The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, United States District Judge
A tragic set of circumstances.
But the jury disbelieved Petitioner's version of the facts.
Petition for a writ of habeas corpus is denied.
In April 1995, defendant Mildred Laugharn shot and killed her husband,
Robert Laugharn, in their home. She was indicted by a grand jury for the
offenses of first degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. 720 ILCS
5/9-1, 9-3 (West 1994). A jury trial was held in November 1996.
Mildred testified she shot her husband in self-defense. She claimed
he had a drinking problem and had been drinking beer the night of the
shooting. Mildred also had a couple of mixed alcohol drinks that night.
They were watching television and had a dispute over the thermostat.
Robert became upset when Mildred tried to turn the thermostat down.
He slapped her in the face and told her to "get out." Mildred went into
the kitchen. On her way to the kitchen, she saw Robert sitting in his
reclining chair with a gun. She was terrified and felt there was no place
she could go. She believed she could "talk Bob out of this", so she
approached him and carefully tried to take his gun.
Mildred testified they struggled for the gun before she finally got
hold of it. Robert was angry and got out of the chair. She thought he
would take the gun and shoot her, so she fired the gun. After firing three
times, she threw the gun down and walked out of the room, not knowing
if Robert was injured. She came back and realized Robert was hurt. She
called her neighbors, placed the gun on the coffee table, and went
outside to wait for the neighbors.
Mildred's neighbors, Frank and Helen Burnett, both testified that
Mildred called that night and said "she thought she'd shot Bob." They
went to Mildred's house and she explained what happened. She told
them essentially the same story she told at trial, except she told Helen
that Robert had fired two shots at her first. The Burnetts testified
Mildred's hair and clothing were not disturbed and the living room
showed no signs of struggle. While on the stand, Frank was presented a
photograph of the crime scene that indicated the recliner Robert was
sitting in had been moved slightly. Frank did not notice the chair had
been moved before.
Officer Randy Duvendack spoke with Mildred the night of the shooting.
He noticed nothing unusual about her appearance. Mildred told Officer
Duvendack that her husband slapped her after a fight over the
thermostat. She left the room, then returned, and he had a gun and
threatened to kill her. She ran toward the door and he fired two shots at
her. She then charged him, knocked him over after a brief struggle, and
got the gun. He walked back toward the recliner, she shot him once, and
he fell into the chair.
At trial, Mildred explained that she lied at first because she
panicked. She was afraid no one would believe the truth. She testified
she was now telling the truth.
Several officers investigated the shooting. Robert was found sitting
in the recliner with a gun wound to the abdomen. A cigarette lay at his
feet and an undisturbed cigarette ash was located below Robert's hand
beside the chair. Woodchips from the ceiling were found on his shoulder
and the floor around him, but none were found underneath his body. A
bullet hole was found in a ceiling beam above and slightly forward of
where Robert was sitting, and another hole was found in a humidifier
behind Robert. The bullet hole on the beam had an entry defect on the
north side and an exit defect on the bottom.
A firearm examination expert testified the path of the bullet through
Robert's body was consistent with him being shot from at least a few feet
away while in a reclining position, although it was also consistent with
a person firing a gun from an area lower than Robert's abdomen. Robert's
blood-alcohol level was .247, 2 ½ times the legal limit for
The jury found defendant guilty of first degree murder. She was
sentenced to 28 years' imprisonment with 3 years' ...