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People v. Roberts

July 30, 2004


[6] Appeal from Honorable Circuit Court of De Witt County. No. 03CM44. Stephen H. Peters, Judge Presiding.

[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cook

[8]  Defendant, Michael L. Roberts, was charged and convicted by a jury of one count of domestic battery (720 ILCS 5/12-3.2(a)(1) (West 2002)). On appeal, he argues that the trial court did not properly instruct the jury and did not provide the jury with the proper verdict forms. We reverse.

[9]  On February 26, 2003, the State filed a one-count information, charging defendant with domestic battery of his 16-year-old daughter, T.S.R. 720 ILCS 5/12-3.2(a)(1) (West 2002). The information stated:

[10]   "[Defendant] on or about the 25th day of February, 2003, *** committed the offense of domestic battery, in that said defendant knowingly caused bodily harm to [T.S.R.], a household member of the defendant, in that the said defendant pulled on [T.S.R.'s] hair and struck [T.S.R.] in the face with his hand ***."

[11]   On August 14 and 15, 2003, the trial court conducted a jury trial. At trial, defendant testified that he entered his home on the evening of February 25, 2003, and found his wife Sharon and daughter T.S.R. screaming at each other. T.S.R. testified that the argument had been going on for 15 or 20 minutes before defendant entered and became aware of it. T.S.R. testified that the argument began when she tried to speak with Sharon and had to raise her voice to get Sharon's attention because Sharon was watching television and was not responding. Sharon testified that the argument resulted from T.S.R.'s refusal to end her telephone conversation with her boyfriend despite Sharon's repeated requests to do so.

[12]   Defendant testified that he walked in, saw Sharon and T.S.R. screaming at each other, and asked T.S.R. to quit fighting and to go to her room. Defendant stated that T.S.R. did not go to her room but instead continued to yell at Sharon. Sharon testified that T.S.R. became physically aggressive toward her and hit her a couple of times in the head. Defendant testified that after about five more minutes of continued shouting, he grabbed T.S.R. by the hair and tried to make her go to her room. Defendant testified that, with T.S.R.'s hair in both of his hands, he "push[ed] her forward," in the direction of her bedroom. Defendant stated that he let go of T.S.R.'s hair because he thought she was walking toward her room, but she ran into the kitchen instead. He stated that as T.S.R. ran into the kitchen, she hit the light switch really hard and the power went out in the home. Defendant went downstairs and flipped the circuit breaker back on. Defendant testified that when he came back upstairs, T.S.R. was once again screaming at Sharon. However, when T.S.R. saw defendant, she ran upstairs toward her room. Defendant and Sharon testified that when T.S.R. came back downstairs sometime later, she had a bruised eye and accused defendant. Both defendant and Sharon denied that defendant ever struck T.S.R., even accidentally.

[13]   T.S.R. testified that when defendant pulled her by the hair he also hit her in the face. T.S.R. stated that defendant hit her about five or six times with his palm on the right side of her head and on the left side of her face around her eye as he dragged her across the room. As evidenced by the photograph submitted as People's exhibit No. 1, there was significant swelling around T.S.R.'s left eye when the police came to the house that night. However, Terry Walters, an investigator for the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), testified that he examined T.S.R. the day after the incident and saw very little if any swelling around her eye. He stated that in the vast majority of situations where somebody had been hit in the eye with the hand, the swelling was pronounced for several days afterward. Walters testified that it was his opinion that T.S.R.'s eye injury was not consistent with how she testified it was caused.

[14]   At the jury instruction conference after testimony had concluded, the State tendered and the court approved 14 jury instructions. One instruction approved by the court explained to the jurors that "a person is justified in the use of force when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend another against the imminent use of unlawful force." The court approved this instruction as a possible justification for defendant's actions, although defendant specifically testified that he did not see or know that T.S.R. hit Sharon.

[15]   Instead, defendant wanted to show that he was justified in pulling T.S.R.'s hair and dragging her to the stairway to discipline her. Defendant offered two nonpattern jury instructions on the subject for the court's approval. The first, identified as "defendant's No. 5," stated: "A parent is legally justified in using reasonable force when necessary as part of reasonable discipline of a child." The second, identified as "defendant's No. 6," stated: "A parent is justified in the use of force when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary for the proper and necessary discipline of his child." Defense counsel explained that these instructions reflect a common-law defense to domestic battery that allows a parent to use reasonable physical force in disciplining his child.

[16]   The court rejected both of defendant's nonpattern instructions, stating:

[17]   "When we *** start giving instructions that are non-IPI, those instructions must be those which accurately state the law. I am not convinced that those instructions that are tendered are appropriate to be given to the jury on this issue. I do not believe that the non-IPI instructions should be given. They are simple admittedly. They are brief admittedly. But I don't feel that they meet the remaining criteria, and so consequently, those instructions--that being defendant's exhibit [No.] 5 and defendant's [No.] 6--will be refused."

[18]   Also during the conference, defendant requested the court provide the jury with two sets of jury forms because there were two distinct physical acts alleged in the information: (1) pulling T.S.R.'s hair and (2) striking T.S.R. in the face. Defendant's forms would have allowed the jury to either convict or acquit defendant of domestic battery for each individual act. Over defendant's objection, the court gave only one set of verdict forms to the jury, explaining that although there were two allegations, there was only one charge, which combined both acts.

[19]   The 14 instructions tendered by the State and 2 verdict forms were delivered to the jury. The jury found defendant guilty of domestic battery (720 ILCS 5/12-3.2(a)(1) (West 2002)). On September 9, 2003, defendant filed a posttrial motion for a new trial. The court denied the motion and fined defendant $300. This appeal followed.

[20]   On appeal, defendant argues that the trial court improperly rejected both his proffered nonpattern jury instructions and his verdict forms separating the domestic battery charge into its physical components. ...

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