People v. Speck

Decision Date22 November 1968
Docket NumberNo. 41042,41042
Citation41 Ill.2d 177,242 N.E.2d 208
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee, v. Richard Franklin SPECK, Appellant.
CourtIllinois Supreme Court

Gerald W. Getty, Public Defender of Cook County, Chicago (James J. Doherty, James N. Gramenos and Marshall J. Hartman, Asst. Public Defenders, of counsel), for appellant.

William G. Clark, Atty. Gen., Springfield, and John J. Stamos, State's Atty., Chicago (William J. Martin, Joel M. Flaum, James B. Zagel and James B. Haddad, Asst. State's Attys., of counsel), for appellee.


On July 13, 1966, eight young women were murdered in their townhouse residence in the city of Chicago. The grand jury of the circuit court of Cook County returned eight separate indictments charging the defendant, Richard Franklin Speck, with the murders. The defendant moved for a change of place of trial from Cook County and the motion was allowed and the cause transferred to Peoria County. The indictments were consolidated for trial before a jury which returned a verdict of guilty on all indictments and fixed the death penalty. The court sentenced the defendant to death and the cause is now before us on appeal.

Following the transfer of the cause the defendant moved for another change of the place of trial on the ground that he could not receive a fair trial in Peoria County because of prejudice against him on the part of the inhabitants of the county. The court denied the motion and the defendant contends that the denial was reversible error.

The record is replete with exhibits consisting of allegedly prejudicial newspaper articles and records of television and radio commentaries on the case. Because of the violence of the crimes and the number of victims the slayings received wide publicity on a nation-wide scale for a period of about two weeks commencing with the date of the crime and continuing through the arrest and indictment of the defendant. These news stories were circulated to news media throughout the nation, including Peoria, by means of the Associated Press and United Press International wire services. Although the exhibits submitted by the defendant in support of his motion contain numerous copies of alleged prejudicial publicity in newspapers published in Chicago, and radio and television programs originating in Chicago, we do not believe that these exhibits are of substantial assistance in determining whether the defendant received a fair trial in Peoria. Although the statistics submitted by the State and the defendant differ, it is clear that the Chicago newspapers were not widely circulated in Peoria County. The figure submitted by the State indicated that 93% Of Peoria County households did not receive any edition of any Chicago newspaper; that most Chicago newspapers reached less than 5% Of these households and that only the Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune was received by as many as 7%. Defendant did not directly contradict these facts but contended that they were based upon subscriptions and did not include newsstand sales. In any event, the heavy news coverage of the crimes in the Chicago newspapers in the period immediately following the crimes was to a large extent, repeated in the Peoria press.

Although it is possible for residents of Peoria County to receive Chicago radio and television broadcasts, Peoria County was served by five local radio stations and three local television stations. We are of the opinion that only the broadcasts of the local stations are relevant in determining the question of alleged prejudicial publicity.

The principal newspaper in Peoria County is the Peoria Journal Star, which reached approximately 80% Of the readers in the Peoria metropolitan area. The crimes received front page attention for about a week. The stories contained: the injuries inflicted on each of the women; an account of the slayings related by the sole survivor; a police sketch of the slayer; an article stating that Speck had been named as the killer; an account of his arrest; a summary of the defendant's previous criminal record; a report that the defendant had suffered a heart attack while in custody; a report that indictments had been returned against the defendant; a report that the defendant's fingerprints had been found in the townhouse where the women were slain; a report that the sole survivor had identified the defendant; and a report that the defendant would claim insanity.

The radio and television broadcasting during the period was much in the same vein. In addition to the news articles referred to in connection with the discussion of newspaper publicity, there was one television broadcast which is particularly relied upon by the defendant in support of his claim. On July 16, before the arrest of the defendant, the then police superintendent of the city of Chicago appeared in a television interview where he displayed a picture of the defendant and stated that the defendant had been identified as the slayer by the survivor and also by fingerprints found at the scene of the crime. He urged all citizens to report to the authorities any person who appeared to match the defendant's description. The superintendent stated that as far as he was concerned, there was no question that the suspect was the murderer. The defense also contended that in a television broadcast in December 1966, long after the defendant had been apprehended, the superintendent justified his former statement and stated that he did not think that his remarks prejudiced the defendant's right to a fair trial. However, the evidence at the hearing on the motion for a further change of the place of trial, failed to show that this interview was broadcast over any Peoria station and the court sustained an objection to its admission.

In determining whether the defendant received a trial before a fair and impartial jury, we must bear in mind that defendant had to be tried in some community in the State of Illinois. In determining the place of trial the court had to consider the necessity of selecting a community which was capable of affording adequate security for the defendant and a county in which there would be a sufficiently large number of prospective jurors. All communities in this State meeting these requirements were served by one or more wire services transmitting news to local newspapers, and were also served by local radio and television stations. Any such community would therefore necessarily have been subjected to much the same publicity to which Peoria County was subjected. The basic consideration, however, is not the amount of publicity in a particular case, but whether the defendant in that case received a fair and impartial trial, for, as stated in Beck v. Washington, 369 U.S. 541, 556, 82 S.Ct. 955, 963, 8 L.E.2d 98, where a change of venue on the ground of prejudicial publicity was denied: 'Of course there could be no constitutional infirmity in these rulings if petitioner actually received a trial by an impartial jury.' The Supreme Court in Irvin v. Dowd, 366 U.S. 717, 722, 81 S.Ct. 1639, 1642, 6 L.Ed.2d 751, laid down the following standards to be used in determining whether a defendant received a trial before a fair and impartial jury: 'It is not required, however, that the jurors be totally ignorant of the facts and issues involved. In these days of swift, widespread and diverse methods of communication, an important case can be expected to arouse the interest of the public in the vicinity, and scarcely any of those best qualified to serve as jurors will not have formed some impression or opinion as to the merits of the case. This is particularly true in criminal cases. To hold that the mere existence of any preconceived notion as to the guilt or innocence of an accused, without more, is sufficient to rebut the presumption of a prospective juror's impartiality would be to establish an impossible standard. It is sufficient if the juror can lay aside his impression or opinion and render a verdict based on the evidence presented in court.'

Applying these standards, we focus our inquiry on the ultimate question of whether the jurors at the defendant's trial demonstrated that they were able to lay aside any impression or opinion which they might have had and render a verdict based on the evidence rendered in court. By agreement, the defendant was given 160 peremptory challenges. Less than half of the peremptory challenges had been exercised by the defendant at the time the final jury panel was selected. There is some dispute between the State and the defendant as to the exact number of prospective jurors who were refused because of a preconceived belief in the defendant's guilt, but it is undisputed that the number of such prospective jurors was between 250 and 300. Defendant argues that the fact that so many jurors were excused for cause demonstrates that the degree of prejudice in the county was so great that defendant could not receive a fair trial. On the contrary, we are of the opinion that the large number of excused jurors rather tended to demonstrate the care which the court exercised in assuring that the defendant had a fair and impartial jury. (Cf. People v. Berry, 37 Ill.2d 329, 332, 226 N.E.2d 591.) The 12 jurors finally selected had stated that they had no such preconceived notions of the defendant's guilt which would prevent their rendering a fair and impartial verdict, although all of them stated that they had read something about the case. The defendant accepted all of these jurors and did not challenge any of them for cause.

The situation is far different from that in Irvin v. Dowd. In that case the defendant exhausted his peremptory challenges and 8 of the 12 jurors finally selected stated that they had preconceived notions of guilt. One of the final jurors said that he could not give the defendant the benefit of the presumption that he was innocent and others stated that it would take evidence...

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  • State v. Piskorski
    • United States
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    ...prejudice in the instant case. Murphy v. Florida, supra, 421 U.S. 802, 95 S.Ct. 2031; Calley v. Callaway, supra, 208; see People v. Speck, 41 Ill.2d 177, 242 N.E.2d 208. Under the circumstances presented in this case, the defendant has failed to demonstrate that the trial court erred in con......
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    ...are not the paid harlots of either side in a criminal case and should not be portrayed in such a light."); People v. Speck, 41 Ill.2d 177, 242 N.E.2d 208, 221 (1968) ("A witness is not the property of either party to a suit and simply because one party may have conferred with a witness and ......
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    ... ... Indeed, as I told you, indeed, people are capable of forming the requisite intent ...         When the defendant contends that he does not have the requisite capability, he ... Page 474 ... out the murders to see if some were primary and others secondary. Would one such as Richard Speck be considered as though he had killed only once as to all but one of his victims? See People v. Speck, 41 Ill.2d 177, 242 N.E.2d 208 (1968) (in the ... ...
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