26-year-old Marco Robertson was charged with second degree murder after he allegedly stabbed his stepfather multiple times following a family quarrel. Mr. Robertson stayed about three days a week at a home on West 54th Street where his mother and stepfather, 44-year-old James Rice, also resided. The two men argued because Mr. Rice insisted that Mr. Robertson should announce his presence and not simply walk into the house. According to a police report, Mr. Rice berated Mr. Robertson for several minutes before striking him. Mr. Robertson said, “He punched me [and] I hit him back.” Mr. Robertson then grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed Mr. Rice seven times in his back and temple. Police arrested Mr. Robertson after taking his statement and observing a large amount of blood on the kitchen floor.
Mr. Robertson claimed that he stopped fighting when Mr. Rice stopped fighting back.
Discovery in Criminal Cases
Cook County Judge Laura Sullivan set Mr. Robertson’s bail at $350,000, so she was apparently unimpressed by his self-defense argument. However, the argument may eventually have merit, depending on the outcome of discovery.
Rule 412 is the primary discovery rule in Illinois criminal cases. It requires the prosecutor to turn over:
- A list of prosecution witnesses and a summary of their testimony,
- Any statements made by the defendant or a codefendant,
- A partial grand jury transcript,
- Any prior convictions to be used as impeachment,
- “Tangible objects” belonging to the defendant which the state may use at trial, and
- Any expert reports.
This list is quite limited and comes with strings attached. For example, the state must only release that portion of the grand jury transcript related to the testimony of the accused and trial witnesses.
The best way to expand discovery is to file a Section H motion. This provision states that the court “may require disclosure to defense counsel of relevant material and information not covered by this rule,” if the request is “reasonable” and the information sought is “material.”
In the above case, I would want to know about the physical discrepancy between the defendant and the victim. It is already apparent that Mr. Rice had a rather hot temper. If he was a physically large man, and if Mr. Robertson were smaller, that contrast would give credence to Mr. Robertson’s belief that he needed a weapon to defend himself. Likewise, if Mr. Rice had any violent criminal history or if he kept a gun in the house, the jury might see Mr. Robertson’s use of a knife as reasonable.
Legal Defenses to Murder
There is also an issue as to who owned the house, in practical terms. If Mr. Robertson lived there about six months out of the year, he presumably had a key and a bedroom, so he arguably had no duty to retreat under Illinois law.
Self-defense cases sometimes raise intent issues, as well, because even if the defendant cannot establish all the legal elements of the defense, he may have lacked the specific intent necessary to commit the crime, which is to kill or seriously injure the victim. As strange as it may sound, a jury might well conclude that, in the heat of the moment, Mr. Robertson lacked specific intent, even though he stabbed Mr. Robertson repeatedly with a steak knife.
Count on Experienced Attorneys
With hard work and an understanding of the law, every case has the potential to end with a positive result. For a confidential consultation with an experienced criminal law attorney in Schaumburg, contact Glasgow & Olsson.
(image courtesy of Eric Parks)