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People v. Hunt

MARCH 12, 1971.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

JOHNIE HUNT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. THOMAS R. McMILLEN, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE DRUCKER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant was indicted for the crimes of murder and involuntary manslaughter. He was found guilty, after a jury trial, of the offense of involuntary manslaughter. Judgment was entered and he was sentenced to a term of two to seven years. On appeal defendant contends: (1) that the trial court erred by improperly defining the crime of involuntary manslaughter; (2) that the cross-examination of his character witnesses was improper; (3) that the trial court improperly instructed the jury on the effect of evidence of good character and reputation; (4) that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury as to the effect of testimony of an accomplice witness; (5) that he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; and (6) that defendant was improperly limited in his cross-examination of the State's chief witness.

The evidence presented at trial may be summarized. The deceased, Anton Novotny, was arrested for safekeeping by the Chicago Police on May 8, 1967, after he was found sitting in the middle of a street. Novotny had been drinking and was incoherent. Several days later Novotny was given a routine psychological examination at the House of Correction. He was not under any sentence of a court.

Several inmates at the House of Correction called by the State testified that they saw Novotny in the west cell house on May 16, 1967, and that the defendant, a jail guard, was having some trouble with Novotny; that defendant hit Novotny several times in the head with his fist and he was driven back into his cell. After Novotny was in the cell two inmates, Slim and Larry, went into the cell after him. One of the inmates testified that there was a lot of noise "like there was blows, you know, a fight, a hassle going on in the cell. And I heard the man scream." These witnesses could not see into the cell.

On orders from the defendant several inmates took Novotny from the cell towards the "strip cell." While Novotny was being dragged the inmates were kicking and hitting him.

The State also called as a witness Willie Dorsey, who was a co-indictee of the defendant but was not tried jointly with defendant. He testified that at the time of Novotny's death he was an inmate at the House of Correction; that on the morning of May 16, 1967, after the line-up was going to breakfast, Novotny refused to go into his cell. The guards had to put him in the cell. In the afternoon he saw the defendant try to push Novotny into a cell. However, Novotny resisted. The defendant then hit Novotny in the head, kneed him in the stomach and hit him again on the head. As Novotny started crawling under the bed in the cell, the defendant began kicking him and pulled him out of the cell on to the gallery. Novotny again crawled under the bed and the defendant, with the help of some inmates, pulled him out of the cell. As Novotny was lying on the gallery the defendant slammed down on Novotny's chest with his feet and "stomped" him. Novotny was then dragged to the strip cell.

Dorsey further testified that he heard Novotny moan after he was stomped. Dorsey was only twelve to fifteen feet away when he heard Novotny moan. On cross-examination Dorsey testified that the defendant was the only guard around at the time.

The remainder of the State's case consisted of medical evidence of Novotny's injuries. There were injuries to Novotny's right eye, chest wall, abdomen and thighs. In the opinion of two doctors who testified for the State, the cause of death was from a beating or kicking. One of the doctors placed the time of death at approximately noon on May 17, 1967, and placed the time of injury as twenty-four hours earlier.

The defendant's witnesses were guards and other personnel at the House of Correction. They testified that neither the defendant nor any inmate beat, kicked or had a fight with Novotny. Further, none of these witnesses saw or heard any unusual noise, screaming or hollering from the cells on May 16, 1967. One of the guards testified that the defendant was watching the hall gangs assigned to various jobs on the main floor and in the kitchen, or he was up in the front doing clerical work. The defendant usually went to lunch at 11:00 A.M. and would return at 11:45 A.M.

Defendant's witnesses also testified that they knew the general reputation of the defendant in the community in which he lived to be good and that his reputation for peace and quiet and for being a law abiding citizen was also good.

The defendant testified in his own behalf. He denied striking, beating, kicking or abusing the deceased in any way. He did not drag, push or stomp him either. Defendant also testified that he did not see any inmate pull or push the deceased to the rear of the cell house nor did he see any inmate strike, beat or kick the deceased.

Opinion

Defendant contends that the trial court erred by improperly defining the crime of involuntary manslaughter when it gave State's Instruction No. 13. The trial court gave two separate instructions defining the crime of involuntary manslaughter. The first instruction, State's Instruction No. 12, was in the language of Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 38, par. 9-3:

"A person who kills an individual without lawful justification commits involuntary manslaughter if his acts whether lawful or unlawful which cause the death are such as are likely to cause death or great bodily harm ...


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