People v. Rutigliano

Decision Date08 May 2020
Docket NumberNo. 1-17-1729,1-17-1729
Citation441 Ill.Dec. 122,2020 IL App (1st) 171729,156 N.E.3d 122
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Aaron RUTIGLIANO, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

JUSTICE HARRIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

¶ 1 Following a 2017 jury trial, defendant Aaron Rutigliano was convicted of first degree murder and aggravated battery and sentenced to consecutive prison terms of 30 and 2 years. On appeal, defendant contends that (1) he should have been convicted of second degree murder rather than first degree murder, and (2) the trial court erroneously instructed the jury that voluntary intoxication is not a defense. For the reasons stated below, we affirm.

¶ 2 I. JURISDICTION

¶ 3 On January 12, 2017, a jury found defendant guilty of first degree murder and aggravated battery. On May 23, 2017, the court sentenced defendant to a total of 32 years' imprisonment and denied reconsideration of its sentencing. Defendant filed his notice of appeal on June 21, 2017. Accordingly, this court has jurisdiction pursuant to article VI, section 6, of the Illinois Constitution ( Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, § 6 ), and Illinois Supreme Court Rule 603 (eff. Feb. 6, 2013) and Rule 606 (eff. July 1, 2017) governing appeals from a final judgment of conviction in a criminal case.

¶ 4 II. BACKGROUND

¶ 5 Defendant was charged with first degree murder for the stabbing death of Antonio Gamboa and with attempted first degree murder and aggravated battery for slashing and cutting Gianna Pena, all allegedly committed with a knife on or about February 1, 2015.

¶ 6 Defendant answered that he would rely on the insufficiency of the State's evidence and could assert affirmative defenses of intoxicated or drugged condition—citing 720 ILCS 5/6-3 (West 2016) —and self-defense.

¶ 7 A. Pretrial

¶ 8 The State filed motions in limine , including one seeking to bar defendant from arguing diminished capacity as part of a reasonable doubt argument; that is, arguing or presenting evidence that he "was incapable of acting in a knowing or intentional manner on February 1, 2015." The State asserted that "[d]iminished capacity is not a defense recognized in Illinois" and sought to bar argument that defendant's intoxication rendered him unable to form the intent to commit first degree murder or to appreciate the criminality of his conduct, unless he "properly raised the defense of intoxication." While the record indicates that this motion was granted in part and denied in part, the relevant transcript does not include argument or a ruling on the motion.

¶ 9 The parties offered proposed jury instructions before trial, including self-defense and second degree murder based on an unreasonable belief in self-defense. Defendant's proposed instructions included one titled "Involuntary Intoxication or Drugged Condition" stating "A person who is in an intoxicated or a drugged condition which has been involuntarily produced is not criminally responsible for his conduct if the condition deprives him of substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law." Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions, Criminal, No. 24-25.03 (approved December 8, 2011) (hereinafter IPI Criminal).

¶ 10 At the instructions conference, defense counsel repeatedly referred to "the defense of involuntary intoxication." When the court asked if the defense case was "I was involuntarily intoxicated, but if I wasn't, then it was self-defense; or I was voluntarily intoxicated and I was defending myself," defense counsel replied "Sounds good to me." The court decided that the defense-proposed instruction on involuntary intoxication would be given if involuntary intoxication was properly raised at trial, and that self-defense and second degree murder instructions would be given if self-defense was properly raised at trial.

¶ 11 B. Opening Statements

¶ 12 In the State's opening statement, it argued that defendant was at a Super Bowl watching party with his girlfriend Danielle Fernandez and various other people including Gamboa and Pena, where drinks and marijuana were served. When Fernandez asked defendant if he wanted to leave the party to attend another party elsewhere, he declined. A short time later, defendant put a steak knife in his back pocket, grabbed Fernandez's arm, and told her that they were leaving. Remarking that he could kill them all, defendant shoved Fernandez across the room, picked her up, and threw her to the floor again. He then "turns his attention on every person that intervenes," attacking Pena and then Gamboa with the steak knife, stabbing the latter repeatedly even when party guest Daisy Martinez threw a vase and a bowl at defendant. One of the party hosts, Darud Akbar, tried to subdue defendant, who fought him off. Akbar and host Mia McNair then stabbed defendant in further efforts to subdue him, as the police had been called but not yet arrived. Defendant was only placed under control by the police. The State argued that "defendant was in control" despite some of his remarks that evening being "crazy," and that he acted with the intent to kill.

¶ 13 In his opening statement, defense counsel admitted "there's not going to be any real issue with what occurred" at the party nor a challenge to the credibility of the State's witnesses, though each witness "is probably going to have a different perspective of what occurred." Instead, the jury's task would be to "resolve a why in all of this," as not all killing constitutes first degree murder as the jury would be instructed. Counsel argued that Akbar served marijuana and Martinez served "spiked" punch during the party, which was "cool" and "mellow" until well after the halftime show when Fernandez asked defendant if he wanted to leave for another party. He politely declined, as the weather was foul, and there was no argument between defendant and Fernandez. Instead, defendant suddenly grabbed her by the arm and remarked that someone was trying to kill him and they needed to leave. They "end[ed] up on the floor," and the others surrounded them. Defendant put the knife in his pocket and then began swinging it around, stabbing Gamboa fatally while "screaming all sorts of things * * * about Jesus and sex." Defendant fought without weakening, despite having two knives stuck into him, and continued fighting in the ambulance to the hospital. Counsel characterized defendant's actions as "in a split second [he] went crazy" and denied that he had any motive, noting that he "was never armed until he got to the party."

¶ 14 C. State's Evidence

¶ 15 Martinez testified to being Gamboa's girlfriend, and Fernandez testified to having been defendant's girlfriend. Pena and Breanne Lash testified to being coworkers of McNair, Martinez, and Fernandez in early 2015. Dawn Moore testified to being Akbar's niece, and Shiquetta Ector testified to being a friend of McNair. On the night of February 1, 2015, McNair and her boyfriend Akbar hosted a Super Bowl viewing party at Akbar's home. As there was a snowstorm that night, Gamboa and Martinez picked up Pena, Lash, Fernandez, and defendant on the way to the party. Ector was at the party before Gamboa and the others, while Moore arrived after they did. Moore knew only Akbar and McNair, and Ector did not know McNair's coworkers or their boyfriends. Food and alcohol were served—defendant ate and drank—and McNair passed around a single marijuana cigarette or "blunt" that was smoked by McNair, defendant, Fernandez, Akbar, and Martinez. McNair, Akbar, and Fernandez testified that Gamboa also smoked the blunt.

¶ 16 Fernandez testified that, at the party, she and defendant were between the living room and the kitchen island. She asked defendant at some point after the halftime show if he wanted to leave to attend another Super Bowl party, but he replied that he was happy being at the party with her. He had not behaved unusually up to that point. However, a short time later, he told her that he needed to leave the party. When she asked why, he repeated that he had to leave and wanted to go home, and he squeezed her arm "very hard, like harder than I was comfortable with." He told her "this is what I've been training for, and we could kill them all" and said "things like I didn't understand, like we have to put the weed in a box or someone's going to try and kill me." Defendant reached behind him to a knife on the kitchen counter and put in in his pocket. Realizing that she "had to do something," Fernandez made eye contact with Moore and stood up. Defendant grabbed her, dragged her away from the kitchen island, shoved her against a shelf, and then threw her to the floor. As she tried to get up, he grabbed her hair and pushed her head into the floor. She called for help, "[s]omeone got him off of me," and she ran to a bedroom. When she came back, "it was a blur" but defendant had Gamboa against the wall and was "making a very deliberate motion" of stabbing him. Though she did not see the knife, she knew defendant had one, and Gamboa was "slumped against the wall" as if injured. Martinez threw various objects at defendant's hand but could not stop him from attacking Gamboa. Fernandez fled to a bathroom where Lash was hiding and they called the police. She could hear "a lot of screaming" and glass breaking, and defendant calling her name, so she did not leave the bathroom until the police arrived.

¶ 17 On cross-examination, Fernandez testified that defendant did not act unusually, and there were no unusual occurrences, such as arguments, before the incident. He did have two discussions with Lash, but Fernandez considered them "normal." He seemed to be enjoying himself at the party. When he grabbed her arm and demanded to leave, Fernandez presumed he meant to go to the other party. However, he then said that she knew why, which puzzled her. As to what else he sa...

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2 cases
  • People v. Hardy
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  • People v. Grayer
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    ...of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1963, ch. 38, ¶ 6-3.See People v. Rutigliano , 2020 IL App (1st) 171729, ¶ 69, 441 Ill.Dec. 122, 156 N.E.3d 122 (reviewing the legislative history of the Illinois intoxicated or drugged condition statute).......

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