Illinois Supreme Court Clarifies the Meaning of Plain Error in Zehr Jury Selection Violation Case.

This case is a fight over what the proper meaning of plain error is.

In this case, the defendant was arrested and tried for resisting a police officer. The trial court during jury selection, did not follow the dictates of Zehr and did not ask the jurors whether they understood and accepted the principles laid forth in Zehr, including the presumption of innocence. Defense counsel failed to object and failed to include the matter in the post-trial motion, leading a divided appellate court to affirm, with a great disagreement as to the meaning of plain error.

The State argued to the Illinois Supreme Court that the error must be substantial in order to reach plain error, which also meant that the evidence had to be closely balanced and that the defendant must additionally establish prejudice on appeal.

The Illinois Supreme Court, greatly chastising the State in the process, found the error to be substantial, found the evidence to be closely balanced, and found that no further showing of prejudice was required.

This case is necessary reading for any appellate counsel caught up in the debate as to the meaning of plain error.

The case is People v. Montana Sebby.

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