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People v. Simac

641 N.E.2d 416 (1994)

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People v. Simac

Illinois Supreme Court

641 N.E.2d 416 (1994)

Facts

At the scene of a traffic accident, the driver who caused the accident identified himself as Christopher Simac to law-enforcement officer Ronald LaMorte. However, LaMorte never checked the driver’s identification or otherwise confirmed his identity. A man named Christopher Simac (defendant) was charged with causing the accident and went to trial. At trial, LaMorte was the only witness who could identify the driver who was at the scene of the accident. Simac’s lawyer, David Sotomayor, had Simac sit in the courtroom gallery and sat one of Sotomayor’s employees at the defense table. The employee physically resembled Simac and was wearing casual clothes, in the manner of a defendant. At the beginning of the trial, the court asked to have all trial witnesses sworn in. Even though Sotomayor did plan to have the employee testify, Sotomayor told the court that the defendant was not planning to testify and did not ask the court to swear in the employee because it would have given away that the person at the defense table was not the defendant. While testifying, LaMorte identified Sotomayor’s employee as the driver who was at the accident scene. The court stated for the record that LaMorte had just identified the defendant, and Sotomayor did not correct the court at that time. After LaMorte left the courtroom, Sotomayor put the employee on the stand and revealed the substitution to the court and the prosecution (plaintiff). Based on LaMorte’s misidentification, the court issued a directed verdict of not guilty for Simac. However, the court found that Sotomayor had deliberately misled it by intentionally causing the court to infer that the employee was the defendant. The trial court found Sotomayor guilty of criminal contempt and fined him $500. The appellate court affirmed the conviction but reduced the fine to $100. Sotomayor appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Bilandic, C.J.)

Dissent (Nickels, J.)

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