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People v. Williams





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. FRED G. SURIA, JR., Judge, presiding.


After a bench trial, Gloria Williams (defendant), was found guilty of child abduction (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 10-5(b)(2)) and sentenced to probation for one year. She appeals.


Defendant contends the proof was inadequate under the reasonable doubt standard and also failed to establish she had knowledge of the court order which she allegedly violated. Clinton Williams, the child in question, testified he was 12 years old. In January of 1980 he saw his mother at his school in Markham. He went home to Harvey with her on the bus. He did not sleep in his mother's home, but she brought him over to sleep at the home of a neighbor.

Estella Fleming testified she was duly designated as a foster parent. Clinton Williams lived with her from about February 28, 1979, until January of 1980. The boy attended school in Markham. He did not return from school on January 11, 1980. She did not give the boy permission to leave. After he left for school on January 11, 1980, she did not see him for a month.

A social worker identified a copy of an order entered by the juvenile branch of the circuit court on February 23, 1979, taking the custody of Clinton Williams from his mother. On January 11, 1980, Fleming told the witness the boy was missing and had been "kidnapped."

The social worker also testified that on January 14, 1980, he went to the area of 70th and Clyde. He saw the defendant leave the premises at 7043-7045 Clyde and return to her own address which was 7031 Clyde. Defendant was then alone. He and his department did not at any time ever give anyone, other than Estella Fleming, custody and control of the boy.

Defendant testified in her own behalf. She stated the police searched her premises on January 11, 1980, but no one was found. She testified she last saw her son on January 7, 1980, or January 8, 1980. On January 14, 1980, she was arrested. She had never heard about the order for change of her son's custody and never received a copy thereof. She was in juvenile court on the day in question but the judge did not say anything about the custody of the child.

Laura Bowers, a schoolmate of the boy, testified in rebuttal. On January 11, 1980, she attended school with Clinton Williams. At about 3 o'clock when school was over, she walked out of the building with Clinton some 3 feet in front of her. She saw a lady, whom she identified as the defendant, on the other side of the street. That day the police showed her a picture which was that of the same lady. She told the police that was the person who took Clinton. She recognized this lady as the one who called Clinton over to her.

• 1 In our opinion, despite the denial by defendant, the evidence proves beyond reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty that defendant not only was aware of the order for custody but deliberately sought to evade it by taking Clinton from the school and keeping him in her custody for a number of days. She concealed Clinton by taking him over to the neighbor's house at night. The denial by defendant simply raises an issue of credibility. In our opinion, the trial judge correctly resolved the issue of credibility. His determination may not be reversed by this court. We may not substitute our judgment for that of the trial judge. People v. Powell (1978), 72 Ill.2d 50, 65, 377 N.E.2d 803, cert. denied (1979), 440 U.S. 907, 59 L.Ed.2d 455, 99 S.Ct. 1214.


Defendant urges her son Clinton, 12 years old, and Laura Bowers, 11 years old, were not competent witnesses. As regards Clinton, the trial court conducted a thorough hearing regarding his competency to testify. Both counsel supplemented the questions put by the trial court. As regards Laura Bowers, the trial judge conducted a thorough examination of the witness. Both counsel indicated they had no additional questions. The trial court found each of these witnesses competent.

As a general matter, "the degree of a child's intelligence, and not his age, determines his competency * * *." (People v. Edwards (1973), 55 Ill.2d 25, 33, 302 N.E.2d 306, cert. denied (1974), 415 U.S. 928, 39 L.Ed.2d 486, 94 S.Ct. 1438.) This proposition has been correctly described as "axiomatic in Illinois." (People v. Nash (1980), 90 Ill. App.3d 612, 617, 413 N.E.2d 16, and cases there cited.) In In re Cruz (1979), 76 Ill. App.3d 565, 568, 395 N.E.2d 388, this court, following People v. Ballinger (1967), 36 Ill.2d 620, 622, 225 N.E.2d 10, cert. denied (1967), 388 U.S. 920, 18 L.Ed.2d 1366, 87 S.Ct. 2141, held:

"In determining the minor's intelligence, the judge should consider whether the minor is sufficiently mature to: (1) receive correct impressions from his senses; (2) recollect these impressions; (3) understand questions and narrate answers ...

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