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People v. Burks

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 28, 1981.

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

v.

HAROLD BURKS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. R. EUGENE PINCHAM, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE O'CONNOR DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant Harold Burks was indicted on two counts of murder and one count of armed violence based upon the underlying felony of murder. After a bench trial defendant was convicted of armed violence and sentenced to a term of 7 years' imprisonment.

Defendant and the victim Barbara Oliver began living together in mid-October of 1978. On February 1, 1979, they lived in a three-bedroom apartment owned and occupied by John Ellis. Defendant returned to the apartment at 8 a.m. on February 1, 1979, after spending the night visiting his children, drinking with a woman with whom he had previously lived and playing cards with some friends. Oliver had spent the night at their apartment with John Ellis and Fred Staples, another of Ellis' tenants.

Oliver was watching television in the living room when defendant returned. She got up to let him into the apartment. Defendant testified that when he went into the bedroom he shared with Oliver, he found a man known to him as Luther lying on the bed. Defendant grabbed a butcher knife from under the mattress, woke Luther and escorted him out the back door of the apartment.

Defendant testified that he then put the knife on the bedroom dresser and walked into the living room. He asked Oliver why she was not in the bedroom entertaining her company. Oliver went back to the bedroom with defendant and a fight began. After a time, Ellis and Staples heard "some bumping." Staples heard Oliver say "don't do that." Ellis then called the police.

Ellis testified that Oliver then received a phone call. He called for her, but when she did not respond Ellis told the caller to call back later and hung up the phone. Subsequently, Oliver and defendant came out of the bedroom to answer the phone call. Oliver walked into the living room with her hands crossed in front of her pressed against her stomach. Oliver and defendant returned to the bedroom after they learned that the caller had hung up. Ellis and Staples then heard more "bumping" sounds. Ellis then heard defendant and Oliver go into the bathroom.

The police arrived. They found Oliver had been stabbed and carried her out of the apartment on a stretcher. Oliver subsequently died from the wound. A 17-inch butcher knife covered with blood was found in the bathroom. Defendant identified it as the knife with which Oliver was stabbed. Defendant was subsequently taken into custody.

On February 2, 1979, defendant spoke to Assistant State's Attorney Sander Klapman. Defendant first told Klapman that after escorting Luther out of the apartment he called Oliver to the bedroom. He placed the knife on the dresser and began to beat, hit and push Oliver. He stated that Oliver was holding the knife in her left hand down at her left side and that she was stabbed in an upward motion.

Klapman learned from an investigator assigned to the case that the wound angled downward. Klapman confronted defendant with this discrepancy. Defendant then stated that Oliver was holding the knife up in the air with both hands and that she was stabbed in a downward motion.

At trial, defendant admitted stabbing Oliver but claimed that it was an accident. He testified that after he called Oliver back to the bedroom she began to shout at him and fight with him. He testified that when he tried to leave the room Oliver picked up the knife and said, "You ain't going no fuckin' where."

Defendant admitted that he hit Oliver, but testified he did so to make her drop the knife. When she refused to do so, defendant stated he began to struggle with her. He testified that he grabbed her hand, turned the knife away from him and pushed it down. It was then, defendant claimed, that Oliver was stabbed.

Defendant was charged with two counts of murder and one count of armed violence. The trial judge found defendant guilty only of armed violence. Defendant filed a post-trial motion for acquittal and discharge, alleging that because the trial judge made no finding as to the murder counts defendant had been acquitted of murder. Furthermore, defendant argued that this acquittal of the murder charges precluded the trial judge from entering a finding of guilty as to the count in the indictment charging armed violence based upon the underlying felony of murder. The trial judge denied the motion, stating that the theory on which he had found defendant guilty of armed violence was that he used a weapon while committing the offense of voluntary manslaughter. The trial judge sentenced defendant to a term of 7 years' imprisonment.

Defendant appeals, contending that his conviction should be reversed because (1) the armed violence conviction is inconsistent with the implied finding of not guilty as to the two murder counts and (2) there was insufficient proof of voluntary manslaughter to sustain a conviction for armed violence.

Defendant argues that his conviction for armed violence be reversed because the fact that the trial court made no finding on the murder charges operates as an acquittal on the murder charges as well as on the voluntary manslaughter charges and therefore no ...


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