Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 9th Judicial Circuit, Knox County, Illinois Circuit No. 10-MR-81 Honorable Scott Shipplett, Judge, Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Carter
JUSTICE CARTER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Justice Lytton concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Presiding Justice Schmidt specially concurred.
¶ 1 After a jury trial, respondent, Jeremy Trulock, was found to be a sexually violent person (SVP) under the Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act (Act or SVP Act) (725 ILCS 207/1 to 99 (West 2008)) and was committed for institutional care in a secure facility. Respondent appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in: (1) denying his motion to dismiss the commitment petition for the State's failure to hold a probable cause hearing within the time period required by the Act; (2) denying his motion to strike two potential jurors for cause; (3) upholding the jury's finding that he was a SVP; and (4) committing him to institutional care. We affirm the trial court's judgment.
¶ 3 On June 3, 2010, while respondent was serving a prison sentence, the State filed a petition under the Act to have respondent committed to institutional care as a SVP. In the petition, the State requested that a probable cause hearing be held within 72 hours, as required by the Act. On the following day, June 4, the parties appeared in court on the petition, and the State announced that it was ready to proceed on a probable cause hearing.*fn1 Respondent's attorney, however, requested a continuance so that he could have additional time to prepare for the hearing. The trial court granted that request and continued the case until June 8.
¶ 4 On June 7, respondent's attorney filed a motion to substitute judge as a matter of right. The parties appeared in court on June 8 for the scheduled probable cause hearing and the matter was continued for reassignment based upon respondent's motion to substitute. On August 17, prior to reassignment, respondent's attorney filed a motion to dismiss the petition, alleging that respondent was denied due process because the State failed to hold a probable cause hearing within the time period required by the Act. Two days later, an order was entered by the trial court reassigning the case to another judge, as requested in respondent's motion to substitute.
¶ 5 On September 1, a hearing was held on the motion to dismiss before the newly assigned trial judge. After listening to the arguments of the attorneys, the trial court denied respondent's motion to dismiss the SVP petition. That same day, a probable cause hearing was held, and the trial court found that probable cause existed to believe that respondent was a SVP.
¶ 6 A jury trial was held on the SVP petition in May of 2011. The jury selection process involving three of the potential jurors, J.J., G.H., and L.S., is of relevance to this appeal. During initial questioning by the trial court, all three potential jurors indicated that: (1) they would not use sympathy, bias, or prejudice in making their decision; (2) they would wait until they heard all of the evidence, arguments, and instructions before making up their minds; (3) they would follow the law, even if they personally disagreed with it; (4) they understood that respondent was presumed not to be a SVP; (5) they understood that the State had the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt; (6) they understood that respondent did not have to present any evidence; (7) they understood that respondent did not have to testify and that respondent's failure to testify could not be held against him; and (8) there was no reason why they could not be fair and impartial.
¶ 7 One of the initial panels of prospective jurors included prospective juror J.J. When J.J. was question by respondent's attorney regarding the circumstances of respondent's prior sex offenses, the following discussion took place:
"[RESPONDENT'S ATTORNEY]: [I]s there anybody here that if they heard evidence that somebody had been convicted of sex with minor females on more than one occasion that they would feel like, well, that['s] all I -- that would already make my mind up for me, I wouldn't have to hear anything else? If you feel that way, raise your hand.
PROSPECTIVE JUROR [J.J.]: I might have a little trouble. You said five year old.
[RESPONDENT'S ATTORNEY]: Okay. [J.J.]; is that right? PROSPECTIVE JUROR [J.J.]: Yes. [RESPONDENT'S ATTORNEY]: Just let me go into that a little bit further,
PROSPECTIVE JUROR [J.J.]: I wouldn't. I don't think I would if you were talking about teens but --
[RESPONDENT'S ATTORNEY]: Teens. Is there -- is there a cutoff point there? If they were under ten or above ten or -- and I appreciate your honesty.
PROSPECTIVE JUROR [J.J.]: I don't know. I just -- when I heard the word 'five', that might bother me.
[RESPONDENT'S ATTORNEY]: Okay. Would it -- and the Judge asked you earlier, he said is there anybody here that has any prejudices or biases or -- and that may be a prejudice where you're saying, okay, if I hear about sex and a five-year-old girl, I've already made my mind up. Is that the way you would feel? Is that what you're saying?
PROSPECTIVE JUROR [J.J.]: I think it possibly could be, yes."
¶ 8 After questioning some of the other potential jurors questions, respondent's attorney asked J.J. some additional questions:
"[RESPONDENT'S ATTORNEY]: Okay. And, [J.J.], I'm going to follow-up with that question. Was there a cutoff point there? I mean, you said --
PROSPECTIVE JUROR [J.J.]: I don't know. I just know when I hear things that have happened to little, little children --
[RESPONDENT'S ATTORNEY]: Uh-huh.
PROSPECTIVE JUROR [J.J.]: -- I have a hard time with it. [RESPONDENT'S ATTORNEY]: Okay. And is there any age that you feel like a --
PROSPECTIVE JUROR [J.J.]: I can't say that there is, but I don't feel that way about -- when we talk about, I don't know, ten, maybe in the class it wouldn't bother me.
[RESPONDENT'S ATTORNEY]: Yeah.
PROSPECTIVE JUROR [J.J.]: I think I could handle it pretty much. I'm just not positive about if a little bitty one was involved."
¶ 9 When the panel of prospective jurors was submitted to the attorneys, respondent's attorney moved to strike J.J. for cause. The trial court denied that request, finding that J.J.'s answers suggested that J.J. "could hear the evidence and be fair and impartial." Respondent's attorney used one of his peremptory challenges to strike J.J. from the panel.
¶ 10 A later panel of prospective jurors included prospective juror G.H. When G.H. was questioned by respondent's attorney in relation to respondent's prior sex ...