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People v. Yates





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. MATTHEW J. MORAN, Judge, presiding.


Defendants, Emma Jean Yates and Shirley Yates, were indicted for the murder of Charlotte Henderson. They were found guilty of murder by a jury in the circuit court of Cook County and were each sentenced to imprisonment for from 15 to 25 years.

On appeal, defendants argue that (1) the evidence revealed that they were acting under a sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation by the deceased, and that therefore they are guilty only of voluntary manslaughter, and (2) the court committed prejudicial error by excluding evidence offered by the defense to show the deceased's violent disposition when drinking.

Charlotte Henderson, known as Cookie, died as the result of a stab wound inflicted by the hand of Emma Yates on July 11, 1976, at about 11:30 a.m. A toxicologist found that the victim had been under the influence of alcohol at the time of her death. Examination of the body also revealed recent wounds on the victim's wrists which could have been self-inflicted.

Two eyewitnesses to the stabbing testified for the State. Tommy Morris was standing in front of his shop at 3401 West 5th Avenue, Chicago, talking to Floyd Stanley, when Morris' wife walked up to the men and told them about an incident occurring at Jackson and Homan. Morris and Stanley walked to the intersection of Jackson and Homan; Morris estimated that it took about half a minute to walk the distance. Morris saw the deceased on the north side of Jackson, trying to go east, and holding a knife in her hand. He also saw the defendant Shirley Yates, holding a knife, talking to a man in the middle of the street. Emma Yates was standing near Shirley. After a short time, Shirley followed the deceased and Emma also moved toward her. Morris said that Emma told Shirley, "If you won't stab the bitch, give me the knife," after which Shirley passed the knife to Emma. Emma then stabbed the deceased in the back below the shoulder blade. Shirley then kicked the victim "in the behind," announced her address to the onlookers and left with Emma. On cross-examination, Morris testified that Cookie waved her knife at Emma before the stabbing. When he last saw the defendants, they were running east on Jackson.

Floyd Stanley testified that he saw the deceased, holding a knife in her hand, coming east on Jackson, and Shirley coming after her with a knife. Emma ran up to Cookie, and Cookie raised her knife at her and "kind of swung at her." Someone said, "Give me the knife" and he next saw that Emma had the knife in her hand. Emma moved toward Cookie and "cut her." Shirley then "made a pass" at Cookie. Stanley then left to call an ambulance. On cross-examination, Stanley said he was really paying attention to the knife in Emma's hand, not the knife in Cookie's hand.

Ralph Gibson of the Chicago police department testified for the State that he arrived at the scene and saw a woman's body lying in the street with a wound in the back. He discovered a knife, which he identified at trial, in some shrubbery nearby. After speaking to the bystanders, he went to Cook County Hospital. Outside the hospital he saw defendant Shirley Yates, who fit the description he had been given of one of the assailants. She told him her name and he placed her under arrest. He took her to the police room at the hospital and advised her of her rights. Shirley said that she understood her rights. Gibson asked if she knew anything about the stabbing and Shirley said that she was there, but that she did not do it. Cookie had had an argument with Shirley's mother at the mother's apartment. The mother told Cookie to leave, then followed Cookie out to the front porch and returned with a wound on her chin, saying, "That bitch just cut me." Shirley and Emma then chased Cookie down the street to Jackson and Homan, where they chased Cookie around a car. Shirley had a knife and so did Cookie. Emma said, "Give me that knife, you are not going to do anything with it." Shirley then gave the knife to Emma. Shirley hit Cookie in the face, Emma stabbed her and Cookie fell to the ground. Shirley kicked Cookie and then went home with Emma.

Officer Gibson further testified that Shirley told him Emma was at home. He went with Shirley to the apartment at 3423 West Madison and arrested Emma there. He advised her of her rights and Emma gave him an oral statement in the squad car. She said that her mother had come into the apartment with her chin cut and said that Cookie had cut her. She and her sister Shirley then chased Cookie to Jackson and Homan and around a parked car there. Emma told her sister, "You are not going to do anything with that knife. Give the knife to me." Shirley gave the knife to Emma. Emma said that Cookie was between Shirley and Emma, when Shirley struck Cookie in the face, and Emma stabbed Cookie.

On cross-examination, Gibson admitted that he had not written down in any police report or elsewhere the detailed narrative of the statements made by Shirley and Emma. His report states only that both readily admitted their part in the incident. Gibson estimated the distance from the apartment to the scene of the offense as between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 blocks.

Ronald Bredeman, an assistant State's Attorney of Cook County, testified that he saw Shirley Yates in police custody on July 11, 1976, at about 3 p.m. He sat down with her alone, identified himself as a prosecutor, and told her that he was not her attorney. He advised Shirley of her rights and she responded that she understood them and wished to give them up. Shirley then gave him an oral statement with Bredeman related to the jury, and which was substantially the same as that related by Officer Gibson. Bredeman then went into another room where he sat alone with Emma Yates. He advised her of her rights, identified himself, and heard Emma give an account of the occurrence, which Bredeman also repeated and which also was substantially the same as that related by Gibson. Bredeman then returned to Shirley with a court reporter and a policeman. Bredeman then interrogated Shirley Yates, and the court reporter stenographically recorded the questions and answers. When they finished with Shirley, Bredeman, the court reporter and the policeman went into the adjacent room and followed the same procedure with Emma Yates. The court reporter then immediately transcribed her machine notes into typewritten pages. Shirley Yates appeared to read the transcript of her statement, agreed that it was correct and signed it in the presence of witnesses. Emma Yates also read the transcript of her own statement and signed it in the presence of witnesses.

On cross-examination, Bredeman admitted that he had never told either Emma or Shirley that they would be charged with murder.

The statements were introduced into evidence and read to the jury. Shirley Yates had stated that on July 11, 1976, at 11:30 a.m., she and her sister were at their mother's house when Cookie, who lived upstairs, came down the stairs and stuck her head through the door. Shirley's mother exchanged verbal abuse with Cookie, and the mother picked up a bottle and hit Cookie in the stomach with it. Cookie was told to leave and she did, removing a knife from her socks as she left, and challenging the mother to follow. The mother went out on the porch and came back into the apartment, bleeding from the throat. Shirley took a knife, which her mother had received from Shirley, from her mother's hand and ran after Cookie, saying, "Bitch, I'm going to kill you." Emma also ran after Cookie, who stopped at Jackson and Homan and was chased around a car by Shirley and Emma. Cookie was coming toward Emma with her knife, so Emma took the knife from Shirley's hand, saying, "Let me stab the bitch." As Cookie was going toward Emma with the knife, Shirley hit Cookie in the jaw with her fist. At this time, Shirley was standing next to a man whose car had been hit by a juice bottle which Shirley had thrown at Cookie. Emma then stabbed Cookie in the back, and Shirley and Emma then ran back to the house. Shirley took her mother to the hospital.

Emma Yates, in her statement, said that she was at her mother's home when Cookie came in the door. The mother told her to get out, but Cookie would not leave until the mother picked up a bottle and chased her out. Cookie stopped in the hallway and took a knife out of her socks. Emma closed the door, but her mother opened it and went out. Cookie stabbed the mother, and Shirley and Emma then chased Cookie to Jackson and Homan. Cookie had a knife in her hands. Shirley gave her knife to Emma. "And Shirley was saying something and Shirley hit Cookie in the jaw. Cookie didn't pay no mind. Cookie came at me with the knife, that's when I stabbed her." Emma saw Shirley kick Cookie after the stabbing. While they ...

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