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People v. White

OPINION FILED FEBRUARY 21, 1984.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

JEROME "FATS" WHITE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal filed from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. Harold L. Jensen, Judge, presiding. JUSTICE WEBBER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant was charged by a multicount indictment in the circuit court of Champaign County with the offenses of murder, armed robbery, conspiracy to commit murder, and conspiracy to commit armed robbery, in violation of sections 9-1(a)(3), 18-2, 9-1(b)(5), and 8-2 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, pars. 9-1(a)(3), 18-2, 9-1(b)(5), 8-2). The death penalty was sought under two of the murder counts. Also charged in the same indictment were defendant's brothers, Derrick White and Michael Johnson, and one of defendant's prostitutes, Bernice Caldwell. The record does not disclose when or how defendant's case was severed from his co-defendants (his first motion for severance was denied), but he was tried separately. A jury, impaneled for that purpose, found him guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder, but not guilty of armed robbery. Defendant waived a jury as to the death penalty aspect of the case and submitted the matter to the trial judge, who sentenced him to life imprisonment. This appeal followed.

All of the charges arose out of an incident which occurred in the early morning hours on August 6, 1982, at a rest area on Interstate Route 57 near Pesotum, Illinois. Waymond Jackson and Donald Stewart were shot and robbed at that time and place. Jackson died as a result. The general background of the matter revolves about the efforts of rival pimps and their prostitutes to control the rest area.

On appeal defendant raises a variety of issues: (1) reasonable doubt; (2) evidentiary errors; (3) selection of a "death qualified" jury; and (4) excessive sentence. The State's case was largely circumstantial and hence subject to the infirmities inherent in all such cases. However, after a careful review of the entire record, we find no basis for upsetting the jury's verdict nor the trial judge's sentence.

The issues of reasonable doubt and admission of evidence are interrelated, and given the circumstantial nature of the case and the large number of witnesses who testified, it is difficult to piece together a coherent narrative of events. We start with the proposition, sustained by the record, that defendant was a pimp and that Bernice Caldwell, also known as Ebony Wells, was one of his prostitutes; and that the victim, Waymond Jackson, was also a pimp with his stable of prostitutes. Much of the State's evidence related to events and statements made during the months and weeks prior to the homicide. During most of this period defendant was committed to the Department of Corrections in which he was serving a 364-day sentence for a traffic offense. He became a resident of the Urbana Community Correctional Center on October 31, 1981, and remained there until March 1, 1982. This is a work-release center housing felons and misdemeanants who are serving the last four to six months of their sentences. For reasons not stated in the record, defendant was transferred out of the center and ultimately released from the Department of Corrections on July 22, 1982.

Initial evidence given by police officers established the discovery of two bodies on the ground in the rest area and two vehicles parked one behind the other. Several women were running about the area. Waymond Jackson was dead and Donald Stewart was suffering from a head injury. A police dispatch stated that suspects involved in the case were headed north on the interstate in a silver-colored, late model car. Other officers stopped such a car for a headlight violation. Allen Walker was driving and Doyle Johnson was a passenger. They were arrested for not having a firearm owner's identification card when the officers observed a round of live ammunition on the rear floorboard of the car. An employee of a rental car agency in Champaign testified that on August 5, 1982, the day before the occurrence, she rented a 1980 silver Malibu to Bernice Caldwell. She identified a photograph of the car driven by Allen Walker as the one she rented to Caldwell.

Doyle Johnson fell asleep shortly after his arrest. At the time of his arrest, Johnson had in his possession $187. Walker possessed $154. It was stipulated that no gunshot residue was found on Walker's or Johnson's hands and that wearing gloves would prevent such residue from being deposited on the hands. The medical evidence established that Waymond Jackson died as a result of a shotgun wound to his head. Donald Stewart suffered trauma to his brain and was partially paralyzed on his right side as a result of a bullet wound to the left side of his head.

Doyle Johnson was the State's principal witness. He acknowledged that he had been charged with the murder of Waymond Jackson, attempt (murder) of Donald Stewart, and conspiracy to commit murder. He had pleaded guilty to murder and attempt (murder) and as part of the plea agreement, 30 years' imprisonment was imposed. A further part of the agreement was that he would first go to a Federal penitentiary on an unrelated offense and then to an Illinois minimum security institution. In return, he agreed to testify against defendant.

Johnson stated that he had had a conversation with defendant in Chicago at approximately 8:30 p.m. on August 5, 1982. Defendant stated to him that Bernice Caldwell had a conflict with a man in Champaign and that he could make some money. Defendant was also seen talking to Allen Walker. Thereafter, defendant, Caldwell, Walker, and Johnson drove to Champaign.

During the journey, defendant stated that he and Caldwell wanted the man with whom they had a conflict taken "out of the game" or killed. In return, Walker and Johnson were to be paid $1,000 each. Defendant told them that the man would probably be at the truck stop and described the blue and white Cadillac he would be driving.

Johnson fell asleep in the car 30 minutes after leaving Chicago. He claimed that he had not had much sleep and had used heroin, cocaine, and angel dust at about 4:30 that afternoon. Upon arriving in Champaign, the group entered a home Johnson had never seen before. Defendant and Bernice Caldwell went into a bedroom and shortly thereafter called for Johnson and Walker to join them. Defendant furnished them with two pairs of gloves, a sawed-off shotgun, and a .357 handgun, and told them to use a silver car that was parked in the garage. They took the weapons and began to drive to the truck stop. Johnson claimed that defendant and Caldwell followed behind until they approached the expressway leading to the truck stop.

Johnson and Walker drove up to a blue and white Cadillac parked at the truck stop; Walker, who was driving, stopped and asked for directions to Chicago. They left after obtaining directions but returned several minutes later. There was another car parked next to the Cadillac with women later identified as Shirley Bond, Angela Andujo, and Gabrie Davis, seated in both vehicles. Walker, armed with the sawed-off shotgun, ordered everyone to get out of the vehicles and grabbed Waymond Jackson; Johnson grabbed the other man, Donald Stewart. Walker ordered the men and women to lie face down on the pavement and then asked Jackson for his money. Stewart also gave Johnson his money. After Walker shot Jackson once in the head, Johnson fired two shots at Stewart with the .357 revolver.

After they had shot the two men, Walker and Johnson returned to their vehicle and drove away. They headed toward Chicago, where they were told to park the car. While traveling north on Interstate 57, Johnson threw the guns and the gloves out of the window. Walker and Johnson were stopped by the police in De Witt County. They received no money for the shooting because they were not to be paid until after their job had been completed.

One of the defendant's main arguments on appeal is the credibility of Doyle Johnson. Several things occurred following his arrest which cast reflections on it. He then told the police that Caldwell was working as a prostitute for Michael White, defendant's brother, rather than defendant, and that Michael White and Bernice Caldwell were the ones who solicited him and Walker, not to commit murder, but to commit robbery. He also told them that Michael and Bernice had furnished the weapons and silver automobile. He admitted the shooting and claimed he intended to return to Chicago, there to split the proceeds of the robbery with Michael and Bernice. At trial he stated that he had made these statements implicating Michael rather than defendant because he and defendant had been close friends for 20 years; and that he hoped that defendant would help him find a lawyer to "come out of it okay."

Johnson first implicated defendant in the crimes about five days before defendant's trial and did not do so until after Allen Walker had been convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. He stated that there was no agreement between the State's Attorney and himself at the time he stated defendant, rather than Michael, solicited him.

Another strange incident occurred while Johnson and the defendant were being held in jail, but in different sections thereof. Johnson wrote a note to defendant saying that when he and Allen Walker first went to jail they were both sick and high on drugs. The note also said that both Johnson and Walker knew that defendant had nothing to do with what happened at the rest stop. At trial, Johnson claimed that defendant was the author of the note, that he had simply copied it and sent it back to defendant in another part of the jail.

Testimony was received in the State's case from a number of harlots. Angela Andujo testified that she worked as a prostitute for Waymond Jackson. Others in his coterie were Gabrie Davis, Shirley Bond, and Carmen Lucas. Andujo was present plying her trade in the rest stop on the night of August 5, 1982. Essentially, she echoed the story told by Doyle Johnson: a silver car arrived at about 4 a.m. containing two black men; they asked directions to Chicago and left; they returned and parked next to Waymond Jackson's blue and white Cadillac; the driver got out and placed a shotgun next to Jackson's head; there were some shots and then one big blast; the men got back into the car; Jackson had a gun in his car and it was thrown into a nearby field by Gabrie Davis.

The State sought to show that there was a pre-existing hostility between Waymond Jackson on the one hand and defendant and Bernice Caldwell on the other, and that the hostility was over control of the rest stop. Over defendant's hearsay objection Andujo was permitted to testify that one or two weeks before Jackson was killed, Caldwell, who worked for defendant, had warned Andujo that she was not to go to the rest stop without defendant's permission and that if she did work there, she would be required to give defendant one-half of her earnings. The trial court permitted the testimony on the basis that a conspiracy existed between defendant and Caldwell to control the rest stop and the testimony was probative of when it began. This will be discussed in greater detail later in this opinion. Andujo also stated that Derrick White, defendant's brother, was running defendant's prostitution business while defendant was in jail.

Shirley Bond, another of Jackson's bawds, also witnessed the shootings. Her testimony largely paralleled that of Andujo. She also described an incident which occurred on the 14th or 15th of July 1982. Derrick White and Waymond Jackson were present in the rest stop; Derrick got out of his car and began yelling at Waymond; Waymond had a gun and cocked it; the police arrived and dispersed the crowd. Later everyone returned to the rest stop and a fight began between Carmen Lucas, one of Waymond's prostitutes, and Bernice Caldwell. Lucas administered a beating to Caldwell. Bond also testified that she had heard both Waymond and Derrick upon previous occasions threaten that someone would die over the struggle for control of the area.

Gabrie Davis and Carmen Lucas also described the events of the early morning of August 6. Their testimony added nothing significantly new to what had already been said. Lucas confirmed that a few weeks prior to the shootings she had had a fight with Caldwell at the rest area. Caldwell ordered Lucas not to work there and approached with a razor; Lucas then sprayed her with Mace.

Donna Blakely and Jackie Manning were members of Derrick White's stable. They also worked the rest stop. Blakely testified that Derrick was in a hospital in Champaign from August 4 to August 7, 1982. She was present at the fight between Waymond Jackson and Bernice Caldwell, who, she said, worked for defendant. According to Blakely, Jackson told Caldwell he was upset with her, slapped her, and then administered a beating. Caldwell responded by saying "wait till my man get out." Blakely stated that a few nights later there was a fight between Carmen Lucas and Caldwell.

Eric Goff, a high school student and apparently a friend of Derrick White, testified that at Derrick's request he took Blakely and Manning to visit him while he was in the hospital on the morning of August 6, 1982. (It will be remembered that the shootings took place about 4 a.m. on the same date.) Defendant and Bernice Caldwell were there. Goff overheard Derrick tell Blakely and Manning to tell the police that they had been at the rest area and had obtained a ride back to town by a trucker. He also told them that they had nothing to worry about. Derrick also asked Goff what he had heard, and he replied that he had heard that "two dudes got knocked off," at which point Derrick winked, smiled and nodded his head. According to Goff, defendant was not in the hospital room at the time but was out in the lobby.

As to physical evidence, the police had collected a number of items at the rest stop and along the shoulder of the northbound lanes of Interstate 57. A .357 Magnum Tarsus handgun was found at the rest stop in the grass, apparently the weapon belonging to Waymond Jackson which Gabrie Davis had thrown out on the occasion of the shootings. About four miles north of the rest stop on the Interstate, the police located the stock of a .410 gauge shotgun, the butt portion of a .410 gauge shotgun, and a .357 Magnum handgun. ...


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