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People v. Baggett





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Thomas Maloney, Judge, presiding.


In a jury trial, defendant, Lamont Baggett, was found guilty of murder and armed violence and judgment was entered on the verdicts. The trial court thereafter vacated the judgment on the armed violence verdict and sentenced defendant to serve 30 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections for murder. On appeal, defendant contends that the trial court improperly refused the jury's request to review testimony and coerced the jury into returning a verdict; that the jury was not properly instructed; that he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; that the court unduly limited defense counsel's cross-examination of two State witnesses; and that the court improperly restricted defendant from testifying as to his state of mind immediately prior to the shooting. For the reasons which follow, we affirm.

At trial, the State's evidence disclosed that on May 26, 1980, at approximately 9 p.m., Venita Richey was visiting her grandmother, Virgie Booker, in Booker's apartment on North Lockwood Street in Chicago. Shortly after 9 p.m., Kenneth Jackson, whose family lived in the same apartment building, and Verdell Richey, Venita's brother, went to Booker's apartment to drive Venita home. Venita, Verdell, Jackson and defendant left the apartment and walked to the patio at the rear of the apartment building. Jackson then asked defendant, "Who do you think you are, you're pussy, you ain't nothing." Keith Perry, Jackson's cousin, who was waiting for him outside of Booker's apartment, also heard Jackson tell defendant, "You need a little pussy."

Venita, Verdell, Jackson, Perry and defendant all walked to the front of the building where Jackson's blue Vega was parked. Jackson sat in the driver's seat. Perry began to sit down in the back seat of the car but got out when Venita entered the car. Verdell and defendant were standing near a fence talking but as Jackson and Venita were about to leave, defendant approached the car holding a gun in his right hand. Defendant started poking Jackson with the gun and Venita heard defendant say, "I told you to stop f[____] with me, didn't I, I told you to leave me alone." Jackson put his arms close to his chest. According to Perry and Verdell, defendant said, "What do I care about going to jail, you ain't s[____], next time I'm going to kill your mother f[____ ____] ass." Perry testified that Jackson replied, "Okay, man, I'm just playing." Defendant then shot Jackson once, placed the gun in his pants and ran north on Lockwood. Venita testified that defendant shot Jackson at a distance of between six inches and one foot; Verdell stated that the weapon was about "a foot, more or less" from Jackson when it was fired.

After being shot, Jackson opened the car door, got out, walked a few steps and collapsed. Jackson's father, Roosevelt Jackson, came out of the family's apartment and saw his son lying on the grass. He observed that his son had been shot and noticed that his son's car was parked on the southeast corner of Race and Lockwood with the engine running. He got into the car, backed it up 15 to 20 feet, rolled up the window on the driver's side and exited the car. There were bloodstains on the car seat. Kenneth Jackson later died at St. Anne's Hospital.

Dr. Uksel Konacki, who performed the autopsy, discovered three external wounds on Jackson's body: a bullet entry wound on Jackson's inner left arm near the fifth finger, an exit wound on the inner left arm near the thumb, and an entry wound near the left nipple. Dr. Konacki was unable to determine whether all three external wounds were caused by the same bullet. Death was caused by bullet lacerations of the heart and lungs.

Dr. Konacki testified that a bullet fired at close range could cause "stippling," i.e., the speckling of embedded gunpowder particles around an entrance wound. Although he found no evidence of stippling around any of Jackson's wounds, he did not perform a microscopic examination for powder residue. Dr. Konacki did not state at what exact distance stippling could occur.

Defendant testified to the following:

On the day of the shooting, May 26, 1980, he went to Virgie Booker's apartment to visit Venita Richey. Venita's brother Verdell and Kenneth Jackson were also present. When it was time for Venita to go home, Jackson told defendant to leave. Venita, Verdell, Jackson and defendant then left the apartment building together. They walked out to Jackson's Vega. Jackson called defendant a "punk, fag sissy" and threatened to "kick [his] ass."

Venita sat on the passenger side of the car and Jackson sat in the driver's seat. Verdell stood next to the open door on the driver's side talking with Jackson. Defendant started to leave but Jackson called him back. Defendant walked around the front of the car and stopped near the driver's side door. Jackson told defendant that he did not want "to catch [him] around there any more." Jackson reached up and shoved defendant who pushed him back. Verdell then handed Jackson a gun through the open car door. Jackson grabbed the weapon with his right hand and pointed it at defendant. Defendant stepped back and said, "No, don't do that." When defendant was four to five feet from the car, defendant pulled his own gun from his pants, closed his eyes and fired. Defendant ran to his mother's house after the shooting. Defendant fired the gun because he was scared.

Defendant also testified that he was not upset that Jackson called him names in front of Venita nor was he bothered by the fact that Jackson told him not to return to Booker's apartment. Defendant admitted that prior to May 26, 1980, he had known both Venita and Verdell Richey but stated that he had not met Kenneth Jackson until the day of the shooting. The first time defendant saw Keith Perry was in court.


• 1 Defendant contends that the trial court improperly refused the jury's request to review the testimony and coerced the jury into returning a verdict. The facts pertinent to this discussion are as follows:

The jury began its deliberations in this case shortly after 3 p.m. At 9 p.m., the foreman sent word to the trial judge that the jury had a question. The foreman stated that the jury had come to an impasse and had not been able to reach a verdict. The foreman at first requested additional evidence, but the court replied that it could not provide such evidence. The foreman then stated that the jury's question concerned clarification of existing testimony. The judge allowed the foreman to ask the question, and the following exchange took place:

"FOREMAN: There was an exhibit here number one of the Defense which shows the car which has initials and `x`s indicating a location where a gun was passed from one person to the deceased.

This opening. Now at one time during the trial we were lead [sic] to believe that the door was shut. And that the window was down.

That was not brought to light today and it seems to be one of the main problems in coming to a conclusion.

THE COURT: There's no way that I can answer that for you. Whatever you collectively or recall individually collectively, I don't think I could answer it even if I were permitted to.

FOREMAN: What do we do at this point that we have come to an impasse.

THE COURT: Because of that?

FOREMAN: Apparently, so.

THE COURT: Well all I can do is give you more time. It is now nine o'clock. In about half an hour we'll have to make overnight arrangements for you but the ...

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