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The People of the State of Illinois v. Bennie Starks

February 14, 2012


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 86-CF-106 Honorable John T. Phillips, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McLAREN

JUSTICE McLAREN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Burke and Schostok concurred in the judgment and opinion.


¶ 1 The State appeals the trial court's grant of defendant's motion in limine, barring the admission of the prior testimony of the now deceased complainant. On appeal, the State argues that the trial court erred by granting defendant's motion in limine because: (1) complainant's prior sexual contacts would not be relevant at the new trial; (2) at the prior trial, defendant had the opportunity to cross-examine complainant on every issue except her prior sexual contacts; and (3) defendant would not suffer prejudice as a result of not being able to cross-examine complainant regarding her prior sexual contacts. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.


¶ 3 This matter is before this court for the third time. Other issues were addressed by this court in our decision on direct appeal in People v. Starks (Starks I), No. 2-86-1021 (1988) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). In the second appeal, we reversed the trial court's dismissal of defendant's post-conviction petition and remanded the cause for a new trial. People v. Starks (Starks II), 365 Ill. App. 3d 592, 601 (2006). We will provide only those facts necessary for an understanding of the issues raised on appeal. Further, we will provide factual details as necessary in the analysis portion of this opinion.

¶ 4 At defendant's first trial in 1986, the trial court granted the State's motion in limine barring defendant from introducing evidence regarding complainant's prior sexual activity.

¶ 5 Complainant testified that on the evening of January 18, 1986, defendant grabbed her neck, threw her to the ground, repeatedly punched her face, and pulled her, feet first, down a ravine, while he hit her all over her body. At the bottom of the ravine, defendant took off complainant's underwear and put his penis in her vagina. Complainant also testified that defendant did not take off any of her clothing when he sexually assaulted her. Complainant testified that she believed that defendant ejaculated in her. During the attack, defendant bit her on the shoulder and she tore off defendant's watch.

¶ 6 The State's forensic serologist, Sharon Thomas-Boyd, testified that test results indicated the presence of semen on complainant's underwear that she wore during the alleged incident. Further, semen was present on the vaginal swab collected from complainant. Thomas-Boyd testified that, based on samples collected from defendant, she could not exclude him as a source of the semen.

¶ 7 Illinois Department of Public Aid worker Blanche Gonzalez testified that she spoke with complainant shortly after the alleged attack. Complainant told Gonzalez that she had accused defendant of having sexual intercourse with her, but that it was not true. Gonzalez testified that complainant told Gonzalez that she told the police that she was sexually assaulted "because he was going to pay for beating her up." Complainant also told Gonzalez that "[h]e didn't want to have any-didn't want to rape [complainant], he wanted oral sex."

¶ 8 Waukegan police officer William Genell testified that when he searched the ravine the morning after the alleged attack he found underwear, a black trench coat, gloves, a scarf, a watch, and a watchband.

¶ 9 The sleeve of the black trench coat found at the ravine contained a laundry tag from Sinclair Cleaners. The owner of Sinclair Cleaners testified that his records indicated that the coat had been brought in by an individual named Starks. Defendant stipulated to Sinclair's identification of him in court as the man who brought the coat in for cleaning.

¶ 10 Dentist and forensic odontologist Russell Schneider testified that he examined a large bite mark on complainant's shoulder and compared it to photos, X rays, and a model of defendant's teeth and bite. After comparing defendant's bite to the photo of the bite mark on complainant's shoulder, Schneider opined that defendant bit complainant.

¶ 11 The parties stipulated that, if called to testify, Waukegan patrolman Martinez would testify that complainant told him in Spanish that on the evening of the incident she had not been raped but had been struck with a metal pipe.

¶ 12 Waukegan detective Sergeant William Biang testified that defendant told him that, as he walked home from the Genesee Inn on the night of the incident, he was robbed by a black male and an Hispanic male. The men took his coat, gloves, and wristwatch and $80. Defendant told Sergeant Biang that he previously did not tell the police about the robbery because he did not think they would help him. Defendant did not tell his mother because she was sick and he did not want to upset her. When Sergeant Biang showed defendant the coat, defendant said it was his.

¶ 13 The jury found defendant guilty of two counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, ¶¶ 12-14(a)(2), (a)(5)), one count of attempted aggravated criminal sexual assault (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, ¶ 8-4(a)), one count of aggravated battery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38,

¶ 12-4(b)(10)), and one count of unlawful restraint (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, ¶ 10-3). The trial court vacated the unlawful restraint conviction and imposed concurrent extended terms of 60 years' imprisonment for the two aggravated criminal sexual assault convictions, 30 years' imprisonment for the attempted aggravated criminal sexual assault conviction, and 10 years' imprisonment for the aggravated battery conviction.

ΒΆ 14 On appeal, in Starks I, this court vacated the conviction and sentence for one count of aggravated criminal sexual assault. Starks I, slip order at 26. Further, we reduced defendant's sentence for attempted aggravated criminal sexual assault to 15 years and his ...

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