Illinois Supreme Court rejects Peoria man's appeal again

Adriana Colindres

The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the appeal of a Peoria man who complained about his trial lawyer’s performance and claimed the jury that convicted him of armed robbery was racially skewed.

This is the second time the state’s highest court has issued an opinion involving Aaron Jamar Houston, who wants his conviction and 20-year prison sentence thrown out. He was convicted of a July 2002 robbery at a Peoria Pizza Hut..

One of the issues Houston raised in his appeal was the fact that his trial attorney said in 2003 he didn’t need a court reporter during jury selection. Houston also said he felt discriminated against by the jury, which consisted of one black woman and 11 white people.

In August 2007, the Supreme Court ordered Houston’s case back to Peoria County Circuit Court for a more detailed investigation. The lower court was ordered to reconstruct the "voir dire" record — the process of selecting jurors for Houston’s trial.

In Thursday’s unanimous opinion, written by Justice Charles Freeman, the court said it saw "no clear indication … of racial discrimination."

The justices also rejected Houston’s other arguments, including his claim that he was denied due process.

Sherry Silvern, who represented Houston in front of the Supreme Court, said Thursday that she "was very disappointed with the decision."

"I don’t believe this was an adequate reconstruction of the voir dire to start with," said Silvern, an assistant appellate defender who works in the state appellate defender’s Second Judicial District office in Elgin.

"I had my hopes up" when the Supreme Court previously considered the case and eventually sent it back to Peoria County Circuit Court, she said.

Silvern said she probably would decide within the next couple of days whether to ask the Illinois Supreme Court for a re-hearing or ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case.

Houston, 23, is an inmate at Lawrence Correctional Center, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections Web site.

Adriana Colindres can be reached at (217) 782-6292 or