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People v. Cleveland





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Robert L. Massey, Judge, presiding.


This is a consolidated appeal of the convictions of defendants Pamela Smith and Jeffrey Cleveland for voluntary manslaughter (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 9-2). Defendants were each charged by information with the offenses of murder and armed violence (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, pars. 9-1, 33A-2, respectively) in connection with the death of Mathias Wilson. The trial court granted Cleveland's motion for severance on the ground that the written statement of each defendant implicated the other. Cleveland waived his right to a jury trial, and was tried in a bench trial, conducted simultaneously with Smith's jury trial. At the conclusion of the joint proceedings, the trial court found Cleveland guilty of the lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter, predicated upon the theory of accountability (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 5-2), and the jury found Smith guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Judgments were entered on the verdicts and Cleveland and Smith were sentenced to terms of four years and six years, respectively, in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

On appeal, Cleveland contends that: (1) he was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of voluntary manslaughter under the theory of accountability; (2) he was deprived of his right to a fair trial when the trial court departed from its function as the impartial trier of fact and assumed the role of arbitrator; and (3) the trial court erred in excluding evidence regarding the victim's aggressive participation in prior altercations. In a separate brief, Smith contends that the trial court erred when it reversed its ruling regarding the submission of photographs of the deceased victim's wounds to the jury. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

The record reveals the following facts pertinent to this consolidated appeal. It is undisputed that in the early morning hours of July 31, 1982, in the vicinity of Polk Street and Homan Avenue in Chicago, Cleveland struck Mathias Wilson with a board and Smith repeatedly stabbed Wilson with a butcher knife. Wilson died later that morning from the stab wounds.

George Walker testified as to the events leading up to the stabbing. Approximately 11:45 p.m. on July 30, 1982, Leon Morgan, his wife Janis, Stacy Irons, Wilson and Walker were sitting on the front steps of Morgan's apartment building, drinking beer and talking, when Smith's mother approached the group, exchanged a few words with Wilson and walked away. Approximately five minutes later, Smith and Cleveland, both of whom lived nearby, walked over to the group. Smith was carrying a purse and Cleveland was carrying a bat. Smith told Wilson that if she had anything to say to her, to say it directly to her and not to her mother. She then pulled a butcher knife out of her purse and began swinging it at Wilson. Wilson backed into the hallway of the apartment building and re-emerged, carrying a sledgehammer. While Smith was swinging the knife at Wilson, she cut Irons on the knee. Wilson raised the sledgehammer and walked toward Smith, who began to back away. Meanwhile, Cleveland walked toward Wilson with the bat raised. In an effort to keep Cleveland out of the fight, Walker took a tire iron out of his trunk and warned Cleveland to stay out of the fight, which he did. Wilson and Smith exchanged a few more words and then Cleveland and Smith walked away.

After Cleveland and Smith left, Morgan, Irons, Wilson and Walker drove to a nearby phone booth to report to the police that Irons had been cut by Smith. They then drove back to Morgan's building and waited for the police. After waiting 20 minutes, Irons, Wilson and Walker drove back to the phone booth, stopping en route for a six-pack of beer. After making the second call, they drove past Smith's residence and saw Cleveland, Smith, Smith's mother and several other people on the street. Walker had the tire iron and sledgehammer on the front seat of his car between himself and Wilson who was sitting in the front passenger seat. Irons was sitting in the back seat. As they were driving by the group, Wilson threw a brick out of the car window and Cleveland threw a brick at Walker's car.

When the brick hit his car, Walker stopped the car, grabbed the tire iron and walked toward the group. Wilson also got out of the car, but Irons remained in the back seat. Cleveland still had a board in his hand and Smith had her purse. Mrs. Smith walked over toward Walker and asked him to come into her house to talk with her son on the telephone. When Walker came out of the house a few minutes later, he saw Smith coming toward him. Her arm was bleeding. He noticed a crowd standing in the street and saw Wilson lying on the ground, bleeding. Walker ran to his car; drove it to where Wilson was lying; and he and Irons put her in the car and drove her to Cook County Hospital, where she died a short time later.

Stacy Irons testified to substantially the same events. Irons further stated that the relationship between Smith and Wilson was not good because of an incident a few months earlier when Smith had hit Wilson on the head with her shoe following an argument. With respect to the night in question, Irons stated that after Walker went into Mrs. Smith's house, Cleveland charged toward Wilson with a raised board. Wilson grabbed the sledgehammer and both Wilson and Cleveland swung at each other simultaneously Cleveland hit Wilson on the arm, causing her to fall to the ground and to drop the sledgehammer. When Wilson stood up and started to run away, Irons saw Smith "fly past" with a butcher knife in her hand, chasing after Wilson along with Cleveland. Wilson tripped and fell, and Cleveland began hitting her with the board while Smith was stabbing her. Wilson managed to stand up again and run for about two feet, but fell when Cleveland hit her on the head with the board. Smith continued to stab her. At that point, Irons threw a beer in Cleveland's face and grabbed the board from him. Wilson was lying on her back and Smith kept stabbing her until someone pulled her off of Wilson. Irons did not see what happened to the butcher knife, board or sledgehammer. After Wilson fell to the ground and dropped the sledgehammer, she had no other weapon.

On examination by the court, Irons stated that neither he nor Cleveland did anything to stop Smith from stabbing Wilson. Further, Irons did not notice who it was that eventually pulled Smith off of Wilson.

On cross-examination by Cleveland's counsel, Irons stated that when someone pulled Smith off of Wilson, the only other people close by were Cleveland and Smith's mother. Irons thought that the person who had removed Smith was a male.

Assistant State's Attorney Al Petrocelli testified that approximately 10:30 a.m. on July 31, 1982, Smith gave him a written statement at area headquarters. According to Smith's statement, Walker exited his car with two others near Smith's house, threw bricks at Smith and threatened to kill her. Cleveland and Smith, armed with bats, then approached Wilson who had a sledgehammer. Cleveland hit Wilson with the bat and she fell down. Smith then swung and hit her, and Wilson pulled a knife out of her back pocket and cut Smith. Someone in the crowd handed Smith a knife and she began stabbing Wilson. Wilson then ran across the street with Smith chasing after her. When Wilson fell down, Smith continued to stab her until someone grabbed Smith and told her to get up. At the time, Cleveland was several feet away in front of Smith's house.

Dr. An, pathologist for the Cook County coroner's office, testified that he performed an autopsy on Wilson on July 31, 1982, and discovered stab wounds in the left pubic area, just below the left pubic area, left side of the thigh, inside of the left thigh, left upper back, left buttocks and back of the left thigh. In addition, there was a cutting wound on the left big toe and a laceration on the right back of the head. According to Dr. An, the cause of death was the stab wounds to both thighs, which lacerated the femoral blood vessels.

After the State rested its case, the defense objected to allowing the jury to see the photographs of Wilson's wounds on the ground that they were not probative and would only serve to inflame the jury. In response, the State argued that because Smith is alleging self-defense, the location and number of wounds is highly probative. The court stated that it would reserve its ruling until after the defense rested its case. Thereafter, Smith moved for acquittal and Cleveland moved for a directed finding of not guilty as to all charges. The court denied both motions.

Jeffrey Cleveland next testified in his own behalf. Prior to July 31, 1982, Cleveland had seen Wilson involved in two fights, one of which was the altercation in which Smith had hit Wilson on the head with her shoe. Regarding the evening of July 30, 1982, Cleveland stated that he had armed himself with a stick before he and Smith walked over to Morgan's apartment in order to protect himself. At the apartment, he saw Smith pull a knife out of her purse and start swinging at Wilson while the two women were talking. After returning home, Cleveland and several others were standing in the street when they saw Walker's car approaching. Before the car reached the group, someone got out of the car near a vacant lot which had a lot of ...

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