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People v. Conley

DECEMBER 7, 1971.

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

v.

WILLIAM CONLEY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. MINOR K. WILSON, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE STAMOS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

After a jury trial, defendant was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to four to ten years. The charge against him stemmed from an August 26, 1969, stabbing death, for which defendant has admitted responsibility. He defended on a theory of self-defense.

On appeal defendant has not contested the legal sufficiency of the evidence adduced against him. Rather, he argues that he was denied a fair trial against him. Rather, he argues that he was denied a fair trial because of prejudicial misconduct by the prosecution and prejudicial error by the trial court. In the interest of brevity, we shall omit a statement of facts and refer to pertinent testimony only when this becomes necessary to clarify defendant's contentions or to resolve the issues he raises.

Opinion

First, defendant alleges that certain personal attacks by the prosecution on the defendant's trial attorney denied defendant a fair trial. Specifically, it is asserted that the Assistant State's Attorney referred to the defense counsel as "a tricky, deceitful lawyer," an "imbecile" and a "snake." Since we cannot find the first comment in the trial record, we decline to discuss it further. An analysis of the impact and propriety of the last two personal references requires some familiarity with the context in which they were spoken. The pertinent excerpts from the record are as follows:

[Following the testimony of defendant]

"Defense Counsel: I am really sorry [the prosecutor] is resigning tomorrow. I cannot help it. I am not ready to proceed until tomorrow morning. Incidentally, my wife is in the hospital and I am very sorry about that, too. He wants to make a sham out of it, if he does, we will make a sham.

Prosecutor: When people are snakes they really are snakes.

The Court: Would you refrain from making further comments.

Defense Counsel: I will be prepared to finish at nine o'clock tomorrow morning, your Honor.

[During closing arguments]

Prosecutor: We do not feign evidence. We do not ask people to lie. We do not ask people to come in and perjure themselves. Also, I take that as a definite slur against my own character, knowing the kind of person that I am, and I tell you that this is not done. Only an imbecile would say we tried to feign testimony.

Defense Counsel: I object. That is objected to. That is horrible. I did not call anybody any names.

The Court: I do not think that it is necessary to call anybody an imbecile. The ...


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