Jury Instructions Regarding An Unreasonable Belief In a Murder Case

In People v. Anderson, 266 Ill. App. 3d 947, 641 N.E.2d 591, 204 Ill. Dec. 367 (1994), the State presented witnesses who testified that the defendant was the aggressor in shooting two men to death. The defendant testified that the men were his superiors at the apartment complex he worked at. He testified that they had beaten him up and fired him days before they were shot because the defendant would not go along with a scheme to convert the building from federal section 8 housing to condominiums. the defendant further testified that on the day of the shooting, one pointed a gun at the defendant and, following a struggle with the defendant, was shot and killed. He testified that the second man was shot when he walked away and was in an altercation with men smoking marijuana nearby, which led to the discharge of the gun. Anderson, 266 Ill. App. 3d at 950-51. It is unclear from the opinion what instructions the Anderson defendant requested. The court detailed the defendant's argument as: "several jury instructions were denied, improperly given over defendant's objection or not given sua sponte by the trial court." Anderson, 266 Ill. App. 3d at 950. Conversely, if the defendant was not believed, the jury would find him guilty of murder, and the court concluded that the defendant was not entitled to an instruction regarding an unreasonable belief. Anderson, 266 Ill. App. 3d at 951. The court added that even if the defendant was entitled to such an instruction, the error was harmless because the defendant's testimony was contradicted and impeached by direct and circumstantial evidence. Anderson, 266 Ill. App. 3d at 952.