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People v. Tate

DECEMBER 27, 1974.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ROBERT A. MEIER, III, Judge, presiding.


A jury found Mary A. Tate and Willie Bryant guilty of the murders of Othas Jameson and Freddie Tate in violation of section 9-1 of the Criminal Code. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 38, par. 9-1.) Tate was sentenced to a term of 20 to 30 years and Bryant was sentenced to 15 to 20 years.

On appeal, Mary A. Tate contends: (1) that the evidence supports only a conviction of voluntary manslaughter, (2) that inadequate sentencing procedures were employed, and (3) that her minimum sentence was excessive. Willie Bryant contends: (1) that he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, 2) that his conviction should be reversed because the State failed to call a "life and death" witness regarding the death of Freddie Tate, (3) that the trial court erred in denying his request for the grand jury testimony of Sabrina Tate, and (4) that the trial court erred in denying a mistrial.

The following pertinent evidence was adduced at trial. For the State:

Minnie Jameson:

She is the mother of Othas Jameson. On February 27, 1970, Othas was alive, but on March 1, 1970, he was dead.

Lewis Tate:

He is Mary A. Tate's brother. At about 4:05 P.M. on Saturday, February 29, 1970, he arrived at the rear building at 3330 W. Fulton after working all day at Meyercord Co. Shortly after his arrival, Sabrina Tate, defendants' 13-year-old daughter, entered the rear building, but he did not talk to her. She was staggering as though she had been drinking. After a few minutes, she left, returning to the first-floor apartment in the front building at 3330 W. Fulton where she lived with her parents. He and his nephew Ernest Jameson then went to a local tavern and purchased a bottle of Cutty Sark which when they returned was placed, unopened, on the kitchen table in the rear building. While he and Ernest were in the kitchen, his sister Mary A. Tate and Willie Bryant entered the building. His brother Freddie Tate and his nephew Othas Jameson were sitting in the living room at the front of the house. Mary asked Othas and Freddie who had made Sabrina drunk. Othas denied giving Sabrina anything. Willie then asked whether they were going to tell them who had made Sabrina drunk. James Lee told them that Sabrina had said that Willie's son and a Puerto Rican had given her the alcohol. Willie left and Mary, before leaving, said they would return.

A few minutes later, defendants returned, entering the front door with a pass key. Willie approached the witness as he was standing in the hallway which runs through the middle of the rear building. Although he did not see what was in Willie's hand, Willie had his hand in his back pocket and told everyone to leave. He told Willie that they were going to leave as soon as Cora, Freddie's girlfriend, returned from the front building. When Willie pushed Ernest, Ernest grabbed Willie and they started to fight, ending up in the washroom. As Othas and Freddie approached from the living room, Mary, who was standing near the kitchen at the back of the house, told them that she had the gun and shot Freddie. Freddie grabbed the witness and asked Mary why she had shot him. Mary then put the gun to the witness's head and said she should shoot him too. He helped Freddie out the back door to Ernest's car. As he left he heard two more shots. When he returned he saw Othas lying in the hall. He heard Willie tell Mary she had done enough shooting; and he went to help Othas. He and Richard Jones accompanied Ernest as he drove the victims to the hospital. On the way to the hospital they struck a C.T.A. bus and Freddie, who was in the back seat of Ernest's car between the witness and Richard, fell off the seat.

James Lee:

He is Mattie Tate's boy friend. After leaving work at Hinckley & Schmidt, he stopped at a liquor store and purchased a pint of J & B Scotch. When he arrived home at the rear building at 3330 W. Fulton, he spoke with Freddie and Othas in the living room. Othas was drunk. Subsequently, Lewis Tate arrived. When Sabrina came in, he did not pay particular attention to her, but she did talk to Lewis. After Sabrina left, Mary and Willie entered the building. Willie asked Othas who had made Sabrina drunk and Othas denied giving her anything. Willie slammed the door and left; but Mary, before leaving, said they would return. Ernest Jameson, who was also drunk, entered the building after Mary and Willie had left.

Willie and Ernest started arguing when he and Mary returned to the rear building. Mary was standing in the kitchen door near the back of the house. A fight, which ended up in the washroom, resulted when Willie pushed Ernest. The witness walked past Mary into the kitchen. Freddie was standing by the Coke machine opposite the washroom and Othas entered the washroom. Mary then shot Freddie; she threatened Lewis by pointing the gun at his head; she shot Othas as he came out of the washroom; and she fired a shot at Ernest.

Ernest Jameson:

He is Othas Jameson's brother and Mary A. Tate's nephew. He spent most of the afternoon on Saturday, February 28, 1970, drinking at home. Admittedly he was intoxicated. Sometime after 4 P.M., he went for a drive and happened to meet his brother Othas. Together they drove to 3330 W. Fulton to visit their uncle, Freddie Tate, who lived in the rear building. After their arrival, Lewis came in. He and Lewis went to a tavern and purchased a pint of Cutty Sark. He was in the kitchen when he first saw Willie and Mary. Willie, who had his hand in his pocket, told Lewis to leave and pushed the witness. When Willie pulled a gun, he grabbed Willie and they started fighting, ending up in the washroom. During the fight he heard three shots and saw Mary with another gun. She told him to let go of Willie or she would shoot him. As he left, he saw Othas lying on the floor outside the washroom and carried him to the car. As he was driving to the hospital, they hit a C.T.A. bus.

Mattie Tate:

She is Mary A. Tate's sister and James Lee's girl friend. Sometime after 4 P.M. on Saturday, February 28, 1970, while she was in the kitchen of the rear building, Sabrina Tate came in. She was grinning and walking strangely. About 10 minutes after Sabrina left, Willie came over, by himself, to look at the lights in the washroom. Later she heard Mary and Willie arguing with Othas and Freddie. Mary accused them of making Sabrina drunk. Othas denied the accusation. The witness went into the living room and asked what was wrong. Soon thereafter, Willie left and Mary, before leaving, said they would return. The witness then went over to the front building where she saw Willie standing by the closet holding a gun and some bullets. Mary was talking to Cora, Freddie's girl friend. The witness told Mary that Sabrina had said she had gotten the alcohol from a Puerto Rican and Willie Bryant's son. Willie then told Mary to come with him to the rear building. When Mary asked for what, Willie responded that she had said she was going out in back. Mary assented but said that she would not go empty-handed. Willie then went to the closet and gave Mary another gun. The witness, who did not think anything would happen, stayed in the front building tending to Sabrina, who was sick. Ten or 15 minutes later she heard one shot. She went outside and saw Lewis screaming that Mary had shot Freddie. She saw Mary, with the gun in her hand, and asked her why she had shot Freddie. Mary said she was not aiming but that Freddie jumped into the line of fire.

Following this testimony, the parties stipulated that a gun, which was identified and admitted into evidence, was the weapon which caused the death of Freddie Tate. The parties also stipulated that had the pathologists, Doctors Salgia and Shalgos, been called they would have testified that Freddie Tate died of a bullet wound in the chest and was not under the influence of alcohol at the time of his death and that Othas ...

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