Appeal from the Circuit Court of Williamson County No. 10-CF-342 Honorable John Speroni, Judge, presiding.
Steven A. Greenberg, Sean O'Malley, Steven A. Greenberg and Associates, Ltd., Attorneys for Appellant
Hon. Charles Garnati, State's Attorney, Williamson County Courthouse, Marion, IL 62959; Patrick Delfino, Director, Stephen E. Norris, Deputy Director, Patrick D. Daly, Staff Attorney, Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor Attorneys for Appellee
JUSTICE GOLDENHERSH delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Chapman and Wexstten concurred in the judgment and opinion.
RICHARD P. GOLDENHERSH, JUSTICE
¶ 1 Defendant, Marcus Marshall, argues on appeal that he was denied a fair trial by the State's racially based evidence and arguments. The State has filed a confession of error. We find the defendant's contentions and the State's confession to be well-taken. For the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand the cause for a new trial.
¶ 2 BACKGROUND
¶ 3 On August 23, 2010, and August 25, 2010, Marshall was charged by information with two counts of first-degree murder of the victim, LaQuinn Hudson, in contravention of sections 9-1(a)(1) and (a)(2) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 2010)).
¶ 4 The jury trial commenced on July 5, 2011. The following relevant information was adduced at trial. In the early morning hours of August 22, 2010, LaQuinn Hudson was shot to death at a house party in Marion, Illinois. At trial, the State produced, among many others, two witnesses, Jodie Lacy and Crystal Blye, who testified to facts that implicated Marshall in the murder of the victim.
¶ 5 Lacy testified that after leaving a bar slightly before midnight on August 21, 2010, she traveled to a home where a party was being held. At some point during the party, she heard four or five shots being fired. She ran to her car. She testified that though she did not immediately recognize the man who had been shot, she did see Marshall running away from the place where the shots had been fired. Lacy shared this information with an investigator. However, Lacy later wrote a letter to Marshall's attorney recanting the information she originally shared with the investigator. Nevertheless, Lacy testified for the State at the trial, repeating the original information she had given police.
¶ 6 Blye testified that she was also at the same bar as Lacy before it closed. She observed Marshall and the victim at the bar, but did not see any altercation take place there. Blye then left the bar and went to the house party. Blye testified that she overheard an argument between Marshall and the victim. She heard Marshall repeatedly ask the victim to reveal whatever weapons he had. The victim replied that he did not have any weapons. Blye testified that she did not see a gun in Marshall's hand prior to the shooting, but did see a bright light that was accompanied by the sound of three gunshots. At that point, she was able to see a gun in Marshall's hand. Blye gave a report to the investigator later in the day. However, Blye also gave a letter to Marshall's attorney recanting the information she gave to the police. Like Lacy, Blye also testified for the State at trial, repeating the original information she had given to police.
¶ 7 The issues in this appeal concern the prosecutor's opening statement and closing argument regarding the witnesses, Lacy and Blye. In his opening statement, the prosecutor, apparently in an effort to explain why both Lacy and Blye gave statements to police, then recanted those statements, then agreed to testify for the State at trial, stated the following:
"And you will see, ladies and gentlemen, that there are some, not all–there are many good people in the black community, but basically you will see that there are a few in the black community who refuse to cooperate with the police even when a murder happens right under their nose, and those people have a habit of intimidating, harassing, sometimes threatening anybody who they think is ...