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People v. Vaughn

MARCH 12, 1975.

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

v.

FRANK E. VAUGHN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County; the Hon. JOSEPH F. CUNNINGHAM, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE CARTER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

On January 31, 1972, the appellant, Frank Vaughn, was charged in a two-count indictment with the murder of Reynolds Campbell (Count I) and with the attempted murder of Matthew Drake (Count II). On September 20, 1973, a jury found the appellant guilty of murder in Count I and not guilty of attempted murder on Count II. From the judgment of conviction of murder, where the appellant was sentenced to a term of from 14 years to 30 years, the appellant brought his appeal.

The appellant raises two issues for review: First, whether the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant killed the decedent, Campbell, without lawful justification since there was evidence indicating that appellant had acted in self-defense; and second, whether appellant was not guilty of murder because the evidence, at best, established only the commission of voluntary manslaughter. To determine these issues, we must scrutinize the substantial and often conflicting evidence adduced at the trial.

It will be instructive at the outset to note what is not disputed in the evidence of this case. All events occurred on December 4, 1971, at the V.F.W. Hall in East St. Louis, Illinois. Both appellant and the deceased, Reynolds Campbell, as well as most of the witnesses who testified at the trial were members of the same V.F.W. Post. Alcoholic beverages and food were served at the Hall, and the public was allowed on the premises from 9 to 5, and nonmembers were present on December 4. Appellant arrived at the hall in the morning, and remained there until forcibly removed later in the evening. Upon arrival in the morning, appellant had volunteered his services to clean and help in the kitchen. Throughout the time he was at the Hall, appellant had a handgun inside his coat. It is undisputed that in the evening, several members wanted appellant to leave the Hall, and indeed, appellant was forcibly removed from the premises and "pushed" and "pulled" to a parking lot immediately adjacent to the back door. It is undisputed that the deceased, Campbell, appeared at the back door while appellant was being held next to an automobile, and it is undisputed that thereafter, appellant drew his handgun and shot and killed Campbell.

With regard to the disputed evidence, we divide the factual disputes into three categories:

A. The circumstances surrounding appellant's removal from the Hall;

B. The manner in which appellant was removed from the Hall; and

C. The events immediately prior to the killing.

There are substantial conflicts in the evidence with regard to each of these three categories. We choose to concentrate our attention on the testimony of State's witnesses, unless otherwise indicated below.

A. The circumstances surrounding appellant's removal from the V.F.W. Hall. State's witness, Henry Harris, who was a bartender at the Hall, testified that he arrived at the Hall at about 9:30 A.M. on December 4, 1971, and thereafter began to clean up the bar. He testified that Reynolds Campbell was the manager of the bar, and that appellant was at the Hall upon Harris' arrival. Harris testified that he sold alcoholic beverages to the appellant, and that on one occasion, he poured whiskey onto a customer's plate. Earlier in the morning, Harris testified that he had heard Campbell telling appellant that he was getting too loud and using "too much foul language."

State's witness John Sampson testified that he did not personally see appellant loud or boisterous. Sampson arrived at the Hall at 4 P.M. and remained there until the time of the killing at about 10 P.M. State's witness, Johnny Neal, who arrived at the Hall at about 6:50 P.M., testified that he did not see the appellant creating any kind of disturbance anywhere. Further, he testified that he did not think the appellant was drunk. State's witness Matthew L. Drake testified that he did not see appellant consume any kind of alcoholic beverage.

Appellant himself testified that he arrived at the Hall about 7:30 A.M. and helped in washing glasses, cleaning up and talking and drinking with others at the Hall. He states that at about 12 noon, he was in the kitchen fixing sausage and eggs, and as he was cleaning up after the breakfast, some liquor overturned in a tray and he took it back to the kitchen. He stated that he did not intentionally do this and that no trouble resulted. He testified that he went back into the kitchen and Reynolds Campbell returned, saying not to drink anything more. According to the appellant, he remained in the kitchen until later in the evening when he took an order out to someone and Campbell saw him and told him that he did not want him to remain in the club. Defense witness Dwight Quinn testified that he was at the Hall on the evening of December 4, 1971, with a friend, George Elliot, at which time they saw appellant and spoke to him. Quinn stated that appellant did not appear to be drunk, and he stated that he saw appellant shoved into the kitchen while taking an order.

B. The manner by which appellant was removed from the Hall. Substantial conflict occurs in the State's testimony with regard to the manner by which appellant was removed from the Hall. Matthew L. Drake testified to the effect that he was leaving the Hall at about 10 P.M. when he saw Reynolds Campbell standing just outside the back door and appellant leaning on an automobile, about 4 to 6 feet away from Campbell. Drake testified that he did not hear any noise or commotion as he was leaving the Hall. In contrast to Drake's testimony, John C. Sampson testified that Matthew Drake, Reynolds Campbell and he "pushed" and "pulled" appellant through a breezeway and out of the back door from the kitchen area of the Hall. He stated that he did not personally observe appellant to be boisterous, but "they" had told him that appellant was being boisterous and using foul language in front of women. In trying to get appellant out through the kitchen door, Sampson stated that he had hold of one of appellant's arms and was pulling on the appellant.

State's witness Michael Brooks stated that he was in the Hall on the evening in question and he saw appellant at the bar talking to some fellows. He testified that he did not see Vaughn making any kind of disturbance but he did see people ask him to leave. He stated that he saw some people trying to push Vaughn on out of the back door, but not in a violent type of way. State's witness Walter Edwards testified that he arrived at the Hall at about 7 or 8 P.M. in the evening and later saw Sampson begging the appellant, who was standing outside of the kitchen door, to take his (appellant's) foot out of the door. Then he saw Drake grab appellant in the breezeway and a "scuffle" ensued. On cross-examination, Edwards testified that there was "scuffling" in the breezeway and he was able to hear blows being struck.

Appellant testified that Campbell told him that he did not want him in the club, and then Drake and another "big guy" began to push him and held his hands and arms. He stated that he then got a little stubborn, and that's when they started to fight. He stated that Drake and he began swinging punches at each other and he was hit in the stomach to the point he became weak. He stated that "they" were working him over. Michael Brooks testified on direct examination for the State that shortly after the shooting he saw that appellant's face was bruised and bleeding a little. He also stated that some extreme force was being used by these three men. The State produced some evidence to show that after the shooting ...


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