Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 00 CR 24779 Honorable Ronald A. Himel, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cahill
Following a bench trial, defendant Katherine Stevens was convicted of intimidation (720 ILCS 5/12-6(a)(1) (West 2000)) and sentenced to a three-year prison term. On appeal, she contends that the trial court deprived her of her right to a fair trial by: (1) interrupting defense counsel's closing argument; (2) prejudging the merits of the case; (3) misapprehending the law of specific intent; and (4) misusing evidence. We reverse.
Defendant was charged by information with the intimidation of Willie May Jimerson. At trial, Jimerson testified that the intimidation occurred on September 24, 2000, after she made a criminal misdemeanor complaint against defendant that alleged criminal trespass to Jimerson's vehicle. Jimerson testified that "[defendant] made a statement that if I come to court I better bring a pistol with me, *** she say that she was going to get a piece of my ass." Defendant made the statement in a telephone conversation initiated by defendant four days before Jimerson was to testify in court on the misdemeanor complaint.
Defendant testified in her own behalf and denied making threatening statements to Jimerson. During defense counsel's closing argument, the following exchanges between defense counsel and the trial court took place:
"DEFENSE COUNSEL: *** [Defendant's] words *** can be only vaguely construed to be threatening.
THE COURT: Yes, your definition would be perfect in a vacuum. I mean if there [were] no other things going on in someone's life, *** it would be pretty hard to convict anybody of these specific intent crimes, if in fact what you are trying to tell me means anything.
DEFENSE COUNSEL: Well, Judge--
THE COURT: We have the facts in this case.
THE COURT: The facts are the facts.
DEFENSE COUNSEL: We have a little history ongoing between Miss Jimerson and apparently this vehicle that [Jimerson] had.
THE COURT: Where do we get this? All this stuff comes in where that you are talking about--from the defendant's testimony?
DEFENSE COUNSEL: Part of that and part through Miss Jimerson.
THE COURT: I didn't hear Miss Jimerson testify to any ...