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Law School Case Brief

People v. S.M. - 93 Ill. App. 3d 105, 48 Ill. Dec. 690, 416 N.E.2d 1212 (1981)

Rule:

Where the initial use of force is justified, the claim of self-defense will not necessarily be negated by the fact that several shots are fired, or that the last shot is fired after the attack is over. Rather, where the accused is initially justified in firing, the claim of self-defense will be negated only where the State establishes that the interval between the initial shot and the subsequent shots is sufficient to allow the accused, acting as a reasonable person, to realize that no further shooting was necessary. The party assailed is not expected to use infallible judgment in this regard.

Facts:

On April 28, 1978, defendant S.M., a minor, shot and killed two teenage boys and wounded two others in the parking lot of the high school that the boys attended. A petition for adjudication of wardship was filed charging him with the murder of Michael Truppa and Robert Paulish, with aggravated battery upon Michael Gale and Russell Peterson, and with unlawful use of a weapon. Prior to trial, S.M. pleaded guilty to unlawful use of a weapon. Following trial he was adjudged delinquent for the commission of two counts of voluntary manslaughter and two counts of aggravated battery. A dispositional hearing was conducted, and S.M. was committed to the Illinois Department of Corrections ("Department"). S.M. appealed, contending that: (1) the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not acting in self-defense; and (2) the trial court's dispositional order was contrary to the weight of the evidence or an abuse of discretion.

Issue:

Was the claim of self-defense negated by the fact that S.M. continued to fire several shots after firing an initial warning shot?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The appellate court held that the evidence failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that S.M. did not act in self-defense. According to the evidence, three more people continued to advance on S.M. even as they were shot. There was nothing to indicate that the danger to S.M. ended either after he fired the initial warning shot or even after Peterson was shot. Further, where the initial use of force was justified, the claim of self-defense will not necessarily be negated by the fact that several shots were fired, or that the last shot was fired after the attack was over. Whether S.M. acted in self-defense depended upon the facts and circumstances and was a question for the trier of fact, but the court was permitted to reverse the conviction where the record left a grave and substantial doubt of guilt. The court dismissed the judgment of the trial court that adjudged S.M. delinquent for the commission of two counts of voluntary manslaughter and two counts of aggravated battery. The court vacated the trial court's dispositional order committing S.M. to the Department, and remanded the cause for dispositional hearing on the judgment of delinquency for the unlawful use of a weapon.

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