Supreme Court Summaries


Opinions filed July 11, 2013




 

 

People v. Lacy, 2013 IL 113216

Appellate citation: 2011 IL App (5th) 100347.

 

      JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

      Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, and Karmeier concurred in the judgment and opinion.

      Justice Garman dissented, with opinion, joined by Justice Theis.

 

      This Jackson County defendant was arrested on February 8, 2009, and charged with first degree murder and home invasion. He remained in custody throughout the proceedings.

      After the defendant was granted several continuances, a trial date was set for February 1, 2010. At this time it was the prosecution which began requesting continuances—the first one because the sole eyewitness could not travel to trial for medical reasons. The granting of this motion brought the scheduled trial date to April 26, 2010. The second continuance request was made because the crime scene technician who had collected evidence at the scene was in military service and was on deployment overseas in Afghanistan. The granting of this second request brought the scheduled trial date to July 19, 2010, when the witness would be back in the area. By this time a different trial judge had been assigned to the case.

      On July 15, 2010, Lacy requested a dismissal for expiration of his statutory period for speedy trial, which he claimed had run out on June 26. The State’s second continuance to July 19 concerning the evidence technician, defendant alleged, brought the date for starting trial beyond his statutory speedy-trial period. The new judge agreed and dismissed the case, and the appellate court affirmed. However, the supreme court disagreed with the results below and, in this opinion, reversed them.

      The speedy-trial statute provides that, “if a court determines that the State has exercised without success due diligence to obtain evidence material to the case and that there are reasonable grounds to believe that such evidence may be obtained at a later day the court may continue the cause on application of the State for not more than an additional 60 days.”

      The precise issue presented here has not been addressed in any prior case law and is one of first impression. The defendant maintained that the prosecution could not, under any circumstances, be granted more than 60 additional days in total to obtain material evidence, while the State argued that it could obtain multiple continuances of not more than 60 days each upon the appropriate showings. The supreme court, however, said that neither of these arguments hits the mark, rejecting both the defendant’s argument that the State may receive no more than a total of 60 days of continuance and the State’s contention that there is no limit to the number of times such a continuance may be granted.

      The supreme court interpreted the statute to mean that the 60-day time period is tied to the specific evidence for which the continuance is sought and is granted with respect to that evidence alone. The State may seek separate continuances in order to obtain different items of material evidence, but is only entitled to one 60-day continuance for each item. The State’s awareness that two witnesses are unavailable means that it should seek a continuance as to both at the same time rather than exhausting a continuance as to one and then seeking a continuance as to the other, which would unnecessarily prolong proceedings. Thus, there is an explicit limit on the length of a permitted continuance, tying the extension of time to the evidence being sought and providing for one, and only one, continuance of not more than 60 days to obtain an item of material evidence. This statutory scheme implements the constitutional right to speedy trial.

      Here, the defendant did not raise issues as to the prerequisites of the State’s due diligence, the materiality of the witnesses’ testimony, or reasonable grounds to believe that the testimony would be obtained at a later date. The State was entitled to seek one continuance of not more than 60 days as to the eyewitness. When, later, the crime scene technician, who would provide different evidence, unexpectedly became unavailable, the State was also entitled to seek a second continuance of not more than 60 days to obtain that testimony.

      The dismissal could not stand, and the cause was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. The appellate court was reversed.