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01/28/87 the People of the State of v. Paul Lynch

January 28, 1987





503 N.E.2d 857, 151 Ill. App. 3d 987, 105 Ill. Dec. 17 1987.IL.73

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. William D. Block, Judge, presiding.


PRESIDING JUSTICE LINDBERG delivered the opinion of the court. DUNN and WOODWARD, JJ., concur.


Defendant, Paul Lynch, Sr., was charged with murder in the circuit court of Lake County. The defense was self-defense, and defendant was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. Defendant appealed, and this court affirmed in an unpublished order. (People v. Lynch (1983), 117 Ill. App. 3d 1162, 466 N.E.2d 417; see 87 Ill. 2d R.23.) The Illinois Supreme Court granted leave to appeal, reversed the conviction, and remanded for a new trial. (People v. Lynch (1984), 104 Ill. 2d 194, 470 N.E.2d 1018.) Defendant was retried for voluntary manslaughter and was again convicted. This appeal is from that conviction.

The facts adduced at defendant's second trial were essentially the same as those adduced at his first trial. Since those facts are summarized in the supreme court's opinion (People v. Lynch (1984), 104 Ill. 2d 194, 198-99, 470 N.E.2d 1018, 1019-20), they will not be repeated here. Additional facts necessary to the resolution of the issues raised will be noted in the Discussion of the issues to which they relate.

Defendant raises several issues on appeal. He argues that he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of voluntary manslaughter, in that the evidence was insufficient to establish that defendant caused the death of Lester Howard (the victim) and that defendant was not acting in self defense. He also argues that the trial court erred in denying a motion for substitution of the Judge; admitting into evidence the bloody coat of Howard; failing to follow the supreme court's mandate by refusing to admit into evidence three battery convictions of Howard; and refusing to admit evidence of Howard's alcohol level. Finally, defendant argues that various omissions on the part of defense counsel deprived him of his constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel. We reverse and remand for a new trial.

Defendant's challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence will be addressed first. Throughout a criminal trial, the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt all of the material and essential elements constituting a crime is on the prosecution. (People v. Weinstein (1966), 35 Ill. 2d 467, 469-70, 220 N.E.2d 432, 433-34.) The function of the trier of fact is to determine the credibility of witnesses, the weight to be given their testimony, and the inferences to be drawn from the evidence. (People v. Akis (1976), 63 Ill. 2d 296, 298, 347 N.E.2d 733, 734.) The function of this court in reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence on which defendant was convicted is to carefully review the evidence, giving due consideration to the fact that the trial court and jury saw and heard the witnesses. (People v. Jefferson (1962), 24 Ill. 2d 398, 402, 182 N.E.2d 1, 2.) The evidence adduced in the case at bar was sufficient to permit the jury to conclude that defendant's guilt of voluntary manslaughter had been established beyond a reasonable doubt.

Defendant's first argument in this regard, that proof that defendant caused Howard's death was insufficient, borders on the frivolous. The evidence established that Howard was apparently fine before defendant shot him, that defendant shot him, and that he then immediately collapsed to the floor. The paramedic who first treated Howard saw a hole in his head which appeared to be a gunshot wound. The autopsy, performed the day after Howard was shot, showed that Howard died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Defendant's claim is that the evidence does not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the gunshot wound which killed Howard was inflicted by defendant. He argues that no one saw "blood pouring from Howard's head" after defendant shot Howard, and that the only evidence of the presence of blood was the blood found on Howard's jacket which, defendant maintains, suggests that defendant shot Howard in the body rather than the head. It is apparently defendant's theory that the fatal head wound could have been inflicted by someone else after defendant shot Howard. This theory is a completely original creation on appeal, since defendant never contested his having caused Howard's death at trial. Moreover, there was no evidence of any wound other than the fatal head wound (there being no reason why the blood on the jacket could not have come from the head and no testimony that there was any other wound). Under the circumstances, the jury was certainly justified in concluding that the evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant caused Howard's death by shooting him in the head. Indeed, a contrary Conclusion would have been unreasonable., Defendant also argues that the evidence that he was not acting in self-defense was insufficient. The relevant statute provides:

"A person is justified in the use of force against another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or another against such other's imminent use of unlawful force. However, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or another, or the commission of a forcible felony." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 7-1.)

There is no question that defendant believed it was necessary to shoot Howard to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself. It is the sufficiency of the evidence that defendant's belief was unreasonable which is at issue.

The reasonableness of defendant's belief was a matter for the jury to decide. (People v. Johnson (1954), 2 Ill. 2d 165, 171-72, 117 N.E.2d 91, 95; see also People v. Lockett (1980), 82 Ill. 2d 546, 553, 413 N.E.2d 378, 381-82 (including statement that "[w]e can conceive of no circumstance when a Judge could determine, as a matter of law, that a jury could find the defendant had a reasonable subjective belief the killing was justified, but that the jury could not find the defendant's subjective belief was ...

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