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People v. Lacy

Supreme Court of Illinois

July 11, 2013

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Appellant,
v.
ELIJAH S. LACY, Appellee.

Rehearing denied September 23, 2013.

Held [*]

The speedy-trial statute neither restricts the State to one 60-day continuance to obtain material evidence nor allows unlimited 60-day extensions; rather, each such 60-day continuance is tied to the specific evidence sought and is granted with respect to it alone, while, if the State knows that more than one witness or item of evidence is unavailable, it should seek continuances as to them at the same time—constitutional standards met.

Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Fifth District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County, the Hon. Ronald Eckiss and the Hon. E. Dan Kimmel, Judges, presiding.

Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, of Springfield, and Michael Wepsiec, State’s Attorney, of Murphysboro (Michael A. Scodro, Solicitor General, and Michael M. Glick and Garson S. Fischer, Assistant Attorneys General, of Chicago, and Patrick Delfino, Stephen E. Norris and Patrick D. Daly, of the Office of the State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor, of Mt. Vernon, of counsel), for the People.

Christian J. Baril, of Carbondale, for appellee.

JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, and Karmeier concurred in the judgment and opinion. Justice Garman dissented, with opinion, joined by Justice Theis.

BURKE JUSTICE.

OPINION

¶ 1 Section 103-5(c) of the Illinois speedy-trial statute (725 ILCS 5/103-5(c) (West 2010)) authorizes a circuit court to continue a criminal case for "not more than an additional 60 days" to allow the State to obtain "evidence material to the case" if the State has exercised "due diligence" to obtain the evidence and "there are reasonable grounds to believe that such evidence may be obtained at a later day." In this case, the circuit court granted the State two separate continuances prior to trial under section 103-5(c) because two of the State's witnesses were, for different reasons and at different times, temporarily unavailable. The two continuances, when added together, totaled more than 60 days.

¶ 2 Following a substitution of judge, the defendant moved for dismissal of the charges against him, arguing that section 103-5(c) limited the State to not more than 60 days' continuance in total, and that when this limitation was taken into account, the statutory speedy-trial period had expired. The circuit court agreed with defendant, granted his motion and dismissed the charges against him. The appellate court affirmed. 2011 IL App (5th) 100347. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgments of the lower courts and remand this cause to the circuit court for further proceedings.

¶ 3 BACKGROUND

¶ 4 The defendant, Elijah S. Lacy, was arrested on February 8, 2009, and subsequently charged in the circuit court of Jackson County with first degree murder and home invasion. After defendant was granted several continuances, a trial date was set for February 1, 2010. Defendant remained in custody throughout the proceedings.

¶ 5 On January 25, 2010, the State filed a motion to continue pursuant to section 103-5(c) of the speedy-trial statute (725 ILCS 5/103-5(c) (West 2010)). In this motion, the State explained that Rebecca Pope, the only eyewitness to the events that gave rise to the charges against defendant, would be unable to travel from her home in Missouri to attend the scheduled trial because she was in the midst of a high-risk pregnancy and travel restrictions had been placed on her by her doctor. The motion included documentation from Pope's doctor and stated that Pope's due date was March 1, 2010. The circuit court granted the State's motion over defendant's objection and set a new trial date of April 26, 2010.

ΒΆ 6 On April 19, 2010, the State filed a "pretrial motion regarding witness availability, " which asserted that the crime scene technician, Officer Dale Reamy of the Carbondale police department, was unavailable to testify at the scheduled trial because he had been deployed by the army reserve to Afghanistan. The motion requested the agreement of defendant to allow Lt. Paul Echols, who was present at the crime scene when evidence was collected, to testify in Reamy's stead. The motion also stated that, in the absence ...


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