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People v. Williams

JANUARY 23, 1974.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

AARON WILLIAMS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JAMES M. BAILEY, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE BURMAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The defendant, Aaron Williams, was indicted on charges of armed robbery and attempt with intent to commit armed robbery. He was tried without a jury, was convicted of armed robbery, and was sentenced to serve five to eight years in the Illinois State Penitentiary.

In pursuing his right to appeal to this court from that conviction, the defendant, through an assistant public defender, filed a first brief in which he initially contended that (1) he did not knowingly waive his constitutional right to a jury trial, and (2) the testimony given by the two complaining witnesses was so incredible and inconsistent that it justifies a reasonable doubt of his guilt. He subsequently moved and was allowed to file a supplemental brief in which he contends that under the new Unified Code of Corrections the minimum sentence should be reduced.

The State's evidence at trial consisted primarily of the testimony of the two complaining witnesses — Charlotte Taylor and her sister, Janice Anderson. Their testimony revealed the following:

On January 18, 1972, Charlotte Taylor, who resided with her sister in an apartment at 6307 South Eberhart in Chicago, answered a knock at the door. Aaron Williams, whom the two women knew at the time as Aaron, and another man unknown to them, came in. Charlotte had been preparing to leave the apartment with her little niece and did so within five minutes after the men had entered. As she was leaving Aaron said "You know what I came to do." She testified she did not know what he meant.

Janice Anderson testified that after her sister left she asked Aaron, whom she had not seen in some time, "where have you been so long?" He answered, "oh, out robbing folks." She testified further that she did not take him seriously at that point. He then followed her into the kitchen with a gun in his hand and said "You know what I'm here for." She replied she did not and he told her "I am here to rob you, and where is it at?" Again she said she did not take him seriously. He then said, "If I have to take this gun and put this up against this little yellow bitch's head," indicating Janice's ten year old daughter, "I bet you will tell me where it is at." He then placed the gun alongside the little girl's head, whereupon Janice panicked, started to cry, and pointed to a buffet from where he took two hundred fifty dollars which she had concealed there. He then accused her of having more money, at which time Charlotte Taylor returned to the apartment. Aaron cursed Charlotte and told her he wanted more money. When she responded that she did not know where the money was at, he slapped her in the face. In the meantime the other man, also carrying a gun, was ransacking the house and went through all the dresser drawers. Aaron then said "well, we are trying to decide what we are going to do with you. Usually we would tie you down and stab you or do something because I know you are going to call the police." Janice told him that she was "not going to call the police" and that he had all the money in the house.

After a while the telephone rang. First the defendant would not let anybody answer it, but then he told Janice to answer it while the other man listened on an extension phone. The caller was Janice's boy friend and he asked "hey, what's going on?" She said "nothing, I am being robbed" and that the robber was a guy named Aaron. The other man listening on the extension phone then told Aaron that they should get out of there because the man on the phone was going to call the police. The caller then asked to talk to Charlotte, who repeated that they had been robbed. The two men left. Janice then called the police and related that she was robbed of two hundred fifty dollars and a Timex watch. She told the police that one of the robbers was "Aaron." The police asked "Aaron who?" and she said "I don't know." The police also had a conversation at that time with a boy friend of Janice's sister who lives on the second floor of the same building, and through whom the complainants had originally become acquainted with Aaron.

Subsequent to the filing of defendant's first appellate brief a supplemental record of proceedings was received by the assistant public defender representing the defendant. It documented the following colloquy between the defendant and the trial court judge:

"THE COURT: You know the difference between a bench trial and a jury trial?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: In a bench trial I decide the law and I decide the facts also, and in a jury trial the jury decides the facts and I give the law, do you understand that, sir?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: You understand by your waiver of a jury trial, you waive your constitutional ...


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