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People v. Tate

OPINION FILED MARCH 29, 1976.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLEE,

v.

MARY A. TATE ET AL. — (WILLIE BRYANT, APPELLANT.)



Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Robert A. Meier III, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE RYAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Mary Alice Tate (Mary Alice) and Willie Bryant (Bryant) were found guilty by a jury in the circuit court of Cook County of the murders of Othas Jameson and Freddie Tate. The appellate court affirmed their convictions (25 Ill. App.3d 411), and we granted Bryant's petition for leave to appeal under Rule 315 (50 Ill.2d R. 315). Mary Alice has not appealed to this court.

In the afternoon on February 29, 1970, Mary Alice and Bryant found their 14-year-old daughter, Sabrina, intoxicated and ill. She told her parents that she had been given whiskey and marijuana by various persons, including the decedents, who lived in a small building at the rear of the building occupied by Mary Alice, Bryant, and several others. Following a confrontation the details of which will be given later, Bryant started fighting with Ernest Jameson, and Mary Alice shot Othas Jameson and Freddie Tate. Both later died from these wounds.

Bryant argues that since he did not shoot anyone, his "mere giving of a gun to another person who uses the gun to shoot and kill the victim" does not make him accountable for the murders. We feel that the jury could justifiably have found several additional culpable acts, beyond that of merely giving a gun to Mary Alice, which supply the requirements for conviction on an accountability theory. Consequently, we affirm appellant's conviction.

The jury was instructed on the issue of accountability:

"A person is responsible for the conduct of another person when, either before or during the commission of a crime, and with the intent to promote or facilitate the commission of a crime, he knowingly solicits, aids, abets, agrees or attempts to aid the other person in the planning or commission of the crime."

This instruction incorporates the essentials of section 5-2 of the Criminal Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 38, par. 5-2).

Although the evidence at trial was contradictory, the jury, after hearing the testimony and weighing the credibility of witnesses, resolved the issues against appellant. While it is true that mere presence or negative acquiescence is not enough to constitute a person a principal, we feel that the circumstances are such as to show a common design assented to by the appellant. The determination of the jury will not be set aside unless the evidence is so unreasonable, improbable or unsatisfactory as to justify a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt. People v. McClindon (1973), 54 Ill.2d 546.

Various witnesses testified concerning the confrontation between the defendants and the decedents. Without recapping the testimony in detail, it is a fair summary to say that the defendants were rather upset by the intoxication of their daughter and with the fact that she had become violently ill. They went to the rear house to demand an explanation and ordered the decedents and others to leave. The decedents denied that they had made the daughter drunk and rebuffed the demand that they leave. Mary Alice and appellant left, but despite the hostile atmosphere and the apparent potential for violence stated that they were going to come back.

After Mary Alice and appellant had returned to their own home, Mattie Pearl Tate saw Bryant standing in his kitchen with a gun in one hand and bullets in the other. She testified that Bryant initiated a conversation with Mary Alice about returning to the other house and that he urged Mary Alice to accompany him. She agreed to do so but stated that she did not want to go "barehanded." Then, according to Mattie Pearl Tate, Bryant went back to the kitchen and got another gun which he gave to Mary Alice.

According to Ernest Jameson, when Bryant and Mary Alice returned, Bryant pushed Joe Lewis Tate and ordered him to leave. Bryant then pushed Ernest Jameson several times, and started to take his hand from his pocket, revealing a gun. It was while Jameson and Bryant were wrestling for the gun that Mary Alice shot the decedents.

The jury may draw inferences from the conduct of the defendant. (People v. McClindon (1973), 54 Ill.2d 546.) Also, "proof of a common purpose need not be supported by words of agreement but can be drawn from the circumstances surrounding the commission of an act by a group" (People v. Richardson (1965), 32 Ill.2d 472, 476), and "circumstances may show there is a common design to do an unlawful act to which all assent" (People v. Washington (1962), 26 Ill.2d 207, 209).

In many ways, this case is similar to the cases involving conflicts between street gangs or informal youth groups. There, as in the case at bar, there are acts by two or more people indicating their knowledge of a hostile and potentially dangerous situation, with one or more persons voluntarily taking up ...


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