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People v. Smith





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JAMES MURRAY, Judge, presiding.


Defendant, Huston Smith, shot and killed Lafayette McIntosh, the boyfriend of defendant's ex-wife, Ella Smith. Defendant was charged by indictment with the offense of murder in violation of section 9-1 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 38, par. 9-1). Upon a bench trial defendant was found guilty as charged. Judgment was entered on the finding and defendant was sentenced to serve a term of confinement of 14-20 years in the Illinois State Penitentiary.

From entry of the judgment of conviction defendant appeals contending (1) that the trial court erroneously excluded certain testimony concerning defendant's mental state at the time of the offense; and (2) that the evidence properly adduced at trial was insufficient to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

A review of the facts reveals that on March 25, 1973, at approximately 12 noon, defendant arrived at the home of his former wife, Ella Smith, for the purpose of visiting their seven-year-old daughter, Benita. Decedent, Lafayette McIntosh, who occasionally resided at the house, was in the bedroom where he briefly met with and privately spoke to defendant. As defendant and his daughter prepared to depart, Ella Smith requested that defendant return the child to the nearby home of Mrs. Smith's sister, Ester Watkins, where a birthday celebration was planned for the evening. Prior to the date of the incident, defendant had occasionally resided at the Watkins' home and certain of his personal belongings had been stored there.

Defendant and his daughter arrived at the house at approximately 5:30 p.m. Also on the premises at this time were decedent, Ella Smith, Watkins, and several mutual acquaintances including Jesse Greenwood, Lee Taylor, Ernest Charley, and Johnny and Patricia Wingard.

Shortly after his arrival, defendant had occasion to observe that his daughter was limping due to a "gash" on her toe. A discussion ensued between defendant and Ella Smith concerning their respective responsibilities for securing medical treatment for their injured daughter. Defendant refused to personally transport her to hospital facilities citing a lack of proper knowledge of his daughter's medical history, but offered to supply transportation and agreed to bear the cost of any treatment. Ella Smith initially refused defendant's offers.

According to defendant, decedent then joined the conversation and told defendant that it was his responsibility to take the child to the hospital. Defendant responded, "I don't want you telling me these things man. I don't have to listen to your B.S." Defendant testified that decedent then proffered the opinion that the child was "brainwashing" defendant into taking her to the doctor, threatened that he was "going to start teaching her how to act," and to effect this goal was going to "whip her ass and yours [defendant's] too."

Defendant purportedly pleaded with decedent that he refrain from taking such action and inquired, "Lafayette, can't we talk this over." Decedent purportedly informed defendant that in his opinion there was nothing to discuss and that "I am taking your place." Defendant rejoined, "why don't we let the court decide who is taking whose place?" Decedent allegedly responded, "Houston, I am the Court, the Judge, and the damn Jury."

At this point the conversation terminated. According to defendant, decedent walked to Ester Watkin's automobile, removed something from the glove compartment, and put it in his pocket. Defendant testified that he believed decedent had armed himself. Defendant left the vicinity and drove to his place of business in Robbins, Illinois. Decedent and Ella Smith also departed to transport Benita to the hospital in Watkins' vehicle.

Ella Smith and decedent returned to the Watkins' home at approximately 8 p.m. Defendant joined them at 8:30 p.m. and entered a rear bedroom where he recovered certain personal effects, some money and a loaded .38 revolver. Defendant placed the gun in the right rear pocket of his trousers and underneath a three-quarter length coat he was wearing. Defendant testified that during this period he overheard Ella Smith recounting to Watkins that defendant had refused to transport Benita to the hospital, that decedent and defendant had argued and that Ella Smith was "going to let him have it out."

Defendant sought to speak to Ella Smith in private and to this end entered the living room of the house. However, his plan was interrupted when he and Ella Smith were joined by decedent, Watkins and Patricia Wingard. Defendant testified that during this time decedent approached defendant and proceeded to follow defendant about the room. Neither Ella Smith nor Watkins observed decedent "chase" defendant in this manner.

Defendant positioned himself at the front door of the house and stood facing its interior and the people in the living room. Defendant asked decedent where certain judicial processes should be sent which, according to defendant, would restrain decedent from effecting his threats to injure defendant and his daughter.

According to Watkins, decedent took one or two steps toward Defendant and said, "Man, you don't know me, you don't have anything to beef at me about."

Defendant testified that he warned decedent not to come any closer. Defendant further testified that decedent asked, "What is the matter Houston? Are you afraid of me?" Defendant responded in the affirmative. It was established that defendant was five feet, eleven inches tall and weighed 175 pounds at the time of the ...

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