Course of Action of Jury If Evidence Supporting Instruction on Self Defense Also Supports Instruction on Second Degree Murder
In People v. Lockett, 82 Ill. 2d 546, 552, 413 N.E.2d 378, 45 Ill. Dec. 900 (1980), the defendant testified that he and fellow passengers in his car engaged in an argument with the victim because his pushcart was blocking their vehicle and the victim was throwing bottles at them.
He testified that the victim approached him with a gun and he reached over the front-seat passenger and out the passenger window to shoot the victim.
The evidence showed that the victim had an empty whiskey bottle and not a gun. Lockett, 82 Ill. 2d at 548-49.
The Lockett court agreed with the line of appellate court opinions that held that if any evidence supports an instruction on self-defense, it also supports an instruction on the lesser offense of second degree murder. Lockett, 82 Ill. 2d at 551-52.
The court noted that when given a self-defense instruction, the jury could reach one of three conclusions:
(1) that the defendant did not have a subjective belief that the use of force was necessary and he was guilty of first degree murder;
(2) that the defendant had a reasonable belief that the use of force was necessary and that he was not guilty; or;
(3) that, under the circumstances, the defendant had an unreasonable belief that the use of force was necessary and he was guilty of voluntary manslaughter, now second degree murder. Lockett, 82 Ill. 2d at 551-52.
The court continued on to define the duty of the court and the duty of the jury in this scenario:
"It is not the province of the judge to weigh the evidence and decide if defendant's subjective belief was reasonable or unreasonable.
The judge's duty is to determine if any evidence is presented that the defendant had a subjective belief.
The Court can conceive of no circumstance when a judge could determine, as a matter of law, that jury could find the defendant had a reasonable subjective belief the killing was justified, but that the jury could not find the defendant's subjective belief was unreasonable.
So long as some evidence is presented from which a jury could conclude that defendant had a subjective belief, the jury should determine if the belief existed and, if so, whether that belief was reasonable or unreasonable.
Consequently, the Court held that when the evidence supports submitting an instruction on justifiable use of force, a tendered instruction on second degree murder also should be given." Lockett, 82 Ill. 2d at 553.