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People v. Byrd

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

April 27, 2017

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
FRANKLIN T. BYRD, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 09-CF-1537 Honorable John S. Lowry, Judge, Presiding.

          JUSTICE SCHOSTOK delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Jorgensen and Spence concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          SCHOSTOK, JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Defendant, Franklin T. Byrd, appeals from the judgment of the circuit court of Winnebago County sentencing him to an aggregate prison term of 86 years on his convictions of intentional first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 2008)) and armed robbery (720 ILCS 5/18-2(a)(4) (West 2008)). He contends that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to seat a potential juror as a remedy for a violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), and in imposing the sentence. Because the court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to seat the juror or in imposing the sentence, we affirm.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 During jury selection, the State exercised peremptory challenges on three African-American potential jurors (Nos. 1, 21, and 22). Following the challenges, defendant requested a hearing pursuant to Batson.

         ¶ 4 At the outset of the hearing, in chambers, the State noted that jurors 21 and 22 had not been excused and were still in the courtroom. The trial court responded that going into the courtroom to excuse the two jurors would draw unnecessary attention. Because juror 1 had been peremptorily challenged earlier that day, the court had already excused juror 1.

         ¶ 5 The trial court ruled that defendant did not make a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination as to either juror 1 or juror 22. As to juror 21, however, the court found that defendant made a prima facie case.

         ¶ 6 The State then offered its race-neutral explanation for challenging juror 21, stating that the juror's brother had been arrested for a drug crime and the juror had visited him in jail. The State maintained that the juror would closely identify with defendant's sister, who had visited defendant in jail. The State added that, when it questioned juror 21, she appeared to be defensive, in that she "had her brows knitted" and "had her arms crossed" in reaction to being asked whether the criminal justice system had been fair to her brother.

         ¶ 7 Before the trial court ruled regarding juror 21, the State commented that "there's no remedy [for] a Batson violation." When the court asked defense counsel if she had any response to the State's comment, she responded only that she "[thought] the Court [had] the ultimate discretion whether or not to allow the State to use a peremptory challenge to ensure someone a fair trial."

         ¶ 8 Before ruling on the Batson issue, the trial court gave all of the potential jurors a 15-minute break. After the jurors returned to the courtroom, the court excused jurors 21 and 22. Defendant did not object to the court excusing juror 21.

         ¶ 9 Upon returning to chambers, the trial court stated that it was rejecting the State's race-neutral explanation for challenging juror 21 and found a Batson violation. In doing so, the court noted that it did not observe juror 21 cross her arms or be antagonistic or hostile toward the State. The court added that, although juror 21 might not have completely understood the State's questions, the court did not interpret that as animus or hostility.

         ¶ 10 The State then stated that it misspoke when it earlier told the court that there was no remedy for a Batson violation. The State explained that it had found an Illinois case that stated that when there is a Batson violation "the proper remedy would be to impanel the juror." When the court asked defense counsel to respond, she stated that the State had accepted white jurors whom she had seen crossing their arms and "[t]hat's the only other thing [she would] add."

         ¶ 11 The trial court then discharged the entire jury pool. Defendant did not object or request that juror 21 be seated. The court then stated that it had "declared a mistrial without prejudice." After ruling on various motions in limine and other matters, the court ...


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