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People v. Wilson

FEBRUARY 2, 1967.

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

BETTY WILSON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. BIRCH E. MORGAN, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.

TRAPP, J.

Defendant appeals from a judgment of conviction of voluntary manslaughter following a bench trial upon an indictment in counts charging murder and involuntary manslaughter, respectively.

Following the post-trial motion, defendant withdrew her petition for probation, and evidence in mitigation and aggravation was waived. The court, upon evidence heard during the trial, imposed a sentence of two to fourteen years.

The issues raised relate to the event of the death of defendant's husband at the home of the parties in Urbana, Illinois, on April 2, 1965. The autopsy established that the cause of death was a single wound penetrating the chest wall and right ventricle of the heart resulting in a massive internal hemorrhage which, in the opinion of the pathologist, would cause the victim to go into shock within 15 minutes with death ensuing in 35 minutes. It was the opinion of this witness that decedent could walk about after receiving the wound until the onset of shock.

Defendant's theory is stated to be that the evidence failed to prove the defendant guilty of any crime beyond a reasonable doubt, and that none of the evidence supports the judgment of voluntary manslaughter. It is further urged that the corpus delicti was proven by an extra-judicial confession alone, and that certain admissions made by the defendant are not sufficient to authorize conviction. Finally, it is contended that the evidence introduced by the State developed elements of self-defense and that there was a failure to prove defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt upon this issue.

The framework of time established for the tragedy begins with fair certainty at about 6:00 p.m. when a neighbor observed the defendant and her husband in the driveway of their home and testified that she heard the defendant addressing her husband with profane and obscene language. The decedent was described by the witness as saying nothing, grinning and turning away.

At 8:18 p.m. the Urbana police received a call from the home of the defendant and four officers arrived within minutes to be admitted together into the house by defendant's brother, Artie Pellum. The officers immediately observed that the decedent was lying between twin beds in a bedroom, his feet toward the door of the room, and that the defendant was kneeling at his feet. Upon immediate examination by the police, they were unable to discover any pulse or respiration and the decedent was declared dead upon arrival at a hospital.

There is substantial agreement in the testimony of the four officers that at the time they entered the room and observed the defendant, she was crying and saying, "I did it — I didn't mean to. He was going to beat me again," and that this was repeated several times as they were in the room making the physical examination of the decedent.

The police officers testified that shortly thereafter they were with the defendant in the kitchen of the home and that in response to questions, the defendant stated that she and her husband had been arguing in the living room and she had gone to the kitchen, obtained a knife from a rack and returned with it and struck the decedent once with a knife. At that moment the parties were just inside the living room door, and several drops of blood were found upon the floor in that area. She stated that he pulled the knife out, walked to the kitchen sink and washed it and put it back on the rack and that was the last she could recall.

Considerable blood was discovered to be in the lavatory and various parts of the bathroom, and blood and mucus in the area of decedent's mouth as he lay on the floor between the twin beds. The police discovered the body naked from the waist up, and a "T shirt" pierced and stained with blood was discovered wadded up upon one of the beds adjacent to the decedent's body. No knife found upon the premises was conclusively identified as the one used. The evidence is that in reply to questions, the defendant stated that the police could find it themselves.

The interval of time between 6:00 p.m. and the arrival of the police officers is only described through the testimony of Artie Pellum, a brother of the defendant. In summary, he testified that he telephoned the defendant at 7:30 or 7:45 asking her to do his laundry to which she assented, that he arrived at the home in 15 or 20 minutes and entered the back way to find defendant sitting at the kitchen table. He stated that he was there about 10 minutes and defendant asked him to take her to get some hamburgers to deliver to defendant's son who worked at a filling station, that they went to the hamburger place staying about 10 minutes, and then went on to the station where the son worked staying about 15 minutes. At this time the defendant purchased cigarettes. He testified that they returned to defendant's home and the latter took her coat into the bedroom at which time she screamed or called and he went into the room to discover decedent's body, and that in about 5 minutes after seeking to locate a doctor, he called the police.

A statement by the trial court at the time of announcing the conviction discloses that the court concluded that Pellum was impeached upon certain points, i.e., his denial that upon two occasions he had told investigating officers that as they returned from delivering the hamburgers she had stated that she had stabbed her husband, and upon his further denial that at about midnight on April 2nd while at the home of neighbors of the defendant, he had stated that he saw decedent's feet as he lay between the beds at the time he, Pellum, had brought the laundry to defendant's home. It appears to us that the record supports the trial court's determination. An examination of the record leads to the conclusion that there is no evidence which contradicts the evidence offered by the State as to the conduct and statements of the defendant at the time the police came to the scene. The defendant did not testify, and the testimony of the brother, Pellum, is that while he was present throughout the preliminary investigations he cannot recall what was said or done. He stated that he believes the police asked the defendant what happened, but that he doesn't know what was said in reply. This is explained by his statement that he was wandering from room to room and was not listening to what was being said. Defendant's sister, Mrs. Millage and the latter's husband, came to the home sometime after the matters set out had transpired. They contradicted the testimony of Officer Broderick, who was related by marriage to the defendant, that while the Millages were at the home defendant stated that she had stabbed the "son-of-a-bitch," but they agree with Broderick that the defendant had been quarreling with Mrs. Millage, in profane terms, concerning other matters.

We have examined authorities cited by the defendant upon her proposition that statements considered as admissions made at the scene by the defendant and in evidence, will not support a conviction. People v. Nitti, 312 Ill. 73, 143 N.E. 448 and People v. Hobbs, 400 Ill. 143, 79 N.E.2d 202, relate solely to the proposition that admissions will not be implied by silence when statements were made in the presence of the person subsequently accused. It is to be noted that in each case vigorous denial of the charge was made by the respective defendants during the course of the trial.

[1-3] Defendant argues that there was no proof of the corpus delicti except through the extra-judicial confession of the defendant. This does not appear to be, in fact, the rule. In People v. ...


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