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People v. Williams





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. FRANK B. MACHALA, Judge, presiding.


Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County defendant Kenneth Williams was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to 14 to 25 years imprisonment.

On appeal defendant contends that (1) certain testimony of State witnesses was improperly admitted into evidence; (2) statements made by the prosecutor during closing argument denied him a fair trial; and (3) he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

On January 5, 1978, Sharon Palmore was found shot to death in the defendant's apartment. Defendant admitted firing the fatal shot but claimed he did so in self-defense. There were no eyewitnesses to the shooting. Defendant, testifying in his own behalf, gave the following account of the shooting. He said he arrived home at about 10:30 p.m. on the date in question and found the victim there drinking with his wife. The victim told his wife that she had seen the defendant that day coming out of a girl friend's house. When defendant denied this, the victim cursed at him and called him a liar. Defendant then asked the victim to leave but she refused. Defendant left the room and when he returned he found the victim waving a knife, threatening to stab him worse than she had on a prior occasion. Defendant then got his gun which he kept inside the couch, and told the victim to put the knife down and leave. But the victim made stabbing motions with the knife so the defendant pushed her down on the couch. The victim said she was going to kill the defendant and as she started to stand up, the defendant, who was standing in front of her, fired the gun. Defendant said the victim continued to get up, tried to attack him, but he grabbed the knife out of her hand. As he did so, she grabbed him, at which time defendant noticed the blood. He got scared and ran down the back stairs throwing the knife toward a neighbor's yard. He went down to the basement apartment of Ronnie Samuel and put the gun in a shoe box in the closet. He then stopped in a tavern and upon leaving was stopped by the police. Because he was scared he gave the police a wrong name and denied any involvement in the shooting. Later when he did begin to give the police the true account of what happened they stopped him until an attorney could be present.

Both the defendant and his sister testified that in 1975, the victim stabbed the defendant, causing him to be hospitalized for 3 months and undergo a colostomy. Defendant said at the time of his arrest he was unemployed because he was disabled from this stabbing. He stated that he did not bring charges against the victim for the stabbing. He testified that he had seen the victim 70 or 80 times after the stabbing; that he remained good friends with her; and that he never thought of getting even with her. He said since the stabbing he did not trust the victim but never wanted to hurt her. Defendant said on the date in question he intended to fire the gun over the victim's head to scare her and calm her down.

Defendant also testified that his wife left the room prior to the shooting. He said since the time of his arrest he had been incarcerated and had not spoken to his wife. Defendant said he spoke with his wife's mother a couple of times and she told him that her daughter told her that she would not testify for him because the State's Attorney had threatened to charge her with the murder if she did. Defendant denied telling his mother-in-law that he shot the victim because of something that happened a long time ago or that he would like to get back at the victim. He said he forgave the victim for the stabbing when he got out of the hospital.

On behalf of the State, the arresting officer testified that on his way to the scene, he observed the defendant who matched the description of the suspect wanted in the shooting. He said defendant refused to produce identification. After conducting a protective search of the defendant, the officer said he retrieved a wallet from defendant's pocket and discovered defendant's name which differed from the one defendant had given him. He said he noticed what appeared to be a blood stain on the defendant's shirt. The officer said after placing defendant under arrest, he went to the apartment of Ronnie Samuel. Samuel told him that the defendant had been there and led the officer to a closet from which a revolver, four live rounds of ammunition and one spent cartridge were recovered.

Samuel testified that a few minutes after midnight on January 6, 1978, the defendant with gun in hand came to his apartment and said he had just shot someone. He said the defendant was nervous and kept looking out the window saying he had to go south. He testified that the defendant said he wanted to leave something there, walked to the closet and then left the apartment.

The State presented evidence which indicated that the victim died from a gunshot wound; that there was a projectile entrance wound over the victim's right clavicle, an exit wound on her right back and a grazing wound on her chin; that no powder burns were found on the victim's skin or clothing; that the victim's blood type which differed from that of defendant's blood type was found on defendant's shirt; and that the amount of alcohol found in the victim's blood indicated she was under the influence. Evidence was also presented which indicated that the gun recovered from the closet was a German-made revolver; and that both the bullet recovered from the victim's body and the spent cartridge recovered from the closet came from that gun.

Louise Harris, defendant's mother-in-law, called as a rebuttal witness on behalf of the State, testified that on Thanksgiving Day, 1977, while conversing with the defendant, he said there was going to be a revolution. When she asked him why, he stopped talking and then "said something about his stomach burning and he had to get revenge, something like that." She said defendant then asked another woman in the group if she was "hip to Biggs and Biggs" which Mrs. Harris explained was a funeral home. Mrs. Harris testified that defendant called her about two weeks before his trial and asked her why she hated him. Mrs. Harris said she responded that she didn't hate him but did not approve of what he had done. She told him if she knew why he did it she might feel better. She said he told her "it was something stemming from a long time but he couldn't discuss it on the phone." Mrs. Harris testified that she spoke to her daughter the day before this trial began and told her the State's Attorney's office was looking for her and wanted her to testify at the trial. Mrs. Harris said her daughter told her the reason she did not want to come into court and testify was because "she gave a statement that was true and she did not want to testify against her husband." Mrs. Harris denied ever telling the defendant that her daughter did not want to testify because she was afraid the State's Attorney's office would charge her with murder.

Investigator Holze, also called as a rebuttal witness on behalf of the State, testified as to his unsuccessful attempt to serve a subpoena on the defendant's wife, Lynette Williams. He said when he knocked on the door, a female voice asked who it was. He said he was a police officer looking for Lynette Williams. After a few moments passed, he knocked again and then opened the door. He stated a man standing there told him Lynette Williams had just gone down the back stairs.


Defendant contends certain testimony given by State witnesses was improperly admitted and ...

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