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People v. O'Donnell

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

March 11, 2015

ANTHONY L. O'DONNELL, Defendant-Appellant

Appeal from Circuit Court of Champaign County. No. 12DT504. Honorable John R. Kennedy, Judge Presiding.

Michael J. Pelletier, Jacqueline L. Bullard, and Lawrence Bapst (argued), all of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Springfield, for appellant.

Julia Rietz, State's Attorney, of Urbana (Patrick Delfino, David J. Robinson, and James C. Majors (argued), all of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

PRESIDING JUSTICE POPE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Knecht and Holder White concurred in the judgment and opinion.



Page 1027

[¶1] Following a jury trial, defendant, Anthony L. O'Donnell, was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol. 625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(2) (West 2012). The trial court sentenced defendant to 24 months' probation and 90 days' incarceration in the Champaign County correctional center. Defendant appeals, arguing he is entitled to a new trial under the first prong of the plain-error doctrine because (1) the trial court impermissibly allowed a police officer to testify as a " human lie detector," and (2) the evidence in his case is closely balanced. We affirm.


[¶3] On September 9, 2012, following a traffic accident in Mahomet, Illinois, defendant was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. 625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(2) (West 2012). A jury trial was held in February 2013.

Page 1028

[¶4] A. Detective Beckett's Testimony

[¶5] Detective Kevin Beckett of the Mahomet police department testified first for the State. Beckett testified he responded to a car accident at approximately 12:46 a.m. and no driver was found at the scene. At 1:12 a.m., he was notified by the local fire department an individual had been located walking approximately one mile away. Beckett proceeded to that location, where he found defendant.

[¶6] Beckett testified defendant told him a friend had been driving his car, he had been a passenger, and after the crash, he exited the car to go to a business district to find a way home. Beckett stated, at the time he located defendant, defendant was not near a business district, but was walking deeper into a residential area.

[¶7] B. Detective Bragg's Testimony

[¶8] Arresting officer Rebecca Bragg of the Mahomet police department testified next for the State. Bragg testified she was dispatched to a traffic accident on Tin Cup Road. She stated she observed skid marks across the road and a crashed vehicle in a bean field. She identified the vehicle as a white Grand Prix and testified the outside of the vehicle was damaged--the hood was crushed, the mirrors were broken, the front windshield was shattered, and the passenger's side window was " busted out." Bragg testified she observed both the driver's side and passenger's side air bags had been deployed. She stated the driver's side air bag looked like it had been tampered with and pushed in between the handles of the steering wheel. Bragg also observed a cushion and cell phone on the driver's seat and miscellaneous items on the passenger's seat. She explained the passenger's side air bag appeared not to have been tampered with and there was a path from the car through the bean field, leading away from the road, where it appeared someone had walked and broken the beans. In Bragg's opinion, the accident occurred when " the driver was going entirely too fast, couldn't make the curve, went off the roadway, tried to overcorrect the steering, and causing [ sic ] them to skid, and it collided with a fire hydrant, which caused the car to flip and roll."

[¶9] Bragg testified she spoke with defendant, the registered owner of the car, after her assisting officer brought him back to the scene. According to Bragg, defendant explained he left his residence at approximately 6 p.m. and went to a friend's house for a couple of hours. He then went to Uncle Buck's Sports Bar and Grill (the bar), where he played five or six games of pool with three or four different individuals. Bragg stated defendant could not describe or name any of the people he played pool with, except for one, " John." Bragg testified she asked defendant about his alcohol consumption, and defendant admitted he drank " approximately five, twelve-ounce Busch can beers" and was too drunk to drive. Defendant told Bragg he was ready to leave the bar and talked to the man he had just met playing pool, John, who told defendant he would drive defendant's car to an address on Prairie View Road. Defendant told Bragg he was not sure where that location was.

[¶10] Bragg testified defendant told her John was driving too fast and he told him to slow down. He then explained, once the car went off the roadway, he closed his eyes and did not open them until after the car landed. When he opened his eyes, John was not in the vehicle. Defendant then told Bragg the car doors would not open, so he crawled out the passenger's side window and started walking to try to find a business area so he could call a friend. Bragg testified defendant went in the opposite direction of a business area after the accident.

Page 1029

[¶11] The only information defendant could give Bragg about John was he was a male, about 6 feet 2 inches tall, and wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Bragg testified after defendant said he had gone looking for help, she asked defendant if he had a cell phone. Defendant responded he had one on his person while he was at the bar, but he did not have it on him any longer. The following exchange between the State and Bragg then occurred:

" Q. While you were questioning the defendant at this time, did he admit that he was driving the car?
A. No.
Q. Okay. What did he do instead?
A. When I would ask him questions, he would show deception. When I would ask him about certain things that would reflect him being the driver, he would always look away from me, or look down, and he would just state, 'I wasn't the driver.'
Q. Based on your experience and training, is that a common tactic when somebody's lying?
A. Yes, it's a sign of deception when someone won't look at you, when they look away to answer you.
Q. Okay. When you asked the question--or excuse me, when you asked the defendant questions about the car accident, did you specifically ask him where he was sitting?
A. I did.
Q. What did he tell you?
A. He told me he was sitting on his cushion.
Q. Where was that cushion?
A. In the driver's ...

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