Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed December 1, 2011

People v. Villa, 2011 IL 110777

Appellate citation: 403 Ill. App. 3d 309.

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

Chief Justice Kilbride and Justice Freeman concurred in the judgment and opinion.

Justice Burke specially concurred, with opinion.

Justice Thomas dissented, with opinion, joined by Justices Garman and Karmeier.

In 2007, in Belvidere, a man was shot in the arm, chest and shoulder outside his nephew's house after a black SUV with tinted windows pulled up and multiple shots were fired. A Boone County jury convicted this defendant, one of the vehicle's occupants, of aggravated battery with a firearm and aggravated discharge of a firearm under an accountability theory. Although there was evidence of disputes surrounding this event which may have shown the defendant's motivation, the only evidence implicating him in the drive-by shooting was a statement made to interrogating detectives, which included remarks that he told his companion in the car to "get them niggas," by which he explained he meant "blast them." At trial, he recanted these two remarks, stating "I've never been in a situation like this before ***. I've never been in prison or nothing like that." Evidence of the defendant's prior juvenile adjudication for burglary was introduced to impeach this recantation, and this was complained of on appeal. The appellate court affirmed.

The supreme court held that a juvenile adjudication is typically not admissible against a testifying defendant. This rule is embodied in the 1971 case of People v. Montgomery, 47 Ill. 2d 510, and its progency. The Juvenile Justice Reform Provisions of 1998 make a reference to juvenile adjudications, but the supreme court construed this statute as not reflecting the legislature's intent to alter the Montgomery rule, but as simply showing the legislature's recognition that circumstances may exist in which a juvenile adjudication is admissible against a testifying defendant notwithstanding Montgomery's general prohibition against the admission of such evidence, such as the already recognized exception which is applicable when a defendant "opens the door."

In this decision, the supreme court noted that the second remark of the recantation testimony was true. As to the first, it did not speak to criminal history, but only to the issue of whether the defendant was experienced with police questioning. This did not open the door to impeachment with a juvenile adjudication and, therefore, the admission was erroneous. Because it was not harmless in these circumstances, the conviction was reversed and the cause was remanded for a new trial.