In re Manuel M., 2017 IL App (1st) 162381 (January). Episode 292 (Duration 8:55)
Accused minor was not allowed to cross the officer on the location he said he made his observations.
The respondent was arrested for reckless conduct after he was seen flashing gang signs at passing cars near Throop Park in Chicago.
When the respondent was searched following his arrest, a pistol was found in his pants.
The State alleged in a petition for adjudication of wardship that the 16-year-old respondent committed two counts of AUUW and one count of UPF.
What Cop Said He Saw
Using binoculars, the office observed the respondent and two other individuals near the park entrance flashing gang signs at passing vehicles, causing the vehicles to swerve toward oncoming traffic or parked cars.
The officer said the group was endangering drivers and pedestrians.
After observing the respondent and his companions for 15 to 20 minutes, he drove to the park with other officers. Upon arriving at the park, he arrested the respondent for reckless conduct, patted him down, and recovered a pistol from his pants.
Officer Refused To Disclose Location
On cross-examination, defense counsel asked the officer to disclose the exact location from which he observed the respondent and his two companions flashing gang signs at passing vehicles.
The officer stated that disclosing the location would endanger his life and the lives of every officer that uses the location. The prosecutor objected to defense counsel’s question on the grounds that revealing the location would endanger officer safety.
Following arguments on the objection, the trial court elected to conduct an in camera examination.
The trial judge ruled that she would not compel disclosure to his “exact location” from which he conducted his surveillance of the park but would permit the defense to inquire regarding “distance, lighting, and everything else.”
Issue On Appeal
The reviewing court agreed with the minor that his constitutional right of confrontation was violated when his attorney was prevented from questioning the officer as to the exact location from which he conducted his surveillance and that his constitutional rights to confrontation and to a public trial were violated when, during the in camera examination both he and his attorney were excluded, the prosecutor was, nonetheless, permitted to question the officer and argue in support of the State’s objection to disclosure of the surveillance location.
Illinois recognizes a qualified privilege from disclosing secret surveillance locations in a criminal proceeding against the target of the surveillance.
When, as in this case, the State invokes the surveillance location privilege at trial, it bears the initial burden of demonstrating that the privilege should apply.
The State can satisfy its initial burden by establishing that the surveillance location was located on private property with the permission of the owner or in a useful location which would be compromised by disclosure.
Once the State has carried its burden, the defense can overcome the privilege by showing that the surveillance location is relevant to the defense or essential to the fair determination of the case.
In Camera Examination
In making its determination of whether to apply the privilege and prevent the defense from inquiring into the exact location from which the surveillance was conducted, the trial court may conduct an in camera examination of the surveillance officer out of the presence of the defendant and his attorney.
Following such a hearing, the court should weigh the defendant’s need for the information against the public’s interest in nondisclosure.
The reviewing court said that, the trial court failed to give adequate consideration to the respondent’s need to ascertain the exact location from which the officer conducted his surveillance of Throop Park.
Cross-examination is the principal means by which the credibility of a witness is tested.
The officer was the only witness to testify for the State, and its case against the respondent rested entirely upon his testimony. The defense challenged the credibility of the officer’s testimony that he observed the respondent and his companions flashing gang signs at passing cars from a location more than one block away.
Clearly, the ability to see Throop Park from his point of observation is relevant to the credibility of his testimony; and it was the officer’s observations from that point which supplied the probable cause for the respondent’s arrest and subsequent search leading to the discovery of the pistol underlying the AUUW and UPF charges for which he was on trial.
By sustaining the State’s objection to defense counsel’s inquiry as to the exact surveillance location, the trial court severely hampered the respondent’s ability to test the credibility of the only witness against him on a material issue.
As this court held in Knight, when the case against a defendant turns almost exclusively upon the uncorroborated testimony of the police officer who conducted the surveillance, “disclosure must almost always be ordered.”
The trial court abused its discretion by sustaining the State’s objection to the cross-examination of on that issue.
Defendant’s confrontation and public trial rights were violated.
This panel said the the in camera examination should be conducted by the trial court outside the presence of both the State and the defense. It said that the trial court’s in camera examination of the surveillance officer should be limited to a disclosure of the exact location from which the surveillance was conducted, nothing more.
Any testimony or argument addressing the public interest to be protected by nondisclosure of the location should be made in open court.
Allowing the State to examine a witness in a proceeding outside the presence of the defendant and his attorney, as occurred in this case, violates both the defendant’s right of confrontation and his right to a public trial as guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Constitution of Illinois.
Permitting the State to make an ex parte argument in support of an objection, as also occurred in this case, violates a defendant’s constitutional right to a public trial.
Reversed and remanded.
See also https://illinoiscaselaw.com/clecourses/defendant-had-a-right-to-know-the-surveillance-location/