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People v. Williams

OPINION FILED APRIL 7, 1977.

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

v.

JOHN WILLIAMS ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. FRANK W. BARBARO, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE MEJDA DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

After a trial without jury, defendants John Williams, Willie Nelson and Victor Watts were convicted of armed robbery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 38, par. 18-2). In addition, Williams was convicted of unlawful use of weapons, in that he knowingly possessed a shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches in length. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 38, par. 24-1(a)(7).) Nelson was sentenced to a term of 15 to 35 years for armed robbery, and Watts was sentenced to a term of 8 to 15 years for armed robbery. Williams was sentenced to a term of 20 to 45 years for armed robbery, and to a term of one to three years for unlawful use of weapons, his sentences on both convictions to run concurrently.

On appeal, each defendant contends that he did not knowingly and voluntarily waive his right to trial by jury, and that his sentence was excessive. We affirm.

Defendants raise no point concerning the sufficiency of the evidence to justify conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, we need only summarize the testimony of witnesses at trial.

The armed robbery for which defendants were convicted occurred at a real estate office in the presence of the owner of the real estate office, his father, an employee, and two clients. After defendants gained entrance into the outer office, Nelson drew the blinds and Williams produced a shotgun and announced a holdup. Williams then found the owner in an inner office, ordered him to lie on the floor, put the shotgun to the owner's head, and told him that he would "blow his brains out" if he did not reveal where the safe was located. The owner responded that he had no safe, and gave Williams about $350 in cash from his pocket. Williams then went to the outer office and ordered the owner's father to lie on the floor. Williams put the shotgun to the father's head, and demanded that he tell him the location of the safe or else he would "blow his brains out." Watts took money from the father's wallet. Williams similarly threatened with the shotgun, and defendants took money from, a woman employee and the two clients. Williams returned to the inner office, again put the shotgun to the owner's head, and demanded to know where the safe was located. Again the owner denied owning a safe, whereupon defendants ransacked the offices and left.

Responding to a radio message of a robbery in progress, two police officers arrived at the scene just as defendants were leaving the real estate office. Watts and Nelson dropped the office equipment they were carrying when they saw the officers. The eqipment was later identified as belonging to the realtor. Defendants then fled in different directions. As Williams ran he pulled the shotgun from under his coat. The police fired a shot at him; Williams dropped the gun, and was apprehended. Additional police arrived and assisted in the apprehension of Nelson and Watts.

Initially, each defendant asserts that the record contains no inquiry of whether he was advised of his right to trial by jury, and that the record is devoid of any colloquy among the trial court, defendant and counsel concerning waiver of this right. Williams contends that the only evidence in the record of "waiver" by him is a signed, but undated, jury waiver form; on the other hand, Nelson and Watts allege that the record contains no written jury waiver executed by either of them. Nelson further asserts that he was never affirmatively asked if he waived trial by jury.

We note that a supplemental record filed with this court discloses that at the commencment of trial, the following colloquy took place in the presence of all defendants and counsel:

"MR. VISHNY [Counsel for Williams]: In behalf of John Williams, it will be a bench.

MR. ISRAELSTAM [Counsel for Watts]: In behalf of Watts, it will be a bench.

MR. LIVINGSTON [Counsel for Nelson]: In behalf of Willie Nelson, it will be a bench also.

THE COURT: Let the record show that Mr. William Nelson, is that you?

MR. NELSON: Yes.

THE COURT: You have read this jury waiver?

MR. NELSON: Yes.

THE COURT: Do you know what a jury trial is? That is, where 12 people of this County will be put in a box, and they will hear the evidence in this matter, and they will determine your innocence or guilt in accordance with the law that the Court will give them and instruct them in the matters before the Court? Do you understand that?

MR. NELSON: Yes.

THE COURT: Do you understand that you have a right to a jury or you have a right to waive that ...


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