from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit,
Whiteside County, Illinois, Circuit No. 15-CF-164 Honorable
Walter D. Braud, Judge, Presiding.
PRESIDING JUSTICE CARTER delivered the judgment of the court,
with opinion. Justice Lytton concurred in the judgment and
1 Defendant, Michael L. Wilkinson, appeals following his
conviction for aggravated battery. He argues that the State
presented insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable
doubt that his use of force in defending himself was not
reasonable. We affirm.
3 The State charged defendant with aggravated battery (720
ILCS 5/12-3.05(a)(1) (West 2014)), stemming from events
occurring on May 23, 2015. The charging instrument alleged
that defendant knowingly caused great bodily harm to Kevin
Cook in that he struck Cook in the head and face with a
hammer. Defendant disclosed to the prosecution before trial
that he would be claiming self-defense.
4 Defendant's trial commenced on October 20, 2015. The
evidence at trial showed that Cook lived at 607 Dixon Avenue
in Rock Falls. Defendant's fiancée, Tacura Britt,
lived at 614 East Fourth Street in Rock Falls. The backyards
of those two residences were separated by two other yards and
a fence. Defendant did not live with Britt, but was at her
house frequently to watch the children or to spend the night.
5 Testimony adduced at trial showed that defendant and Cook
were in their respective yards on the morning of May 23,
2015. Defendant, in an attempt to have Britt's children
come into the house, yelled profanities at them. Cook
testified that he called defendant over to the fence between
the yards and told him "we don't do this in the
neighborhood" because they did not want the children to
hear such language. Cook testified that he asked defendant to
"take it in the house." Cook's wife, Sherry,
recalled that Cook "screamed 'hey' " at
defendant, then told him "this is a good
neighborhood" and that people did not want to hear
defendant using bad language. Defendant heard Cook yell
"hey, " but he assumed Cook was not speaking to
him. Later, Cook told defendant that "this is a good
neighborhood, we [are] good parents." Defendant walked
6 Later that day, Cook heard defendant yelling to Britt:
"[T]his white mother fucker back here is telling me how
to talk to my kids ***." Cook again chastised defendant
for his use of profanities. Cook testified that defendant
threatened to kill him. Sherry testified that defendant
yelled "I'll beat you down, white boy." At
defendant's invitation, Cook jumped over the fence
separating the yards, but did not approach defendant.
7 Defendant testified that the confrontation was mutual, with
each man threatening to "whoop each other's
ass." Once Cook had come over the fence, defendant and
Cook continued yelling and using profanities until Britt
coaxed defendant into her car. Britt testified that Cook
yelled to defendant: "[W]e'll finish this when the
kids aren't around." She saw Cook jump over the
fence and threaten to "F [defendant] up." Cook
referred to defendant as "a boy."
8 Cook testified that he saw someone return to Britt's
house later that evening. He believed it was just Britt and
the children. Feeling bad about the altercation, Cook and his
friend, Mark Moore, approached Britt's door with the
intent of apologizing and thanking her for calming defendant
down. They knocked on the side door to Britt's house.
Cook testified that when Britt opened the door, defendant was
standing behind her. Cook was surprised to see him. Cook
began to apologize when defendant struck him in the face with
a hammer. Cook described the impact as a white flash. He
agreed that the hammer strike caught him in the eyebrow area.
He fell down. Cook testified: "I kept getting hit, kept
seeing them white flashes." While this was happening,
Cook was "[t]rying to get up, trying to get away."
He testified that "after a few more hits" he could
not see anything. He denied ever striking defendant or Britt.
He denied ever entering or reaching into Britt's house.
Moore eventually helped Cook up and took him back to his
9 Cook testified that he suffered fractures to his eye
socket, sinus cavity, and "nose socket" as a result
of the altercation. He required 12 staples and a number of
stitches. A tendon was also severed. He continued to suffer
from eye spasms and headaches.
10 On cross-examination, Cook testified that he took
"[t]wo hits" of marijuana that evening, before the
physical altercation. He could not recall how much alcohol he
drank because he was not keeping track. He denied telling a
police officer that he and Moore went to Britt's house to
confront defendant. He explained that he brought Moore to
Britt's house because defendant was very upset and Cook
"didn't want to appear that [he] was *** in the same
manner." Moore also had a cell phone "in case
11 Sherry testified that she saw Britt and three children
return to the house that night, but did not see defendant.
Cook told Sherry that he wanted to go to Britt's house to
apologize to her. While Cook had consumed alcohol that day,
Sherry did not believe him to be intoxicated.
12 Defendant testified that he and Britt returned to her
house that night sometime between 8:30 and 9. Five to ten
minutes later, they "heard a loud banging on the
door." Defendant did not know who was at the door, but
told them to go away, reasoning that it was too late at night
for someone to be visiting. Defendant retrieved a hammer
because he was concerned that someone was trying to break
into the house. Britt opened the door and defendant saw Cook.
Defendant told Cook to leave the property. According to
defendant, Cook said he was the neighborhood watch and that
"he's going to have us out the neighborhood within a
week, because the neighbors don't want us in the
neighborhood anyway." An argument ensued, with Cook
wide-eyed and angry. Defendant testified that Cook did not
apologize or thank Britt for anything.
13 Defendant observed Cook ball his hand into a fist.
Defendant testified: "I proceeded to ask him, man, point
blank, who the fuck is you to tell me how to talk to my kids
and next thing you know I'm being punched in the
face." Defendant was standing inside the house when Cook
punched him. The punch landed "[r]ight between the
eyes." Defendant testified that after he was punched, he
hit Cook with the hammer and then they both fell through the
doorway and onto the porch. Defendant believed it was
necessary to swing the hammer to protect himself.
14 Once they had fallen onto the porch, Cook had a hold on
defendant's arms, and defendant repeatedly asked him to
let go. He estimated that he told Cook at least five times to
let him go. Defendant could not recall whether Cook initially
grabbed his arms inside the house or after they had fallen
outside. Defendant was trying to get away and "struck
him again with the hammer." Moore took the hammer out of
defendant's hand and threw it in the yard.
15 On cross-examination, defendant admitted he could not
recall exactly how many times he hit Cook with the hammer
inside the house, testifying that he "just started
swinging." He testified that there was no blood in the
house because after he struck defendant with the hammer they
were "instantly *** outside on the ground fighting,
tussling and stuff." Defendant did not see Moore until
he and Cook were outside. He did not know if the first hammer
strike caused the gash over Cook's eye. Defendant
recalled hitting some garbage cans as he fell onto the porch;
he did not know if Cook hit the cans as well.
16 Britt testified that she and defendant returned to the
house around 8 p.m. The children were at a babysitter's
house. Around 8:15 p.m., Britt "heard a big bang on the
door." She peered through a window and saw Cook and
another man at her door. She opened the door; Cook was
standing on the grass adjacent to the concrete, with Moore
behind him. Cook told Britt to tell defendant not to use
profanities outside while yelling at the children. Britt
asked Cook why he cared what defendant did. According to
Britt, Cook responded:"[T]his is a good neighborhood and
we're good parents." Britt described Cook as mad,
with wide eyes and spit flying from his mouth as he spoke.
Britt repeatedly told Cook to leave.
17 Britt yelled for defendant because she was scared.
Defendant came to the door, standing behind Britt. Britt
testified: "[A]s soon as he seen [defendant], [Cook]
instantly went into a rage. *** [H]e was *** screaming even
louder, screaming, just screaming. He was like, well, come
out here, I'll give you a butt whoopin', *** I'll
show you what a redneck country boy can do, come
outside." Defendant and Cook yelled at each other. Britt
continued to tell Cook to leave. According to Britt, Cook
yelled: "I'm neighborhood watch. If you guys
don't get out of here in a week, I'll have you out of
here." Britt noted that Cook did not apologize.
18 Britt continued to stand between the two men because she
did not want the situation to escalate. She could smell an
odor of alcohol so strong it made her "sick to [her]
stomach." Britt testified that Cook eventually punched
defendant. Cook's fist grazed Britt's face before
hitting defendant. Cook then stepped into the house and
grabbed defendant's left arm. Britt testified that
defendant reached for a hammer, which was sitting on the
adjacent countertop. Defendant struck Cook in the head twice
with the hammer, and they fell outside through the doorway.
Cook was still holding onto defendant. Defendant landed on
top of Cook; Moore was still standing in the grass next to
the concrete. Britt testified that defendant and Cook
"were wrestling around outside on the cement."
Defendant was continuously yelling at Cook to let go of him.
Britt recalled that Moore took the hammer out of
defendant's hand. Britt called 911.
19 John Wolfe testified that he lived across the street from
Britt. He was on the front steps of his house on the night of
May 23, 2015, when he heard yelling from "[s]ome big,
white guy" in Britt's side yard. Wolfe saw the man
standing on a cement porch, yelling at someone inside the
house. A second man was standing behind him. Wolfe explained
what happened next:
"[H]e yelled for a few minutes, asked the neighbor to
come outside and said he was going to kick his ass and then
the next thing I know I seen him step through the door, ***
looked like he was swinging a punch, big right hook coming up
over top and the next thing I know he come back out the door
on his back with a thin guy on top of him and the neighbor
lady yelled that she was ...