In a recent Illinois Supreme Court case, the Court considered a case involving a charge of Resisting a Peace Officer. The case arose in 2011, when the daughters of a family with four kids (including the defendant) died in a car accident. The trial court ordered that the biological father should have temporary physical custody of the decedent’s daughter. The order permitted law enforcement officers to help the father get the daughter from whoever had physical custody.
The law officer tried to serve the order on the family three times. On the third occasion, the defendant, the uncle of the child, who was visiting, came to the door and eventually wound up in custody, charged with Resisting a Police Officer.
At the jury trial, the court admonished the jury that the defendant was presumed innocent and advised them of the Zehr principles. The Zehr principles provide that when the defendant requests, the Court must advise potential jurors that the defendant is presumed innocent, the defendant is not required to produce any evidence, the state has to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and that if the defendant does not testify, that refusal to testify cannot be used against him. While testifying, the deputy claimed that he gave the defendant the court order, that the defendant was upset they were there, and that the child was on vacation. He claimed that the defendant got agitated and said the paper wasn’t a search order, and he poked the deputy in the shoulder and told them to leave the property. He arrested the defendant for Battery to a Peace Officer, but the defendant started thrashing to resist the arrest. They cuffed the defendant, and one of the police officers got open scrapes and cuts or scratches.
Another family member came to the door, and the officer asked if he could come into the house to check for the girl, and the family member refused. The defendant was taken to jail and given Miranda warnings. When cross-examined, the officer didn’t remember whether he put his foot in the door and acknowledged that he didn’t have permission to enter, but he believed that the woman and the defendant were lying about the girl not being there. At the close of the prosecution’s evidence, the defendant moved for a directed verdict, but this motion was denied.
The defense called a family friend as a witness. She was the woman who had answered the door, and she testified that the deputy was hostile and yelling and stuck his foot in the door. The defendant came to the door, and according to her, he was loud but not physical and was simply talking with his hands. One of the officers yelled “assault!” She thought that the deputies moved the defendant more than he moved—it didn’t appear like an arrest. The defendant’s brother agreed with her testimony. The defendant’s girlfriend took photos of scrapes on the defendant’s arms and back. The defendant testified that he had talked to the police previously about his deceased sister’s daughter and that she had been away to visit family in the South. He’d asked the officers to leave and said that if they had a warrant, they should get it and come in or leave. He denied making contact with the officers and said that the officers pulled him off the doorstep and swung at him.
While deliberating, the jury asked the judge whether it ended the police authorization to be on the property if you told the police to leave your property. The judge simply referred them to the jury instructions. The jury found the defendant guilty, and he was sentenced to two years imprisonment. He appealed.
On appeal, the defendant argued that it was a mistake for the trial court to ask jurors if they had problems with the Zehr principles. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court explained that the law required the prosecution to prove the defendant knew he was resisting an act the peace officer was authorized to perform and in so doing legally caused the officer’s injuries. The defendant argued the evidence was closely balanced because both he and the State presented believable versions of events. The State disagreed, saying only it had presented a credible account.
The Court agreed with the defendant that the evidence was closely balanced, since the defendant’s and his witnesses’ accounts were consistent. The Court explained that if jurors don’t understand and accept a defendant is presumed innocent, the credibility contests might lean in the prosecution’s favor. The Court explained that when trial evidence is close, a clear Rule 431(b) violation is a reversible error. The judgment was reversed and the case sent back.
James Dimeas is an award-winning Chicago criminal defense lawyer and author with more than 24 years of experience. If you are charged with a Disorderly Conduct cases in Illinois. Contact Disorderly Conduct Lawyer James Dimeas in Cook County (312-229-5500), DuPage County, Kane County (630-504-2096), or Lake County (847-696-6458) for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal options.
More Blog Posts:
Can I Be Guilty of Domestic Battery If I Didn’t Hit Anyone, January 29, 2017
The Kane County Domestic Diversion Program, December 1, 2016