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09/28/89 the People of the State of v. Reginald Beacham

September 28, 1989

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

REGINALD BEACHAM, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FOURTH DIVISION

545 N.E.2d 392, 189 Ill. App. 3d 483, 136 Ill. Dec. 868 1989.IL.1531

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Thomas Fitzgerald, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

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

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE LINN

On appeal he raises a number of trial errors, primarily involving the manner in which the jury was instructed. He also contends that a member of the jury should have been excused for cause and that he had the right to be present during the exercise of peremptory challenges. Finally, he argues that evidence of his prior conviction for armed robbery was more prejudicial than probative and should have been excluded.

We affirm.

Background

On May 11, 1986, at a Mother's Day party in Huskies' Lounge in Chicago, Beacham shot and killed Will James and shot and crippled Frank James. A jury found Beacham guilty of murder and attempted murder.

The State presented six eyewitnesses, including one of the victims, Frank James. According to the testimony, Beacham had come to the lounge and tried to enter without paying the dollar cover charge required of male customers. The tavern's owner, Issac James, heard Beacham cursing and arguing with Clarence Ballard, who was collecting the cover charge at the door. Issac came out from behind the bar to the vestibule and told Beacham not to curse because a Mother's Day party was in progress. At the time, Issac's brother, Frank, was on the telephone ordering more food from the caterer. Beacham saw Will James standing by the bar with his hands in his pockets and demanded to know what he was doing. Beacham then noticed that Frank James was on the telephone and said, "God damn it, you calling the police." He pulled a gun and shot Frank through the neck.

As Frank fell to the floor, Will James told Issac to hold Beacham. Issac grabbed Beacham, whose gun hand remained free, and when Will went to help Issac, Beacham shot and killed Will James. Beacham broke loose from Issac and fled, dropping his gun. Nine days later, he was arrested. He initially claimed that it was his brother who had committed the shootings.

Beacham's version of the event differed from what the State's witnesses related. He was the only one to testify for the defense. According to him, he and a friend had gone to Huskies' lounge. When he arrived, Clarence Ballard shoved him on the shoulder, telling him he had to pay to get in. Ballard apologized for shoving him. Then Issac James came up and told him to pay the dollar or leave. Beacham said he would rather leave and backed up toward the outer door.

According to Beacham, at this point someone came up with a gun and said, "He told you to leave, nigger." Beacham grabbed the gun and struggled with the unknown person. A shot went off and the gun fell. Next, Beacham testified, he picked up the gun and backed up to the door. A second unknown person came at him with a knife. Beacham tried to deflect the knife hand of the other person, but Beacham was pushed against the door and the gun went off again.

Beacham further testified that he again struggled with people in the vestibule but was able to escape. He went to a friend's house, changed out of the red jogging suit he was wearing, and left it there. He said that when he left the tavern he did not know that anyone had been shot. He denied that he had intended to shoot anyone.

On cross-examination, the State offered in impeachment of Beacham the fact that he had been convicted of armed robbery approximately nine years earlier.

Beacham offered into evidence a certified copy of a 1984 felony unlawful use of weapons conviction of Will James, the man who had been killed at the tavern. He also produced his red jogging suit into evidence to support his contention that he did not have a gun when he ...


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