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People v. Daniel

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

June 13, 2018

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MICHAEL L. DANIEL, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Stephenson County. No. 15-CF-93 Honorable Michael P. Bald, Judge, Presiding.

          JUSTICE JORGENSEN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Hutchinson and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          JORGENSEN, JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Defendant, Michael L. Daniel, appeals his conviction of aggravated battery to a community policing volunteer (720 ILCS 5/12-3.05(d)(4) (West 2014)). He contends that the trial court plainly erred in its questions to prospective jurors under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 431(b) (eff. July 1, 2012) because (1) the court failed to inquire whether the jurors understood the principles listed in the rule and (2) the evidence was closely balanced. We agree and reverse and remand for a new trial.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 Defendant was charged with multiple crimes, including one count of aggravated battery to a community policing volunteer and one count of aggravated battery to a police officer (720 ILCS 5/12-3.05(d)(4) (West 2014)) for allegedly kicking police officer Ryan Wagand and pushing community policing volunteer Tim Barth. In June 2015, a jury trial was held.

         ¶ 4 During jury selection, the court questioned the entire venire as follows:

"These are what we call the fundamental propositions and I have to ask these of you each individually. I must determine that each potential juror understands and accepts each of the following principles. The rules require that I ask each of you individually whether you do understand and accept each of these because these principles are fundamental to the American system of justice.
These are the kind of things that I hope you people in the back row listen to as well. First of all, the defendant is presumed innocent of the charges against him. He is not required to produce any evidence on his own behalf. Before any defendant may be convicted, the State must prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant need not testify and if he chooses not to testify, that fact cannot be held against him.
Okay. Now, I'm going to ask you individually whether you agree with those, okay."

         ¶ 5 The court then asked each prospective juror whether he or she heard the propositions, whether he or she agreed with them, and whether he or she disagreed with any part of them. When additional prospective jurors were called up in small groups, the court each time repeated the propositions, asked whether the prospective jurors heard them and agreed with them, and asked whether they disagreed with any part of them. One prospective juror, who had previously served on the jury in a criminal case, was asked if she understood that the State's burden to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt was the same. The prospective jurors were not otherwise asked if they understood the propositions.

         ¶ 6 At trial, Antalina Dominguez testified that, on April 11, 2015, she was having a birthday party for her niece when two officers stopped by and asked that they turn their music down. There was another party three houses down the street, and the police went there and told them to turn down their music too. Fights then broke out at the other house. Dominguez testified that the officers were being pushed or attacked and were getting swarmed into a corner. Dominguez called 911. Dominguez's sister testified that she witnessed arguing and saw the officers get pushed back toward the house. She said that the situation was escalating and chaotic. Four other officers arrived, and arrests were made. She said that she did not see anyone physically push the officers, because it was hard to see anything. Neither woman identified defendant as a person they saw pushing any officer.

         ¶ 7 Another neighbor, Lillian Collins, also called the police because she saw about 50 to 100 people and 5 officers yelling and arguing behind her house. She said that two or three people pushed the police and that the police slammed those people to the ground and arrested them. Some people in the crowd were trying to calm others down, and the crowd started to leave when an officer announced that pepper balls would be used. Collins could not identify defendant as being in the crowd.

         ¶ 8 Officer Andrew Laurent testified that he responded to a call about loud music and saw defendant sitting in a chair behind the house. Wagand and Barth were initially at another house but then came to Laurent's location. A man, David Thurman, pulled up in a car, and at least three people at the party approached him aggressively. According to Laurent, defendant was not among them. The officers kept Thurman separated from the group and kept people away by pushing them back. Thurman told Laurent that he was there because he did not want his young son to be at the party. Thurman's son was crying, so Laurent knelt down and asked the son if he wanted to go with Thurman. A man who lived at the house, Marlon Wilson, then came over, put his arm around Thurman's son, and yelled at the son not to talk to Laurent. When Laurent pulled Marlon's arm off of the son, Marlon charged him. Laurent shoved Marlon, a large crowd poured in, and the scene became extremely chaotic. Marlon was arrested. Laurent recalled seeing defendant on the ground ...


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