The State Have to Prove Unjustified Use of Force When Evidence of Both First and Second Degree Murder Is Presented
In People v. Jeffries, 164 Ill. 2d 104, 646 N.E.2d 587, 207 Ill. Dec. 21 (1995), the victim's roommate testified that she heard the victim and the defendant arguing in the alley behind their apartment and she called the victim inside.
Later, the victim went across the street to make a call.
The roommate testified that she saw the defendant and a man approaching with a baseball bat.
She ran outside with a two by four, saw the defendant strike the victim in the leg with the bat, then chase the defendant and eventually bludgeon him to death with the bat.
The defendant testified that the victim walked out of the apartment with a gun and chased the defendant. After evading the victim, the defendant returned to the scene with a baseball bat and struck the victim as he left a store, and when the victim again presented his gun, he struck him with the bat to defend himself. Jeffries, 164 Ill. 2d at 109-10.
The Jeffries court considered the burden of a defendant in asserting self-defense or arguing for the lesser charge of second degree murder under the newly enacted homicide statute.
The court rejected the argument that a statutory contradiction existed between the elements for self-defense, and first and second degree murder.
The court opined that when the affirmative defense is raised and evidence of both first and second degree murder is presented, the burden is on the State to prove the defendant was not justified in using force.
The defendant need only present his best evidence for his defense, and the trier of fact may conclude whether the defendant:
(1) was justified and not guilty;
(2) had an unreasonable belief in the need to act and guilty of second degree murder;
(3) acted without justification and was guilty of first degree murder. Jeffries, 164 Ill. 2d at 129.
In coming to this conclusion, the Jeffries court noted that, under Lockett, when evidence is presented showing a defendant's subjective belief that the use of force was necessary, both self-defense and second degree murder instructions should be given. Jeffries, 164 Ill. 2d at 127-28, n.2.