People v. Boston, 022616 ILSC, 118661

Docket Nº:118661
Opinion Judge:THEIS, JUSTICE
Judge Panel:JUSTICE THEIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Garman and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, and Karmeier concurred in the judgment and opinion. JUSTICE BURKE, dissenting:
Case Date:February 26, 2016
Court:Supreme Court of Illinois

2016 IL 118661



JERRY BOSTON, Appellant.

No. 118661

Supreme Court of Illinois

February 26, 2016

JUSTICE THEIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Garman and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, and Karmeier concurred in the judgment and opinion.



¶ 1 This appeal arises from the first degree murder conviction of defendant, Jerry Boston, for the 1997 killing of his former girlfriend, Tonya Pipes. Defendant was charged in 2005 with the murder after a bloody palm print discovered at the crime scene was shown to match defendant's palm print which was obtained by the State through a grand jury subpoena. The circuit court of Cook County denied defendant's motion to quash the subpoena and suppress the palm print evidence, and the appellate court affirmed. 2014 IL App. (1st) 111489-U, ¶ 66. For the reasons that follow, we also affirm.


¶ 3 On August 25, 1997, Pipes was found dead in her Chicago apartment with the upper portion of her body submerged in a bathtub which was dark with blood. A beer bottle and two knives were floating in the water. Pipes sustained multiple stab wounds to her neck and head, and semen was discovered on vaginal swabs taken during an autopsy. There was no evidence that she had been raped. Above the bathtub, there was a palm print left in Pipes's blood. The police cut out a piece of the wallboard with this print for analysis. The crime remained unsolved for years.

¶ 4 In April 2004, the State was investigating the cold case and appeared before a grand jury requesting the issuance of a subpoena. At the proceeding, Assistant State's Attorney LuAnn Snow (ASA Snow) informed the grand jury as follows:

"The Grand Jury has the right to subpoena and question any person against whom the State's Attorney is seeking a Bill of Indictment, or any other person, and to obtain and examine any documents or transcripts relevant to the matter being prosecuted by the State's Attorney.

I am asking for approval of a John Doe first degree murder subpoena under Grand Jury Number April 195. What we are asking for is the Illinois Department of Corrections, through one of the fingerprint technicians, [to] take palm prints and fingerprints of Jerry Boston, who is currently incarcerated at the Illinois Department of Corrections on a life sentence. He was the ex-boyfriend of a woman who was killed back in 1997, and the police have received information that he may be involved in her killing.

There is an unidentified palm print on the wall next to where the victim was found, so they want to get his palm prints. Palm prints are different from fingerprints. Everyone arrested gets fingerprinted, but not necessarily palm printed."

¶ 5 After deliberating, the grand jury granted the subpoena. The subpoena was directed to the Illinois Department of Corrections instructing that it take a complete set of palm prints and fingerprints from defendant. The subpoena stated that "[c]ompliance with this subpoena may be made by tendering such items to ASA SNOW, or the Cook County Investigator serving the subpoena as an agent of the Cook County Grand Jury."

¶ 6 On April 16, 2004, Chicago police sergeant William Whalen and Detective Luis Munoz served defendant with the subpoena at Menard Correctional Center. After a set of palm prints and fingerprints were taken from defendant by an employee of the prison, the police delivered the prints to the Illinois State Police crime lab.

¶ 7 On May 4, 2004, Munoz secured a search warrant from a judge for defendant's DNA. After the DNA sample was collected, police submitted a request to compare defendant's DNA with the semen discovered on the vaginal swab taken during Pipes's autopsy. The test showed that the male DNA profile extracted from the semen recovered from the vaginal swab was consistent with having originated from defendant.

¶ 8 On July 12, 2005, the State again appeared before the grand jury. The State introduced the testimony of Whalen who testified that defendant's palm print matched the one discovered at the apartment where Pipes was found dead. He further testified that defendant's DNA matched seminal fluid discovered in Pipes's vagina. The State sought a bill of indictment against defendant for Pipes's murder, which the grand jury granted.1 At the time, defendant was serving a natural life sentence on an unrelated armed robbery conviction.

¶ 9 Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion to quash the subpoena and suppress the palm print evidence. He argued that the State improperly used the grand jury to obtain the subpoena and to supplement a police investigation. Defendant asserted that the State violated his fourth amendment rights, and his rights under the Illinois Constitution, by seeking a grand jury subpoena rather than a search warrant from a judge. Defendant further argued that the State violated grand jury procedures by failing to return the fingerprint card to the grand jury. Defendant argued that any evidence seized as a result of the subpoena must therefore be suppressed.

¶ 10 The trial court denied the motion. Concerning defendant's constitutional claims, the trial court found that the information given to the grand jury was sufficient and particularized enough to prevent the court from quashing the subpoena. The trial court held that the subpoena was "predicated on what [it] believe[d] to be a particularized request by [the State] that a hand print or palm print be taken from the ex-boyfriend of a murder victim from 1997." With respect to the grand jury process, the trial court recognized that there was nothing in the record to indicate that when the grand jury issued the subpoena that it was asked to grant agency powers, or that it had granted the assistant State's Attorney agency powers. The trial court noted that the procedures before the grand jury were "[e]xtremely sloppy" and did not "comport with all dictates of procedure that [it] would expect in terms of conduct in front of the grand jury." The trial court further held that when the State subsequently appeared before the grand jury seeking the indictment, its appearance did not amount to a return of the subpoena to the grand jury. The trial court concluded, however, that the issue of prejudice weighed heavily against defendant and emphasized that his liberty interest was greatly restricted due to his status as an incarcerated felon. Given the totality of the circumstances, the trial court held that it would be improper to suppress the palm print evidence.

¶ 11 At the jury trial in December 2009, among other evidence, the State presented the DNA and palm print evidence. Several witnesses testified, including Randy Cook, defendant's cellmate from June 25 to July 10, 2008. Cook testified that defendant confided in him about the murder. Defendant told him that Pipes went into the bathroom while he was in the tub and the two got into an argument about defendant's drugs. Defendant snapped and began hitting and stabbing her.


To continue reading