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People v. Amos





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Will County; the Hon. Michael A. Orenic, Judge, presiding.


Defendant Robert Amos was convicted by a jury of murdering Brian Jackson at the Stateville Correctional Center. He was sentenced to 35 years. We remand for an in camera evidentiary finding by the trial judge. We otherwise affirm.

The first item we address is whether, as the State claims, defendant has waived consideration of any issue by this court due to his failure to file a post-trial motion required by section 116-1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 116-1). Generally, failure to file a post-trial motion waives all issues on appeal. (People v. Thiel (1981), 102 Ill. App.3d 28, 429 N.E.2d 565.) There are certain exceptions to the waiver rule, such as plain error under Supreme Court Rule 615(a) (87 Ill.2d R. 615(a)).

• 1 "The reasons for the waiver rule are two-fold: To inform the trial court of a possible mistake so as to give it the opportunity to correct the mistake, and not to allow a defendant a chance to object to that which he has acquiesced in. [Citation.]" People v. Hammond (1977), 48 Ill. App.3d 707, 708-09, 362 N.E.2d 1361; see also People v. Irwin (1965), 32 Ill.2d 441, 207 N.E.2d 76.

• 2 Our examination of the trial record reveals that many of the now-complained-of events were objected to and well argued before the learned trial judge. He was well informed of defendant's objections and had ample opportunity to correct any error that may have occurred. Defendant claims that the issues raised constitute plain error or affect substantive rights. Thus, to allow the appeal as to the objected-to, well-argued issues would not be violative of the spirit of the waiver rule.

Defendant and five others (Karl Bell, Bruce Dawkins, William Young, Robert Taylor, and Paul Williams) were indicted for the murder of inmate Brian Jackson at the Stateville Correctional Center. The six were also inmates at Stateville. Upon a successful motion for a severance, defendant and William Young (co-defendant) were jointly tried apart from the others.

On March 31, 1983, Brian Jackson was found dead in the shower room of the multipurpose building at Stateville. The body had suffered a multitude of stab wounds. There was a large amount of blood on the floor and walls of the shower room. A "close down" was instituted. The area was secured, and approximately 150 inmates were screened and interrogated.

During the close down, defendant was noticed with no pants on, stuffing a pair of pants through the bleachers. The pants were seized by security. They had a "blood-like" stain on them.

Investigation of the shower room revealed two belts, a T-bevel with the blade broken off, a metal shank with one end sharpened, a knife found inside a glove, and two lengths of cotton rope.

The pathologist who performed the autopsy determined that Jackson died from the combined effects of exsanguination with shock and strangulation. Jackson suffered 122 cutting wounds, some characterized as "defense type" wounds. The pathologist also testified that the items found in the shower room were compatible with the wounds.

Paul Williams, a co-indictee and Jackson's cellmate, testified to the events of that day. He stated that he carried the shank and the T-bevel to the gym. He, the others, and Jackson were members of the Vice Lords street gang. Those involved met in the shower room to administer a "violation" (i.e., a punishment for breaking the rules of the gang) to Jackson, whereupon co-defendant Young stabbed Jackson with the knife. The blade broke, so Young used another weapon. He stabbed Jackson in the head many times.

After the stabbing, everyone started cleaning up. Young, however, noticed that Jackson was still breathing and had a pulse. Young took the string from his sweat pants and strangled Jackson. The string broke. Young then took the belt from coindictee Dawkins and strangled Jackson further.

Paul Williams was in prison for escape, armed robbery, and rape. He was also offered the opportunity to make blind pleas of guilty to aggravated battery, mob action, and conspiracy to intimidate in exchange for his testimony for the State. The murder charge was to be dropped. It was also established that Paul Williams had made statements that conflicted with his trial testimony.

Over objection, an investigator was allowed to testify as to the statements made by Paul Williams prior to trial. These statements largely repeated his trial testimony.

Joe Williams also testified as to the events in the shower room. He had three convictions for burglary as well as convictions for residential burglary, possession of burglary tools, and theft. He was not charged in the instant case.

Joe Williams stated that the violation was to merely be a physical violation, with co-defendant Young, defendant, and co-indictee Bell hitting Jackson. Young then stopped the violation, obtained the weapons, and repeatedly stabbed Jackson. Young then ordered Dawkins and Tucker to strangle Jackson. Dawkins' belt broke, so Young ordered Joe Williams to surrender his belt, which he did. Dawkins and Tucker then resumed strangling Jackson.

Joe Williams had been a heroin addict since 1974. He was never charged with murder, and was transferred within the Department of Corrections. He also made contradictory statements to investigating officers.

Defendant also testified. He stated that Jackson was aware of the violation. The violation was for the alleged rape of Dawkins by Jackson. Defendant administered the punishment — 15 blows to the chest. Then, Joe Williams stepped in, asking for the weapons. Dawkins, Tucker, and Bell started stabbing Jackson over Young's objection. Defendant stated that neither he nor Young had any weapons or stabbed Jackson. He never saw the strangulation. He stated that while Jackson was being stabbed, he and Young left the shower room. ...

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