Criminal Law Keyed to Kadish
People v. Unger
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The Defendant was charged with the crime of escape and convicted following a jury trial. At the time of his escape, he was serving a one to three-year term in Joliet, Illinois for an auto theft conviction. The Defendant was transferred to a minimum security area in the prison when he escaped. At the trial for the escape charge, he testified that before and after his transfer, he had been threatened by fellow inmates, was forced to engage in homosexual activities and his life was threatened. The Defendant is admittedly unable to adequately defend himself due to his stature. None of these incidents were reported to prison authorities. The Defendant said he left the prison to save his life and he planned to return once he found someone to help him. The Defendant was caught two days after the escape in his prison clothes. The Defendant’s first trial ended in a hung jury. The jury in the second trial returned a guilty verdict. An instruction was given to the jury over the Defendant ‘s objection which stated “the reasons, if any, given for the alleged escape are immaterial and not to be considered by you as in any way justifying or excusing, if there were in fact such reasons.” Two instructions based on the affirmative defenses of compulsion and necessity were offered by the Defendant and refused. The conviction was reversed by the appellate court and the cause was remanded for a new trial after the court found the jury was given an improper instruction. The central issue in this case is whether it was error for the court to instruct the jury that it must disregard the reasons given for the Defendant’s escape and to refuse to instruct the jury on the statutory defenses of compulsion and necessity.
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