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People v. Williams





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. RICHARD L. SAMUELS, Judge, presiding.


Defendant, LaWeeda Williams, and her co-defendant, Michael Johnson, were charged by indictment with two counts of attempt murder, one count of armed robbery, two counts of unlawful restraint, one count of unlawful use of weapons and two counts of armed violence. Following a jury trial, defendant Williams was found guilty of armed robbery and was sentenced to serve nine years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. From that judgment Williams appeals, presenting the following issues for review: (1) whether the trial court's failure to give the jury the second paragraph of the Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions (hereinafter IPI) on the presumption of innocence and reasonable doubt (IPI Criminal No. 2.03) requires reversal of defendant's conviction; (2) whether the jury should have been instructed on the affirmative defense of compulsion; (3) whether defendant was prevented from testifying as to her state of mind during the armed robbery; (4) whether the trial court should have included in the armed robbery issues instruction the requirements of accountability; and (5) whether error was committed in defendant's sentencing. For the reasons hereinafter set forth, we affirm the judgment of conviction and the sentence imposed thereon.

Shortly before midnight on September 12, 1978, the Burger King restaurant at 12701 Ashland Avenue in Calumet Park was robbed. Immediately prior to the robbery there were seven persons present in the restaurant — Gail Harmsa, who was there to visit her friend Bob Crnogorace, a night manager who was not working that evening, and five employees, Carlotta Bernal, Donald Nelson, Marianne Gerritson, Gertrude Early and Ray Hernandez. Harmsa and all of the employees on duty except Hernandez testified for the State.

Carlotta Bernal, the cashier, was standing by the order counter when Michael Johnson, Williams' co-defendant, approached her and ordered a fish sandwich. Bernal placed the order and stepped over to the sandwich counter to see if Marianne Gerritson had finished preparing it. As Bernal turned around, Johnson displayed a sawed-off shotgun, pulled a scarf over his face, jumped over the front counter and walked to the back of the restaurant. A tall black male, later identified as Lonnie Arsbury (Asenbury), came up behind Gail Harmsa and ordered her not to turn around. Arsbury, who was armed with a semiautomatic pistol, instructed Bernal, Harmsa and Ray Hernandez to proceed to the office area in the back of the restaurant. Arsbury also told Donald Nelson and Marianne Gerritson, the two employees at the sandwich making counter, to go to the back office. There they joined Gertrude Early, the night manager on duty, and Harmsa's friend Bob Crnogorace, who were being held at gunpoint by Johnson.

Defendant Williams entered the office area after Arsbury, Harmsa and Hernandez. Arsbury and Johnson ordered everyone to lay down on the floor. Defendant Williams did not get on the floor and none of the State's witnesses saw either Arsbury or Johnson point a gun at her. Williams did not menace or threaten any of the employees or give them any orders. Although no one inside the restaurant ever saw Williams with a weapon, one of the police officers who arrived at the scene a few minutes after the robbery commenced, J. Kraft, testified that as he peered through the front doors of the Burger King he observed Williams holding a small caliber handgun which was later recovered by the police.

In the back office defendant Johnson moved next to the safe and ordered Early, the manager, to open it. Before she could comply, a customer came into the restaurant which had not yet closed. Defendant Williams said, "there is somebody out there who wants food," or words to that effect. Arsbury told Williams to watch the employees. Williams moved her hands in her pockets and nodded affirmatively. Arsbury then ordered Early to lock the doors and get rid of the customer. He followed her out into the front of the restaurant, picked up a broom and pretended to be sweeping while Early told the customer, "I'm closing. I'm out of everything, please leave. I'm going to lock the doors." Arsbury then instructed Early to turn off the lights in the restaurant. Early had to go through the office area to do so. As Early started turning off the lights, Williams asked her what she was doing. Early responded that she was doing what she had been told to do. Neither Johnson nor Arsbury was present with defendant Williams and Early at that moment.

After Arsbury returned to the office area, he ordered Early to open the safe. While she was doing this, the telephone rang. Johnson told Early to answer it. She picked up the receiver, answered a few questions, then hung up the telephone. At Arsbury's direction, Johnson took Early's purse, emptied its contents and started stuffing it with the money from the safe. Arsbury helped Johnson fill the purse with all the paper money and rolled change from the safe. Arsbury and Johnson asked the employees if there was any more money. Early informed them that there were two cash register drawers in front. Johnson ordered Early to retrieve them and stood by the door with the shotgun pointed at her back as she went to get them. Early brought the register drawers back into the office area where Arsbury and Johnson emptied them.

At this point in the robbery there was a knock at the back door. Arsbury ordered Early to answer it and followed her to the back door with his gun pointed at her back. When Early asked who it was, Sergeant William Godbout replied that it was the police. Arsbury took Early back into the office area. Johnson and defendant Williams asked Arsbury who it was and what they were going to do. Arsbury grabbed Early and told her that she was coming with them. Johnson pointed the shotgun at Early and handed the purse with the money to Williams who accepted it. Johnson seized Gail Harmsa and told her to get up and threatened to shoot her if she tried anything. Arsbury asked Early if there was a basement to the building. She said there was none.

At gunpoint, Johnson and Arsbury forced Harmsa and Early to the back door of the restaurant. Defendant Williams followed Johnson and Arsbury. When Arsbury opened the back door, Sergeant Godbout, who was standing behind a 1974 Chevy parked in the back lot, told them to surrender. Arsbury closed the door momentarily, then reopened it. Arsbury forced Early to walk directly in front of him with his pistol in her back. He warned the officer, "I have hostages here, get out of here or we'll kill you, and we'll kill them, too." Arsbury then fired one shot at Godbout which missed him and struck the windshield of the car. Johnson and Harmsa were standing next to Arsbury and Early when Arsbury fired at the officer.

As they proceeded further outside, Arsbury held his pistol to Early's head, and Johnson kept the barrel of his shotgun pressed against Harmsa's back. Defendant Williams followed them. All five walked toward an AMC Gremlin parked in the back lot which Arsbury, Johnson and Williams had borrowed earlier that evening from Loretta Colburn. Williams opened the passenger door and flipped the passenger seat forward so Johnson and Harmsa could get into the back seat. Johnson was pointing his shotgun at Harmsa's head. Arsbury and Early got into the front seat. Arsbury continued to hold his gun to Early's head. Defendant Williams entered the driver's side, started the car and asked Arsbury where she should go. Arsbury told her to drive straight ahead, which was impossible because there were barriers in the way. Instead, Williams pulled out onto Ashland Avenue and tried to maneuver around a squad car which was blocking the street. She struck a parked car, and the Gremlin's engine died. As a result of the accident, Early's head hit the windshield. Arsbury exited from the right side with Early who fell to the ground. Arsbury told her that if she did not get up he would kill her. Arsbury grabbed her and pressed the muzzle of his gun against her head. Arsbury then fired twice at Officer James O'Brien who was standing approximately 18 to 20 feet from him. O'Brien returned the fire.

Johnson ordered Williams to start the car. After Williams succeeded in getting the engine to run, she told Arsbury, "I got it started. Get back in," and Arsbury and Early re-entered the vehicle. Arsbury and Johnson told Williams to put the car in reverse. Williams tried, but the car would not move. Officer Robert Grantman then began to shoot out the car's front tires. When Early said they were being fired upon, Arsbury told her not to worry because the police were aiming at the tires only. Immediately after Arsbury said this, a bullet passed through the driver's side window.

Using a loudspeaker, Officer Robert Grantman three times told the persons in the Gremlin to throw out their weapons and surrender. Arsbury said that they should comply and threw his .32 semiautomatic pistol out of the window. Johnson threw out the sawed-off shotgun. A .22 revolver was also thrown from the vehicle, but none of the officers at the scene could positively state whether he had seen defendant Williams throw any weapon from the vehicle.

After the police had arrested Arsbury, Johnson and Williams, they searched the Gremlin and retrieved $1,331.24 from Early's purse which was found on the driver's side of the front seat floor. Three weapons were recovered — a loaded 16-gauge shotgun, a five-shot .22 revolver which had not been fired, and a .32 Colt semiautomatic pistol with six shots left in the magazine. The automatic was capable of holding one round in the chamber and eight additional rounds in the magazine. One expended .32 casing was found by the rear of the Burger King. Expert testimony established that the casing had been ejected from Arsbury's .32 automatic. During the course of the robbery, Arsbury was wearing a wig, and both Arsbury and Johnson were wearing rubber gloves.

Testifying in her own defense, Williams stated that she had accompanied Johnson and Arsbury to the Burger King restaurant but did not know that the two men had planned an armed robbery and "froze" when Johnson produced a sawed-off shotgun. Defendant stood in the corner of the restaurant during the robbery and did not take any money. Defendant said that she obeyed every order that Johnson and Arsbury gave her. In the back office area Johnson pointed his shotgun at everyone, including defendant. She denied that Arsbury told her to watch the employees when Arsbury and Early went to the front of the restaurant or that she agreed to do so. Defendant also denied asking Early why she was turning off the lights in the restaurant. Arsbury told defendant that she was "going to drive" and she left the restaurant. When Arsbury said this, he had a weapon in his hand but it was not pointed directly at defendant. Arsbury, Johnson, Williams, Harmsa and Early got into the Gremlin. At this point in her testimony the following exchange took place:

"[Defense Counsel]: What did you think they would do to you if you said you wouldn't drive?

[Prosecutor]: Objection to what she thought.

The Court: Sustained.

[Defense Counsel]: The mental state is important. It's a ...

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