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People v. Carter

November 20, 2003


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Fitzgerald


Docket No. 94895-Agenda 13-September 2003.

Defendant, Kingsley Carter, was charged with first degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm. On January 20, 2000, following a jury trial in the circuit court of Peoria County, defendant was convicted of both first degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm and sentenced to a term of 30 years' imprisonment for the offense of first degree murder. The appellate court held that the trial court erred in not sua sponte issuing an involuntary manslaughter instruction to the jury, and reversed and remanded for a new trial. No. 3-00-0512 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). We allowed the State's petition for leave to appeal (177 Ill. 2d R. 315), and we now reverse the appellate court.


The following evidence was adduced at trial. Defendant, 53 years old, and the victim, Roy Williams, who was over sixty years old, were next-door neighbors. Defendant believed that between 1995 and 1999 the victim routinely vandalized his property by "keying" his car, throwing garbage into his yard, hitting the side of his house with a sledgehammer, throwing objects onto the roof of his house, and urinating in his basement through a leaky window.

Defendant testified that in December 1999 he purchased a shotgun because he was frightened by the victim's guests. He testified that strange people gathered at the victim's house and he became concerned when they hung around the victim's yard and had "loud discussions." Therefore, he kept the shotgun loaded and hidden in the closet for his safety.

On April 6, 1999, defendant called the police to report an alleged incident of vandalism. Defendant told the police that the victim had "keyed" his car. The police responded to defendant's home to investigate his complaint, and defendant informed them that he did not actually see the victim vandalize his property, but that he was certain the victim was responsible. After speaking with the victim and after examining the car and discovering no damage beyond normal wear and tear the police discontinued the investigation.

On April 16, 1999, defendant finished his lunch and walked outside to his front yard. It was then that he allegedly observed several holes in the back window of his car. He drove his car to the police station to report the damage, and on the way to the police station the window allegedly shattered. He completed the incident report at approximately 2 o'clock in the afternoon, and returned home.

On that same evening, the victim and his wife were at their home watching television. At approximately 11:15 p.m. the victim decided to go to the store for a snack. He exited the house through the front door, and walked to his truck parked on the street in the front of the house.

Meanwhile, also at 11:15 p.m., defendant decided to retaliate against the victim by damaging the victim's truck. Defendant testified that he was angry with the police for failing to promptly respond and investigate his shattered car window and as a consequence he retrieved a 12-gauge pump action shotgun, walked outside into his front yard and fired two shots into the windshield of the victim's truck located 20 feet in the distance. After the second shot entered the windshield, the door to the truck flew open and he saw the victim get out of the truck and run into the street. Defendant followed the victim into the street and fired a third shot into the air, causing the victim to trip as he ran. Defendant then continued to walk toward the victim who was by then lying on the ground. Defendant fired a fourth shot in front of the victim. As the victim attempted to get up off the ground, defendant fired a fifth shot to the side of the victim. Defendant then returned to his house and placed the shotgun against the wall next to the front door.

The police responded to the 911 call from the victim's wife. At the scene, the police discovered the victim in his front yard bleeding heavily from his left leg. Police also observed a late model Oldsmobile with a broken back window parked in a nearby driveway, and a truck with gunshot holes to the windshield parked along the curb. The police recovered three spent shotgun shells, each holding approximately 130 pellets, in defendant's front yard. The police arrested defendant after the victim identified him as the shooter. The police retrieved a shotgun from defendant's home and a fourth spent shell casing inside the chamber of the shotgun.

The victim died in surgery due to massive hemorrhaging. A forensic pathologist testified that the victim had approximately 59 shotgun pellet holes on the back left leg, a few pellet holes on the right leg, six pellet holes on the mid-back, one pellet hole in the right neck, and one pellet hole in the lower lip, together totaling 77 wounds.

At trial, defendant argued that he lacked the intent or knowledge required to support a murder conviction. Defendant testified that he only meant to damage the victim's property and that he did not intend to hit or strike the victim with his gunshots. He stated that it was coincidence the victim was inside his truck when he decided to shoot out the truck's windshield. He told the jury that once he realized the victim was inside the truck after firing the first and second shot, he only meant to frighten the victim when he continued shooting. Defendant testified that he did not aim at the victim and that he was not familiar with the scatter of shotgun pellets. Defendant stated, "I don't feel [the victim's] death was-I don't feel I contributed to his, I mean, I caused his death solely. I just don't feel that. I feel something else that happened to [the victim] from the time he got in the ambulance until they pronounced him dead at the hospital, it was something else that caused him to die. You don't normally die from being shot in the leg." Further, defendant presented expert testimony to explain that he suffered from a delusional disorder that hampered his relationships with others and blurred reality and fiction.

The State argued that defendant possessed the intent and knowledge required to support a murder conviction. The State presented evidence that defendant served five years in the Air Force and two years in the Navy to show that he was familiar with guns and their destructive capabilities. The State urged the jury to disbelieve defendant's assertion that it was coincidence the victim was inside the truck when he decided to shoot out the truck's windshield. The State argued that the defendant's deliberate pulling of the pump handle, reloading of the chamber after firing shots, and continued shooting at the victim as he fled, fell, and continued to flee demonstrated the necessary intent and knowledge required for a murder conviction.

Following arguments, defense counsel tendered an involuntary manslaughter instruction to the trial court, and the trial court held arguments concerning whether the evidence warranted the lesser-offense instruction. Following a recess to consider the issue, the trial court discussed with both parties whether it believed the evidence warranted an involuntary manslaughter instruction. The trial court held that "it would appear" the evidence warranted an instruction. The trial court then questioned whether defendant personally wanted the instruction. However, the trial court called a second recess when defendant informed the court that he and his counsel did not discuss the giving of an involuntary manslaughter instruction, ...

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