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People v. Primmer





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Piatt County; the Hon. Robert J. Steigmann, Judge, presiding.


Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Piatt County, defendant, Larry D. Primmer, Sr., was convicted on April 28, 1982, of attempted murder, two charges of armed violence each predicated on separate acts of criminal damage to property, one charge of aggravated assault and two charges of reckless conduct. The court subsequently sentenced defendant to terms of 15 years' imprisonment for the attempted murder and armed violence convictions and 364 days' imprisonment for the other convictions. All terms were ordered to be served concurrently. Defendant appeals asserting the trial court erred in (1) failing to sua sponte give proper issues instructions, (2) failing to give retroactive effect to a legislative amendment concerning the offense of criminal damage to property, (3) denying defendant's request to vacate certain evidence, and (4) sentencing.

The incidents giving rise to the charges occurred at Hammond in Piatt County on August 18, 1981. The evidence established that during that summer Mary O'Neill, the daughter of defendant's wife had been living with her mother and defendant. On August 17, she ran away from that home and went to the residence of Sharon and William Lowe. On August 18, she left the Lowe residence and went to the county probation office. Letitia Farris testified that on August 18 she had a conversation with defendant in which he stated that if he didn't find Mary, he would kill the Farris' family dog. Her husband, David Farris, testified that on August 18 he was looking out of an upstairs bathroom at his home and saw defendant walking up the Farris driveway and into the back yard, apparently armed with a shotgun. Mr. Farris further testified that following a conversation, defendant aimed the gun at the window and fired at the window and in a short time fired two additional shots at the house.

Sharon Lowe testified to also having a telephone conversation with defendant on August 18. She stated that later on that day, she heard two gunshots near her home and that one of the shots struck her living room window. Other witnesses testified to seeing defendant driving his car in that area at about the time of the shots. A Piatt County deputy sheriff testified he had a telephone conversation with defendant on August 18 in which defendant said, "I shot hell out of them, didn't I."

The issue concerning the instructions arises from evidence concerning defendant's state of sobriety at the time of the shooting incidents. Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Farris noticed anything unusual about defendant's demeanor on August 18. An employee of the county probation office testified that defendant appeared at that office that morning inquiring about Mary. He appeared to be coherent and did not smell of intoxicants but acted irrationally. Mrs. Lowe testified that defendant's voice and demeanor were normal during their telephone conversation. On the other hand, the deputy sheriff stated defendant sounded as if he were intoxicated. The officer who arrested defendant at about 6:15 p.m. on the 18th described defendant as then being moderately to extremely intoxicated. Defendant's stepson testified that he saw defendant at 2:30 p.m. which was before the shooting incidents, and defendant was intoxicated then. Defendant's son testified his father had a problem with alcohol, and defendant's father described defendant as an alcoholic.

• 1 None of the issues instructions given by the trial court concerning the various offenses made any reference to the partial affirmative defense of voluntary intoxication. When that defense is raised, issue instructions concerning offenses requiring a mental state of intent or knowledge should include Illinois Pattern Jury Instruction, Criminal, No. 25-25.02A (2d ed. 1981) (hereinafter cited as IPI Criminal) which states:

"____ Proposition: That at the time of the offense, the defendant was capable of acting [(knowingly) (intentionally)]."

The State does not dispute that the evidence raised a defense of intoxication as to the charges of attempted murder, armed violence and criminal damage to property and that the above instruction was proper. However, the State maintains no error occurred, because the defendant did not tender the instruction. The failure to give an instruction not tendered is not error unless the failure constitutes "grave error" or, in a close case, when fundamental fairness requires the giving of the instruction. (People v. Huckstead (1982), 91 Ill.2d 536, 545, 440 N.E.2d 1248, 1252; 87 Ill.2d R. 451(c).) Accordingly, the issue before us is whether the failure to give the instruction was plain error as defined most recently by Huckstead.

The supreme court has held that plain error resulted when the trial court gave conflicting instructions as to the elements the State was required to prove (People v. Jenkins (1977), 69 Ill.2d 61, 370 N.E.2d 532) and when the issues instruction given to the jury failed to mention that the State was required to prove intent to defraud in a trial for deceptive practices. (People v. Ogunsola (1981), 87 Ill.2d 216, 429 N.E.2d 861.) On the other hand, in Huckstead, no plain error occurred when, without objection, the trial court, in a murder case, gave the jury an issues instruction which failed to require the State to negate the affirmative defense of self-defense although that issue had been raised by the evidence. The supreme court noted that: (1) the court had instructed the jury (a) defining the affirmative defense, (b) explaining that defendant did not have to prove his innocence, and (c) stating that the burden of proof remained with the prosecution at all times; (2) defense counsel had repeatedly informed the jury in closing argument that the State had the burden of proving defendant was not justified in using whatever force was shown; (3) the State had admitted this burden in its argument; and (4) although there was evidence of justification, the case was not factually close on that issue. The court stated, citing People v. Roberts (1979), 75 Ill.2d 1, 387 N.E.2d 331, that error in instructions in a criminal case would be deemed plain error only if the error was of a grave nature as in Jenkins and Ogunsola or when it occurred in a case where the evidence was very close.

IPI Criminal No. 24-25.02 defining voluntary intoxication or drugged condition states:

"[(An intoxicated) (A drugged)] person is criminally responsible for his conduct unless his [(intoxication) (drugged condition)] renders him incapable of acting [(knowingly) (intentionally)]."

The record is clear that one instruction in the form of No. 24-25.02 was given phrased as to intoxication, but the record is unclear as to whether it was phrased as to intent or knowledge. Among the numbered copies of the instructions at C260 and C261 appear two instructions designated as "Peoples Instruction No. 21 IPI 24-25.02 Modified." The one at C260 is phrased as to intent but has no indication on the copy as to whether it was given or refused. The copy at C261 is phrased as to knowledge and contains the notation: "Given." With the original given instructions the record contains what appears to be the original of the copy appearing at C260 (the instruction phrased as to intent), but there is no notation as to whether the instruction was given. No original of the copy of the instruction appearing at C261 (the one phrased as to knowledge) appears in the record. However, at R538 the court is shown to have stated, out of the presence of the jury and just prior to closing argument, the following:

"Show prior to closing arguments, Mr. Simpson raised a point concerning People's No. 21 being I.P.I. No. 24-25.02, that it should contain reference to the term intentionally, not just knowingly, and accordingly, the — in accordance with his request, the instruction is changed, People's 22 is withdrawn to be resubmitted to be as before with the change being intentionally in 24-25.02, and the last sentence — last word, rather, of the first sentence of that instruction as it was originally submitted."

On the basis of the foregoing record, we conclude that an instruction in the form of No. 24-25.02 was given phrased as to intent but that no such ...

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