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On the surface, inconsistent verdicts reached by a jury was the reason armed violence and involuntary manslaughter convictions were reversed against a former Chicago Police officer charged with killing a homeless man in 1995. According to a unanimous Illinois 1st District Appellate Court, the jury could not find that Gregory Becker, 39, acted both “recklessly” and “knowingly” when Joseph Gould was killed in a Chicago parking lot by a single gunshot wound. But, noted Justice Margaret O’Mara Frossard who wrote the opinion, it was ultimately the trial judge’s job to prevent such confusion. “The jury was instructed on knowing and reckless offenses arising from essentially the same conduct and returned guilty verdicts for each offense it was instructed on, thereby convicting defendant of offenses that contained mutually inconsistent mental states,” Frossard wrote. The court also held that the “trial court’s failure to send the jury back for further deliberations to resolve the inconsistent verdicts mandates a reversal and a new trial.” The court also reversed two of three convictions for official misconduct because they required a “knowing” state of mind. As a result, a new trial was ordered. However, Becker is still being held in Taylorville Correctional Center on the strength of the lone remaining conviction – and it was reportedly uncertain whether he could obtain his freedom until that new court date is set. John Gorman, a spokesman for the Cook County State’s Attorney said the office “was weighing the options of whether to appeal” to the Illinois Supreme Court or to retry the case. A decision on the office’s next move will be made within three weeks, Gorman said. The prosecution of Becker has received extensive coverage from Chicago’s media and has at times evoked much criticism from homeless rights advocates demanding the severest charges be pursued. The key facts have always been hotly contested. At least one eyewitness has suggested that Becker had killed Gould in cold blood. But, Becker has always maintained that he was confronted by Gould as he returned to his car in a North River area parking lot after attending a social event with a friend. Although off-duty, Becker insists he felt threatened by a gesturing Gould, and went to the trunk of his car for his firearm to essentially scare the homeless man away; but, somehow, the weapon accidentally discharged. Becker concedes he then drove away supposedly not realizing Gould had been fatally shot. Prior to the court’s ruling, Becker had been eligible for parole in 2002. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for armed violence, and five years for involuntary manslaughter and official misconduct. The terms were to be served concurrently.

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