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Criminal Law Keyed to Ohlin
People v. Gentry
Citation:157 Ill. App. 3d 899 (1987)
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- Topic: Identifies the topic of law and where this case fits within your course outline.
- Parties: Identifies the cast of characters involved in the case.
- Procedural Posture & History: Shares the case history with how lower courts have ruled on the matter.
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- Brief Facts: A Synopsis of the Facts of the case.
- Rule of Law: Identifies the Legal Principle the Court used in deciding the case.
- Facts: What are the factual circumstances that gave rise to the civil or criminal case? What is the relationship of the Parties that are involved in the case. Review the Facts of this case here:
The defendant was arguing with his girlfriend, Ruby Hill. During the argument, the defendant spilled gasoline on Hill, and the gasoline on her body ignited. The defendant was able to smother the flames with a coat, but Hill had been severely burned.
At trial, Hill testified that they had been drinking all afternoon and that both of them were “pretty high.” She further testified that the defendant had poured gasoline on her and that the gasoline ignited only after she had gone near the stove in the kitchen. She stated she still loved the defendant and that it was an accident.
The prosecution attempted to impeach Hill as to her assertion that the fire incident was an accident. They asked Hill if she had previously claimed that the defendant had threatened her with matches after he had poured gasoline on her. Hill denied it. The prosecution also asked her if she had previously claimed that she was terrified of the defendant. Hill denied it. Hill also denied ever stating that she was afraid of the defendant and denied that he had ever tried to choke her while she was taking a bath in the apartment’s bathtub.
After Hill denied making positive answers, the prosecution called Jeffrey Zitzka, a Chicago police officer who interviewed Hill while she was in the hospital after the incident. Zitzka testified that Hill had nodded “no” when asked if the incident was an accident and had nodded “yes” as to whether she wanted to press charges. Diane Meyer, a law clerk for the State’s Attorney’s office, also testified that she had heard Hill tell prosecutors that the defendant lit matches after pouring gasoline on her, that Hill had claimed that the incident was not an accident, and that Hill had also said that she was afraid of him. Hill’s brother, Bill Starnes, testified that Hill had previously told him that the defendant had once tried to choke Hill while she was in the bathtub. Hill’s mother also testified that Hill had written a letter to her in which Hill claimed to be “scared to death” of the defendant and that he had once attempted to choke her while she was in the apartment’s bathtub.
The defendant was charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery. The trial court told the jury that to sustain the charge of attempt, the State must prove that the defendant performed an act which constituted a substantial step towards the commission of the offense of murder, and that the defendant did so with the intent to commit the crime of murder. Then, the trial court defined the crime of murder, including all four culpable mental states: “A person commits the crime of murder where he kills an individual if, in performing the acts which cause the death, he intends to kill or do great bodily harm to that individual; or he knows that such acts will cause death to that individual; or he knows that such acts create a strong probability of death or great bodily harm to that individual.”
The defendant was convicted of both charges. He appealed, arguing that the inclusion of all of the alternative states of mind in the murder instruction was erroneous because the crime of attempted murder requires a showing of specific intent to kill.
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