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People v. Veal





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. James J. Heyda, Judge, presiding.


Defendants, Jessie Veal (Jessie) and his brother Willie Veal (Willie), were charged in a seven-count information with murder, attempted murder, aggravated battery and armed violence. In a bench trial, both defendants were found guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Jessie was also convicted of one count of aggravated battery. Jessie was sentenced to serve two concurrent terms of three years and four months in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Willie was sentenced to serve three years and four months on his conviction of voluntary manslaughter. Both defendants have appealed. On appeal, Jessie, who was represented by court-appointed counsel, contends that he was unconstitutionally denied free investigative services; Willie contends that he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of voluntary manslaughter. For the reasons hereinafter stated, we affirm both defendants' convictions.

The Public Defender's Office was initially appointed to represent both defendants. Because of a potential conflict of interests, however, the court, on February 11, 1980, appointed separate counsel for Jessie. The Public Defender's Office continued to represent Willie.

On May 6, 1980, Jessie's court-appointed counsel made a pretrial motion requesting the court to authorize funds for the hiring of an investigator to interview the State's witnesses. Counsel contended that he did not himself have the time or the resources to investigate the case, and he believed that Jessie would be prejudiced if he were not allowed to hire a special investigator. The judge denied this motion. On July 2, 1980, Jessie's attorney filed a written motion again stating that he had need of an investigator not only to interview the State's witnesses but also to locate and interview other possible occurrence witnesses. The judge refused to reconsider his earlier denial of Jessie's requests.

Subsequently, the case was transferred to a different judge for trial. At the conclusion of the State's case-in-chief, the trial court denied defendants' motions for directed findings. Jessie's attorney then moved orally to dismiss the information because of the prior judge's refusal to authorize funds for an investigator. After defendants were found guilty, Jessie's counsel, in a written post-trial motion, again moved to dismiss the information because of the court's refusal to provide him with funds for an investigator. The court denied the post-trial motion but the judge commented that in cases involving indigent defendants represented by court-appointed counsel, it would be a "better practice" to grant investigative funds.

At trial, the State's evidence showed that in the late afternoon of August 2, 1979, Jessie and his brother Willie met with Aubie McBeath (McBeath) and a man called "Fox" at the corner of St. Louis Avenue and Jackson Boulevard in Chicago. After a short discussion, McBeath agreed to sell some pills ("T's and Blues") to the Veals for $38. McBeath gave the money to Fox, and Fox left supposedly to get the pills. Fox failed to return, and McBeath told the Veals that Fox "ran off" with their money. When the Veals expressed anger, McBeath said he would take them to where Fox might be found.

McBeath, Jessie and Willie got into the car of Louis Veal (Louis), a cousin of the Veal brothers. Louis drove the three men to the intersection of Lawndale Avenue and Roosevelt Road to search for Fox. There they met with Marion Luckett (Luckett), Lee Lattimore (Lattimore) and Steven Roebuck (Roebuck), friends of McBeath. An argument ensued when Luckett denied knowing the whereabouts of Fox.

At trial Luckett, Roebuck and McBeath all testified to the following: during the argument, Jessie put his hand behind his back and motioned as if he was pulling a gun on Luckett. Luckett asked Jessie why Jessie was making "a pistol play" and Lattimore explained that Jessie did not have a gun but he did have a knife. Luckett then crossed the street and picked up a brick.

Shortly thereafter, the police arrived and dispersed the group. After the police left, Jessie and Luckett resumed their argument. Jessie displayed a knife and pushed McBeath into Louis' car. Willie also struck McBeath over the head with a beer bottle. Jessie put his knife to McBeath's throat and told Willie to get the shotgun out of the car trunk. Luckett, Lattimore and Roebuck then approached the car and told McBeath to get out. McBeath jumped out of the car and began throwing bricks at the Veal brothers. Luckett, Roebuck and Lattimore also picked up some bricks and together with McBeath chased the Veal brothers east towards Independence Boulevard and Roosevelt Road. There they stopped, turned around and started to walk west towards Lawndale Avenue.

Luckett, Roebuck and McBeath testified that they looked back east and saw Jessie stabbing Lattimore with a knife. McBeath indicated that Jessie stabbed Lattimore on the left side and back whereas both Luckett and Roebuck stated that Jessie stabbed Lattimore in the stomach.

The witnesses also saw Willie stabbing or slashing Lattimore with a broken beer bottle. Luckett and McBeath both were unsure where Willie stabbed Lattimore, but Roebuck stated it was in Lattimore's chest. The autopsy report, which was admitted into evidence but not made part of the record on appeal, apparently indicated that Lattimore suffered three wounds from which he died. The record before us does not reflect the location of these wounds, although at trial both the State and defendants agreed that Lattimore sustained no wounds to his back.

Luckett and Roebuck pulled the Veal brothers away from Lattimore. Roebuck testified that when he went to help Lattimore, Jessie cut him with a knife. Lattimore escaped while Luckett and Roebuck continued to fight with the Veal brothers. At trial, McBeath, Luckett and Roebuck each admitted having used drugs on prior occasions.

Chicago police officer David Snethen (Snethen) testified that he was "flagged down" by Lattimore, and Snethen noticed that Lattimore was bleeding. Snethen then heard someone yell "he's getting away" and observed Jessie running into a vacant lot. He apprehended Jessie and brought him back to where Lattimore was lying. Snethen asked Lattimore if Jessie had stabbed him. On the basis of Lattimore's answer, Snethen arrested the defendants. Snethen estimated that a crowd of approximately 100 persons had gathered at the scene. Lattimore later died from his wounds.

Chicago police officer Roy Dahlberg twice interviewed Willie and Jessie at the police station. The defendants related similar accounts regarding their attempted purchase of pills and the subsequent fight. Jessie told Dahlberg that he kicked Lattimore and knocked him to the ground, but he denied using a knife. Furthermore, Jessie told Dahlberg that he heard someone ...

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