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People v. Chapman

OPINION FILED JUNE 8, 1977.

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

v.

VERNEATER CHAPMAN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. MARVIN ASPEN, Judge, presiding.

MISS JUSTICE MCGILLICUDDY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The defendant, Verneater Chapman, was charged with having committed the offense of voluntary manslaughter in a two-count indictment, as follows:

1. acting under a sudden and intense passion, resulting from serious provocation by Robert L. Rice, shot and killed the said Robert L. Rice with a gun, without lawful justification. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 9-2(a).

2. intentionally and knowingly killed Robert L. Rice with a gun without lawful justification, believing the circumstances to be such that they would justify or exonerate the killing but her belief was unreasonable. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 9-2(b).

After a bench trial the defendant was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 5 years probation with the first year to be served in the House of Correction under the Work Release Program. The issue presented for review is whether the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to prove the defendant guilty of voluntary manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt.

On March 30, 1974, at approximately 10:15 a.m., the defendant shot and killed Robert L. Rice, the man with whom she had been living, in their apartment at 8235 South Ellis Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. She immediately went to the nearby apartment of her nephew, Thaddeus Brown, and he called the police. Officer Crisler testified that Brown met him at the doorway of the apartment building, surrendered the .22-caliber handgun and told him, "My aunt just shot her boyfriend." Officer Crisler found the deceased on the floor of the bathroom in the apartment.

After being advised of her rights under Miranda v. Arizona (1966), 384 U.S. 436, 16 L.Ed.2d 694, 86 S.Ct. 1602, the defendant told the officer she had been asleep on the couch and awoke when Rice hit her on the head and told her to get her things together because he had another woman coming in. When Rice continued to beat her, she shot at him three times with a gun she kept under the pillow. The defendant told Officer Crisler she and Rice were separating and one of them was going to move. Crisler noticed a bed resting against the wall, and clothes and other articles were stacked in the hall. The defendant did not ask to see a doctor or complain about having pain. Officer Crisler did not see any bruises or marks on her legs, face or arms, even though she was wearing a short nightgown; however, he did not check for lumps or scratches on her scalp or have a matron examine her. He did not see any items of furniture which were broken or out of place, including the coffee table near the couch on which Ms. Chapman had been sleeping.

There were a number of stipulations, as follows: (1) If Thaddeus Brown were called he would testify that the defendant at 10:15 a.m. on March 30, 1974, knocked on his door in an excited state and told him she had shot Robert Rice after quarreling with him; (2) if Officer Grefsheim were called, he would testify that no weapon was found on the deceased; one expended bullet was found just inside the front door and another was found on the floor in the center of the living room; and the .22-caliber revolver used by the defendant contained four expended cartridges and two live cartridges; (3) if a doctor specializing in forensic pathology were called he would testify that the deceased was shot once in the thigh and once in the back, and the bullet which entered from the back lacerated the left lung and the aorta and lodged in the chest cavity causing death; and (4) no evidence of alcohol, tranquilizers or narcotics was found in the body of the deceased.

The defendant testified that she and Robert Rice had lived together for five years. She had worked at the Brach Candy Company since 1968. Robert Rice had also worked there, but he was fired for attacking her in the women's locker room. She testified that Rice beat her about every other weekend and she had placed him under a peace bond on three occasions. See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 200-1 et seq.

She related that she arrived home from work at 1:15 a.m. on the day of the shooting and slept on the couch as she usually did when alone. She kept a .22 revolver (that Rice had given her for protection) under her pillow. She awoke when Rice hit her "up side the head." She tried to get up and he kicked her in the stomach and knocked her back down. He told her to get her property and get out because he had another woman. As he raised his foot to kick her again, she started shooting. She claimed she did not point the gun anywhere in particular but just wanted him to leave her alone and she feared for her life. Rice ran to the front door which was locked and then ran into the bathroom. She did not know whether she was still shooting when Rice ran toward the front door.

The defendant further testified that she was not angry when Rice told her he was bringing in another woman, because "he was always talking." Although Rice had often threatened to move out, she indicated that the bedroom set which Officer Crisler saw stacked against the wall had been replaced by another set.

The defendant contends the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she did not act in self-defense as provided in section 7-1 of the Illinois Criminal Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 7-1). Self-defense is an affirmative defense (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 7-14), and the State has the burden of disproving that defense beyond a reasonable doubt. People v. Williams (1974), 57 Ill.2d 239, 311 N.E.2d 681; People v. Liddell (1975), 32 Ill. App.3d 828, 336 N.E.2d 815; Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 3-2(b).

• 1 She also argues her actions were sanctioned by section 7-2(b) of the Criminal Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 7-2(b)) which provides that a person may take action to prevent the commission of a felony in the home. She maintains she acted to prevent the commission of a forcible felony, an aggravated battery against herself, which was occurring in her home. However, that argument is not applicable here because the victim, who shared the apartment with her, was not an intruder. People v. Brown (1974), 19 Ill. App.3d 757, 312 N.E.2d 789.

A person commits the offense of voluntary manslaughter when she kills another without lawful justification while acting under a sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation by the individual killed; or, if in taking another's life, she believes that she is in danger of losing her own life or suffering great bodily harm but this belief is unreasonable. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 9-2.) It is only where a person is acting under a reasonable belief of danger of imminent death or great bodily harm that ...


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