People v. Daniels, No. 77464

CourtSupreme Court of Illinois
Writing for the CourtMcMORROW
Citation172 Ill.2d 154,665 N.E.2d 1221,216 Ill.Dec. 664
Parties, 216 Ill.Dec. 664 The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee, v. Eric D. DANIELS, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 77464
Decision Date21 March 1996

Page 1221

665 N.E.2d 1221
172 Ill.2d 154, 216 Ill.Dec. 664
The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee,
Eric D. DANIELS, Appellant.
No. 77464.
Supreme Court of Illinois.
March 21, 1996.

Rehearing Denied June 3, 1996.

Page 1222

[216 Ill.Dec. 665] [172 Ill.2d 156] Charles M. Schiedel, Deputy Defender, and Timothy M. Gabrielsen, Assistant Defender, of the Office of the State Appellate Defender, Springfield, for appellant.

James E. Ryan, Attorney General, Springfield, and Thomas J. Difanis, State's Attorney, Urbana (Barbara E. Preiner, Solicitor General, and Arleen C. Anderson and Steven R. Splitt, Assistant Attorneys General, Chicago, of counsel), for the People.

Justice McMORROW delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant, Eric D. Daniels, appeals from his conviction and death penalty sentence, contending that he was denied a fair trial because he was allowed only seven peremptory challenges to prospective jurors instead of the 14 specified for capital cases under Supreme Court Rule 434(d) (134 Ill.2d R. 434(d)). Defendant also argues that the trial court compounded its error by refusing to excuse for cause a prospective juror who knew and had experience with the lead prosecutor in defendant's trial. The same prosecutor helped to obtain the conviction of a person accused of sexually assaulting that venire member's children. The trial court in the case at bar refused to excuse the challenged venire member for cause; accordingly, defense counsel was compelled to exercise one of his peremptory challenges against the venire member. Because we agree that defendant was entitled to 14 peremptory challenges under Rule 434(d) and that the court's refusal to allow the greater number of challenges constituted reversible error[172 Ill.2d 157] under the circumstances of this case, we reverse and remand for new trial.


Defendant was convicted of a 1993 murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, and armed robbery that took place at the Charter

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[216 Ill.Dec. 666] House Inn in Champaign, Illinois. The victim of the attack, Michelle Davis, was working at the motel as night clerk. In the early morning hours of July 22, 1993, Davis' nude body was discovered. The cash register was empty. Shotgun pellets and wadding were found at the crime scene and in the victim's fatal wounds. The autopsy revealed evidence of sexual intercourse and trauma to the victim's vagina. DNA testing indicated that blood spots found on defendant's clothing were consistent with the victim's genetic profile. Semen samples recovered from the victim's body were tested. The results indicated that the semen could have come from defendant or the victim's boyfriend, who testified to having engaged in consensual sexual intercourse with Davis at approximately 6 p.m. on the evening of July 21, 1993.

In the course of the police investigation, officers arrested defendant and searched his apartment. There, police found two shotguns and a box of shotgun shells. Defendant claimed he had found the guns on July 22, 1993. The weapons were found to be in working order, but a forensic scientist testified at trial he could neither identify nor eliminate either shotgun as having fired the shots recovered at the crime scene. However, evidence indicated that the shot pellets taken from Davis' body were manufactured from the same batch of lead as the shot pellets taken from defendant's apartment.

Defendant admitted going to the Charter House Inn the evening before and the morning of the homicide. According to defendant, the victim consented to having sexual intercourse with him during the evening of July [172 Ill.2d 158] 21 while she was on duty. Defendant claimed he then left, planning to return later to rob the motel, and when he did return, at approximately 5 a.m. on July 22, he gained entry through an unlocked basement door. Defendant said he met a man known to him as "T," with whom defendant discussed robbing the motel. Defendant claimed that "T" instead ordered defendant to leave. According to defendant, he left the motel without participating in any criminal activity.

The jury returned verdicts of guilty on all charges. The trial court found defendant eligible for the death penalty because the murder of Davis occurred in the course of aggravated criminal sexual assault and armed robbery. After a hearing in aggravation and mitigation, the trial court sentenced defendant to death for the first degree murder conviction and to concurrent extended terms of 60 years' imprisonment for the other convictions. Notice of appeal was timely filed.


Defendant argues that he was denied a fair trial and due process of law because the trial court permitted him only seven peremptory challenges rather than the 14 challenges required in capital cases by Supreme Court Rule 434(d). In response, the State argues that because defendant waived his right to a jury for the sentencing phase of trial at the time of the voir dire, the instant cause is not a "capital case" within the meaning of our Rule 434(d).

Rule 434(d) provides, in pertinent part:

"A defendant tried alone shall be allowed 14 peremptory challenges in a capital case, 7 in a case in which the punishment may be imprisonment in the penitentiary, and 5 in all other cases * * *." 134 Ill.2d R. 434(d).

Defendant contends that this rule clearly and unambiguously entitles an accused in his position to exercise [172 Ill.2d 159] 14 peremptory challenges; therefore, no exceptions, limitations, or conditions should be read in. See, e.g., People v. Goins, 119 Ill.2d 259, 265, 116 Ill.Dec. 193, 518 N.E.2d 1014 (1988). According to defendant, a capital case does not lose its character as a death penalty prosecution simply because the defendant waives his or her right to have a jury determine if the death penalty should be imposed. Defendant further states that numerous defendants on trial in capital cases in Illinois have retained the right to the greater number of peremptory challenges despite having entered pretrial waivers of the jury for sentencing. In support, defendant includes in his brief a listing of eight death penalty cases from three counties in which the trial courts granted either the 14 peremptories allowed by our rule or

Page 1224

[216 Ill.Dec. 667] the 20 peremptories allowed by section 115-4(e) of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (725 ILCS 5/115-4(e) (West 1992)), notwithstanding the defendants' waiver of the jury for sentencing. According to defendant, such consistent practice in the trial courts of Illinois is "a testament to the rule's clarity."

The State, in contrast, argues that this court should adopt the rationale of three appellate decisions which hold that if the defendant in a death penalty case waives the jury for sentencing, the matter ceases to be a "capital case" for purposes of allowing the greater number of peremptory challenges. People v. Wolfe, 144 Ill.App.3d 843, 98 Ill.Dec. 548, 494 N.E.2d 670 (1986); People v. Jang Han Bae, 176 Ill.App.3d 1065, 126 Ill.Dec. 304, 531 N.E.2d 931 (1988); People v. Allen, 184 Ill.App.3d 438, 446, 132 Ill.Dec. 671, 540 N.E.2d 411 (1989).

In Wolfe, Jang Han Bae, and Allen, the defendants executed pretrial waivers of the jury for sentencing. Thereafter, the trial courts limited the defendants to the number of peremptory challenges allowed in cases punishable by imprisonment rather than death. In Wolfe and Jang Han Bae, the appellate panels construed section 115-4(e) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the [172 Ill.2d 160] statutory provision that permits defendants who are tried alone to exercise 20 peremptory challenges in capital cases and 10 challenges in cases punishable by imprisonment. In Allen, the appellate panel considered the application of Supreme Court Rule 434(d), which was amended in 1985 to provide for 14 peremptory challenges in a capital prosecution and seven in cases punishable by imprisonment. 1

In Wolfe, the court upheld the trial court's decision to limit defendant to the lower number of peremptory challenges on voir dire, reasoning that because defendant waived the jury for sentencing, the jury would play no role in imposing capital punishment. In support of its holding, the court relied on its earlier decision in People v. Nathaniel, 103 Ill.App.3d 610, 59 Ill.Dec. 323, 431 N.E.2d 1080 (1981). In Nathaniel, a convicted defendant argued on appeal that the trial court committed reversible error during jury selection by allowing defendant only half of the peremptory challenges permitted for capital trials under the pertinent statute. In rejecting the defendant's argument, the appellate panel in Nathaniel noted that the trial court had declined the State's pretrial request to conduct voir dire under the guidelines of Witherspoon v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 510, 88 S.Ct. 1770, 20 L.Ed.2d 776 (1968). The State did not thereafter pursue the issue or seek the death penalty; subsequently, defendant was sentenced to a term of imprisonment. The appellate panel in Nathaniel expressed its belief that...

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  • People v. Lucas, 3-05-0757.
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • March 29, 2007
    ...of the statute is plain and unambiguous, courts will not read in exceptions, limitations, or other conditions. People v. Daniels, 172 Ill.2d 154, 216 Ill.Dec. 664, 665 N.E.2d 1221 Here, the plain language of section 6-303(a) and (d) of the Code states that any person convicted of a second v......
  • People v. Robinson, 1-97-0629
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • September 30, 1998
    ...of prospective jurors, and if the procedure allows both parties a fair chance to peremptorily excuse any venireman." People v. Daniels, 172 Ill.2d 154, 165, 216 Ill.Dec. 664, 665 N.E.2d 1221 Reversible error is found if the conduct of the trial court results in the selection of an unfair ju......
  • People v. Blair, 2-07-0862.
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • September 29, 2009
    ...have not hesitated to reverse a defendant's conviction in response to a violation of a supreme court rule. See, e.g., People v. Daniels, 172 Ill.2d 154, 164-69, 216 Ill.Dec. 664, 665 N.E.2d 1221 (1996) (reversing the defendant's conviction in light of a violation of Supreme Court Rule 434(d......
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    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • April 29, 2011
    ...decided after Zehr.” Glasper, 234 Ill.2d at 197, 334 Ill.Dec. 575, 917 N.E.2d 401. Our supreme court noted that, in People v. Daniels, 172 Ill.2d 154, 165, 216 Ill.Dec. 664, 665 N.E.2d 1221 (1996), it expressed a reluctance to hold that automatic reversal was required for a violation of a “......
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2 books & journal articles
  • Table of Cases
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Illinois Objections
    • May 1, 2013
    ...Dahlin , 184 Ill App 3d 59, 539 NE2d 1293 (1989), §8:90 People v. Damen , 28 Ill 2d 464, 193 NE2d 25 (1963), §6:190 People v. Daniels , 172 Ill 2d 154, 665 NE2d 1221 (1996), §2:200 People v. Daniels , 331 Ill App 3d 380, 770 NE2d 1143 (2002), §§1:50, 3:100 People v. Davis , 151 Ill App 3d 4......
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    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Illinois Objections
    • May 1, 2013
    ...defendant waives the right to a jury for the death eligibility or the aggravation and mitigation phase of sentencing. People v. Daniels , 172 Ill 2d 154, 665 NE2d 1221 (1996). The court may direct the selection of alternate jurors after a jury is impaneled and sworn. Each party has one addi......

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