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People v. Johnson

SEPTEMBER 16, 1975.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Iroquois County; the Hon. ROBERT J. IMMEL, Judge, presiding.


A jury in the circuit court of Iroquois County found Charlene Kay Johnson guilty of murder. The defendant was sentenced to the Department of Corrections for a minimum term of not less than 14 nor more than 24 years.

On January 23, 1974, the defendant and the murder victim, Patricia Boufford, lived together along with Patricia Boufford's three infant children in a trailer located at 102 1/2 Popular, Onarga, Illinois. The defendant also resided at an adjacent house located at 102 Popular in which her mother and her brother, Terry Kammerman, also lived.

On January 23, 1974, at approximately 7:30 p.m., the defendant knocked on the front door of the Kammerman home; the defendant was crying and upset and in a highly intoxicated condition. She told Kammerman that something was wrong at the trailer. Defendant returned to the trailer with Kammerman who observed the body of Patricia Boufford lying face down in a pool of blood. The minor children were also present. Kammerman removed the children from the trailer and then returned to remove a 20-gauge shotgun which was located inside the trailer just in front of the door about a yard from the body of Mrs. Boufford. Kammerman took the shotgun to his house and placed it upstairs. He then called an ambulance and the police.

Shortly after 8 p.m., Clarence Talbert and Russell Enz arrived at the trailer with an ambulance. They examined the body and after finding the lack of any vital signs called the coroner.

Russell Enz then heard whispering and he looked up to see the defendant and her brother. Enz testified that he heard the defendant say she hoped "the bitch was dead" and "I am glad the old slut is dead." He also testified that he heard the defendant say to Clarence Talbert: "Why don't you get the old bitch out of here, the old drunken bitch out of here." Enz testified that the defendant "was as drunk as any person I have ever seen." Enz also stated he believed the defendant thought Mrs. Boufford was alive at this time.

At one point Talbert informed defendant that Mrs. Boufford was dead and the defendant replied "well, if she is dead, why don't you book me?"

Talbert testified that he heard the defendant say: "The old drunken bitch is dead, why don't you get her out of here, drag her out." He stated that the defendant was extremely intoxicated and that he did not think she would have said some of these things otherwise.

The ambulance drivers awaited the arrival of the coroner and the police. During this time the defendant sat at a table and drank from a liquor bottle.

When Deputy Carmichael arrived he entered the trailer, examined the body and asked Terry Kammerman where the gun was. In the company of both officers, Kammerman proceeded to the house to retrieve the weapon. He then handed it over to Carmichael who was standing inside the house.

Both Deputy Carmichael and Pat Thomas, a State crime-scene technician from the I.B.I., conducted a crime-scene investigation at the trailer for the purpose of collecting evidence. In the bathroom of the trailer there was a blouse that contained damp blood. The stains were later determined to be blood of the same type as Mrs. Boufford's. Also found at the top of a garbage can in the same room as the victim was an empty shotgun casing. On the refrigerator a box of live shotgun shells was also found. The shotgun removed from the scene by Terry Kammerman was examined and found to be a 20-gauge single-barrel shotgun. No fingerprints were found and the weapon appeared to have been wiped. There was no expended cartridge inside the weapon. The examination of the weapon and the cartridge from the garbage can by a firearms and tool marks examiner for the I.B.I. revealed that the cartridge found in the trash can had been fired in the shotgun found at the scene. Also, shots removed from the decedent were found to be number 5 shot, the same size as the shot found in the unexpended cartridges found on the refrigerator.

An examination of the doors and windows by crime-scene personnel revealed no signs of a forcible entry into the trailer. Defendant testified the door was normally locked.

A female deputy sheriff, who was an Alcoholic Treatment Coordinator Counselor and who attended various alcoholic treatment institutes and seminars, arrived at approximately 10:30 p.m. and took the defendant into custody. She was with her from that time until after 2 a.m. on the following day. The female deputy testified that the defendant was responsive to her questions, that she understood what the deputy told her, that she needed no assistance in walking, and that there was no unusual behavior.

The shotgun, which was found at the scene and which was identified as having fired the expended cartridge found at the scene, was purchased on January 15, 1974, along with a box of shotgun shells, eight days before the murder, by the defendant.

There was no evidence from the defendant or any other witness that any person was at the scene at the time of or prior to the shooting. Terry Kammerman, the defendant's brother, had been in and out of the trailer during the day. He testified that no one was present except the victim, the three children and the defendant. Kammerman also testified that defendant was "highly intoxicated" and "as drunk as she could be without passing out."

The defendant was taken to the City Hall where a discharge residue test was performed on her fingers to determine if she had recently fired a weapon. The results of the test proved negative. Pat Thomas, who performed the test, testified that at that time defendant was "very intoxicated."

At about 11:30 p.m., defendant was taken to the Iroquois Hospital where blood alcohol tests and a blood-type test were performed. The defendant's blood was determined to be of a different type than that of the deceased. The defendant's blood alcohol at the time the test was performed was 356 milligrams or .356 percent. Rebecca Shelly, the certified laboratory assistant who performed the blood alcohol test, testified that the .356 reading was the highest one she had ever seen and that her training led her to believe that .356 was an extremely high level. She also testified that 50 milligrams, expressed as .05 percent, is considered normal and that the .356 reading may be considered about seven times normal.

As to the medical significance of the .356 reading, Dr. Stan Bobowski, a pathologist at Burnham City Hospital in Champaign, Illinois, testified that a person intoxicated to the .356 level is entering the "anesthesia stage" and that .4 results in unconsciousness. He further testified that between .30 and .35 things get very confused and slurred to the person and that at these levels, alcohol acting on the frontal lobes completely depresses the brain and it doesn't act. Bobowski also testified that the alcohol effect at the .3 level and above can cause a person to say things he does not mean or intend.

Dr. Bobowski also testified that from the time defendant had first ingested alcohol, her body was working to rid itself of alcohol. He stated that the liver eliminates 90 percent of the alcohol at a rate of .05 grams an hour. This rate of decrease is not affected by an extremely high alcohol level in the body. The body also works to rid itself of alcohol through urine, perspiration, and the lungs. It takes 60 to 90 minutes for alcohol to start absorption into the bloodstream after it reaches the stomach. The elimination of alcohol from the body begins immediately and does not depend upon the cessation of drinking before that process begins. The liver and the body are constantly eliminating alcohol even though some additional alcohol is being ingested.

The defendant testified that she was "very drunk" and that during the course of the day she was drinking constantly and a lot. Although she could not remember exactly how much she had to drink, she knew she had been drinking bourbon, brandy and beer. As to the events of January 23, 1974, defendant testified that "everything seemed sorta dreamlike * * * very foggy and very vague." She stated that she could not remember the events that occurred and their relevant times or any statements that she made. She did have brief snatches of memory such as "getting the kids up" and that the television was on during the day. She also remembered that at some time she took out garbage and went to bed because she felt sick. With respect to Mrs. Boufford, the defendant recalled seeing blood but did not remember anything further.

An autopsy was performed upon the body of Mrs. Boufford the next day. Dr. Albert Miller, the pathologist who performed it, was of the opinion that Boufford died as a result of a gunshot wound to the right shoulder. He also determined that at the time she was shot, Boufford was under the influence of an extremely high degree of alcoholic intoxication since her blood sample showed a level of .346 percent alcohol. As to the medical significance of the .346 level, Dr. Miller testified that it would be enough to severely affect the coordination and physical skills of the deceased and to greatly impair her mental faculties ...

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