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People v. Washington

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, First Division

September 30, 2019

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
NELSON WASHINGTON, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 13 CR 9104 Honorable Mary Margaret Brosnahan, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE PIERCE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Hyman and Justice Walker concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          PIERCE JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Defendant, Nelson Washington, was convicted of aggravated battery with a firearm and reckless conduct and was sentenced to a term of 18 years' imprisonment. Defendant now appeals and argues: 1) he is entitled to a new trial because the jury instructions resulted in legally inconsistent verdicts; 2) the trial court erred when it refused to instruct the jury after the jury requested the definition of the word "knowingly" for the aggravated battery with a firearm count; and 3) the trial court erred when it refused to instruct the jury on self-defense when there was evidence to support defendant's reasonable belief that unlawful force was threatened against him or another and the force he used in response was necessary to avert harm to himself or others. For the following reasons, we reverse and remand for a new trial.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 Defendant was charged under indictment with two counts of attempt first degree murder and one count of aggravated battery with a firearm based on the act of discharging a firearm and causing the paralysis of John Pipkin. Following a jury trial, defendant was convicted of reckless conduct, a lesser offense of attempt first degree murder, and aggravated battery with a firearm. He was sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment on the aggravated battery with a firearm conviction.

         ¶ 4 Pipkin testified that he had a party at his second-floor apartment at 5719 South Ada in Chicago on April 14, 2013. Pipkin was drinking and smoking marijuana and playing video games when he made a comment about Andre Lewis, which Lewis may or may not have overheard. Lewis entered the room and Pipkin started laughing at him. According to Pipkin, Lewis then said "what you laughing at, bitch?" Pipkin responded by telling Lewis to watch his mouth. Lewis cussed at Pipkin a second time and a fist fight ensued in the kitchen.

         ¶ 5 Pipkin, being the larger of the two men, ended up on top of Lewis. People at the party tried to break up the fight, including Washington who pulled Pipkin off of Lewis and then punched Pipkin in the face. Lewis and Washington ran out of the apartment and Pipkin chased after them. In an effort to stop him from going after Lewis and Washington, Pipkin's girlfriend, Octavia Addison, threw a cup of water on the floor and on the interior flight of stairs. Pipkin slid down the stairs but eventually made it outside.

         ¶ 6 Lewis was standing on the sidewalk yelling at Pipkin to come and fight. Pipkin obliged and he and Lewis started fist fighting. Pipkin knocked Lewis down and heard Washington say, "What's up now, bitch-ass nigga?" Pipkin turned around and saw Washington draw a gun from his hoodie and put the gun to Pipkin's neck. Pipkin responded, "I ain't scared, shoot." Pipkin testified that he was just standing there, he heard the gun go off and then he fell to the ground. Once he fell to the ground, he could hear people telling him to get up but he could not move.

         ¶ 7 Pipkin was taken to the hospital, where he stayed for about a month before being transferred to a rehabilitation facility. He is wheelchair bound and cannot move his legs or the fingers of his right hand.

         ¶ 8 Elaine Leslie was at the party and watched the events outside from the apartment window. She saw Lewis and defendant confront Pipkin outside and saw defendant pull a gun from his pants and point it at Pipkin's neck. Pipkin told defendant, "bust that bitch, I'm not scared." Elaine sprinted down the stairwell but stopped halfway when she heard a gunshot. She was too scared to go outside because she was afraid defendant was going to shoot her. After defendant ran off, she went outside and asked Pipkin if he was hurt. He responded that he was and thought that he had been shot in the neck. She tried to stop the bleeding. Elaine saw defendant run towards his house and pass an object to another party-goer outside.

         ¶ 9 Elaine spoke with police officers and recounted what she saw and heard. She told them she only saw the barrel of the gun because defendant gripped the rest of the gun in his right hand. She identified defendant and Lewis from a photo array.

         ¶ 10 Brian Connors, a Chicago fire department paramedic, arrived on the scene and found Pipkin with a gunshot wound to his neck. Pipkin was transported to Stroger hospital for treatment.

         ¶ 11 Dr. Anthony Dennis, a trauma surgeon at Stroger hospital, evaluated Pipkin and determined that Pipkin suffered a partially ...


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