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06/16/88 the People of the State of v. Robert Watts

June 16, 1988





525 N.E.2d 233, 170 Ill. App. 3d 815, 121 Ill. Dec. 427 1988.IL.945

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. Stuart H. Siffman, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE McCULLOUGH delivered the opinion of the court. KNECHT and SPITZ, JJ., concur.


The defendant, Robert Watts, appeals his convictions for murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)), aggravated battery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 12-4), aggravated unlawful restraint (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 10-3.1), and obstructing Justice (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 31-4(a)). In support of his appeal, the defendant claims: (1) he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt based upon an accountability theory; and (2) the court erred in denying his motion to reconsider the sentence imposed.

We affirm the defendant's conviction and sentence.

On July 2, 1986, the defendant was charged by information with five counts of murder, one count of aggravated battery, one count of aggravated unlawful restraint, and one count of obstructing Justice. Codefendant, Dennis Sperow, was likewise charged. The charges were based upon an incident which allegedly occurred on June 10, 1986, resulting in the death of Linda Faye Robinson. The case proceeded to jury trial and on October 30, 1986, the defendant was convicted of the four offenses. Codefendant Sperow was tried separately, subsequent to the defendant's conviction. On November 24, 1986, the defendant's post-trial motion was denied and the defendant was sentenced to terms of 30 years for murder, five years for aggravated battery, four years for unlawful restraint, and one year for obstructing Justice. On December 22, 1986, the court denied the defendant's motion for reconsideration and reduction of sentence, as well as a supplemental motion for a new trial. The defendant filed a timely notice of appeal.

At trial, the State presented Springfield police officer Scott Allin, who testified that at approximately 5:15 p.m. on June 10, 1986, he received a call from William Bunch, an acquaintance and former neighbor. Bunch indicated that his stepson, the defendant, was very upset and needed to speak with Allin. Bunch then brought the defendant to Allin's home, whereupon the defendant told Allin he had witnessed a murder and could take Allin to the scene of the crime. Allin immediately called his supervisor and was informed that the Springfield police department had no knowledge of such an incident. The defendant proceeded to direct Allin to a rural and desolate area in the northeast section of Springfield.

Upon arrival at the scene, the defendant directed Allin to the approximate area where the body of a Negro female could be found. Allin went to that area and discovered the severely beaten, nude body of a deceased black female. He also observed a bloodstained, large, football-sized piece of concrete laying near the body. Allin immediately contacted the police department informing them of the incident and requesting appropriate personnel to be dispatched.

While waiting for the arrival of other law enforcement personnel, the defendant told Allin that he and Dennis Sperow had picked up the woman near 13th and Jackson with the intent of having sex with her. The defendant further indicated that he did have sex with her and then Sperow took her into a wooded area. A short time later, the defendant claimed he heard thumping and wrestling noises, and believed that Sperow had severely injured or killed the woman. The defendant told Allin that Sperow was a friend of his, but that he did not know him very well, and was in fact scared of him.

Springfield police officers John Workman and William Sowers established that the body was that of Linda Faye "Ebony" Robinson. Workman stated that he had previously arrested and fingerprinted Robinson, and Sowers, an evidence technician, stated the fingerprints on the body matched those of Robinson.

The physical evidence recovered at the scene of the incident included a large piece of cement which was located three feet west of the body, a wig, a shirt, a single tennis shoe, a knife, and a pair of pants. The distance between the victim's body and the roadway was measured at approximately 73 feet.

At approximately 5:30 p.m. on June 10, 1986, the defendant made a second statement to Springfield police officer Frank Natale. The defendant was still at the scene of the incident. At trial, Natale testified as to the defendant's statement. The defendant said he and another man had been in the area with the black female. The woman approached the defendant and told him that the other man had stabbed her. The woman then ran into the weeds and the defendant followed her. There, she asked the defendant to protect her. The defendant stated he then walked back toward the other man with the intention of taking the knife away from him. At this point, the other man ran past the defendant carrying a large object which the other man used to hit the woman.

The defendant said nothing to Natale about holding the girl down or how far away from the girl he was when she was hit by the object. The defendant indicated that he had neither participated in nor had any desire to assist in the killing.

At approximately 5:40 p.m., the defendant made a third statement to Springfield police officer Tim Young. The defendant was still at the scene of the incident. After receiving Miranda warnings, the defendant informed Young that he and Dennis Sperow had picked up the black female in the area of 13th and Jackson in Springfield. They then drove to the deserted area to have sexual intercourse. The defendant had sexual intercourse with the woman first and then Sperow did the same. While Sperow was having intercourse with the woman, he stabbed her. The defendant indicated to Young that he had witnessed the stabbing. The woman then took off running across the railroad tracks. According to the defendant, Sperow then picked up an object and went after the woman. Shortly thereafter, the defendant heard a large thumping sound and assumed that Sperow was striking the woman with the object. The defendant informed Young that he had not been involved in any of the acts against Robinson and that he did not know Sperow very well.

Dr. Grant Johnson, pathologist and coroner's physician for Sangamon County, testified that he examined the body of Linda Faye Robinson at the scene of the incident. Johnson observed several stab wounds to the body, and noted severe damage to the woman's head. Johnson also observed a red substance on the piece of concrete found lying near the woman. He noted a seven-inch depression in the mud below the woman's head. Johnson, who later took part in the autopsy of the body with Dr. ...

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