Boers testified that he followed the Oldsmobile into the parking lot of a grocery store across the street, switched on his emergency lights and initiated a traffic stop. Boers approached defendant, who was the only occupant of the vehicle, confirmed his identification, and had him exit the car. Boers then handcuffed defendant and placed him under arrest for driving with a suspended license.

¶ 5 Boers told the jury that while conducting a search of defendant incident to the arrest, he found a small plastic sandwich bag containing a white powdery substance in defendant's left front pocket. Boers ran a preliminary field test on the substance, which indicated the presence of cocaine. Boers stated that, after returning to the police station, he turned the plastic bag and its contents over to a crime scene investigator. Boers testified that he never saw the plastic bag, or any other item, on the ground during the stop of defendant.

¶ 6 Cynthia Koulis, a forensic scientist with the Illinois State Police, also testified for the State. Koulis stated that the white powder in the bag recovered by Boers was 0.8 grams of cocaine.

¶ 7 Defendant testified on his own behalf. Defendant told the jury that he went to the liquor store to buy a lottery ticket and then drove across the street to buy some ice and water. After he got out of his car, a police car pulled up, and officers Boers, Buck and Schumacher approached him. Defendant stated that, when Boers asked defendant for his driver's license, he pulled out two traffic citations from his shirt pocket and began to explain that he had been told that he could drive on the citations. According to defendant, Boers then stated that "you can't drive on a citation in the State of Illinois" and placed defendant under arrest. Boers walked defendant to the rear of the police car and told him to place his hands behind his back, but did not handcuff him. Defendant stated that Boers and Officer Buck then began to search him.

¶ 8 Defendant testified as to what happened next:

"[Boers said] what is this, and I looked toward him and she [Buck] looked toward him too. I said, what? He moved his foot, looked down on the ground. There was a piece of plastic laying there with a white substance in it. It wasn't sealed or tied up or nothing. It was just a piece of plastic. So I said, I don't know. He said, you're not going to say I dropped it. I said, you know I didn't drop it.

[Defense counsel:] Why did you say that? [Defendant:] Because my hands was behind my back. [Defense counsel:] Had you seen this piece of plastic before?

[Defendant:] No. I never seen it before."

ΒΆ 9 Later, on cross-examination, defendant provided additional description of ...

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