October 22, 2010

Law school to host appellate court oral arguments

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Fifth District Appellate Court will hold oral arguments in four cases next week at the Southern Illinois University School of Law.

This is the third year the appeals court will preside over cases at the law school.

“We are very pleased that the appellate court will hold oral arguments at the law school again this year,” Dean Cynthia L. Fountaine said. “This is a great opportunity for our students to see real lawyers and judges at work in the courtroom. Law students spend an enormous amount of time reading decisions that are issued by courts, including this court, after oral arguments like these, but they rarely have the opportunity to observe them firsthand.”

Appeals court justices will preside over arguments in criminal cases originating in Massac and Effingham counties, and civil cases originating in Jackson and Williamson counties. Arguments in the first case, which stems from the September 2000 abduction and sexual assault of a then-20-year-old Vienna woman, begin at 10 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 27, in the Hiram H. Lesar Law Building courtroom.

A copy of the briefs of all four cases is on reserve and available for review in the law school’s law library. Cases summaries are at www.law.siu.edu/news12.asp.

SIUC law students, faculty and staff are invited. The court sessions are also open to the public, but seating is limited. Court rules in Illinois do not allow cell phones, electronic recording devices and cameras in the courtroom.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers, and cameras crews who wish to record or broadcast any of the court proceedings via television, radio, photographic or recording equipment, must receive prior permission from the court. Media representatives must notify John J. Flood, 5th District Appellate Court Clerk, in writing not less than five days days prior to the date the appellate argument is scheduled. The address is Fifth District Appellate Court, 14th & Main St., Box 867, Mount Vernon, IL. 62864-0018. The notice should contain the title and docket number of the case to be argued, as well as the name, address and telephone number of the media representative making the request, the representative’s employer, and the kind of coverage to be used.

One of the two criminal cases involves the appeal of Michael R. Reeves and his convictions for the September 2000 abduction and sexual assault of a motel night shift clerk. A jury found Reeves guilty in July 2001 of aggravated kidnapping and three counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault. The appeals court in 2003, however, reversed the convictions and ordered a new trial after ruling the trial court failed to grant a defense motion for court-appointed psychiatrist, according to an appellate defense brief.

Reeves was sentenced to prison in Nevada for offenses committed there after the abduction in Southern Illinois.

A Massac County jury subsequently convicted Reeves on all counts at a second trial in December 2007. Reeves received a sentence totaling 52 years, consecutive to the sentence he received in Nevada. Now 56, Reeves is at the Menard Correctional Center in Chester. His projected parole is November 2052.

A brief filed by Reeves’ appellate attorney argues the convictions should be reversed because Reeves was denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial after the 2003 appellate court decision. The brief states Reeves filed his own motion to dismiss the charges in October 2004 while still held in Nevada, 11 months after the appellate court mandate was filed by the circuit court clerk in November 2003. Reeves was not returned to Illinois for his first court appearance on the retrial until February 2006, more than two years after the mandate was filed, according to the brief.

Reeves also argues there is insufficient evidence to prove an element of the offense and one of the charges for which he received a six-year sentence should be reversed.

The appellate prosecutor’s brief in the case argues that Reeves’ was retried within a reasonable period of time, and that work for returning Reeves to Illinois for trial began as early as December 2003. Appellate prosecutors also argue Reeves contributed to the delay by filing numerous motions, including two for substituting judges, once he returned to the state. Appellate prosecutors also argue evidence supports Reeves’ conviction on all three charges of aggravated criminal sexual assault.

The other criminal case is from Effingham County and stems from a 2008 traffic stop for which the defendant was convicted of unlawful possession of a controlled substance after a stipulated bench trial.

The Fifth Appellate Judicial District is comprised of 37 counties in Illinois and extends from Christian, Montgomery and Shelby counties to Southern Illinois, and from the Metro East to Crawford, Lawrence and Wabash counties.

Fountaine said the event is also special for the law school because appellate Judges Bruce D. Stewart and James M. Wexstten are among members of the law school’s charter class. Fountaine also notes that emeritus professor Ted Kionka, who taught the law school’s very first class, will present an oral argument in one of the cases.

For more information, contact Alicia Ruiz, the law school’s director of communication and outreach, at 618/453-8700.