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People v. Hancock





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. BRIAN B. DUFF, Judge, presiding.


Defendant, Chester Hancock (Hancock), was charged by information with attempt murder, three counts of aggravated battery, and two counts of armed violence. A jury found Hancock guilty of two counts of aggravated battery and one count of armed violence. He received a sentence of six years. Hancock appeals the judgment below and asks this court to consider (1) whether the testimony of an assistant state's attorney who stated he approved the placing of criminal charges against Hancock denied Hancock a fair trial; (2) whether the verdicts of the jury were legally inconsistent; and (3) whether the State failed to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Several witnesses testified as to the events leading up to the charged offenses. The following preliminary account is uncontradicted.

On August 5, 1978, Hancock left his Evanston, Illinois, home for work earlier than usual. He had been married to his wife, LaRosa, for five years, but had recently grown suspicious of her behavior toward him. He wanted to learn about her daytime activities. He therefore started and finished his workday early, left for home around 11 a.m., and parked his car within sight of his wife's automobile. He waited a short time until LaRosa got into her car and drove away. He followed her to a restaurant parking lot at 5900 North Clark Street, Chicago. She parked within the lot while he parked across the street. A couple of minutes later he saw her enter the car of the complaining witness, Ira Washington. The couple, sitting closely together, drove away.

Hancock was very upset. He testified at trial that "if [he] had had a gun or something at that particular time, [he] probably would have shot both of them." He went home, got his camera and a pistol, and asked his 18-year-old nephew, Randy Rosema, to accompany him to the parking lot. Hancock testified that he carried the gun for protection in fear of Washington's conduct toward him. He knew Washington only as a friend of LaRosa's brother. They had no prior contact with each other. Hancock borrowed his sister-in-law's car and drove his five-year-old daughter and his nephew to the lot.

When Hancock returned to the lot he parked his sister-in-law's car in the same parking lane as, and approximately one car length behind, LaRosa's car. Fifteen minutes later LaRosa and Washington returned to the lot and stopped beside LaRosa's automobile. Hancock and his daughter got out of their car, and he began to take photographs of the two cars used in the midday rendezvous. Hancock testified he was not as upset at seeing the two together this time as he had been the first time. During the course of his picture taking, he observed that his wife recognized him and that she said something to Washington.

The events that followed are in dispute. The testimony of each witness is summarized below.

Ira Washington testified that at all pertinent times his car was in a forward gear. When he pulled his car up along LaRosa's, he applied his brakes to stop. While sitting in the car, LaRosa said, "There is Chester." He turned his head and saw Hancock standing 10 to 15 feet behind Washington's car, pointing something at him. Within a few seconds he saw the rear window of his car begin to shatter and fall out. Washington immediately drove forward to exit the lot. When he approached the street he turned his head again to see if Hancock was following him. As he turned he felt a pain in his left side. He quickly drove to a nearby hospital emergency room where his condition was diagnosed as a collapsed lung resultant from a bullet which entered his right shoulder. He received 31 stitches and was hospitalized for about two weeks.

John Wilson, a police officer, testified that he had a conversation with Hancock at approximately 4 p.m., in the presence of Investigator Thun at the 20th District police station. After Hancock acknowledged his Miranda rights, he volunteered an account of the events. Hancock said he approached Washington's stopped car and took two or three snapshots with his camera. "[T]he car attempted to either pull away from him or back away from him, and he, with the hand gun that he had, fired several shots into the car." He told Wilson he was aware that he hit Washington. He also said he was glad, under the circumstances, that he hit Washington. Hancock then said he returned to Evanston and turned himself in at the local police station.

Paul Kelly, an assistant state's attorney, testified he spoke with Hancock at about 7 p.m., in the 20th District police station. His testimony was consistent with Wilson's. In addition, Hancock told him that Washington's car was stationary at the time he fired his handgun.

Randy Rosema testified that he sat on the passenger side of the car Hancock drove to the lot. He watched Hancock, who was about five feet to the rear of Washington's stopped car, take a few snapshots. Suddenly, he saw the car move backward for an unknown distance at a "real fast speed." Simultaneously, he saw Hancock drop the camera, remove himself and his daughter from the vehicle's path, raise a handgun to an aiming position, and fire it toward the car. Alternatively, his testimony indicates the car may have been moving forward at the time Hancock fired the pistol. When Hancock fired the last of his shots Rosema saw the vehicle exit the lot. Rosema testified he saw the rear window of Washington's car shatter when it was either beside LaRosa's car or going around a corner to exit the lot.

Hancock also testified. He stated he took three or four different photographs of Washington's car as it was stopped beside LaRosa's. LaRosa noticed him when he was about six or seven feet to the rear of the vehicle. He testified that Washington put the car in reverse and came back at a high rate of speed. He stated he then pushed his daughter out of the way, pulled the pistol out from his belt, and fired two bullets. He then jumped out of the car's path. The car continued to back up until its right front door was within Hancock's reach. He fired a third shot about 30 seconds after the car began to go in reverse. One of the bullets shattered the rear window. Washington then drove his car forward and out of the parking lot. Hancock then testified he returned to Evanston.

Hancock was charged with one count of attempt murder, three counts of aggravated battery, and two counts of armed violence. At trial one count of aggravated battery which caused permanent disfigurement was dismissed. Hancock argued to the jury that his conduct was justified in self-defense of Washington's automobile use. The jury ...

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