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The People v. Williams





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Vermilion County; the Hon. ROBERT F. COTTON, Judge, presiding.


Defendant, Freeman R. Williams, was convicted by a jury in the circuit court of Vermilion County for the double murder of his wife, Vivian Williams, and his sister, Maxine Schultz. He was sentenced to the penitentiary on each conviction for a term of 30 to 50 years, to be served concurrently.

He appeals, alleging violations of his constitutional rights to due process, to freedom from self-incrimination, and to trial by jury. More specifically, he charges that indicting him after his request for a competency hearing violated due process, that permitting the psychiatrists who examined him at his pretrial competency hearing to testify against him at trial violated his right against self-incrimination, and that failure to permit the jury to determine the voluntariness of his confession violated his right to trial by jury.

Additionally, defendant alleges error in the court's treatment of his insanity defense, to-wit: its ruling that his expert witness's answer to a hypothetical question be stricken, its refusal to permit a lay witness to give an opinion as to defendant's sanity, its restriction of his cross-examination of an expert witness, and its refusal to submit certain offered instructions to the jury. Defendant further contends that the trial court erred in consolidating the two murder indictments, in admitting his confession into evidence, in denying a motion to withdraw a juror and declare a mistrial, and in improperly instructing the jury.

The facts surrounding the murders were uncontroverted. About 5:30 P.M., on June 1, 1966, defendant's wife, Vivian, and his sister, Maxine Schultz, arrived at defendant's house after having visited Charles Varner at his place of employment. Defendant and the two women then went to dine at a local inn where defendant consumed two or three beers before dinner. The three returned home after eating and later that evening, between 12:00 midnight and 1:00 A.M., Varner came over with a six-pack of beer. Defendant, his sister, and Varner sat in the kitchen each drinking a beer, and were joined a few minutes later by defendant's wife whom he had called from the bedroom. For a short time Varner conversed with Maxine and then left because "[he] thought [he] should leave." While driving his car out of the driveway, Varner happened to look in the window and saw defendant standing in the kitchen with what appeared to be a gun in his hand. He then drove to a pay telephone, called defendant's house and asked for Maxine. Defendant, who answered the phone, said he had just shot both of the women. Shortly thereafter, a deputy sheriff of Vermilion County received a call at the county jail in Danville from defendant who told him "I've just killed two women" and upon request gave his name and address. Police officers, called by radio, and the deputy immediately drove to defendant's house and, looking through a window, observed defendant talking on the phone and holding a revolver in his hand. In the meantime, defendant had called the jail again and the jailer who answered kept him on the call until the police had arrived at the house and then told him to lay down the gun and walk outside. Defendant did so, was arrested and taken to the county jail.

Defendant was informed of his rights to remain silent and to have an attorney before he talked to the police. He then made an oral confession of the murders that was thereafter reduced to writing and signed by him. The confession recited that defendant had read it, that it was voluntary and that he knew and understood his rights. In the confession he stated that he was irritated about Varner coming over to his house because he suspected him of being his wife's "boy friend". Although he did not display his anger in front of Varner, he said he argued with Maxine after Varner left, got his gun from under the bed, loaded it and shot her when she cursed him twice and dared him to pull the trigger. He then "picked off" his wife.

On June 14, 1966, a preliminary hearing was held before a magistrate resulting in defendant being bound over to the grand jury which subsequently indicted him on July 11, 1966, for the murder of Vivian Williams and Maxine Schultz in separate indictments. Prior to indictment defendant filed a petition for a competency hearing with the magistrate, who then appointed two psychiatrists to examine him. No further action was taken thereon until after indictment when the trial court on its own motion ordered a competency hearing, appointing the same psychiatrists. Defendant was examined by them, and at a hearing held on July 28, 1966, was found competent to stand trial.

Prior to trial defendant moved to dismiss the indictments on the bases that they were illegally obtained during the pendency of his competency hearing, and that the charges should have been set forth in a single indictment. Following the denial of these motions, he moved to suppress his confession on the grounds that at the time of its rendition he did not "understand" his constitutional rights. A hearing was held thereon, wherein two police officers testified that they interrogated defendant on the morning of June 2, 1966, after informing him several times of his right to remain silent and right to assistance of counsel. The officers stated that in their opinion, based on observation, the defendant knew and understood his rights and that he read the statement aloud before signing it. They further stated that defendant did not appear intoxicated and displayed no peculiar or unusual conduct at the time. The court then ruled that the written confession was admissible.

The indictments were consolidated and defendant's trial commenced September 6, 1966. Defendant sought to establish the affirmative defense of temporary insanity and his case consisted of his own testimony, that of his daughter, a fellow employee, two neighbors and a psychiatrist called as an expert witness. The State's case consisted of defendant's confession and the testimony of Varner, the arresting and interrogating police officers, and the two psychiatrists who examined defendant for the competency hearing. The jury returned a verdict of guilty on both indictments, and judgment was entered thereon.

With respect to the constitutional questions raised by the defendant, we first consider whether the fact that defendant was indicted prior to the disposition of his competency hearing was contrary to the due process guarantees of the Federal and State constitutions and to section 104-2 of Code of Criminal Procedure, which in relevant part provides:

"(a) If before a trial * * * the court has reason to believe that the defendant is incompetent the court shall suspend the proceedings and * * * shall conduct a hearing to determine the defendant's competency.

"(e) If the defendant is found to be competent the proceedings which had been suspended shall be resumed." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1965, chap. 38, par. 104-2.

The section requires suspension of trial proceedings pending disposition of the competency hearing only after the defendant is required to answer to a criminal charge. Therefore, ...

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