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06/18/87 the People of the State of v. Stanley Gentry

June 18, 1987

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

STANLEY GENTRY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FOURTH DIVISION

510 N.E.2d 963, 157 Ill. App. 3d 899, 109 Ill. Dec. 895 1987.IL.841

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. John N. Hourihane, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE LINN delivered the opinion of the court. McMORROW, P.J., and JOHNSON, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE LINN

Following a jury trial, defendant, Stanley Gentry, was convicted of attempted murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 8-4(a), 9-1(a)) and aggravated battery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 12-4). At the sentencing hearing, the trial court merged the aggravated battery conviction with the attempted murder conviction and on the charge of attempted murder sentenced Gentry to the Illinois Department of Corrections for a term of 45 years' imprisonment.

On appeal, Gentry asserts that his conviction should be reversed because: (1) the trial court's instruction regarding the intent necessary for attempted murder was prejudicially erroneous; (2) the State's use of certain hearsay statements denied Gentry a fair trial; and (3) the prosecutor committed reversible error by making several improper and prejudicial remarks during closing argument.

Background

The record indicates that on December 13, 1983, Gentry and Ruby Hill, Gentry's girlfriend, were in the apartment they shared at 1756 North Talman in Chicago, Illinois. At approximately 9 p.m. the couple began to argue. During the argument, Gentry spilled gasoline on Hill, and the gasoline on Hill's body ignited. Gentry was able to smother the flames with a coat, but only after Hill had been severely burned. Gentry and Hill were the only eyewitnesses to the incident.

Police and paramedics were called to the scene. James Fahey was the first Chicago police officer to arrive. Fahey testified that when he entered Gentry and Hill's apartment, he found Hill's upper body (including her head, face, and arms) to be badly burned. He further testified that Gentry was the only person in the apartment other than Hill. Fahey also stated that he found no matches on the floor of the apartment.

The paramedics who arrived at the scene testified that Hill had suffered third degree burns over 70% of her body. They further testified that after some initial treatment, Hill was transported by ambulance to Cook County Hospital and that Gentry accompanied Hill in the ambulance.

Wayne Milla, a detective for the Chicago police department, also testified. Milla stated that he arrived on the scene shortly after Fahey. Milla also stated that a gas stove was the only possible source of ignition in the apartment's kitchen. Milla averred that he originally classified the fire as "accidental" but later changed his mind when he discovered that Hill's clothing had been doused with gasoline.

The victim, Ruby Hill, also testified at trial. Hill stated that she and Gentry had been drinking all afternoon and that both of them were "pretty high." She further testified that Gentry had poured gasoline on her and that the gasoline ignited only after she had gone near the stove in the kitchen. Hill also related how Gentry tried to snuff the fire out by placing a coat over the flames.

Hill also testified as to her relationship with Gentry. She stated that she had lived with Gentry for three years prior to the accident, that she wanted to marry Gentry, and that she still loved Gentry notwithstanding the fire incident. Hill claimed that the entire episode was an ...


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