People v. Shields

Decision Date20 June 1991
Docket Number68603,Nos. 68566,68739,69054,s. 68566
Citation159 Ill.Dec. 40,143 Ill.2d 435,575 N.E.2d 538
Parties, 159 Ill.Dec. 40 The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellant, v. Edward SHIELDS, Appellee. The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellant, v. Jozsef FERCSI, Appellee. The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellant, v. Priscilla EVANS, Appellee. The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellant, v. Vincent THOMAS, Appellee.
CourtIllinois Supreme Court

Neil F. Hartigan, Atty. Gen., Springfield, and Cecil A. Partee, State's Atty., Chicago (Terence M. Madsen, Asst. Atty. Gen., Chicago, and Inge Fryklund, Kevin Sweeney, Joseph G. Howard, Renee Goldfarb and David R. Butzen, Asst. State's Attys., of counsel), for the People.

Randolph N. Stone, Public Defender, Chicago (Richard E. Gade, Stephanie L. Ellbogen and Mary C. Arundel, Asst. Defenders, of counsel), for appellees Edward Shields, Jozsef Fercsi and Vincent Thomas.

J. Kevin McCall and Susan L. Theiss, Jenner & Block, Chicago, for appellee Priscilla Evans.

Chief Justice MILLER delivered the opinion of the court:

The defendants in these appeals were found guilty in the circuit court of Cook County of the offense of murder. Each case was pending on direct review when this court decided People v. Reddick (1988), 123 Ill.2d 184, 122 Ill.Dec. 1, 526 N.E.2d 141. In Reddick, we found that the then-existing Illinois pattern jury instructions for murder and voluntary manslaughter were erroneous when given together. (Reddick, 123 Ill.2d at 193-97, 122 Ill.Dec. 1, 526 N.E.2d 141; see Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions, Criminal, Nos. 7.02 (homicide), 7.04 (voluntary manslaughter-provocation), 7.06 (voluntary manslaughter--intentional--belief of justification) (2d ed. 1981) (IPI Criminal 2d).) In each of the present consolidated causes, the appellate court reversed the defendant's murder conviction and remanded for a new trial on the ground that the jury had been given instructions of the type found improper in Reddick. (People v. Shields, (1989), 181 Ill.App.3d 260, 129 Ill.Dec. 949, 536 N.E.2d 999; People v. Fercsi, (1989), 182 Ill.App.3d 13, 130 Ill.Dec. 583, 537 N.E.2d 912; People v. Evans, (1989), 182 Ill.App.3d 874, 131 Ill.Dec. 351, 538 N.E.2d 726; People v. Thomas (1989), 185 Ill.App.3d 1050, 134 Ill.Dec. 100, 542 N.E.2d 100.) In each case we granted the State's petition for leave to appeal pursuant to Rule 315(a) (134 Ill.2d R. 315(a)) and consolidated the actions for purposes of argument and disposition.

In cause No. 68566, the defendant, Edward Shields, was charged with the murder of Richard Benage. At the time of the offense, Shields was driving his taxicab in North Chicago when he and another driver began shouting at one another. When the two drivers reached an intersection and stopped their cars, Benage, a passenger in the other driver's vehicle, approached Shields' taxicab. Shields and Benage argued briefly, and Shields shot Benage once, killing him. Shields testified that before the shooting Benage reached into the taxicab, tore Shields' shirt pocket, and tried to rob him. Shields also testified that he feared that the other driver was drunk and that he believed that Benage pointed a gun at him through the taxicab window. The jury was instructed both on murder and on the unreasonable belief form of voluntary manslaughter and found Shields guilty of murder.

In cause No. 68603, the defendant, Jozsef Fercsi, was charged with the murder of Tiberiu Paretei. At the time of the offense, Fercsi was drinking and watching television with his friends, Paretei and Robert Flowers. When Paretei made sexual comments about Flowers' daughter, Fercsi became angry and began arguing with Paretei. Flowers left the room. At trial, Fercsi testified that he hit Paretei on the head and in the stomach with a lead pipe and then continued to beat Paretei on the head with a hammer until Paretei was dead. Fercsi claimed that just prior to the killing, Paretei had kicked down the door to Fercsi's bedroom and threatened him with a knife. The jury was instructed both on murder and on the unreasonable belief form of voluntary manslaughter and found Fercsi guilty of murder.

In cause No. 68739, the defendant, Priscilla Evans, was charged with the murder of her husband, Joe Evans. At trial, Priscilla and the Evans children testified that they had suffered physical abuse from Joe for years. Evidence showed that Joe had ingested large amounts of alcohol, marijuana, and PCP throughout the day of the shooting. That evening, Joe had physically and verbally abused Priscilla. Just before the shooting, Joe admitted raping Priscilla's daughter and said that he would do so again. As Joe stepped toward Priscilla, she shot him. The jury was instructed on murder and on both forms of voluntary manslaughter and found Priscilla guilty of murder.

In cause No. 69054, the defendant, Vincent Thomas, was charged with the murder of James Jones. The two men had engaged in three fistfights the evening before the shooting. The next day, Thomas saw Jones and Jones' friend Archie on the street. Thomas approached Jones and Archie and threatened to kill Jones. Thomas believed that Archie swung an object at him, and Thomas then shot at both Archie and Jones, killing Jones. The jury was instructed on murder and on both forms of voluntary manslaughter and found Thomas guilty of murder.

In these appeals, we must determine whether Reddick applies retroactively to the defendants and, if so, whether they are entitled to new trials. We hold that the Reddick decision applies retroactively to the instant appeals. With respect to defendants Shields and Evans, we conclude that the erroneous instructions constituted plain error, requiring reversal of their convictions. In the cases of defendants Fercsi and Thomas, we conclude that the erroneous instructions did not rise to the level of plain error but rather were harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, in cause No. 68566 and cause No. 68739, we affirm the judgments of the appellate court. In cause No. 68603, we reverse the judgment of the appellate court, affirm the judgment of the circuit court, and remand the cause to the appellate court for disposition of an additional issue previously raised but not addressed in that court. Finally, in cause No. 69054, we reverse the judgment of the appellate court and affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

Retroactivity of Reddick

In Reddick, we held that the then-existing Illinois pattern jury instructions for murder and voluntary manslaughter, when given together, suffered from two related defects. The instructions incorrectly informed the jury that the State was required to prove the mental conditions that reduce murder to manslaughter when properly the State should have been required to disprove those circumstances. (Reddick, 123 Ill.2d at 193-97, 122 Ill.Dec. 1, 526 N.E.2d 141.) Because of the defects in the jury instructions, the Reddick court reversed the defendants' murder convictions and remanded the consolidated causes for new trials. Reddick, 123 Ill.2d at 199, 122 Ill.Dec. 1, 526 N.E.2d 141.

We must first determine whether the Reddick decision is of constitutional dimension, requiring its retroactive application to cases pending on direct review at the time Reddick was decided. The State argues that the proper test for determining the retroactivity of Reddick is found in People v. Laws (1981), 84 Ill.2d 493, 50 Ill.Dec. 701, 419 N.E.2d 1150. The State contends that the Reddick holding does not implicate constitutional rights and therefore, under Laws, Reddick does not apply retroactively.

This court has held that "retroactivity is triggered when two factors are present: (1) the case to which the new rule is to be applied was not final or was pending on direct review when the rule was declared and (2) the rule to be applied retroactively is of constitutional dimension." (People v. Erickson (1987), 117 Ill.2d 271, 290, 111 Ill.Dec. 924, 513 N.E.2d 367 (adopting the retroactivity standard announced in Griffith v. Kentucky (1987), 479 U.S. 314, 107 S.Ct. 708, 93 L.Ed.2d 649).) Each of the cases before us was pending on direct review when this court decided Reddick. Therefore, if the Reddick decision is of constitutional dimension, it applies retroactively to these defendants.

The State contends that the Reddick decision implicates only statutory rights because the holding in that case was based in part on statutory construction. We acknowledge that in allocating the burdens of proof for the offenses of murder and voluntary manslaughter, the Reddick court relied on the affirmative defense provisions of section 3-2 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill.Rev.Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 3-2). However, we determined that the jury instructions were erroneous because, not only did they misstate the provisions of section 3-2, but also, as given, the instructions could deny a defendant a fair trial. (People v. Flowers (1990), 138 Ill.2d 218, 240, 149 Ill.Dec. 304, 561 N.E.2d 674; see Reddick, 123 Ill.2d at 198, 122 Ill.Dec. 1, 526 N.E.2d 141.) Indeed, the court in Flowers, which declined to apply Reddick to cases pending on collateral review when Reddick was decided, expressly acknowledged that Reddick implicated constitutional rights. Flowers, 138 Ill.2d at 240, 149 Ill.Dec. 304, 561 N.E.2d 674.

A review of the errors identified in Reddick demonstrates that those defects may deny a defendant the constitutional right to due process. First, the murder and voluntary manslaughter instructions, when given together, misallocated the appropriate burdens of proof. Under the statutes in effect at that time, a defendant was guilty of voluntary manslaughter rather than murder if the defendant's actions were provoked by a sudden, intense passion due to serious provocation, or if the defendant believed, although unreasonably, that the use of force was justified to protect himself. (See Ill.Rev.Stat. 1985, ch. 38, pars. 9-1(a), 9-2.) The...

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