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People v. Banks

FEBRUARY 11, 1974.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ROBERT J. DOWNING, Judge, presiding.


Mary Louise Banks was convicted of the murder of Willie McNeal after a bench trial and sentenced to 15 to 25 years. The issues are whether the State proved her sanity at the time of the killing beyond a reasonable doubt and whether certain actions by the trial judge deprived her of a fair trial.

On December 9, 1970, at 10:00 A.M., Officer Robert Kussy received a call to investigate a homicide at 1934 West Jackson Boulevard in Chicago. He went to apartment 326 where he found the body of Willie McNeal lying on the floor behind the bed. There was no one else inside the apartment. The deceased was lying on his stomach with three bullet wounds in his back. There were five .25 caliber casings and one expended bullet on the floor.

The defendant walked into the 12th District Police Station at 10:00 A.M. and asked Officers Raul Flores and Wayne Wiberg if they were police officers. When they told her they were, the defendant took a .25 caliber automatic pistol out of her purse and gave it to Flores, stating that she had just shot a man at 1934 West Jackson. She was placed under arrest and advised of her constitutional rights. Flores then asked her why she had shot the man and the defendant answered that he was attempting to force his affections on her.

About two hours later she was questioned by Investigator Thomas Blomstrand. She told him that the deceased had been her boy friend up until five weeks before, that he been telling other men in the building about their sexual relations in the past; these men in turn were bothering her, and she could not take it anymore; and she went into the room and shot him. She also said that these men in the building had forced her into a State hospital.

On the morning of December 9, Sylvester Washington, the janitor at 1934 West Jackson, saw the defendant come down from the upper floors. She had a little pistol in her hand and said, "Call the police. I just shot Willie McNeal." She then walked out of the building.

About four to six weeks before the shooting, Delores Neal, who knew the defendant and McNeal, saw the defendant point a gun at him and heard her shout obscenities and threats to kill him.

The three bullets recovered from the body of McNeal had been fired from the gun the defendant gave the police.

The defendant testified concerning various events in her life starting with early childhood: Her mother died when she was only six weeks old, and she saw her father only twice. She lived with various relatives. In grammar school she was suspended two weeks before graduation for fighting with a teacher during recess. When she was in junior high school, one of her aunts accused her of certain actions with boys, but she denied it. Her aunt kept accusing her, and one Sunday evening she went after her aunt with a hammer. She became pregnant for the first time when she was sixteen. She did not want the baby, but her family talked her into marrying the child's father. The marriage lasted about three weeks; and she went back to live with various relatives but did not get along with them. When she was eighteen, she was living with an aunt but left after arguing with her over the hours she (the defendant) kept. She did not take the child with her. She then began living with various men and eventually married Robert Spieler at the suggestion of her case worker. She was not really happy with her husband but stayed with him because she had seven children by him. They physically fought quite often, and she decided to leave him. She got an apartment and took six of her seven children with her. She was not working and would go out late at night leaving her children unattended in order to avoid her husband.

She moved from apartment to apartment staying in each a relatively short time. Eventually, she went to stay with an aunt, but they got along so badly that the defendant left for about a month without taking the children. During this period she went to taverns, met various people and stayed at their apartments. She took her children back and began living in apartments and with relatives but only for a short period of time. She then met Bilbo Davidson, went out with him once, was intimate with him and as a result had twins. She saw Davidson during her pregnancy, told him he was the father and his response was, "Tough."

After the children were born, she left her apartment since suddenly everyone in the neighborhood began acting peculiar and different toward her and her family. Her oldest daughter and a neighbor's daughter got in a fight with razor blades, and afterwards things in the neighborhood became worse. "They" started picking on her, and she kept her children out of school. Early on a Sunday morning in June of 1968, she intentionally set fire to her apartment to get even with the people in the neighborhood who were persecuting her. She was arrested and taken to a hospital for observation.

Welfare sent her and her children to live in a mission on Grand Avenue. While at the mission, she was looking for an apartment, and the lady that ran the mission became angry at her because she would go out and leave the children. She left the mission, took the children to a church and sent them in with the oldest child. The church called the police, and the children were placed in a foster home. She was told that if she found another place to stay she could have her children back. She looked for an apartment for about two months but could not find anything. In the meantime, she was staying with friends and sometimes in motels. The defendant then went to a doctor, obtained some sleeping pills and tried to kill herself because she was tired and depressed. Her aunt came to the hotel and took her to the hospital. She stayed there for about a week. She was then sent to the psychiatric ward of County Hospital and from there went to Chicago State. They would not accept her there, and she was released. She then moved into the hotel.

She met Charles Banks in 1968 in the Congo Lounge. She became intimate with him; and they had many fights which he started. The first time that he attacked her was after they had intercourse at a friend's house. He suddenly started beating her. The second time that he attacked her was after she stabbed him. She waited all night for him in the hallway of his building with a small pocket knife because he had been mean to her. In the morning she went into his bedroom and stabbed him. After she stabbed him they had a fight, and she fell from the second floor window. Both of them went to the hospital, but she was never arrested as a result of this incident. She met Banks later, and he attacked her with a stick. After that incident, she saw him one night in the Congo Lounge. Banks came in with his girl friend, and the defendant was there with her boy friend. Banks started picking on her boy friend and she got up to leave. She was "kind of high" and bumped into Banks' girl friend. Banks then came out of the lounge and beat her up for hitting his girl friend. On another occasion at the Congo Lounge she went to the back of the room where Banks was sitting with his girl friend and stood in front of the bathroom door. The defendant called to him and he started toward her. Banks' brother was in the lounge and warned him that the defendant had a gun. The owner of the lounge came between them. She had the gun in her pocket with her finger on the trigger, but had no intention of using it. The owner of the hotel grabbed her arm and pulled the trigger. She carried the gun because she was afraid of Charles Banks. She was convicted of unlawful use of a weapon, spent five days in the House of Correction and was given two years probation.

She was intimate with Banks quite a few times and gave birth to his child. She was upset because the child was deformed. The child remained in the hospital and lived for only about five weeks. During this time she went to visit the child, but she was at home when she found out that the child had died. She went down to the hospital to sign some papers and was brought to the morgue to see the child. She did not believe that the child was dead but thought that they had the child under sedation in order to take the child from her, as they did the other children. Even now, she is not positive that the baby is dead. Later, whenever she was not feeling up to par, she would call the hospital and ask questions. She felt that they "got wise" to her and would not tell her anything. She called the hospital quite often to make trouble for them. Eventually she stopped calling when someone complained about her use of the phone and her landlord took it out. After her baby died, she went down to welfare to talk about it and ended up attacking one of the case workers who had been mean to her. A warrant was made out for her arrest, but the defendant gave herself up and spent the night in jail.

She had various jobs after the baby died. One of them was at Chicago Book where she was fired for arguing with her supervisor. There was always something with the men at Chicago Book. They were chasing her all around the place. She went out with a Charles Barner, who worked there, and was intimate with him. She felt that if she was to keep her job there, she had to go along with whatever he said. Afterward, she did not have any more trouble on the job, but everyone, the men in particular, started watching her.

She met Willie McNeal in August of 1970. He worked at the desk in the lobby of the Alamac Hotel, where she was living. McNeal kept pestering her to go out with him. Finally, she agreed and went to his apartment and had intercourse. McNeal asked her again on other occasions, but she refused. She still talked to him for a while, but they began to have arguments over trivial things. She was angry at McNeal because he had told the other men in the building about their sexual relations, and they in turn started bothering her. McNeal also had asked her to become a prostitute for him. McNeal ...

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