BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD
ILLINOIS ATTORNEY REGISTRATION
In the Matter of:
CHARLES R. GARNATI,
Commission No. 2013PR00124
FILED --- February 3, 2014
Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by his attorney, Denise Church, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 753(b), complains of Respondent, Charles R. Garnati, who was licensed to practice law in Illinois on November 3, 1978, and alleges that Respondent has engaged in the following conduct:
(Prosecutor's improper opening and closing arguments)
1. In 1984, Respondent was elected the State's Attorney of Williamson County Illinois, and has been the State's Attorney of that county since 1984.
2. On August 22, 2010, LaQuinn Hudson ("Hudson") was found shot to death at a house party in Marion, Illinois. On August 23, 2010, Marcus Marshall ("Marshall") was charged by information with two counts of first-degree murder of the victim, Hudson, in violation of 720 ILCS 5/9-1(a) (1) and (a)(2). The matter was docketed as People v. Marcus Marshall, number 10-CF-342, in the Circuit Court of Williamson County, Illinois. Respondent prosecuted the case.
3. On July 5, 2011, the court commenced a jury trial in case number 10-CF-342.
4. The Defendant Marshall is Black. The victim LaQuinn Hudson was also Black. All of the jurors empanelled in the case were White.
5. Two of the witnesses to the crime were Jodie Lacey ("Lacey") and Crystal Blye ("Blye"). Both Lacey and Blye had initially given statements to the police implicating Marshall. Later, both gave a letter to Marshall's attorney recanting the earlier statements. At Marshall's trial, the State produced Lacey and Blye as witnesses to testify to facts that implicated Marshall in the murder of LaQuinn Hudson, consistent with their original statements to the police. Jodie Lacey and Crystal Blye are Black.
6. During Respondent's opening statement, he made the following statements:
"And you will see, ladies and gentlemen, that there are some, not all-there are many good people in the black community, but basically you will see that there are a few in the black community who refuse to cooperate with the police even when a murder happens right under their nose, and those people have a habit of intimidating, harassing, sometimes threatening anybody who they think is cooperating with the police. That's what makes this case so difficult, ladies and gentlemen."
7. Respondent's argument quoted in paragraph 6, above, was improper because it served no purpose other than to appeal to racial prejudice.
8. During the closing arguments, Respondent made the following statements:
"But I think what is most crucial in deciding this case, in deciding the credibility of Jodie Lacy and Crystal Blye, and in deciding most of the other issues in this case, is to understand the culture of the black community here in Marion.
"Please, you have to keep in the back of your mind how many people in that community feel about law enforcement. You have to understand and keep in mind how they react to the police and to the prosecutors. Sometimes for people like us, that's hard to understand. People were brought up to believe that the police were their friends; that when something happens, when we are in trouble, that the police are our friends. And that's where we go to get help from is the police when bad things happen.
"But in the black community here in Marion, it's just the opposite. Most-for whatever reasons, most of these people were raised to believe that the police and prosecutors are the enemy; that for some reason, we are always out to get them. In their mindset, the biggest sin that you could-that you can commit is to be a snitch in the community. The biggest sin that you could commit is to ever cooperate with the police on anything. It's a sin to even cooperate when one of your own people gets brutally gunned down and is left to bleed to death.
"And I am not saying that the whole black community is like that, ladies and gentlemen. There are some very good law[-]abiding citizens in that community here in Marion. But the evidence has shown that again, for whatever reasons, there is an intense dislike and even hatred for the police. And this group of people who feel that way make it extremely hard on the people who are law-abiding and want to do what is right and who are willing to come forward and give information that they have when a crime has been committed . . .
"Now, in our white world, ladies and gentlemen, our automatic reaction in that type of situation, if somebody gives a statement to the police and then later on changes their story, the automatic response would be that that person is not trustful and that there is a problem with their credibility.
"But again, please look at their testimony and what they did and what they didn't do through the eyes of the people who are raised, again, to feel that the police are always against them and that they cannot trust the police."
9. Respondent's statements quoted in paragraph 8, above, were improper because they served no purpose other than to appeal to racial prejudice.
10. Respondent's statements quoted in paragraph 8, above, were improper because Respondent argued facts about the "black community" and "our white world" that were not in evidence, and that were based on Respondent's personal opinion.
11. On July 14, 2011, the jury returned a guilty verdict on both counts of first-degree murder. On September 30, 2011, the circuit court vacated the conviction on count II and sentenced Marshall to 85 years' imprisonment in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Marshall filed a notice of appeal. The case was docketed in the Fifth District Appellate Court as People v. Marshall, No. 5-11-0430.
12. On September 13, 2013, the Fifth District Appellate Court issued its opinion in Marshall's case, 2013 IL App (5th) 110430. In the opinion, the Appellate Court reversed Marshall's conviction, finding that the State's "use of race was an egregious and consistent theme throughout the trial," and finding that Marshall had been denied the right to a fair trial. 2013 IL App. (5th) 110430 at ¶ 17.
13. By reason of the conduct described above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:
improperly seeking to convict, rather than seeking justice in violation of Rule 3.8 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);
failure to provide competent representation to a client, in violation of Rule 1.1(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;
in trial, alluding to any matter that the lawyer does not reasonably believe is relevant or that will not be supported by admissible evidence, asserting personal knowledge of facts in issue except when testifying as a witness, in violation of Rule 3.4(e) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; and
conduct which is prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct, by making statements and arguments that led to the reversal and remand of People v. Marshall.
WHEREFORE, the Administrator requests that this matter be assigned to a panel of the Hearing Board, that a hearing be held, and that the panel make findings of fact, conclusions of fact and law, and recommendations for such discipline as is warranted.
Jerome Larkin, Administrator