People v. Laures, 12730.

CourtSupreme Court of Illinois
Writing for the CourtCARTER
Citation289 Ill. 490,124 N.E. 585
Docket NumberNo. 12730.,12730.
Decision Date27 October 1919

289 Ill. 490
124 N.E. 585


No. 12730.

Supreme Court of Illinois.

Oct. 27, 1919.

Error to Circuit Court, Bureau County; Joe A. Davis, Judge.

Prudencio Laures was convicted of murder, and he brings error. Affirmed.

[289 Ill. 491]

[124 N.E. 586]

Walter A. Panneck, of La Salle, for plaintiff in error.

Edward J. Brundage, Atty. Gen., Josef T. Skinner, State's Atty., of Princeton and Floyd E. Britton, of Springfield (J. L. Spaulding, of Princeton, of counsel), for the People.


About 1 o'clock on Christmas morning, December 25, 1918, plaintiff in error, Prudencio Laures, shot and killed Celestino Blanco in the home of Celedonio Menendez, at De Pue, in Bureau county, Ill. He was tried in the circuit court of that county, the jury finding him guilty of murder. After the motion for a new trial and in arrest of [289 Ill. 492]judgment was overruled he was sentenced to be hanged on April 11, 1919. The writ of error was thereafter made a supersedeas by one of the judges of this court in vacation, and the case is now here for review.

The evidence shows that the deceased, Blanco, and plaintiff in error were acquainted in Spain; that plaintiff in error was the first of the two to come and live at the village of De Pue, and that some time thereafter Blanco came to the same place; that both men were employed at the zinc works located there, plaintiff in error living in the eastern part of the village, in what is known as the White City, where the deceased lived about a mile westerly from plaintiff in error. The evidence tends to show that in March or April, 1918, there arrived in the village Josephine Alvirez, coming from Cuba; that plaintiff in error had sent money to apply on her transportation from Cuba to this county, and she came to De Pue under the impression that she was to marry him; that they lived together about two months in White City; that then they separated and she went to the western part of De Pue, where she started a boarding house, and had among her boarders for a time the deceased; that he lived at her boarding house until some time in September, 1918; that during the time Josephine Alvirez kept the boarding house plaintiff in error visited her at various times, and some conversation was had between them with reference to her quitting the boarding house and leaving the village, but she refused to leave

[124 N.E. 587]

De Pue. The evidence also tends to show that plaintiff in error claimed that he left a wife in Spain because she was going with certain men, and that the deceased was one of these men; that he said to several people during the time Josephine Alvirez was living in De Pue that unless the deceased kept away from her there would be trouble, or words to that effect; that he made this statement as late as two weeks before the shooting, although there is no evidence in the record showing definitely that the deceased had anything [289 Ill. 493]to do with the Alvirez woman after he left her boarding house in September before the shooting. There is no evidence indicating that during the time that both men lived in the village, up to the night of the shooting, there had been open trouble of any kind between them. The building in which the shooting occurred is a two-story frame structure, facing north, on the south side of Marquette street, which there runs east and west. There was an ordinary entrance near the center of the front of the building, which led to a short hallway, upon the west side of which, about two feet south of the front entrance, was a door that led into a kitchen. The kitchen faced Marquette street. South of and immediately back of it was the dining room, and east of the dining room was what is known as the coal room. The only entrance to the dining room from the front part of the building was a door at the northwest corner of the dining room and the southwest corner of the kitchen. The dining room contained a heating stove standing in the northeast corner, a table about three feet in width, back of the table a bench five feet in length which was used by the boarders to sit on for their meals at the table, and there were four or five chairs in the room that night on three sides of the table; the bench being between the table and the west wall of the dining room. The coal room to the east of the dining room does not appear to have been used for any purpose in the winter except to store coal, having an entrance into it from the porch at the rear of the building and also from near the southeast corner of the dining room.

The testimony shows that there is a custom among the Spanish people on Christmas Eve to congregate at some home to celebrate the coming of Christmas; that on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1918, Celestino (called Celo) Menendez, the occupant of the building described herein, had such a gathering at his home, to which he invited some of his Spanish friends, including plaintiff in error, but did not [289 Ill. 494]invite deceased. Plaintiff in error reached the house about 8:30 in the evening. The deceased and two friends, Rodriquez and Gonzales, arrived at the house about 10 o'clock, and were admitted by the wife of Menendez. They went through the kitchen into the dining room. Plaintiff in error was then in the dining room. The evidence tends to show that deceased sat down by him on the bench, and that after their arrival all present took a bottle of beer apiece; that they drank beer, ate cake, played cards, and told stories, and were all enjoying themselves, each according to his own fashion; that plaintiff in error and deceased joined in the telling of stories, although they did not speak to each other; that they were all there together until between 12 and 1 o'clock; that during that time plaintiff in error left the dining room, going out to a porch at the rear of the house through the coal room; that when he came back deceased was occupying the seat that he had left, so he took a seat across the table; that many of the men wore their overcoats while in the room, although some of them removed their hats; that not long after 12 o'clock the deceased suggested that he and his two companions go home. Plaintiff in error testified that about that time he left the dining room and entered the kitchen, starting for home, and was walking towards the door leading to the hallway, that as he got near the door deceased came up to him and said, ‘I will kill you,’ and took hold of him by the clothing and started to push him toward the dining room, and as plaintiff in error was trying to turn around the deceased attempted to throw him on the ground and choke him, saying, ‘You son of a bitch! I will kill you!’ that during this struggle he shot several times at the deceased; that they continued struggling through the door into the dining room and overturned the stove there; that deceased threw him to the floor in the dining room.

The testimony agrees that deceased was shot at least twice, one of the wounds being fatal and the other being a [289 Ill. 495]flesh wound. There is some testimony that he was shot three times, the third wound being a mere flesh wound, and there is also some testimony tending to show that there were four shots fired. We think the weight of the testimony tends to show that the fatal shot was fired in the kitchen and not after the parties reached the dining room. After the stove was overturned the proprietor, Menendez, interfered and separated the two men while they were struggling. Plaintiff in error left at once and went home. The deceased was helped to his feet and placed on a bed, but lived less than hour. Only two of the witnesses claimed to have seen any of the struggle that took place in the kitchen. These were Rodriquez and Gonzales, who came with deceased to the place, and it is quite clear from their testimony that they did not see the beginning of the struggle, and were unable to tell definitely all that took place during the struggle in the kitchen. It is not claimed, and there is no testimony, that the deceased was armed in any way, with a pistol or otherwise. Three bullet holes were found

[124 N.E. 588]

in the walls of the kitchen, and it is apparent from these, assuming, as we must, that the shots were all fired by plaintiff in error, that during the struggle in the kitchen the two men changed sides. The weight of the testimony is to the effect that the shooting occurred very shortly after deceased entered the kitchen, some of the testimony being to the effect that it was two or three minutes after plaintiff in error entered the kitchen. We think it is manifest from reading the testimony of all these witnesses that none of them were absolutely certain as to just how long it was after either the deceased or plaintiff in error left the dining room before the shooting took place. It is evident that it was a very brief period.

We find considerable discussion in the briefs as to the size of the rooms and the different articles in the kitchen and dining room, but we do not think the size of these rooms and articles had any material bearing on the issues, [289 Ill. 496]except in so far as the location and size of the doorways might have some bearing on the testimony of Gonzales and Rodriquez as to what they saw of the struggle in the kitchen.

The theory of the state on the trial was, and now is, that plaintiff in error went to the kitchen first to lie in wait, as it were, for Blanco when he came through, and that the assault he made upon deceased was premediated. The theory of counsel for plaintiff in error on the trial was, and the theory of his present counsel now is, that the deceased was the aggressor in the beginning of the trouble and continued the aggressor during the whole struggle until he received his fatal wound; that plaintiff in error was justified in shooting in self-defense.

Counsel for plaintiff in error argues earnestly and at length that the evidence in the record does not justify the conviction, and that the case...

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