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People v. Williams





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. VINCENT BENTIVENGA, Judge, presiding.


Following a bench trial, defendant, Cortez Williams, was found not guilty of one count of attempt murder and guilty of four counts of aggravated battery. Judgment was vacated on three of the counts of aggravated battery and defendant was sentenced to serve two years in the Illinois State Penitentiary on the remaining count. On appeal, defendant contends:

1. that the State failed to prove defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt;

2. that the State did not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant was not acting in defense of dwelling;

3. that the shotgun was improperly admitted into evidence because it was not sufficiently connected with the defendant and the crime;

4. that the shotgun was improperly admitted into evidence because it was seized as a result of a prior illegal search;

5. that defendant's statement that he possessed a shotgun and the shotgun itself were improperly admitted into evidence because the requirements of Miranda were not satisfied;

6. that the shotgun was improperly admitted into evidence because defendant's consent to seize the weapon was coerced.

The events in question occurred on October 10, 1977, in and around a two-building complex located on the northwest corner of Roosevelt Road and Keeler Avenue in Chicago. Defendant owned the building complex which contained apartments and various businesses, including Mary's Chicken restaurant also owned by defendant. A fence separated this building from an alley to the north, and there was also a fence on the Keeler Avenue side of the building. A gate that exited into the alley was kept locked at all times by a chain and padlock, as was the gate on the Keeler Avenue side of the building.

Leonard Spencer, the victim, testified that on October 10, 1977, he was 15 years old. At some time after 9 p.m. on that date, he and his brother, Floyd Spencer, left a pool hall also located at Roosevelt and Keeler, to look for some girls who had left the pool hall about five minutes earlier. Leonard identified these girls as Debra, Denise and Karen. In order to catch up with them, Floyd and Leonard were walking through an alley behind Roosevelt and Keeler when Leonard heard some noise. He looked back and saw defendant, whom he knew by the name of "Rudy," standing inside a fence pointing a shotgun at his brother. He snatched his brother and threw him over against a wall. He was then shot in the face. After he was shot he fell over some car seats. He saw defendant coming toward him, and he remembered begging defendant, "[P]lease don't shoot me no more" before he "blanked out."

Leonard testified that at the time of the shooting the sun was almost down but it was light with alley lights and city lights. In court he identified defendant as the person who did the shooting.

Floyd Spencer substantially corroborated his brother's testimony as to their movements and the shooting. Floyd testified that his brother grabbed him by the shoulders and threw him down, that he looked at his brother and heard a "boom," and that his brother fell down and told him that he had been shot. According to Floyd, he then "looked around" and saw defendant, whom he knew, holding something long in his hand. Floyd then ran to the house of one of his mother's friends and called the police. Floyd testified that his brother was outside the fence when he ran away.

After the police arrived, Floyd went back to the location where the incident took place, but his brother was no longer there. Floyd testified that his brother was now inside the fence. Floyd also testified that he told police officers at the scene that Rudy shot his brother and that he pointed defendant out to the police at that time, but that the police officers told him to "shut up." In addition, Floyd stated that he never spoke to the police about the shooting again until January 1978.

On cross-examination, Floyd also testified that it was dark outside but that there were lights, and that he did not see any ladders or tools around the fence. Furthermore, Floyd testified that he might have told police at the scene that he didn't know who shot his brother, but if he did know, he would kill him.

Walter Williams testified that he was driving his car in the vicinity of Roosevelt and Keeler at 9:30 p.m. on October 10, 1977, when a young man, whom he now knows as Floyd, ran out of the alley by Keeler and told him that his brother had been shot in the alley. According to Williams, two police officers arrived about this time, and he directed the police toward the scene of the occurrence, where he observed Floyd's brother lying flat on his back on the ground at the back of the building by a stairway, inside the fence. The gate was locked.

Williams then testified that he went inside a "kitchen store" and asked defendant if he had any keys to unlock the gate, and defendant responded that he did not. Williams went back outside, but returned and asked defendant again to unlock the gate. Defendant responded, "[L]et the son of a bitch die." Williams also testified that defendant finally did unlock the gate, and that during all this time, Floyd was running around the alley yelling, "[H]elp my brother, help my brother." Further, Williams stated that Floyd kept pointing at defendant saying, "That man shot my brother," and that the police told Floyd to shut up or they would arrest him. Williams also stated that he did not see any ladders or tools around the area in question.

The last witness for the State was youth officer Donald Barany, who testified that he first saw Leonard Spencer on January 22, 1978, when Leonard was under arrest and brought before him for "processing and disposition." Barany noticed that Leonard's eye "was fairly shattered" and that Leonard had "a big scar on his neck." Leonard told Barany how these injuries were received. On January 25, Barany spoke to both Leonard and Floyd at Area Four (a police station). At this time, both youths stated that Cortez Williams was the person who shot Leonard.

According to Barany, he and his partner then went to "a chicken shack place" located at Keeler and Roosevelt. They spoke to a female employee at the chicken shack, and the employee told them that she expected defendant to be back shortly. Barany told this woman to have defendant come to Area Four, because there was a problem that had to be resolved.

Barany then testified that he and his partner returned to Area Four and that defendant came approximately 40 minutes later. The following is Barany's testimony as to what occurred at this time:

"A. At the time we saw Mr. [Cortez] Williams he came into area four on the second floor youth division and my partner and I subsequently informed him of his rights.

A. Well, we advised him that he had the right to remain silent. He had the right to an attorney. And that anything he may say could be held against him.

Q. And did you advise him also that an attorney would be provided for him?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. And did you have occasion to speak to Mr. Williams any time during that day?

A. Yes, I did because I saw Mr. Williams in the room, the homicide section investigators had finished briefly interviewing him and I ...

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