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People v. Brooks





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. James J. Heyda, Judge, presiding.


Following a jury trial, defendant Lawrence Brooks was convicted of attempted murder, armed violence and aggravated battery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, pars. 8-4, 33A-2, 12-4). Defendant received concurrent terms of imprisonment of 15 years on the attempted murder and armed violence convictions. On appeal, defendant argues: (1) the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on the justified use of force; and (2) the trial court erred in preventing him from arguing that evidence that one of the victims once had a gun in his truck tended to show that the victim had a gun in his truck on the day of the shooting.

Testifying at trial for the State were defendant's two victims — Claudette Brooks, the defendant's estranged wife, and her 30-year-old son, Charles Brooks, the defendant's stepson. Claudette testified that on April 9, 1982, she left defendant because he "jumped on" her, and she signed a battery complaint against him in regard to this incident. Claudette next saw defendant on May 19, 1982, in a courtroom at 51st Street and Wentworth Avenue in Chicago at a hearing concerning her battery complaint. The trial court at that time ordered defendant to stay away from her.

Claudette further testified she did not see defendant again until May 27, 1982, the day of the crime. On that date, she returned to the same courtroom for a hearing in regard to an assault claim defendant had filed against her son Charles. While they were inside the courtroom, defendant walked over to her several times and tried to talk to her. The sheriff's police came over on at least two occasions to tell defendant to be quiet. The case was continued until the next day. As Claudette and Charles left the courtroom, defendant again insisted on talking to Claudette. The police told defendant to leave, and accompanied him out of the building. The police talked with defendant outside the building, and defendant left. Pursuant to police instructions, Claudette stayed by the building while Charles went to get his truck which was parked nearby.

Claudette also stated that when Charles pulled up in front of the court building, she got in his truck and the two drove east on 51st Street. While they were stalled in traffic under a viaduct on 51st Street just west of the court building, Claudette saw defendant standing on the sidewalk about 20 feet away with a revolver in his right hand. Claudette started screaming, and defendant left the sidewalk and ran toward the truck. Defendant, while standing about two feet from the truck, pointed his gun through the window and began shooting. A bullet went through Claudette's left hand and hit Charles in the head. Charles fell out of the truck after the first shot. Defendant continued shooting, wounding Claudette in the head. She heard a total of four shots. Claudette testified that defendant and Charles never fought for the gun.

Claudette's testimony was corroborated by Charles Brooks, who gave a similar account of the incident. Charles testified that at the May 27 hearing, defendant was irritating and harassing Claudette inside the courtroom and later as they left the courtroom. Following the hearing, Charles stated that as he drove with Claudette under a viaduct west of the court building he saw defendant pull out a revolver and start running toward his truck. Charles testified he could not speed up at that point because traffic was backed up in front of the truck and there was traffic in the oncoming lane. Charles tried to open the door to get out of the truck, but defendant shot him before he had a chance to do so. After Charles had been struck, he fell out of the truck, and heard a second shot as he was getting up. He heard two more shots as he ran to the police station for help. When he returned with a sheriff, he found Claudette slumped over in the truck with gun wounds in her hand, neck and head.

Also testifying for the State was Dr. Edward Snyder, who examined Claudette Brooks following the shooting. Dr. Snyder testified that Claudette had three gunshot wounds in her body and that the entrance wound of each bullet was on her left side.

Testifying on his own behalf, defendant stated that on April 19, 1982, Charles Brooks came to his house with defendant's wife's cousin. Defendant stated that Charles told him that he did not like what defendant had done to Charles' mother and that he was going to shoot defendant. Defendant stated that Charles pulled out a gun and fired a shot over defendant's head. Defendant then contacted the police and signed a complaint against Charles.

Defendant also testified that at the May 27 hearing on his complaint he attempted to talk to Claudette in the courtroom about what he should "do in this matter." After the case was continued, defendant stated he again tried to talk to Claudette as she and Charles left the courtroom, but bailiffs escorted the three of them outside. As defendant walked under the viaduct on 51st Street en route to his parked car, a truck pulled up behind him. Defendant testified he heard a gunshot, and turned around and saw Claudette leaning forward in the truck in a crouched position. As he walked toward the truck, he heard another shot and then saw Charles holding a gun. Charles, who was in the driver's seat, extended his right hand toward the passenger side window behind Claudette and pointed his gun at him. Charles attempted to fire the gun, but it misfired.

Defendant further testified that he reached in the window and, with one hand, grabbed Charles' hand with the gun. The butt of the gun was in Charles' hand, and defendant had a "good portion" of the barrel in his hand. Defendant stated that Charles, and not he, had his hand on the trigger when he heard a third shot during their struggle for the gun. Finally, as they continued wrestling for the gun, defendant heard a fourth shot while he had his own finger on the trigger. Defendant stated he ultimately used both hands to take the gun from Charles and then left with the weapon.

Defendant testified he had no intention of hurting or attempting to kill Charles. He did not intend to shoot anybody. Rather, he stated that his only intention was to take the gun away from Charles.


• 1 Defendant's first argument on appeal is that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on self-defense. We agree. Self-defense relates to the use of force which a person reasonably believes is necessary to defend or protect himself. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 7-1.) A defendant is entitled to have the jury instructed on self-defense where that defense has some foundation in the evidence. (People v. Rodriguez (1981), 96 Ill. App.3d 431, 421 N.E.2d 323.) This court has held that "slight evidence of self-defense" will support the giving of the instruction. People v. Scott (1981), 97 Ill. App.3d 899, 903, 424 N.E.2d 70.

In the present case, we believe the record contains sufficient evidence to warrant the giving of a self-defense instruction. Defendant testified that as he walked under a viaduct following the May 27 court hearing, Charles Brooks pulled his truck up behind him and attempted to shoot at him. After Charles fired two shots, defendant approached the passenger side of the truck and struggled with Charles for the gun. Defendant testified that two more shots were accidently fired during their struggle. Defendant further related to the jurors that one month prior to the shooting Charles had shot at him out of anger about defendant's breakup with Charles' mother. Defendant stated that during the incident under the viaduct he feared that Charles was again attempting to kill him and ...

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