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People v. Sawyer





Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Third District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of McDonough County, the Hon. U.S. Collins, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied January 30, 1987.

The defendant, Terrance Sawyer, was convicted by a McDonough County jury of voluntary manslaughter for the stabbing death of Garry Kennedy. The trial court, however, found that it had improperly refused to give the defendant's tendered instruction on the use of force in defense of a dwelling (Illinois Pattern Jury Instruction, Criminal, No. 24-25.07 (2d ed. 1981)), and granted the defendant's motion for a new trial. At the retrial, a second jury convicted the defendant of voluntary manslaughter. The trial court sentenced the defendant to the minimum term of four years' imprisonment. The appellate court affirmed (139 Ill. App.3d 383). We allowed the defendant's petition for leave to appeal (87 Ill.2d R. 315).

The only issue raised is whether the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was not justified in using deadly force in the defense of a dwelling.

The defendant and Kennedy had been acquainted for eight or nine years. They attended the same high school and had played basketball together. The defendant met Belinda Stevens while the two were students at Western Illinois University in Macomb. They started dating, and Stevens later gave birth to his child. After the child was born, the defendant, Stevens and their child lived together in Macomb. When the couple began having difficulties in their relationship, Stevens and the child moved to another apartment. Several months after she stopped living with the defendant, Stevens began dating Kennedy on occasion. While she was dating Kennedy, however, she continued to see the defendant from time to time. The defendant graduated from Western and moved back to his home in Chicago. Stevens and her child spent the summer of 1983 in Chicago. She and Kennedy continued to see one another throughout the summer and began dating steadily. Stevens returned to Macomb with her child to begin the fall semester in August 1983. She and Kennedy saw one another every day.

On September 18, 1983, the defendant drove from Chicago to Stevens' residence in Macomb. He was staying with Stevens on September 20, 1983, when, at approximately 10 p.m., Kennedy arrived. The defendant answered the door and let him inside, whereupon Kennedy, Stevens and the defendant briefly discussed their relationship. When Kennedy asked Stevens to choose between the defendant and himself, Stevens chose the defendant. At this point, the defendant said that he was going to leave and walked out of the house. Stevens followed the defendant outside to his car. The defendant asked Stevens to return to Chicago with him. When she refused, he said he was going to take their child back to Chicago. The defendant then returned to the house and went into Stevens' bedroom to pack for his trip back to Chicago. Stevens then followed the defendant into her bedroom.

By this time, one of Stevens' roommates, Cheryl Sherman, woke up and was sitting on the couch in the living room. Kennedy sat with Sherman and the two talked for about five minutes. Sherman testified that it did not appear that Kennedy had been drinking. When Stevens came back into the living room, Sherman went into Stevens' bedroom, where the defendant was packing his bags.

While Sherman and the defendant were in the bedroom, Stevens and Kennedy talked in the living room. Kennedy asked Stevens why she chose the defendant. When Stevens explained that she did so because he could provide for her and her child, Kennedy slapped her. Kennedy then apologized and Stevens asked him to leave. As they approached the front door, Kennedy turned to Stevens, said, "You b____," and hit her again.

The defendant and Sherman heard Kennedy slap Stevens and came out of the bedroom. The defendant looked down the hallway toward the front door where he saw Stevens lying on the floor. According to Sherman, the defendant said "What the f____" or "What the f____ [is] going on here." The defendant then walked quickly to the kitchen and grabbed a knife. By the time the defendant returned to the hallway, Kennedy had already left the house. The defendant put the knife on a desk in the hallway near the front door and followed Kennedy outside.

The two men walked to the front lawn. Sherman testified that she stood in the doorway, and saw the two men talk for four or five minutes. She could not, however, understand their conversation because they were "mumbling." Stevens also testified that while the defendant and Kennedy stood outside, they were "talking." Stevens further testified that when Kennedy saw her standing in the front door, he asked her "what the f____ [she] was doing." The defendant turned around and walked toward the house, and Kennedy followed. According to Sherman's testimony, neither man swung at the other and both men appeared to be "pretty calm" as they walked back toward the house. The defendant entered the house first. As Kennedy approached the door, Stevens told him not to come inside. Stevens testified that Kennedy responded, "Why, Lynn, I have been coming in here." Kennedy then opened the screen door. Nobody attempted to prevent him from opening the door. He then stepped inside the door and stood approximately an arm's length from the defendant. Stevens testified that after Kennedy was inside, he "just stood there," and did not strike her. Sherman also testified that Kennedy did not attack anybody when he stepped into the doorway. At this point, a scuffle ensued, but it is not clear who started the scuffle. At some point during the struggle, the defendant reached behind his back and found the knife. The two men fell through the door. Kennedy fell backwards onto the concrete walkway leading to the front porch and the defendant landed on top of him. When the defendant stood up, Kennedy was bleeding from a stab wound to his chest. Kennedy died from the wound a short time later.

Shortly thereafter, Stevens flagged down a passing Macomb police car. Officer Leo Icenogle saw the defendant standing near the corner of the house with blood on his shoes and jacket. He approached the defendant and asked him to identify himself. The defendant waived his Miranda rights and told Officer Icenogle that Kennedy had slapped Belinda Stevens. He also stated that he had placed the knife near the front door because he was afraid of Kennedy and feared that he would return to the house to cause trouble. The defendant also told Officer Icenogle that when Kennedy came back into the house he tried to push past the defendant to slap one of the young ladies who lived there. He admitted stabbing Kennedy during the ensuing scuffle, telling Officer Icenogle, "I'm the one that stabbed the dude."

Several hours after he was taken into custody, the defendant gave a statement to Detective Robert Canavit. The defendant told Detective Canavit that after Kennedy left the house he went outside and saw Kennedy leave the area. The defendant said he then went back inside to assist Stevens and locked the doors. He said that after he had secured the doors he did not know what else he could do because there was no telephone in the house. The defendant said he then placed the knife on the desk near the front door. He told Detective Canavit that he knew Kennedy had struck a young lady in the head with a drafting board while he was in high school. He also told Detective Canavit that Kennedy had been involved in fights in college, had been known to carry a gun, and had displayed a gun during a fight on one occasion. The defendant further stated that after he secured the house he went outside to start his car when Kennedy returned. According to the defendant's statement, Kennedy grabbed him by the shirt and said, "No, I'm not going to hurt you" and released him. Kennedy then grabbed the defendant a second time and said, "No, I'm not going to hurt you, but I should." The defendant told Detective Canavit that things had calmed down considerably by this time. When Kennedy saw Stevens standing in the door, however, he asked her what she was looking at and started toward the house. The defendant said that when Stevens asked Kennedy not to enter the house, Kennedy replied, "You can't stop me," and entered the house. The defendant claimed that Kennedy pushed past Stevens and grabbed him. During the ensuing struggle, the defendant said he reached behind himself and found the knife he had placed on the desk earlier. He told Detective Canavit that he closed his eyes and struck out, stabbing Kennedy. The defendant further stated that after he had stabbed Kennedy, he panicked.

At trial, he relied upon the affirmative defense of justified use of force in the defense of a dwelling. The defendant did not take the stand in his defense, and nearly all of the evidence was introduced through the State's witnesses. The jury found the defendant guilty of voluntary manslaughter. The defendant was sentenced to the minimum term of four years' imprisonment. The appellate court concluded that Kennedy's entry into the house was not riotous, violent or tumultuous ...

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