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People v. Huggy

APRIL 16, 1974.

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

v.

STEVEN HUGGY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. PHILIP ROMITI, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE LEIGHTON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Steven Huggy was charged with the murder of Grace Troia, his 45-year old "girlfriend." Prior to his trial, he served notice that he intended to rely on the affirmative defense of intoxication. He was tried without a jury; and after the court heard evidence in support of this defense, he was convicted.

Huggy and Grace Troia were heavy drinkers of alcoholic liquor. Although not married to each other, they lived together in a house owned by Grace at 5221 South Lawndale in Chicago. It was their custom to spend occasional week-ends drinking in neighborhood taverns, ending with sojourns in a motel they patronized in Schereville, Indiana. Huggy owned a 1963 black Cadillac automobile, and on May 9, 1969, at about 4:55 P.M., he met Grace in order that they could go drinking, with the intention of spending the end of the week in the Indiana motel. At the time, Huggy had about $3100 in cash on his person. A little after 5 P.M., they arrived at a tavern on West 47th Street in Chicago, and there they spent 5 1/2 hours drinking whiskey. Matching each other drink for drink, their consumption of intoxicating liquor was five "shots" per hour. Huggy, however, drank more than Grace because when she went to the washroom, or stopped to play a juke box, he ordered an extra drink for himself, thus consuming five or six shots more than she did during the evening. As they drank, Huggy and Grace talked about moving to San Antonio, Texas, where they could get married.

At about 7 P.M., Huggy telephoned the motel and reserved a room, telling the motel keeper that he and Grace would arrive there about 11 P.M. To accomplish this, they left the tavern to go to Grace's home, and there feed a dog and a bird preparatory for their absence during the week end. They started out in the black Cadillac; however, when they reached West 51st Street and Lawndale Avenue, Grace decided to go to a tavern on West 55th Street for "another drink." Thus, they detoured to that place and ordered some drinks, but the tavern owner told them to go home because they were both drunk. Huggy got off a bar stool to leave, but his only recollection of the rest of that evening was his "reaching for the door handle, that was all." He awoke the next morning sometime between 6:30 and 7 A.M., in a Chicago police station.

In the meantime, at about 10:40 P.M. the evening of May 9, James Klarik, a 19-year-old university student who lived across the street from Grace Troia, heard a noise and looked out of the window of his apartment. He saw a black Cadillac back up near 5221 South Lawndale; its engine and lights were then turned off. About 10 or 20 minutes later, sometime near 11 P.M., Klarik's attention was again called to the Cadillac because its motor started, it was pulling away from the curb without its lights, and it was being driven erratically, northward on Lawndale. A few minutes later, Klarik heard the noise of people carrying on a conversation outside his house. He went out, and by the curb he saw the body of a woman. It was Grace Troia, dead. In her left temple was a bullet wound that exited near her right ear.

At about 11:30 P.M. the same night, Steven Huggy, with a nearly-full quart bottle of whiskey in his hand, rang the doorbell of Emil and Margo Wohrle, owners of a building at 5050 South Talman Street in Chicago. Steven Huggy's former wife and his two daughters lived in the Wohrle building. Margo Wohrle answered the door. She knew Huggy but had not seen him for about 2 or 3 years. After she let him into the apartment, Huggy told her and her husband to call the police because he had "shot his girlfriend;" that he wanted to transfer the title of his Cadillac to his older daughter, Diane; and that he had money to give his daughters, for which he wanted a receipt. Then, Huggy took from his pocket a gun wrapped in a towel and gave it to Emil Wohrle. At first, Wohrle refused to accept the gun; but when Huggy gave it to him a second time, he took it, still wrapped in the towel, and put it on top of a table.

In the meantime, Huggy continued to drink from the whiskey bottle he brought with him. A short time later, his former wife and his younger daughter came to the Wohrle apartment. Although Huggy told his wife that he did not want to see her (he wanted to see his daughters), he told her that he had "shot his girlfriend," and that he wanted to give the title to his Cadillac to Diane and leave some money for his children. He looked in his wallet, fumbled somewhat as he found the title to his Cadillac and executed its transfer to his older daughter. He then gave his former wife $2500 in cash. To her, it appeared that Huggy had been drinking; to the Wohrles, it appeared he had no difficulty understanding them nor did they have any difficulty understanding him. He continued to drink whiskey from the bottle until he fell to the floor, unconscious. A short time later, a police officer came to the Wohrle apartment and arrested Huggy. Another officer went to Huggy's Cadillac and found it between two automobiles correctly and legally parked. At about 1:30 A.M., two evidence technicians examined the automobile, and on the front floor near the accelerator pedal, they found an expended .38-caliber bullet. A pathological examination of Grace Troia revealed that "[s]he died of a through and through bullet wound of the head." A toxicological examination of her showed that the day after she was killed, there were .238 milligrams percent of ethanol in her blood. It was the toxicologist's opinion that immediately before her death, Grace Troia "* * * was definitely under the influence of alcohol."

At defendant's trial, an expert in pathology, testifying in answer to a hypothetical question, gave his opinion that a person who had consumed as much whiskey as Huggy had imbibed the evening he was with Grace Troia would have been so intoxicated that he could not have been able to formulate the mental state required to commit murder. After hearing the evidence, which included proof of Huggy's propensity for intoxicating liquors and the amount he consumed on the day in question, the trial judge found him guilty of murder. He then conducted a hearing in aggravation and mitigation which revealed that Huggy was a 51-year-old life-long resident of Chicago. Only once before had he been convicted of a crime; it was an aggravated assault for which he was fined $50. He was a decorated army veteran; and at the time of his arrest for Grace Troia's murder, was gainfully employed. The court sentence Huggy to serve 20 to 40 years.

From these facts, he presents three issues. (I.) Whether the evidence proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he committed the acts which caused the death of Grace Troia. (II.) Whether, assuming that he committed the acts which caused the death of Grace Troia, the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he was capable of forming the mental state requisite for the crime of murder. (III.) Whether the sentence of 20 to 40 years is excessive.

I.

• 1 The evidence on which the State relied to prove that defendant committed the acts which caused the death of Grace Troia was circumstantial. However, it is an established rule of evidence that in a trial for murder, direct testimony is not required to prove the means that caused the death of the victim; the means and manner of death may be inferred from the circumstances proved. (People v. Kinzell, 106 Ill. App.2d 349, 355, 245 N.E.2d 319.) This rule is refined by the corollary principle that when evidence in a criminal case is circumstantial, guilt must be so thoroughly established that it excludes every reasonable hypothesis of the defendant's innocence. People v. Hanson, 359 Ill. 266, 281, 194 N.E. 520; People v. Bartell, 386 Ill. 483, 54 N.E.2d 700; compare People v. Richards, 120 Ill. App.2d 313, 256 N.E.2d 475.

In this record there was evidence which proved that after 4:55 P.M. on May 9, 1969, Grace Troia, defendant's "girlfriend," was with him; that at about 11 P.M., his automobile was seen erratically being driven away from the place where her dead body was found; that a short time later, defendant told three persons he had shot his "girlfriend," at the same time surrendering a gun wrapped in a towel; and on the floor of his automobile was found a .38-caliber spent bullet.

• 2 At his trial, defendant repudiated his statements and denied he shot Grace Troia, saying that, because of his intoxication, he had no recollection of what occurred after he and Grace started to leave the second tavern they visited. We conclude, however, that the evidence does not include any reasonable hypothesis of someone other than the defendant having committed the crime. Therefore, it is our judgment that, although circumstantial, the evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt it was the defendant who committed the acts which ...


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