Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Christy Berkos, Judge Presiding.
Petition for Leave to Appeal Denied October 6, 1994.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tully
PRESIDING JUSTICE TULLY delivered the opinion of the court:
Following a jury trial, Ronald Parker was found guilty of first degree murder in the stabbing death of his son, Julius Nate Parker. Thereafter, Parker was sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment.
Ronald and his wife Alice lived together with their six children in a Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) building at 4022 South State Street. Ronald Parker testified that his relationship with Julius was strained because of his son's involvement in the drug trade. According to Ronald, his son began selling drugs in July of 1988. He also stated that Julius, along with his close friend Ledell Murphy, were selling drugs almost every day in the building where the Parkers resided. Ronald was upset because of the effect of the drug trade on the younger children in the household. Apparently, Julius' mother, Alice, approved of her son's drug use and she acknowledged that her two sons, Ronny and Julius, would argue over drugs.
Sheila Weeks testified that she had been the girl friend of Julius for approximately one and one half years at the time of his death. She, as well as Alice and Ronald Parker, and Ledell Murphy testified that Julius carried a beeper. Officer William Winters testified that beepers are often used in drug sales.
On March 14, 1989 at 5:45 a.m., Ronald testified that he went to search the apartment of Jessica, a former girl friend of Julius. Both Ronald and Jessica's father searched the apartment and found drugs, including cocaine. After fighting with Jessica's father about the cocaine, Ronald fled the apartment and ran down the street, knocking on the window of a grocery store for help. The owner came to the window with a pistol. Julius, Ledell Murphy and his brother came out of the building, chasing Ronald with guns.
After Julius and his friends fired at Ronald, he called 911 and was taken to the hospital since one of the bullets had nicked him. Shortly thereafter, Ronald saw his son arrested at the raid of a dope house. On the morning of March 18, Julius returned home and accused Ronald of steeling his beeper. Ledell Murphy and his brother then came into the apartment and threatened Ronald with bodily harm if he did not give up the beeper. Both had guns in their pockets. Ronald was told that he better give up the beeper or they would do some bodily harm to him. Ronald swiftly exited the apartment and went to a nearby public phone to call 911. Ronald inquired as to why his son had been released after he had pressed charges against his son for the prior shooting. He then said his son had shot at him and he wanted a squad car.
Ronald testified that his son, along with the Murphy brothers, then approached him in the middle of the street and asked about hisbeeper. Julius tried to search Ronald but Ronald shoved him away. After repeating this several times, Julius put his hand in his pocket and retrieved a pistol. Ronald then pulled out a knife and stabbed Julius "because his (Ronald's] life was at stake."
When he saw Julius run to a nearby parking lot he did not believe he had wounded him seriously. Ronald testified: "I know I had the knife in my hand, but I never felt it touch him." He then called 911 and also requested an ambulance. As crowds began to gather, Ronald became scared and started running. He noticed that he too needed an ambulance because his hand was "twisted." This occurred when Ronald grabbed the gun in an effort to prevent Julius from firing. The ring finger and part of the back of the hand were later found to be fractured. Ronald was eventually taken into custody by two Chicago Police detectives. He told them his son had pulled a gun on him and that he stabbed him.
Sheila Weeks testified that Julius collapsed in the nearby parking lot. When she ran over to him he was gasping for breath. She did not find any gun on Julius. She later saw Ronald standing in the grass with a knife in his hand. The Cook County Medical Examiner diagnosed the cause of death as a four inch deep stab wound in the abdomen which penetrated the heart.
On appeal we first consider whether or not the State proved defendant guilty of first degree murder beyond a reasonable doubt. A criminal conviction will not be set aside unless the evidence is so improbable that it creates a reasonable doubt of defendant's guilt. ( People v. Collins (1985), 106 Ill. 2d 237, 478 N.E.2d 267, 87 Ill. Dec. 910.) In order to reverse, we must find that after viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution no rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. People v. Young (1989), 128 Ill. 2d 1, 538 N.E.2d 461.
Pursuant to the first degree murder statute in Illinois, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant intentionally killed without lawful justification (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1992, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)(1)) or intentionally committed acts knowing that the acts created a strong probability ...