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The People of the State of Illinois v. Leon A. Franklin

June 7, 2012


Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois Circuit No. 08-CF-719 Honorable Robert P. Livas, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Lytton

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

Justice O'Brien concurred in the judgment and opinion.

Justice Carter concurred in part and dissented in part, with opinion.


¶ 1 Defendant, Leon A. Franklin, was convicted of two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse (720 ILCS 5/12-16(d) (West 2006)) and sentenced to two consecutive five-year terms of imprisonment. On appeal, defendant argues that (1) his due process rights were violated when the trial court instructed jurors that it was for them to decide the meaning of reasonable doubt; (2) he was denied a fair trial by the prosecutor's statements during closing argument that the State's evidence was "uncontradicted"; (3) the trial court did not adequately inquire into his pro se posttrial claim of ineffective assistance of counsel; and (4) the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing him to consecutive prison terms. We reverse, finding that the trial court's instruction to the jury regarding reasonable doubt violated defendant's constitutional rights.


¶ 3 Defendant was charged with two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse against a minor, S.R., for placing his penis in S.R.'s vagina in December 2007 and on February 23, 2008.

¶ 4 During jury selection, the trial judge told the potential jurors:

"Beyond a reasonable doubt means beyond a reasonable doubt. It's what each of you individually and collectively, as 12 of you, believe is beyond a reasonable doubt." Thereafter, 12 jurors and 2 alternates were chosen, and defendant's trial began.

¶ 5 S.R. testified that on February 23, 2008, she was 16 years old. She was living in an apartment with Sonya Johnson, Johnson's four-year-old daughter, and defendant. Johnson is S.R.'s father's ex-girlfriend. Defendant is a friend of her father's, whom S.R. has known all her life.

¶ 6 According to S.R., on February 23, 2008, Johnson made plans to go out with her friend, Adrian Brown. Defendant was supposed to take S.R. and Johnson and Brown's children somewhere while Johnson and Brown were gone. After Johnson and Brown left Johnson's apartment, the children fell asleep in S.R.'s bedroom. While the children were resting, S.R. went into Johnson's bedroom to clean it. When S.R. was cleaning the room, defendant came to the doorway with his pants on the floor and a condom on his penis. Defendant walked toward her and put his penis inside her vagina. Defendant had sexual intercourse with S.R. for approximately 10 minutes until Johnson and Brown returned.

¶ 7 When Johnson and Brown came home, defendant got up, and S.R. went into her bedroom. As defendant was putting on his pants, Brown opened the door to Johnson's bedroom. According to S.R., Johnson and Brown then started yelling and screaming, and defendant got his coat and left. Later, the police came, and S.R. told the police what happened. Johnson took S.R. to the hospital.

¶ 8 S.R. testified that defendant also had sexual intercourse with her in December 2007. On that occasion, she was lying on the couch in the living room. Defendant laid down behind her, and, according to S.R., "[h]e just put his penis in my vagina." The intercourse lasted about five minutes.

¶ 9 About a month earlier, S.R. woke up to find defendant laying behind her in her bed. Defendant said that he wanted to hold her. S.R. said, "no." Defendant then "took out his penis" and rubbed it on her thigh. She told defendant that she was going to scream if he did not leave. Defendant got up and left.

¶ 10 Sonya Johnson testified that she met S.R.'s father, Lucius R., in 2006, and dated him a little over a year. When they broke up, in December 2007, Lucius asked Johnson to take care of S.R. Johnson agreed, and S.R. began living with Johnson.

¶ 11 On February 23, 2008, Johnson and Brown made plans to have defendant take S.R. and their children on an outing. Brown gave defendant $100 and the keys to her car. Johnson and Brown left first, ran some errands and returned to Johnson's home. When they came back, they were surprised to see that Brown's car was still there. When they entered the apartment, Brown walked past Johnson toward Johnson's bedroom. Johnson then heard Brown say, "Oh, my God; oh, my God; oh, my God." Johnson walked toward her bedroom and saw defendant standing at the foot of her bed pulling up his underwear. Johnson noticed that the room had a musky odor and that her comforter "was messed up," like someone had been in her bed.

¶ 12 Johnson asked defendant, "[H]ow could you do this to me; why would you do it; what are you thinking?" Defendant responded, "I don't know; it just happened; I didn't mean for it to happen." Johnson then went to the back of the apartment to retrieve a baseball bat. When she returned, defendant was leaving. Johnson sat S.R. down and asked her what happened. S.R. "sat there real quiet." Johnson called Lucius. After Johnson reached Lucius, she called the police. The police escorted Johnson and S.R. to the hospital "[t]o have a rape kit done." A rape kit was not done because no parent was present at the hospital to consent.

¶ 13 Adrian Brown testified that she and Johnson left Johnson's apartment in the afternoon on February 23, 2008. After being gone for an hour-and-a-half to two hours, they decided to return to the apartment. Brown entered the apartment first and saw S.R. coming out of Johnson's bedroom. Brown pushed open the door to Johnson's bedroom and saw defendant pulling up his underwear. His pants were around his ankles. Johnson then went into her bedroom and started yelling at defendant. Brown told defendant that he needed to leave. Brown and Johnson contacted Lucius and called the police.

ΒΆ 14 The State introduced into evidence a copy of defendant's birth certificate, showing his date of birth to be April 17, 1972, making him 35 years old on February 23, 2008. Defendant did ...

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