Is a New Trial Required If There Is No 'Structural Error' Under Harmless-Error Analysis ?
In People v. Glasper, 234 Ill. 2d 173, 189, 917 N.E.2d 401, 334 Ill. Dec. 575 (2009), our supreme court applied a harmless-error analysis to a court's Rule 431(b) error and concluded that reversal for a new trial was unwarranted because there was no "structural error." Glasper, 234 Ill. 2d at 199-200.
The court expressly limited its holding to the pre-2007 version of Rule 431(b), which was the version applicable to the case.
"We emphasize that this holding is limited to the version of Rule 431(b)(4) that was in effect at the time of the instant trial, and would not necessarily apply to subsequent versions of the rule." Glasper, 234 Ill. 2d at 200. Accordingly, courts have subsequently considered whether, under a plain-error analysis, a Rule 431(b) violation involving the 2007 version of the rule might deny a defendant a substantial right and warrant reversal for a new trial.
Notably, in People v. Blair, 395 Ill. App. 3d 465, 470, 917 N.E.2d 43, 334 Ill. Dec. 446 (2009), a panel of this court recently considered the issue.
In that case, the trial court failed to properly question the jury in accordance with Rule 431(b).
This court, applying a plain-error analysis, reversed and remanded for a new trial. Blair, 395 Ill. App. 3d at 477-78.
The Court applied the second prong of the plain-error test and concluded that, where the trial court did not ask any prospective juror about his or her understanding and acceptance of all four principles, it failed to fully comply with Rule 431(b). Blair, 395 Ill. App. 3d at 477.