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People v. Shannon

APRIL 8, 1968.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Criminal Division; the Hon. WALTER P. DAHL, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.


In a jury trial, defendant was found guilty of murder in the manner and form as charged in an indictment, which contained two counts, both charging defendant with the murder of Verlene Shackleford. On appeal, defendant primarily contends that Count I failed to charge an offense, and "the verdict was fatally defective, in that it is impossible to ascertain therefrom whether the jury found the defendant guilty as charged in Count I or Count II." Defendant also asserts prejudicial trial errors, including that he was not proved guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt.

On January 11, 1965, while in the apartment of Verlene Shackleford, his aunt, defendant participated in a family quarrel, which resulted in the death of Verlene. Those present included Verlene, Curtis Hugges (her common-law husband), Ruby and Jimmie Shackleford (her children), Myrtle Shannon (defendant's common-law wife), and defendant. At the trial, Curtis Hugges and Ruby Shackleford testified for the State in chief and Jimmie Shackleford in rebuttal.

The testimony for the State shows the following course of events. On January 11, 1965, at about 2:00 a.m., the defendant had an argument and a scuffle with his cousin, Jimmie Shackleford, in the lobby of the apartment building where both lived. Defendant then went to his own apartment where he argued with his wife, Myrtle Shannon. Thereafter, Myrtle went downstairs to the apartment of defendant's aunt, Verlene Shackleford, and the Shackleford family. Defendant followed his wife to the Shackleford apartment where the argument was continued. After defendant struck his wife Myrtle, she sought protection behind Verlene Shackleford and Curtis Hugges. Verlene and Jimmie Shackleford tried to calm the defendant and to stop the argument. The defendant left the Shackleford apartment and briefly returned to his own apartment, where he obtained a rifle. The defendant then returned to the Shackleford apartment with the rifle. The door had been closed and locked after defendant had left, and when he returned he demanded readmittance and attempted to force the door open. When Verlene Shackleford identified herself to him through the door, the rifle was fired through the door, fatally injuring her.

Defendant and his wife testified for the defense. In substance, defendant testified that he got the rifle after some altercations with a neighborhood gang and kept it in his apartment. Shortly before the fatal shooting, he caught his cousin Jimmie smoking marijuana in the hallway and was attempting to tell his aunt Verlene about her son's criminal activities and associations. Jimmie pulled a knife on him and was attempting to prevent him from telling Verlene. Defendant did not know the gun was loaded. He though the catch was on, and he did not intend to fire the gun through the door. The gun went off accidentally when defendant stumbled, and it dropped from his hand.

Defendant's wife denied a scuffle with her husband and stated there was an argument between Jimmie Shackleford and the defendant, and she was accidentally struck because she was standing between the two. On cross-examination she admitted making a statement to a police officer that "Archie hit me on the side of the head and pulled my hair. Archie then said something about I'll fix you. Then he went upstairs. In a few minutes he was shaking the door on the apartment and trying to get in. Aunt Verlene was at the door and was trying to talk to him. But she had only said a few words when I heard the shot. Then I heard Curtis (that is Verlene's husband) say to Archie, if he would open the door to Archie, you have done shot Aunt Verlene. He asked, ain't you did enough. And Archie was still calling Jimmie. I ran into the closet about this time."

On rebuttal, Jimmie Shackleford testified as a State's witness over the objection of defendant that Jimmie was an occurrence witness, and his testimony should have been put on in the State's case in chief. He stated his quarrel with defendant originated about some women in defendant's car and whether Jimmie was going to tell Shannon's wife Myrtle about them.

The statute under which both counts in the indictment were drawn reads as follows:

"§ 9-1. Murder.]

"(a) A person who kills an individual without lawful justification commits murder if, in performing the acts which cause the death:

"(1) He either intends to kill or do great bodily harm to that individual or another, or knows that such acts will cause death to that individual or another; or

"(2) He knows that such acts create a strong probability of death or great bodily harm to that individual or another; or

"(3) He is attempting or committing a forcible felony other than ...

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