Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 10-CF-1361. Honorable John R. Truitt, Judge, Presiding.
Defendant's contention that his constitutional right to a public trial was violated when the trial court excluded three spectators from the hearing on the revocation of his probation was rejected by the appellate court and the appellate court affirmed the expulsion of the spectators, even though an assistant State's Attorney had asked the court to admonish the three about talking to witnesses and that they be investigated with respect to witness intimidation, since the United States Supreme Court has held in Morrissey that the liberty interest of a convicted offender who is on parole or probation is of a lower order than that of an accused facing a criminal offense, and there is no constitutional right to a public hearing on a petition to revoke probation
Thomas A. Lilien and Richard C. Harris, both of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Elgin, for appellant.
Joseph P. Bruscato, State's Attorney, of Rockford (Lawrence M. Bauer and Jay Paul Hoffmann, both of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.
JUSTICE SPENCE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Zenoff and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.
[¶1] In November 2010, defendant, Tyrone D. Williams, pleaded guilty in the circuit court of Winnebago County to a single count of aggravated discharge of a firearm (720 ILCS 5/24-1.2(a)(1) (West 2010)) and was sentenced to a 36-month term of probation. The State subsequently petitioned the trial court to revoke defendant's probation, alleging, inter alia, that, on June 23, 2012, defendant committed the offenses of aggravated discharge of a firearm (720 ILCS 5/24-1.2(a)(2) (West 2012)) and unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon (720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a) (West 2012)). Following a hearing, the trial court revoked defendant's probation and sentenced him to an 8 1/2-year prison term. On appeal, defendant argues that, by excluding three spectators from the revocation hearing, the trial court violated his constitutional right to a public trial. We affirm.
[¶2] The State's evidence established that in the early morning hours of June 23, 2012, Antonio Williams was treated for gunshot wounds at a Rockford hospital. The State presented the testimony of seven witnesses during its case-in-chief at the revocation hearing. The third of those witnesses, Tiffany Seif, testified that on June 23, 2012, she and a number of other individuals, including defendant, had gathered outside an apartment building. At some point, defendant began to argue with Antonio Williams. After a few minutes Seif heard gunshots. Seif testified that she thought she saw someone known to her as " Rio" hand a gun to defendant. Seif then went to look for Antonio Williams, who had run away. Shortly after she located him, he collapsed. Two other individuals put Antonio Williams in Seif's car, and she drove him to the hospital. At about 5:45 a.m., several Rockford police officers responded to a report of suspicious vehicles at 1200 South Court Street. Defendant was standing by one of the vehicles, which was occupied by two individuals. A 9-millimeter handgun was discovered in that vehicle. It was stipulated that forensic testing on shell casings found at the scene of the shooting established that they had been fired from that weapon.
[¶3] After the State presented the final witness in its case-in-chief, the following exchange took place:
" MS. LARSON [Assistant State's Attorney]: Judge, Wendy Larson for the People. There are two black males and a black female seated in the second row of the gallery. The People, along with the defense attorney, Mr. Taylor, made an offer to the Court of an incident that happened after our civilian witness testified. We indicated to the Court that the large black male and the smaller black male, somehow seemed to be following our victim advocate along with the civilian witness as she left the courthouse. The Court agreed that since she had already testified, there was not much that could or should happen, although, prior to alerting the Court of this, *** I did have a conversation here at counsel table quietly [with cocounsel and the victim advocate]. And it now appears that these individuals not only overheard our discussion but had a discussion amongst themselves *** in which they were discussing what they should tell the Court about why they were pursuing this witness, that they should merely say that they were stepping out for some fresh air. I have a concern, Judge. I'm going to ask that the gallery be cleared,
that the Court admonish these people they are not to be talking to witnesses. And I'm going to ask that officers from the County be called, that we get these individuals' names, and that an investigation of ...