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People v. Williams





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EARL E. STRAYHORN, Judge, presiding.


Defendants, Eddie Williams and LaFare Johnson, were charged by information with two counts of murder. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 9-1.) Pursuant to a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendants were found guilty of the murder of Curtis Woods. Each defendant was sentenced to a term of 25-50 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Defendants now appeal from these convictions and present the following issues for our review: (1) whether an accomplice's testimony was sufficient upon which to base a conviction; and (2) whether the trial court erred in refusing certain tendered instructions concerning accomplice testimony. Prior to a discussion of these issues we will review the testimony adduced at trial.

Jessie Blue testified that he was the building manager of 927 West Wilson, Chicago, Illinois. Blue stated that on July 3, 1976, the victim, Curtis Woods, resided at that address in apartment 212. Blue last saw Woods alive that afternoon when Woods was sitting on the fire escape drinking gin with several people. Blue next saw Woods in Woods's apartment at approximately 1 a.m. Woods was dead. At that time Blue contacted the police.

Michael Gricki testified that he is an officer of the Chicago Police Department. On July 4, 1976, at approximately 1 or 1:15 a.m., Gricki arrived at 927 West Wilson in response to a call. Once in apartment 212, Gricki observed Curtis Woods lying face down on the floor. Officer Gricki then notified additional officers, the coroner's office, an evidence technician and the crime lab. At trial Officer Gricki identified several photographs depicting the crime scene and the deceased.

James Nolan, an investigator with the Chicago Police Department, testified that on July 5, 1976, he was conducting a homicide investigation. That investigation concerned the death of Curtis Woods. Pursuant to this investigation Nolan arrested LaFare Johnson at 4550 N. Magnolia, Chicago, Illinois. The arrest occurred at approximately 2:55 a.m. At the time of the arrest Johnson was wearing brown and white checked pants and a tee-shirt. Red stains appeared on Johnson's pants. These pants were seized, inventoried and sent to the Chicago Police Department section of criminalistics.

After placing Johnson in custody, investigator Nolan and LaFare Johnson proceeded to the area of Sheridan Road and Wilson Avenue. Nolan located two other individuals, Eddie Williams and Michael Johnson, and placed them under arrest. A walking stick or cane was seized from Michael Johnson. It was inventoried and sent to criminalistics.

Michael Johnson testified that he was currently charged with the murder of Curtis Woods. Johnson stated that he was promised by an Assistant State's Attorney that Johnson would not be prosecuted if he told the truth.

On July 3, 1976, Michael Johnson was with LaFare Johnson, Eddie Williams and Robert Earl at 927 West Wilson, Chicago, Illinois. They proceeded to the fourth floor at that address to see James Brown. Brown was not there. The four individuals then went to the second floor near the fire escape and observed Curtis Woods. Woods and a friend were sitting on the fire escape. Michael Johnson approached Woods and Woods' friend and requested a match and a drink of gin. Woods complied with his request. LaFare Johnson then requested a drink but Woods stated that he did not have "enough to go around." Woods' friend then departed. LaFare Johnson took the bottle from Woods and Woods departed for his apartment. LaFare Johnson followed Woods to Woods' apartment. When Woods entered the apartment LaFare Johnson pushed Woods. Woods turned around and LaFare Johnson pushed Woods on his bed. At this time Michael Johnson, Eddie Williams and Robert Earl were also in Woods' apartment. Woods asked LaFare Johnson what he wanted, and Johnson told Woods "to shut up." LaFare Johnson had a knife in his hand and stabbed Woods in the stomach. At the time of the stabbing Woods was sitting on his bed and "wasn't doing nothing," testified Michael Johnson. Robert Earl took a guitar out of a closet and struck Woods' head with the guitar. Eddie Williams took a knife and repeatedly stabbed Woods in the back.

Michael Johnson entered the washroom in Woods' apartment and found some valium. He took a valium bottle and kept it. When Johnson returned from the washroom Curtis Woods was on the floor. During the period of time Michael Johnson was in Woods' apartment, Johnson had a black cane in his possession. He testified that he never struck Curtis Woods with the cane.

Michael Johnson testified that at the time of the incident LaFare Johnson was wearing brown pants with white checks. Prior to the incident Johnson's pants were not blood stained.

After the murder Michael Johnson departed Woods' apartment for a liquor store near the apartment. Johnson remained at the liquor store for the night. He was joined there by LaFare Johnson, Eddie Williams and Robert Earl. Michael Johnson testified that at this time LaFare Johnson's pants were blood stained. Johnson also identified LaFare Johnson and Eddie Williams at trial.

On cross-examination Michael Johnson stated that he never struck Curtis Woods with a cane. He stated that he honestly expected to be cleared of any charge of murder. This expectation was based upon conversations between Michael Johnson and an Assistant State's Attorney. Johnson also stated that he did nothing to halt the murder of Curtis Woods. Johnson stated that he merely observed the incident.

Dr. Yuksel Kanacki testified that he is a physician and deputy medical examiner. He is a specialist in pathology and forensic pathology. Dr. Kanacki performed an autopsy upon Curtis Woods. The autopsy consisted of an external and internal examination. Dr. Kanacki observed stab wounds above the left eye and on the chin. There were stab wounds at the rear of the head and behind the right ear. Additional stab wounds were observed ...

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