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People v. Culbreath

October 29, 2003

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
DARRELL B. CULBREATH, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of McLean County No. 01CF622 Honorable Donald D. Bernardi, Judge Presiding.

Myerscough, P.J., and Knecht, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Steigmann

UNPUBLISHED

In August 2001, a jury convicted defendant, Darrell B. Culbreath, of aggravated battery (720 ILCS 5/12-4(b)(1) (West Supp. 2001)). In November 2001, the trial court sentenced him to an extended term of six years in prison, based on a prior conviction (730 ILCS 5/ 5-5-3.2(b)(1) (West Supp. 2001); 730 ILCS 5/5-8-2(a) (West 2000)). The court also ordered that within two years of his release from prison, defendant pay $10,026.02 in restitution to the hospital that treated the victim.

Defendant appeals, arguing that (1) the trial court erred by (a) sustaining the State's objection to a question posed to defendant on redirect examination, (b) conducting voir dire of prospective jurors without a court reporter present, and (c) ordering that defendant pay $10,026.02 in restitution within two years of his release from prison; and (2) his extended-term sentence must be vacated. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

In June 2001, the State charged defendant with two counts of aggravated battery, alleging that he (1) knowingly and without legal justification caused great bodily harm to Larry Lewis, in that he stabbed Lewis in the back and punctured his lung (count I), and (2) knowingly and without legal justification caused bodily harm to Lewis, in that he stabbed Lewis with a knife, a deadly weapon (count II). The State later dismissed count I.

In August 2001, on the first day of defendant's trial, the trial court asked the State and defense counsel if either party wanted a court reporter present to transcribe voir dire of prospective jurors. The State informed the court that it was not necessary for a court reporter to be present. Defense counsel responded as follows: "I would be willing to waive the presence of the [c]court [r]eporter with the understanding that the reporter is nearby in case we need to make a record of something." The court then excused the court reporter for voir dire. Court reporting resumed the next day for counsels' opening statements and the remainder of defendant's trial.

Because the parties are familiar with the evidence presented at defendant's trial, we discuss it only to the extent necessary to put defendant's arguments in context. Lewis testified that he was a tenant and assistant manager of a 12-unit apartment building in Bloomington. Around 8:30 a.m. on June 2, 2001, Lewis was cleaning a second-floor apartment when his cousin informed him that some people were making noise downstairs. Lewis went downstairs and encountered defendant and defendant's girlfriend, Eartha West. He told defendant and West to quiet down and then went back upstairs. Around 11:30 a.m., defendant came upstairs and began knocking on an apartment door. When Lewis asked defendant to stop, defendant responded that defendant could go anywhere he wanted. Defendant then stepped toward Lewis, and the men began fighting. Lewis knocked defendant to the floor, and a steak knife fell out of defendant's back pocket. Lewis picked up the knife, put it in his pocket, and told defendant to leave the apartment building. Defendant refused, and instead, entered an apartment occupied by Jack Duncan. Lewis followed defendant and once again told him to leave. Defendant said that he was trying to find West. Lewis told defendant if he left the building, Lewis would find West and send her outside. Defendant then went outside.

A few minutes later, Lewis went outside and told defendant that West did not want to see him. Lewis then returned defendant's knife and told him to leave the premises. Lewis went back upstairs. A couple of minutes later, defendant reentered the apartment building and said he needed to talk to West. Lewis once again told defendant to leave and followed him outside. Once outside, Lewis noticed that defendant had put a beer bottle on the grass. When Lewis bent down to pick up the bottle and throw it away, defendant stabbed him in his right shoulder. Lewis turned toward defendant, who was still holding the knife. Defendant said, "I told you that I was going to get you." Lewis, who was weak and having difficulty breathing, was taken to BroMenn Hospital, where he was hospitalized for one week.

Bloomington police detective Tim McCoy testified that during a June 5, 2001, interview of defendant, defendant stated that on the morning of June 2, 2001, he went to the apartment building. He walked upstairs and knocked on a friend's apartment door. As he was doing so, Lewis hit him in the face. Defendant then left the building. Defendant initially denied knowing anything about the stabbing. However, after further questioning, defendant told McCoy that after Lewis hit him, the struggle continued when defendant retreated outside, and defendant stabbed Lewis during that struggle. McCoy told defendant that McCoy did not believe his story. Defendant then said that after he and Lewis went outside, Lewis reached for a 40-ounce beer bottle that was on the ground. Defendant then stabbed Lewis because he thought Lewis was going to hit him with the bottle. After the stabbing, defendant left and later threw the knife down a sewer. Defendant also told McCoy that he had been drinking beer and using drugs the night before and the morning of the incident.

Defendant testified on his own behalf that on the morning of the incident, he went to the apartment building to visit a friend. Once there, he saw West on the porch, and they began arguing. Defendant then tried to visit his friend, who was unavailable. He went upstairs to visit Duncan and wait for his ride home. When defendant saw West, who was still angry, he decided to visit another friend who lived next door to Lewis. After he knocked on that friend's door, Lewis came into the hallway and told him to stop knocking on the door. Before defendant could walk away, Lewis hit him in the face, knocking him down. Defendant was shaking as he scooted away from Lewis, who was standing over him with clenched fists. Defendant told Lewis that defendant did not want any trouble, and defendant walked outside. Lewis followed defendant outside, tossed the knife (which defendant initially denied but ultimately acknowledged had fallen out of his pocket in the hallway) toward defendant, and picked up a 40-ounce beer bottle. Defendant, who was dazed and scared, thought Lewis was going to hit him with the bottle. As Lewis was "coming up" with the bottle in his hand, defendant grabbed the knife and stabbed him. Defendant acknowledged that when he stabbed Lewis, Lewis had not turned around and faced him.

On redirect examination, defendant testified that when Lewis was in the process of standing up with the bottle in his hand, defendant was scared. Defense counsel then asked the following question: "Did you fear that you were going to receive great bodily harm?" Defendant answered, "Yes, I did." At that point, the State objected on the grounds that the question was cumulative and beyond the questioning on cross-examination. The trial court sustained the State's objection, and defense counsel ended his redirect examination.

On rebuttal, Lewis testified that the beer bottle was still on the ground when defendant stabbed him.

Based on this evidence, the jury convicted defendant of aggravated battery, and the trial court sentenced him as stated. Defendant later filed a motion to reconsider his sentence, which the trial court denied. This appeal followed.

II. ANALYSIS

A. The Trial Court's Ruling on the State's Objection to the Question Regarding Defendant's Fear of Receiving Great Bodily Harm

Defendant first argues that the trial court erred by sustaining the State's objection to the following question posed to defendant on redirect examination: "Did you fear that you were going to receive great bodily harm?" Specifically, he contends that by sustaining the objection, the court improperly precluded him from presenting evidence regarding his state of mind at the time of the offense. We disagree.

The admissibility of evidence lies within the trial court's sound discretion, and this court will not substitute its judgment for that of the trial court absent a clear abuse of discretion. People v. Cookson, 3 ...


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