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01/19/95 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. QUALITIAN

January 19, 1995

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLEE,
v.
QUALITIAN JEFFRIES, APPELLANT. -- THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLEE, V. DERRICK NEWBURN, APPELLANT.



Chief Justice Bilandic delivered the opinion of the court:

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bilandic

CHIEF JUSTICE BILANDIC delivered the opinion of the court:

In these consolidated appeals, the defendants raise several challenges to the constitutionality of the Illinois homicide scheme for first and second degree murder. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, pars. 9-1, 9-2.) We examine the following topics: (1) whether the first and second degree murder scheme violates a defendant's right to due process under the Federal and Illinois Constitutions, and (2) the "unreasonable belief" in self-defense aspect of the second degree murder statute.

We allowed the Illinois Attorneys for Criminal Justice to submit a brief as amicus curiae in support of the defendants' position. For the reasons that follow, we uphold the constitutionality of the Illinois homicide scheme for first and second degree murder.

FACTS

Cause No. 75161

In cause No. 75161 the defendant, Qualitian Jeffries, was charged by indictment with, inter alia, two counts of first degree murder in connection with the stabbing death of his former live-in girlfriend, Donna Hussey. According to the State's version of the events, Jeffries broke into the back door of the victim's residence. The victim's aunt, Mallie Williams, saw Jeffries repeatedly stab the victim with a knife in the dining room. In an attempt to escape from Jeffries, the victim ran outside the house and into the street screaming for help. Although Williams pleaded with Jeffries to leave the victim alone, he continued stabbing the victim and then ran off through a gangway. The victim sustained 23 stab wounds.

Jeffries told a different story, testifying at trial that he had stabbed the victim in self-defense. Approximately two weeks prior to the murder, the victim had shot Jeffries in the arm. On the day of the murder, Jeffries went to the victim's home to retrieve some clothing and personal effects. Jeffries testified that the victim greeted him with a knife in her hand and said, "If you thought I tried to kill you then, ***," and raised her hand. The two struggled for control of the knife. Jeffries eventually gained control of the knife and repeatedly stabbed the victim.

Following a bench trial, Jeffries was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to a 50-year term of imprisonment. On appeal, Jeffries challenged the constitutionality of the second degree murder statute. The appellate court held that under the present statutory scheme, a defendant is not required to prove any element of first degree murder, and therefore, there is no violation of due process. (No. 1-90-1067 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).) We allowed Jeffries' petition for leave to appeal to this court (145 Ill. 2d R. 315).

Cause No. 75647

In cause No. 75647, the defendant, Derrick Newburn, was charged by indictment with two counts of first degree murder. The following facts were revealed at trial. Monique Mitchell testified that she lived with the victim, McKinley Johnson. On the afternoon of September 5, 1989, she heard Newburn arguing with the victim in the alley behind her apartment. Mitchell called through the window and told the victim to come inside. The victim complied, but returned to the street a short time later. Newburn approached the victim, and the two men engaged in a fist fight. Mitchell intervened in the argument.

As Mitchell and the victim walked back toward their apartment, Newburn again approached the victim, and pushed him. A second fist fight erupted between the two men. The fight broke up, and Mitchell and the victim reentered their apartment.

Shortly thereafter, the victim left the apartment and went across the street to a liquor store to make a telephone call. As Mitchell looked out of the apartment window, she saw Newburn approach the apartment carrying a baseball bat. Newburn was accompanied by a man named Albert Thomas. Mitchell grabbed a 2- by 4-inch board and ran out of the apartment. Newburn and Thomas chased the victim from the liquor store. Newburn swung the bat at the victim, and struck him in the leg. The victim fell to the ground in the middle of the street, but got up and continued running toward the apartment building. Mitchell then ran across the street toward the three men and swung the board at Thomas. Newburn pursued the victim, and struck him in the left arm and leg with the baseball bat. As the victim struggled to get away, Newburn bludgeoned the victim in the head with the baseball bat three times. Newburn and Thomas then fled down an alley.

Newburn introduced evidence at trial to show that his actions were based upon self-defense. Newburn testified that in the final confrontation, the victim carried a gun as he walked out of the apartment building with Mitchell. The victim then began to chase Newburn with the gun. After Newburn managed to evade the victim, he grabbed a baseball bat and walked back to the liquor store. When the victim left the store, Newburn swung the bat and hit the victim's arm. As the victim attempted to run toward his apartment, Thomas tripped him. The victim then showed the gun to Newburn. Newburn swung the bat, hoping to knock the gun out of the victim's hand. Instead, he hit the victim on the side of the head. The victim dropped the gun. Mitchell then grabbed the gun, and Newburn fled from the scene.

The jury rejected Newburn's proffered defense of self-defense. Newburn was found guilty of first degree murder, and he was sentenced to a 28-year term of imprisonment. On appeal, the defendant argued that the second degree murder statute is unconstitutional because it required him to prove that his belief in the necessity of self-defense was unreasonable. The appellate court rejected Newburn's argument. (No. 1-90-3410 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).) We granted Newburn's petition for leave to appeal (145 Ill. 2d R. 315) and consolidated it with Jeffries' appeal.

ANALYSIS

As a preliminary matter, we recognize that the judicial role in construing statutes is to ascertain legislative intent and give it effect. To accomplish this goal, a court will seek to determine the objective the legislature sought to accomplish and the evils it desired to remedy. People v. Scharlau (1990), 141 Ill. 2d 180, 152 Ill. Dec. 401, 565 N.E.2d 1319.

All statutes are presumed to be constitutionally valid. ( People v. Shephard (1992), 152 Ill. 2d 489, 499, 178 Ill. Dec. 724, 605 N.E.2d 518; Rehg v. Illinois Department of Revenue (1992), 152 Ill. 2d 504; Continental Illinois National Bank & Trust Co. v. Illinois State Toll Highway Comm'n (1969), 42 Ill. 2d 385, 389, 251 N.E.2d 253.) The party challenging a statute's validity bears the burden of clearly establishing the statute is unconstitutional. ( Bernier v. Burris (1986), 113 Ill. 2d 219, 227, 100 Ill. Dec. 585, 497 N.E.2d 763.) In construing a statute, this court has a duty to affirm the statute's validity and constitutionality if reasonably possible. ( Shephard, 152 Ill. 2d at 499.) Any doubts will be resolved in favor of the validity of the law challenged. Rehg, 152 Ill. 2d at 512.

I

We find it instructive to begin our analysis with a discussion of the fundamental differences between the previous murder statutes and the present first and second degree murder statutes in Illinois. In 1986, the legislature enacted Public Act 84-1450 (Pub. Act 84-1450, eff. July 1, 1987 (1986 Ill. Laws 4222)) to amend section 9-2 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (see Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 9-2). The Act renamed the offense of murder to first degree murder. (Compare Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 9-1, with Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 9-1.) The Act also abolished the offense of voluntary manslaughter, and substituted for it the offense of second degree murder. (See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 9-2.) The intent of the legislature in enacting Public Act 84-1450 was to remedy the confusion and inconsistency that had developed in regard to the murder and voluntary manslaughter statutes. *fn1

The newly enacted first degree murder statute provides in relevant part:

"(a) A person who kills an individual without lawful justification commits first degree murder if in performing the acts which cause the death:

(1) He either intends to kill or do great bodily harm to that individual or another, or knows that such acts will cause death to that individual or another; or

(2) He knows that such acts create a strong probability of death or great bodily harm to that individual or another; or

(3) He is attempting or committing a forcible felony other than second degree murder." (Emphasis added.) Ill. Rev. ...


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