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09/12/88 the People of the State of v. Klutz Wilks

September 12, 1988





529 N.E.2d 690, 175 Ill. App. 3d 68, 124 Ill. Dec. 709 1988.IL.1362

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. John W. Crilly, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE BUCKLEY delivered the opinion of the court. CAMPBELL, P.J., and O'CONNOR, J., concur.


Following a grand jury indictment for murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 9-1) and armed violence (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 33A-2) and a subsequent bench trial on those charges, defendant Klutz Wilks was convicted of voluntary manslaughter (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 9-2) and sentenced to seven years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. On appeal, defendant seeks a reversal of his conviction, contending, first, that his use of force was justified in defense of his person and, second, that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the cause of death. Alternatively, defendant requests this court to reduce his conviction to involuntary manslaughter or modify his sentence or remand his case for a new sentencing hearing on the ground that the sentence is excessive. We affirm.

At trial, Leona Lee testified that on December 6, 1983, at approximately 7:45 p.m., she and her fiance, Vernon Jones, went to defendant's residence at 26 East 68th Street in Chicago. There, Lee requested that defendant allow her to enter the 6800 South Wabash Building, where Lee had previously rented an apartment from defendant, so that she could retrieve her mail and other belongings. Following a Discussion concerning the change of locks on the front door of the apartment, Jones went to Lee's new apartment to obtain Lee's keys to the Wabash building. Upon his return, the three proceeded to 6800 South Wabash, where defendant requested that Lee and Jones accompany him to the rear of the Wabash building.

The State and defendant presented contradictory testimony as to the events thereafter. Lee testified that she refused to accompany defendant to the rear of the building and that Jones asked defendant to open the front door. Jones then grabbed defendant by the coat and repeated his request. Lee told Jones to "forget it," that they could summon the police, at which time they both turned to leave. Lee then heard three gun shots and observed fire coming from defendant, although she did not see defendant holding the gun.

In defendant's version of the incident, midway down the block to the Wabash building, Lee and Jones refused to follow defendant, became loud and abusive, and threatened to kick down the door. They then proceeded to the corner of 68th and Wabash, and defendant followed, pleading with them to return, at which time Jones grabbed defendant, choked him and lifted him off the ground, shouting, "He has caused you enough trouble, I am taking care of him now." Terrified and convinced his death was imminent, defendant attempted to flee but Jones held him and struck him twice. After falling to his knees, defendant managed to crawl to the corner, where he pulled out his gun and shot Jones.

Defendant's wife, Mrs. Marguritta Wilks, also testified on defendant's behalf. She stated that, from the closed inside door of their home at 26 East 68th Street, she observed the three individuals at the corner of 68th and Wabash. Jones, who was on top of defendant, struck him twice in the neck and, when defendant attempted to get to his feet, Jones choked him. She then heard shots and saw Jones "twirl" and fall.

Officer William Guest of the Chicago police department arrived on the scene shortly thereafter and upon entering defendant's house was grabbed by defendant, who said, "That man jumped on me, was beating me." Once advised of his rights, defendant denied owning a gun but later showed the officer where the gun was located. Guest found three "spent rounds" and two "live rounds" still in the revolver. While in defendant's home, defendant told Guest that the incident occurred directly outside his door and that he did not know how Jones got across the street. Guest did not notice any bruises on or bleeding from defendant's face or hands nor was defendant's coat soiled or wet despite the snow on the ground.

Thereafter, defendant was taken to Jackson Park Hospital, where he was examined. Tests performed at the hospital revealed that defendant had an elevated enzyme level due to some type of trauma. Before defendant left the hospital, Assistant State's Attorney Dean Bastounes took a signed statement from defendant, which included a sentence that, "I went unconscious and I do not know anything about the actual shooting."

Jones was taken to Billings Hospital and spoke to Detective James O'Connell sometime after midnight. Jones related the following to Detective O'Connell: Jones grabbed defendant by the coat, pulled defendant toward him, and defendant lost his balance. Jones then released defendant and began to turn away, at which time defendant took the gun from his pocket and started shooting.

Jones remained in Billings Hospital and died 21 days later. Testimony of Dr. Robert Kirschner, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy, indicated that the deceased had two gunshot wounds to the left elbow region, the entrance and exit wounds of ...

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