In re: The Matter Of, THE CRIMINAL CONTEMPT OF: SUSAN TURNER (No. 4-16-0245), Contemnor-Appellant. In re: The Matter Of, THE CRIMINAL CONTEMPT OF: KAREN L. HUDSON (No. 4-16-0284), Contemnor-Appellant.
from Circuit Court of Scott County No. 14CC1 No. 14CC2
Honorable David R. Cherry, Judge Presiding.
JUSTICE HOLDER WHITE delivered the judgment of the court,
with opinion. Presiding Justice Knecht and Justice Pope
concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 In April 2014, contemnors, Susan Turner and Karen L.
Hudson, attended a jury trial involving concentrated animal
feeding operations, an operation they opposed. During a lunch
recess, an attorney for one of the parties informed the trial
court that he learned contemnors were distributing material
espousing the detriments of concentrated animal feeding
operations to members of the gallery. The court did not
personally witness these acts. Following the court's
investigation of members of the gallery and the jury, the
court held contemnors in direct criminal contempt of court
for distributing prejudicial material within the courtroom.
2 Contemnors appeal, arguing that the trial court erred by
finding them in direct criminal contempt. Following oral
arguments, we reversed the court's order from the bench
with this written order to follow.
3 I. BACKGROUND
4 A. Factual Overview
5 In April 2014, a jury trial commenced in a civil proceeding
involving concentrated animal feeding operations (Scott
County case No. 10-L-3). After the parties had impaneled a
jury, but prior to the presentation of evidence, the parties
met in the trial judge's chambers. The defendant's
counsel informed the trial court that a "lady known to
[the] [p]laintiffs' counsel" carried a box of books
denigrating industrial animal factories into the courtroom.
During the proceedings, the material in question is
interchangeably referred to as books, booklets, pamphlets,
and literature; for consistency's sake, we will refer to
the material as books. According to the defendant's
counsel, he received a report during the lunch recess that
the woman distributed these books, which were prejudicial to
the defendant, to people in the gallery in the presence of
the bailiff. The defendant's counsel was concerned that
the books would make it into the possession of the jury. The
court recalled seeing a woman with a box but did not observe
her distributing any material. The court then told the
parties they would all investigate the matter in the
courtroom and later question the jury to see if they knew
about the book. In the meantime, the jury was sequestered in
the deliberation room.
6 Upon returning to the courtroom, the trial court ordered
everyone in the gallery to remain in the courtroom due to a
breach in security. The court then asked those sitting in the
gallery if they had any information about a person with a box
of books who was passing out those books to members of the
audience. Eleven people raised their hands to indicate they
had observed the person.
7 Upon questioning, two people in the gallery recounted
receiving a copy of a book from a woman. Eventually, the
contemnors were identified, and the trial court called for
them to approach the bench. The court asked Hudson whether
she brought the books in the courtroom. She admitted she
brought them and distributed the material while court was not
in session. The court held Hudson in direct criminal
contempt, stating, "You are here to influence a jury.
That is jury tampering. That is a felony."
8 The trial court then asked Turner if she had distributed
any books. She replied she had not, but she had distributed
her consulting card to a woman in the gallery. Upon further
questioning by the court, Turner also admitted passing out
what appears from the record to have been some type of
pamphlet, not the books in question. The court then stated,
"This is not the proper venue for you to get on a soap
box, " and found Turner in direct criminal contempt. The
court ordered contemnors taken into custody and told them
they would be charged with jury tampering and held until bond
had been set. When Turner apologized, the court responded,
"Apologies don't make it. When you come in and ruin
almost 3, 4 years of work that these attorneys have worked
for, in an attempt to forward your personal agenda, you are
using the wrong forum." The court again told Turner and
Hudson they were in contempt and instructed that they be held
in jail until the court could get back to them.
9 After contemnors were taken into custody, the attorneys for
both sides disavowed any knowledge that contemnors intended
to distribute any material. The trial court again noted it
saw one of the women carrying a sealed box but made no
mention of seeing anyone distribute any books. Likewise, the
bailiff did not observe anyone passing out books or anything
else. The court stated, "This taints everything we stand
for. And this deserves, this deserves prison."
10 After calling the jury back into the courtroom for
questioning, one juror disclosed that he observed a woman
passing out a book in the gallery, but he did not see its
title or have any contact with it after observing the woman
hand it out. The trial court went on to ask if any jurors
recognized anyone sitting in the gallery. Multiple jurors
indicated they knew people sitting in the gallery. The court
remarked to the jury, "You are a target now, you know.
*** For you to be improperly influenced by some outside
source is hard enough to put up with all these lawyers, but
to be influenced or [for] somebody outside of this to try to
influence you is criminal and, in fact, it is a crime in
Illinois to try to tamper with the jury." The court
later declared a mistrial.
11 The same day, while still in custody, Turner and Hudson
again appeared before the trial court. An attorney, Judy
Koehler, was present and indicated to the court that Attorney
John Coonrod would be representing Turner and Hudson. Koehler
indicated she knew Hudson from when Koehler lived in the
Peoria area. By invitation of the court, Koehler sat next to
contemnors. However, Koehler did not enter her appearance in
the matter. The court never called on Koehler ...