APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, SIXTH DIVISION
543 N.E.2d 834, 187 Ill. App. 3d 823, 135 Ill. Dec. 266 1989.IL.1276
PRESIDING JUSTICE EGAN delivered the opinion of the court. McNAMARA and QUINLAN, JJ., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE EGAN
The defendant, James Jones, was convicted after a bench trial of intentional murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)(1)), for the shooting death of Leslie Williams and sentenced to a 22-year term of imprisonment. His sole contention is that the evidence failed to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
James Jones (James) and his codefendants, Edward Jones (Edward) and Willie Merriweather, were charged by indictment with murder in the shooting death of Leslie "Chuckie" Williams. James and Edward are sons of Merriweather. It was the State's theory that James shot the victim at the behest and encouragement of the two other defendants to avenge the beating the victim had just administered to Merriweather. Edward and Merriweather were found not guilty on the ground enunciated by the trial Judge that their accountability in the shooting had not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
The State's key witness, Elizabeth Carson, testified as follows: On Friday, May 16, 1986, at approximately 5:30 p.m., she, Williams and several others were playing softball on a vacant lot at 55th Street and Emerald Avenue in Chicago. She had known Williams for nine years and considered him to be a member of the family. She observed Willie Merriweather walking in an alley adjacent to the lot. Williams grabbed a baseball bat out of her hands, ran up to Merriweather and began striking him with the bat. She told Williams to stop hitting Merriweather and to give her the bat; and he complied. Then two other men, whom Carson later identified as James and Edward Jones, came running down the alley toward the lot. She had seen both of them together around the playground about eight times over the previous month, but she did not know at that time that they were Merriweather's sons. James was wearing a black sweatsuit with red stripes and gym shoes; he had no hat and his hair was braided. She did not get a clear look at Edward's clothes but noticed that he was not wearing a hat either.
As they approached, Merriweather told them "to go and get it." Edward responded, "You want us to go get it?" Merriweather said, "Yes." James and Edward then ran back down the alley. Carson and Williams started walking back to the vacant lot and then headed toward Williams' house across the street. A few moments later Carson saw James and Edward run toward her and Williams. Edward stopped at a tree about 30 feet away from them and told James, "hat's the motherfucker. Get him." James had continued running and was about five feet away when Edward spoke. Carson saw that James had a brown pistol in his hands. She jumped in front of Williams and told James, "Don't do it." James went around her and shot Williams, who fell. As Williams lay face down in the lot, James shot him in the back. She identified all three defendants in court.
Detective Thomas Byron spoke to Carson at her home shortly after the shooting. Although she was coherent and did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Byron was unable to interview her at length because she was so distraught. Carson screamed that she wanted the people who had shot Williams arrested and said that one of them was Merriweather. She provided no other details.
Later that day Carson took an overdose of pills in a suicide attempt. She had attempted suicide once before, in 1982. She had seen a psychiatrist in 1982 and 1984 but was not under care or medication at the time of the shooting.
The next day Detective William Foley and his partner, Detective Cigielski, interviewed her at the hospital and showed her 10 photographs. In Foley's opinion, she seemed rational and coherent. She identified the photographs of Merriweather, James and Edward, and named James as the gunman. She admitted on cross-examination that although she testified that the gunman had his hair in braids, James did not have braids in the photograph. She told the detectives that Williams struck Merriweather with a bat just prior to the shooting, and that Edward directed James to shoot Williams; but Foley did not put these matters in his report. However, Carson did not tell the police certain other details: that she had seen Edward and James on prior occasions; that Merriweather told Edward and James to "go get it," that Edward told James, "That's the motherfucker"; or that she told James, "Don't do it."
On May 22, after Carson was released from the hospital, she attended a lineup conducted by Byron and identified James and Edward. Merriweather was not in the lineup.
She was reinterviewed by the police and provided more details about the shooting. She stated that she had seen James and Edward before, although she did not provide specifics. She told Byron that Merriweather told Edward and James to "go get it." She also quoted Edward as saying, "That's the boy right there. Get him," rather than, as she testified at trial, "That's the motherfucker right there. Get him." She did not state that Williams grabbed her bat and struck Merriweather with it. She told Byron that after the beating Williams threw the bat away, not that she took it from him.
The parties stipulated that Dr. Choi, an assistant medical examiner, would testify that the deceased was shot twice; once on the left side and once in the back.
Byron and an assistant State's Attorney also interviewed James Jones, who stated that he was with his girlfriend, Lisa Shields, on May 16 at 5:30 p.m. He had stayed at her house the night before. On the day of the shooting he had left the house at about 3 p.m., taking his son to the park. He bought a 40-ounce can of beer at a liquor store, and they remained at the park until about 8 p.m. Afterwards they returned to Lisa's, where he spent the night. He left Lisa's house on Saturday, saw his father and at that time first learned about the beating. Byron talked to Lisa Shields and then spoke with James again. He ...