Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed October 6, 2011

 

People v. Taylor, 2011 IL 110067

 

Appellate citation: 398 Ill. App. 3d 74.

 

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

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

 

            In the circuit court of Lake County, this Deerfield High School night watchman was convicted of the 2005 theft of cash from a locked office desk at the school. His activities were recorded by a motion-activated surveillance camera that was connected to a digital video recorder. According to a police summary report, the detective who set up the surveillance equipment copied the segment of the video recorder’s hard drive showing the defendant onto a videotape, locked it in his desk, and later locked it in an evidence locker. The appellate court, however, believed that a proper foundation had not been laid for the admission of the tape, and it reversed. The State appealed.

            In this decision, the supreme court discussed the foundational requirements for establishing the accuracy and reliability of the processes which produce surveillance-camera recordings. It held that, in this case, the videotape was properly admitted under the “silent witness” theory. The appellate court should not have ignored the police department’s records, which established how the recording was made and showed its chain of custody. Also, the tape could be viewed as an “original” that was not subject to the best-evidence rule because it was made by copying the data stored on the hard drive of the digital recorder. The State was not required, therefore, to bring the digital video recording system into court.

            The detective testified as to how he was told about the equipment when he purchased it, read the instructions, and tested it first. He explained a 30-second gap on the tape by stating that the camera would not record when there was no motion at all. The supreme court was of the view that the camera was working because the image of the defendant was recognizable and that the appellate court had been overly restrictive when it held that there was a failure to establish that there was no alteration or tampering. The supreme court held that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the tape and that there was no plain error. The appellate court was reversed, and the conviction was upheld.