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.
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
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
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