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People v. Evans

OPINION FILED MARCH 2, 1982.

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

v.

MELVIN EVANS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. LOUIS A. WEXLER, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE PERLIN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

After a jury trial defendant Melvin Evans (defendant) was convicted of one count of aggravated battery. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 12-4(b)(1).) He was sentenced to serve an indeterminate sentence of two to six years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. He appeals from that conviction raising the following issues for our review: (1) whether the evidence presented at trial proved beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant did not act in self-defense; (2) whether it was error for the trial court to deny defendant an opportunity to testify to his knowledge of the victim's conviction for murder; (3) whether the trial court erred by denying defense counsel access to police reports concerning the victim's prior arrests; (4) whether the trial court erred by admitting into evidence a photograph of a rifle that was not used in the commission of the crime. For the reasons hereinafter set forth we affirm defendant's conviction.

On December 4, 1975, the victim, Jerome Rice (Rice) sold defendant a bathroom sink for which he was to be paid $12 at some later date. On the following day, December 5, 1975, Rice was driving on South May Street when he saw defendant on the sidewalk talking with three men. Rice stopped the car and approached him demanding his $12. Defendant left the group and went into his apartment which was on the second floor of the building at 6134 South May. He opened a window and shot Rice in the face with a shotgun. The testimony adduced at trial regarding the details of the confrontation between Rice and defendant is in conflict.

Rice testified that when he approached defendant on December 5 and asked for the $12, defendant told him to wait a few minutes. After waiting a short time, Rice again approached defendant and asked for either the $12 or the return of his sink. Defendant told one of the men to return the sink to Rice. According to Rice, defendant went into his house and moments later shouted to Rice from a second story window. Rice testified that the shouts were unintelligible and that as he turned to face the window, he saw the shotgun and was shot. He testified that he was unarmed at the time and that he held his hands at his side as he turned to face the window. On cross-examination Rice admitted that he had been convicted of burglary on November 21, 1968.

Willie Sparks substantially corroborated Rice's testimony. Sparks testified that he observed no gun on Rice's person and that Rice stood with his hands at his sides while defendant shouted at him from the second story window to "[g]et away from my house."

After Sparks heard the shot and saw Rice collapse, he ran north on May Street to the corner where he encountered Officer William Burmeister and related the incident to him. Officer Burmeister drove to 6132 South May Street where he saw Rice lying on the sidewalk. Burmeister radioed for assistance and searched the area. He found no weapons on or near the victim.

Defendant testified that Rice approached him on December 5, 1975, demanding $12 for the sink. Defendant asked Rice to wait while he finished talking with the other men present. Rice again demanded the money but defendant replied that all he had on him was a $20 bill and that he had to go inside to get change from his wife.

When defendant entered his apartment, he saw that his wife was not there so he opened the front window and told Rice "to go ahead home and I'll see that you get your money later on this evening." Defendant testified that Rice then demanded that he be paid immediately and that Rice made threatening gestures with his hand as if he was withdrawing a gun from his pocket. Defendant ordered Rice to leave but Rice warned defendant not to come down unless he had the money. Defendant stated that as Rice began to take his hand out of his pocket, defendant fired the shotgun aiming it over Rice's head. The blast, however, hit Rice. Defendant testified that he knew of Rice's reputation for violence and that Rice was known to carry a gun.

Clyde Johnson, defendant's cousin, was one of the men talking with defendant when Rice approached them. His testimony corroborated defendant's version of the verbal exchange between defendant and Rice. Johnson stated that when defendant was in the vestibule of his building, Rice shouted to defendant that "if he [defendant] had a gun in his apartment to bring it on back down because he [Rice] God damn shore [sic] had his." Johnson testified that Rice made threatening gestures with his hands in his pockets and that Rice was known to carry a gun and a straight razor.

Defendant was convicted of aggravated battery and was sentenced to two to six years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Defendant's oral motion for a new trial was denied.

I

Defendant first contends that the evidence presented at trial failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he did not act in self-defense. Defendant argues that his actions were justified because his apprehension of imminent harm was reasonable.

The Illinois Criminal Code provides that an individual:

"* * * is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself ...


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