Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard
in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County,
the Hon. Stephan A. Schiller, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE MORAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
In a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendants, Ronald Terry and Duane Terry, were each found guilty of murder and armed violence. Judgment was entered on the verdict. Each defendant was sentenced under the murder conviction; however, neither defendant was sentenced under the armed-violence conviction. The appellate court reversed and remanded the cause for a new trial. (113 Ill. App.3d 302). Thereafter, this court granted the State's petition for leave to appeal. 85 Ill.2d R. 315.
The issues raised on review are: (1) Was the jury properly instructed on the law of accountability and murder? (2) Were the State's comments during its closing argument improper and prejudicial? and (3) Were defendants proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?
The evidence produced at trial indicates that on March 27, 1981, defendants, along with Timothy Davis, Ricky Myers, and Bernard Lash, were at Priscilla Lyons' apartment in Chicago. All five men were members of the same Chicago street gang. While at the apartment, a fistfight between Davis and Ronald Terry took place. After the fight subsided, Ronald Terry said to Myers, "we are going to violate [Davis]," to which Myers replied that he "was going to kill him a nigger." Duane Terry stated that he heard what Ronald said; however, there is no indication that he heard Myers' reply. Both defendants saw Myers take a knife from the kitchen in Lyons' apartment. Ronald Terry stated that he knew that Myers intended to "[c]ut Timothy Davis with the knife."
After being ordered by Lyons to leave her apartment, the five men went into the hallway, where they commenced attacking Davis. Duane Terry and Lash "violated" Davis by pulling and hitting him and then held Davis while Ronald Terry "violated" him by punching him in the face and chest. Myers tapped Ronald Terry on the shoulder and Terry stepped aside. Myers then stabbed Davis twice with the knife that he had taken from Lyons' apartment. Davis later died from a stab wound to his chest which punctured the left thorax.
Ronald Terry hid the knife in the incinerator room of the apartment building. Sometime later, he retrieved the knife and Lyons washed the blood from it. Lyons also washed Myers' bloodstained jacket which Ronald Terry found on the hallway floor.
While discussing accountability during closing argument, the assistant State's Attorney stated, "[t]he law only requires that Ronald Terry and Duane Terry knew when they went out in that hall that there was a strong possibility that Timothy Davis was going to be hurt." The State then used a felony-murder example to illustrate the law of accountability. He stated, "the getaway driver in an armed robbery, where the guy goes into the bank and sticks up the teller and he kills the teller, the getaway driver is guilty of armed robbery and murder." The State's Attorney also made references to defendants' membership in the street gang. In her closing argument, the defense attorney stated that baseball fans who shout "kill the umpire" are not accountable if another fan throws a beer bottle and does kill the umpire. In rebuttal, the State's Attorney argued, "how about the two guys that run out and hold the ump and hold him while the guy with the beer bottle comes out and smashes him in the head? They are guilty of murder. That's the law in the State of Illinois."
After both sides rested, the jury was instructed, inter alia, on the law of murder and accountability. At issue are two instructions, which were submitted to the jury over defendants' objection. They state as follows:
"A person is responsible for the conduct of another when, either before or during the commission of a crime, and with the intent to promote or facilitate the commission of a crime, he knowingly solicits, aids, abets, agrees or attempts to aid the other person in the planning or commission of a crime." (Emphasis added.)
"A person commits the crime of murder when he or one for whose conduct he is responsible, kills an individual if, in performing the acts which cause the death, he, or one for whose conduct he is responsible, intends to kill or do great bodily harm to that individual; or he, or one for whose conduct he is responsible, knows that such acts will cause death to that individual; or he, or one for whose conduct he is responsible, knows that such acts create a strong probability of death or great bodily harm to that individual."
The first instruction, regarding the law of accountability, parallels the language of Illinois Pattern Jury Instruction (IPI), Criminal, No. 5.03 (1968), except that the second to last word was changed from "the" to "a." The second instruction, the murder definition, follows the language of IPI Criminal No. 7.01 (2d ed. 1981), except that the phrase "or one for whose conduct he is responsible" was inserted before each of the state-of-mind propositions.
The appellate court found that the State proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that defendants aided and abetted Myers in murdering Davis. But, in reversing defendants' convictions, the court held that the instruction setting forth the law of accountability was inaccurate. It reasoned, "defendants could not be found guilty of murder unless the jury was satisfied that in committing a battery on the victim, defendants had the intent to promote or facilitate the murder and knowingly aided or abetted Myers in committing murder." (Emphasis added.) (113 Ill. App.3d 302, 305.) In light of the disposition of this issue, the appellate court did not reach defendants' other contentions.
The State maintains that the accountability instruction was proper. It contends that defendants may be held accountable for murder if the murder was committed in furtherance of the planned and intended battery. Defendants argue that the accountability instruction was erroneous because it allowed the jury to hold ...