Unappealing: Recent Court Decisions Worry Haine

Article excerpt

State's Attorney William R. Haine thinks prosecutors in Madison County got a raw deal in some recent decisions by the state appellate court, and he worries that a trend favoring defendants is starting.

But Fifth District Appellate Judge Clyde L. Kuehn, who was involved in those decisions, says they shouldn't be considered a trend in the court's philosophy. Neither side gets any favoritism, and decisions are made individually based on the law, he said.

Haine's concern has intensified amid four decisions by the appellate court based at Mount Vernon, Ill., since February.

Kuehn, a former state's attorney and public defender from St. Clair County, wrote three of those opinions for the panels of judges that made the decisions. He was on the panel that decided the fourth case, but that opinion was written by another judge.

Haine has reacted strongly to all four decision and has vowed to appeal three to the Illinois Supreme Court. In those three, he has disagreed with the appellate court's interpretation of the laws, and he has called them dangerous to the ends of justice.

Haine called one of the opinions by Kuehn "a decision out of `Alice in Wonderland."'

Kuehn has been known to sprinkle his opinions with similar literary references since he became an appellate judge last fall. He said he was applying the law fairly. But he said his years as a state's attorney allowed him to understand Haine's honest and sincere reaction.

"When I was a prosecutor, I had a single-minded view of every case," Kue hn said. "I pushed the envelope on every case because that was the thing to do. But I have to have a different view as a jurist."

Kuehn said he believed the cluster of decisions against prosecutors was more a matter of coincidence than an intentional trend.

"I think it's too soon to talk about a trend," Kuehn said. "Time will determine what kind of judicial philosophy flows from the bench."

But he said his record as a prosecutor - which includes putting several killers on death row - should avoid any questions about his philosophy of law enforcement.

"I do not harbor some type of defendant-oriented philosophy," he added.

He also noted that most appellate decisions affirm convictions. Most of them do not lead to published opinions and most prosecutors are unaware of affirmed convictions in other counties, he said.

But Haine said the recent opinions on Madison County cases have led prosecutors across the area to wonder what is happening. He said the appellate judges seem to be stretching for any way to rule against prosecutors.

The first decision that upset Haine came in February when Judge Charles Chapman wrote an opinion for a panel of three judges that included Kuehn. They affirmed a Madison County judge's decision to throw out hate-crime charges against two teen-agers in Granite City because the man named as the victim was white. …