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People v. Ingram





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. Jack Hoogasian, Judge, presiding.


After bench trial defendant, Vernon Ingram, was found guilty of murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)) and thereafter sentenced to 40 years' imprisonment. He appealed, contending he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; that his conviction for murder should be reduced to voluntary manslaughter (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, pars. 9-2(a), (b)), and that the trial court abused its discretion in imposing sentence.

During an argument between defendant and his girlfriend, Amanda Sledge, on the back porch of the home in which they had been living she, according to defendant, produced a knife and attempted to stab him in the head. Defendant warded off the blow with his hand, sustaining a small cut, and knocked the knife from her hand; he then picked up the knife and applied it to her. Amanda, bleeding from her face, ran down the street and defendant followed. He caught her on the front porch of Reverend Lawrence Stewart's home and stabbed her in the buttocks. She ran into the home with defendant following and Reverend Stewart testified he saw a bloody young woman on the kitchen floor with defendant standing over her holding a knife in his hand. The woman got up and ran into a hallway where she collapsed; defendant followed and again stabbed her a number of times. Defendant then advised Reverend Stewart to call the police and walked outside.

Police officers and paramedics arrived and found Amanda still alive but bleeding profusely, and she died a short time later in a hospital. The pathologist who performed an autopsy testified Amanda had sustained 25 knife wounds of the head, face, neck, chest, buttocks and extremities. The doctor stated death was caused by massive hemorrhaging and by the collapse of a lung which resulted from a knife wound through her chest. The doctor noted that was the most serious injury and the other wounds would not individually have been sufficient to cause death, although, if taken together, the resulting hemorrhaging might cause death if not treated properly.

In statements given to police officers later that night defendant said that he and Amanda had quarrelled on the porch and that while trying to get the knife from her he made a thrust with it, stabbing her in the chest, and then slashed her three times in the face. Defendant stated he also stabbed her in the buttocks on the Stewart porch and then told Reverend Stewart to call the police. When defendant was advised by police officers that Amanda was dead and that he was being charged with murder, he responded, "I'm telling you she is not dead, but she will be dead when I get out of here. I'll get a knife and I'll show her what being cut up is." Defendant declined to sign a written statement prepared by the officers commenting, "[p]rove it. She is dead, and how is a dead woman gonna talk? It's my word against hers."

Defendant testified at trial he had taken LSD earlier that day and thereafter consumed a quantity of bourbon and beer. He stated that Amanda had also been drinking and that she became violent when she did so, having stabbed him on a previous occasion. Defendant testified that when Amanda attempted to stab him in the head on the porch he blocked the blow with his hand cutting it. He stated they struggled and he knocked the knife to the floor then seized it and swung at her without thinking. Defendant testified he could not be certain whether he stabbed Amanda at that time, but that he was afraid for his life and believed she was trying to kill him. She then ran down the street; he followed and saw blood running from her face, then saw "blackness and red all around" and could remember nothing after that. Defendant testified he had no recollection of making a statement to police officers that night.

Defendant contends first the State failed to prove he was not acting in self-defense when he inflicted the stab wound which caused Amanda Sledge's death. While he agrees that the 24 other wounds he inflicted upon her did not constitute a justifiable use of force, defendant argues it was the first stab wound which was fatal and that injury was inflicted in self-defense.

• 1 Section 7-1 of the Criminal Code of 1961 provides that a person is justified in the use of force against another

"[W]hen and to the extent that he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself * * * against such other's imminent use of unlawful force. However, he 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 * * *." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 7-1.)

Self-defense is an affirmative defense (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 7-14) and if raised by the evidence imposes the burden on the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt defendant did not act in self-defense. People v. Williams (1974), 57 Ill.2d 239, 242, 311 N.E.2d 681; People v. Kyles (1980), 91 Ill. App.3d 1019, 1021-22, 415 N.E.2d 499.

• 2 There was evidence that decedent had a knife and swung it at defendant, cutting his hand. Defendant also testified, however, he disarmed her knocking the knife from her hand to the ground in their struggle on the porch. Defendant then picked up the knife and attacked decedent with it. The evidence disclosed that defendant was 60 pounds heavier and nine inches taller than the female decedent. He initially told the officers he stabbed her in the chest, withdrew the knife and slashed her three times in the face. At trial, however, defendant testified he was uncertain whether he stabbed the victim at all on the porch. Under either version it is apparent defendant's conduct was not justified in these circumstances as necessary self-defense.

• 3, 4 A person is not justified in using deadly force against an antagonist after the latter has been disarmed. (People v. Jordan (1960), 18 Ill.2d 489, 495, 165 N.E.2d 296; People v. Shipp (1977), 52 Ill. App.3d 470, 476, 367 N.E.2d 966, appeal denied (1978), 67 Ill.2d 594; People v. Limas (1977), 45 Ill. App.3d 643, 652, 359 N.E.2d 1194.) Defendant's purpose after securing the knife clearly was not directed toward preventing harm to himself, but, instead, to the infliction of injury to Amanda Sledge. The trial court was not required to believe defendant's exculpatory explanation of the occurrence, and his further conduct left little vitality to the self-defense theory advanced. People v. Adams (1979), 71 Ill. App.3d 70, 74, 388 N.E.2d 1326.

We will not disturb a trial court's determination as to whether a killing is justified as necessary self-defense unless under the evidence it is so unreasonable, improbable or unsatisfactory as to raise a reasonable doubt of defendant's guilt. (People v. Evans (1981), 87 Ill.2d 77, 86, 429 N.E.2d 520; People v. Perez (1981), 100 Ill. App.3d 901, 906, 427 N.E.2d 229.) We have no such doubt here.

Defendant has further contended in this connection that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the cause of death was not the initial stab wound which, he asserts, was inflicted in self-defense, citing People v. Weinstein (1966), 35 Ill.2d 467, 220 N.E.2d 432; People v. Benson (1960), 19 Ill.2d 50, 166 N.E.2d 80; People v. Brown (1978), 57 Ill. App.3d 528, 373 N.E.2d ...

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