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08/12/87 the People of the State of v. Norman Hall

August 12, 1987





513 N.E.2d 429, 159 Ill. App. 3d 1021, 112 Ill. Dec. 15 1987.IL.1155

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. George Marovich, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE FREEMAN delivered the opinion of the court. McNAMARA, P.J., and WHITE, J., concur.


Defendant Norman Hall was charged by indictment with murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, pars. 9-1(a)(1), (2)) and armed violence (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 33A-2). After a bench trial he was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 9-2(a)(1)). He was sentenced to 10 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Defendant appeals and raises the following contentions: (1) the trial court denied defendant a fair trial where it deliberately rejected competent evidence of his good reputation for peacefulness and allowed the prosecution, over objection, to impeach defendant's reputation witness with evidence of specific bad acts; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing defendant for voluntary manslaughter where it had improperly convicted him of armed violence, refused to consider mitigating factors appropriate to the nature of the offense, and relied on deterrence and defendant's refusal to admit guilt and persistence in his innocence as factors in aggravation of the offense.

For the reasons stated below, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court of Cook County.

The evidence at trial indicated the following. On July 19, 1984, defendant and his girlfriend, Loretta Williams, the victim, attended a wake for a friend, Foster Boyd's mother. Later that night, at about 10 p.m., defendant dropped off Loretta Williams at Boyd's house and defendant and Boyd went out drinking. At about 12:30 a.m. on July 20, 1984, defendant returned to Boyd's home. When there was no answer at the door, defendant drove to the apartment where he had lived with Williams for three years. Defendant found Williams asleep in their second-floor bedroom. After he entered the room, he shook her foot to wake her and let her know he was home. When she awoke, she asked defendant why he was home so late, where he had been and if he had been with another woman. Williams got out of bed and slapped defendant. Defendant and Williams struggled for a few minutes.

Williams then ran from the bedroom. Defendant reached for a .38 caliber revolver he kept in a file box on the bedroom dresser. Williams apparently was unaware that defendant kept a gun in the home. Defendant followed Williams into the hallway. He grabbed her right arm with his left hand as she stood in the doorway to the bathroom adjacent to the bedroom. Defendant placed the gun to Williams' throat and pulled the trigger.

Defendant then ran out of the apartment to his car, put the gun under the front seat and drove away. He drove about one-half block and then returned to the apartment and called the police. He told the police that Williams was shot. When the police arrived at the apartment, defendant told them that he shot Williams. The police found the body of Williams lying across the bathroom threshold. The police recovered the gun from under the front seat of the car, where defendant had told them he left it. Defendant was arrested and given Miranda warnings. He told police that he shot Williams and that he was "tired of Loretta's shit." Defendant stated that he thought Williams had a knife. Later he stated that he knew she did not have a knife since she had left the bedroom only seconds before defendant.

Williams' autopsy report indicated that her death was caused by a gunshot inflicted within six inches of her throat. The autopsy also revealed several abrasions and bruises inflicted just prior to her death. During an interview with police after the shooting, defendant stated that he had loaded the gun by alternating blank shells and live shells. He also told police that he had drilled out a portion of the lead at the end of each bullet so that when the cartridge was fired, it would "mushroom" upon impact with anything. I

On appeal defendant initially contends that the trial court denied him a fair trial by rejecting competent evidence of his good reputation for peacefulness and allowing the State, over objection, to impeach his reputation witness with evidence of specific bad acts.

In his case in chief defendant called Robert McWhinnie to testify to defendant's reputation in the community for peacefulness. McWhinnie, an electronics technician, owned a store and had employed defendant full time as an outside service technician since he opened his store in 1978. In that position, defendant dealt with customers on a daily basis. McWhinnie testified that he had spoken to his customers and to defendant's co-workers regarding defendant. McWhinnie stated that defendant had an excellent reputation for peacefulness in the community.

On cross-examination the prosecution asked the witness the basis for his testimony concerning defendant's reputation for peacefulness. The witness again referred to the work defendant did, his appearance, and "the way he handled himself with customers." The prosecution asked McWhinnie whether he had ever talked to any of the customers or employees regarding defendant's reputation for peacefulness. Defense counsel objected on the basis that the witness need not talk to the people in the community specifically regarding defendant's reputation for peacefulness. The court responded that whether defendant was a good television repairman was not at issue. The court asked the witness if he understood that he had been called to testify as to his knowledge of defendant's reputation for being a peaceful person, the basis of that knowledge, and whether he had ever asked anyone about that.

McWhinnie responded that he understood. He then testified that there were two incidents during the years that defendant worked for him that customers refused to let defendant into their homes because he was black. Rather than get upset, defendant would turn around and leave and find a telephone to call McWhinnie to tell him of the problem.

The prosecution then asked the witness if his opinion of defendant's peacefulness would change if he learned that defendant used to take .38 caliber bullets and drill "mushroom holes" in the top of them so they would expand on impact when he shot them into a human being. Defense counsel objected to the question as having no bearing on the witness' testimony. The court allowed the questioning to continue. The prosecution then asked the witness whether he knew that defendant had a gun and whether his opinion would change if he knew that fact. The witness responded negatively to both questions. The witness stated that he himself owned a gun. The prosecution began questioning McWhinnie regarding his ...

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