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09/08/89 the People of the State of v. Earlean Tyler

September 8, 1989





544 N.E.2d 1077, 188 Ill. App. 3d 547, 136 Ill. Dec. 302 1989.IL.1401

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Howard M. Miller, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE LORENZ delivered the opinion of the court. MURRAY, P.J., and COCCIA, J., concur.


After a jury trial, defendant was convicted of two counts of aggravated battery and one count each of armed violence and attempted murder. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, pars. 12-4(a), 12-4(b)(1), 33A-2, 8-4.) She was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment for attempted murder and now appeals. She raises the following two issues: (1) whether the trial court erred when it refused to instruct the jury on self-defense; and (2) whether she was proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of attempted murder. We reverse and remand for new trial.

The State presented the following witnesses. Tanya Steele testified that on July 12, 1985, she was 15 years old. At approximately 10:30 p.m., she was sitting on the steps of a church near her house with her younger brother, Nicholas Steele, and her friend, Monica Campbell. Defendant, her sister, Felicia Tyler, and their friend, Simone Camp, walked past the group on the church steps when defendant and Felicia called Tanya a bitch. Tanya told Nicholas not to say anything, and Monica told Tanya not to say anything. Tanya, Nicholas, and Monica ignored the insult. Defendant stated, "What did you say?" Although Tanya, Nicholas, and Monica did not respond, defendant continued making comments until Tanya stated, "Leave me alone. Get out of my face." Defendant hit Tanya with an open hand in the face. Tanya hit defendant in the face. Tanya then felt a pain or punch in her side and later learned she was stabbed. Monica moved Tanya away from defendant, and Tanya testified that defendant did not come toward her anymore. Tanya testified that she saw a blade, approximately eight inches long, in defendant's hand during the incident but did not know when she saw it. After Tanya was stabbed, she walked away with Monica and Nicholas, and she was taken to the hospital.

Tanya testified she did not threaten or insult defendant and she was not carrying any weapons. She had known defendant for approximately nine years prior to the incident.

Nicholas' testimony substantially corroborated Tanya's testimony with a few additions. Nicholas testified that before defendant stabbed Tanya, defendant stated, "You can get your sister. I will kill her and anybody else." He saw defendant take a knife from her purse and stab Tanya. He testified the blade of the knife was approximately four or five inches long. Monica pulled Tanya away as defendant tried to stab Tanya again.

Dr. Rodrigo Floro testified that he examined Tanya in the emergency room of the hospital. She had a stab wound in the lower right abdominal area and she was in shock. The doctor testified she lost a considerable amount of blood and her injury was life-threatening. The doctor performed emergency surgery to save Tanya's life, and she remained in the hospital for approximately 11 days.

Defendant's first witness was her sister, Felicia, who testified that on the evening in question she was walking with defendant and their friend, Simone, when they heard Nicholas and Tanya calling them bitches and whores. Defendant asked Tanya why Nicholas was calling them names and Tanya stated to Nicholas, "Don't be scared. Tell them why you are calling them names." A verbal confrontation began, and Tanya stated in a hostile, loud voice, "So what? Do that mean bitch [ sic ]?" Felicia asked Tanya why she was "getting smart." Tanya punched Felicia on the shoulder and stated, "Shut up and stay out of it." Felicia punched Tanya in the chest. Then Tanya struck defendant and defendant struck her back. As Tanya walked away, she was calling defendant, Felicia, and Simone names and stated, "You all take your ass home, bitches, because I'm going to get you all back."

Felicia did not see a knife in defendant's hand during the incident, but as they were walking home, she saw defendant throw a knife in some bushes.

Simone's testimony substantially corroborated Felicia's, but Simone also testified that after Tanya hit Felicia, Tanya stated to defendant, "Earlean, what the hell are you going to do?" Tanya then hit defendant. When Tanya started to hit defendant again, defendant hit Tanya. Tanya's friend pulled her away as Tanya tried to hit defendant again.

Defendant testified that on the night in question she was 19 years old. She was walking with Felicia and Simone when they heard Tanya and Nicholas calling them bitches and whores. Defendant asked Tanya why she and Nicholas were calling them names. Tanya said, "Bitch, so what?" Defendant said, "Tanya, I'm just trying to talk to you nicely, and ask you why you're calling us names." Tanya said, "Go ahead, Nicholas, tell them what we were saying." Felicia asked Tanya why she was "getting smart" with defendant and Tanya punched Felicia. Felicia punched Tanya in return. Tanya then punched defendant in the face and stated, "No, bitch, what you going to do [ sic ]?" Defendant hit Tanya back in the face. When Tanya tried to hit defendant again, defendant punched Tanya with an open pocket knife ...

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