Defendant's Right to Be Present at the Jury Instructions Conference
In People v. Strohl, 118 Ill. App. 3d 1084, 1086-87, 456 N.E.2d 276, 74 Ill. Dec. 774 (1983), the defendant was charged with first-degree murder.
At the jury instructions conference, which the defendant did not attend, his attorney tendered an instruction on involuntary manslaughter and told the judge that, per the defendant's express wish, he would not tender an instruction on voluntary manslaughter.
The judge did not give the involuntary-manslaughter instruction but did instruct the jury on self-defense.
The jury convicted the defendant.
In a posttrial motion, the defendant alleged that his desire not to tender an instruction on voluntary manslaughter had been conditioned on the understanding that the judge would give the instruction on involuntary manslaughter; defendant had not wanted the jury to have to choose between convicting him of murder and acquitting him altogether. Strohl, 118 Ill. App. 3d at 1090.
On appeal, the defendant argued that he had had the right to be present at the instructions conference and, as a consequence, the trial court had had the duty to ascertain from him personally whether he wished to waive the instruction on voluntary manslaughter.
The appellate court summarily rejected these arguments with the statement, "We know of no such right or duty and know of no well-reasoned authority to support them." Strohl, 118 Ill. App. 3d at 1090.