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People v. Wood





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Macon County; the Hon. Donald W. Morthland, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied December 27, 1984.

The defendant, James Earl Wood, was convicted in a jury trial of murder and aggravated battery and sentenced to concurrent 30-year and five-year terms of imprisonment. The convictions stemmed from the defendant's fight with two brothers, in which the defendant killed one and injured the other. At trial the defendant argued that he had fought in self-defense; the jury was instructed on voluntary manslaughter. On appeal the defendant argues that the trial court improperly restricted his testimony about his state of mind, that the instructions on voluntary manslaughter are improper, that the prosecutor, in his closing argument, misdirected the jury on the sequence in which to consider the verdict forms for the offenses of murder and voluntary manslaughter, and that the prosecutor elicited prejudicial testimony regarding the manner in which the defendant surrendered himself to law enforcement officers. We affirm.

The defendant was charged by information on August 17, 1983, with the murder of Charles "Tony" Hambleton and the attempted murder of Terry Hambleton, his brother. The evidence presented at trial showed that the defendant, while armed with a knife, fought with the Hambletons at about 5 a.m. on August 14, 1983, at a nightlong party in a rural part of Macon County. At trial the defendant admitted killing Tony Hambleton and injuring Terry Hambleton; the focus of the trial was on the defendant's asserted use of self-defense and on his possible motive for fighting with the Hambletons. The defendant belonged to the same motorcycle club, the D.C. Eagles, that Tony Hambleton had once been a member of. At the time of his death, Tony still bore a tattoo of the club's insignia on his chest over his heart, and on several occasions, including the night when the fight occurred, the defendant told Tony to have the tattoo removed. At the defendant's request, the jury was instructed on voluntary manslaughter in addition to murder and on aggravated battery in addition to attempted murder. The jury returned verdicts finding the defendant guilty of murder and aggravated battery and not guilty of voluntary manslaughter and attempted murder.


• 1 The defendant argues first that the trial court improperly limited his proof of his state of mind at the time of the occurrence here, which was an issue in the case because of his assertion of self-defense (People v. Biella (1940), 374 Ill. 87, 28 N.E.2d 111). In the course of testifying about how he felt when the fight began and what he feared, the defendant referred to a beating that he had suffered at an earlier time. The State objected to any description of this, and an offer of proof showed that it had occurred more than five years earlier, in July 1978, when the defendant was beaten outside his house by two men, neither of whom was involved in any way here. As a result of the beating the defendant was in the hospital for eight days; defense counsel presented photographs depicting the defendant's injuries. In seeking to exclude this evidence the State argued that the defendant should be allowed to say only that he had been beaten before, without providing any testimonial or photographic proof of the details. The trial judge sustained the State's objection. Thus, the jury heard no more than the bare statement that the defendant had been beaten before.

People v. Lockett (1980), 82 Ill.2d 546, 413 N.E.2d 378, which the defendant cites in support of his argument, is inapposite. Lockett held that a jury in a murder trial cannot be instructed on self-defense without also receiving an instruction on voluntary manslaughter. To give one but not the other would impinge on the jury's function, as trier of fact, of determining first whether the defendant believed that he was acting in self-defense and, if so, whether the belief was reasonable or unreasonable. The defendant reads this language in Lockett broadly and interprets the case as precluding, when self-defense is raised, all restrictions on a defendant's testimony of what constituted or influenced his state of mind at the time in question. Lockett did not address that problem, however, and did not discuss what evidence is relevant to an assertion of self-defense.

The defendant also cites three cases in which the appellate court found reversible error in a trial court's restriction of a defendant's state-of-mind testimony where self-defense was raised. (People v. Christen (1980), 82 Ill. App.3d 192, 402 N.E.2d 373; People v. Pernell (1979), 72 Ill. App.3d 664, 391 N.E.2d 85; People v. Williams (1977), 45 Ill. App.3d 338, 359 N.E.2d 736.) In only Williams, however, did the trial court prohibit anything more than just the defendant's description of the threat that he perceived from the victim. In that case the defendant proposed to testify about other occurrences involving different assailants, in addition to his fear of the particular victim, and the trial judge prohibited all of this. In reversing that decision the appellate court said broadly that the defendant had to be allowed to explain his state of mind; the court did not distinguish, and was not called upon to distinguish, testimony of the defendant's fear of the victim from testimony of his encounters with others.

We conclude that the trial court here correctly restricted the defendant's testimony about the earlier, unrelated beating. Details of that occurrence were irrelevant; introducing them into evidence would only have distracted the jury's attention from the fight that occurred here. In People v. Ruel (1970), 120 Ill. App.2d 374, 256 N.E.2d 672, the defendant was convicted of the murder of a police officer; the jury had been instructed on self-defense and voluntary manslaughter. On appeal, the defendant argued that he should have been allowed to describe to the jury his earlier encounters with other police officers, which he believed were relevant to his state of mind. Ruel rejected this, saying:

"Clearly, prior encounters with the victim may be relevant where one asserts a defense of self-defense. However, to permit testimony of prior encounters with other officers not involved in the incident in question, would open the door to irrelevant, collateral and unconnected matters. Such evidence would not be helpful, and could only serve to confuse a jury. The evidence must be confined to the matters in issue under the general rule of relevancy. [Citation.]" 120 Ill. App.2d 374, 379, 256 N.E.2d 672, 675.

For the same reasons, details of the earlier beating here were properly excluded from evidence. Had the earlier beating been inflicted by someone involved in the fight here, then more detailed testimony might have been proper. (See People v. Buchanan (1980), 91 Ill. App.3d 13, 414 N.E.2d 262.) The defendant was allowed to testify that he had been jumped or beaten before, and we are not called upon to decide whether that testimony was appropriate. Further details of that unrelated occurrence would have exceeded the proper scope of state-of-mind testimony, and they were properly excluded.


The defendant was charged with murder, and at his request the jury was instructed on the less serious offense of voluntary manslaughter in its two forms: that he was "acting under a sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 9-2(a)), and that "at the time of the killing he believe[d] the circumstances to be such that, if they existed, would justify or exonerate the killing * * * but his belief [was] unreasonable" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 9-2(b)). With respect to the latter form of voluntary manslaughter, the belief relied on here was self-defense (see Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 7-1). At the defendant's request, the trial judge gave the jury the standard definitional and issues instructions for the two forms of voluntary manslaughter: Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions (IPI), Criminal Nos. 7.03 and 7.04 (provocation), and Nos. 7.05 and 7.06 (unreasonable belief) (2d ed. 1981). Also, the court instructed the jury on self-defense, IPI Criminal No. 24-25.06 (2d ed. 1981), and inserted in the issues instruction for murder (IPI Criminal No. 7.02 (2d ed. 1981)) the additional proposition, taken from IPI Criminal No. 24-25.06A (2d ed. 1981), requiring the State to prove that the defendant had acted without justification.

• 2-5 The defendant now argues that the two issues instructions on voluntary manslaughter are improper because they require that the extenuating circumstances necessary to reduce murder to voluntary manslaughter be proved by the State. As Judge Green observed in his special concurrence in People v. March ...

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