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12/26/89 the People of the State of v. Elbert Williams

December 26, 1989





563 N.E.2d 762, 205 Ill. App. 3d 751, 150 Ill. Dec. 635 1989.IL.2020

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable James B. Bailey, Judge Presiding.




The defendant, Elbert Williams, was tried by a jury and convicted of two counts of murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)), of Napoleon ("Nate") Williams and Larry Crittendon. He was sentenced to natural life in the Illinois Department of Corrections. The issues presented for review on this appeal are:

(1) Whether People v. Reddick (1988), 123 Ill. 2d 184, 526 N.E.2d 141, which held that the voluntary manslaughter instructions erroneously stated the burden of proof applicable to the issues of provocation and belief of justification, should be retroactively applied to the case at bar?

(2) Whether the trial court erred in denying defendant's motion to suppress his statements?

(3) Whether defendant was proven guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt in light of the evidence he presented on the affirmative defense of self defense?

(4) Whether the trial court erred in giving the jury an instruction which involves the limitation of a self defense claim where a defendant was purportedly the aggressor?

(5) Whether remarks made by the prosecutor during closing arguments deprived defendant of a fair trial?

(6) Whether the imposition of a natural life sentence without considering factors in mitigation violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution?

(7) Whether defendant's sentence was proper under the mandatory life statute?

Prior to trial, a hearing was held on defendant's motion to suppress statements. At the hearing defendant testified that at the start of the police interrogation he requested a lawyer but was refused because the detective told him it was too late to get one. He also testified that in response to his requests, he was denied aspirin even though he was suffering pain from a recent gunshot wound. He made similar requests at subsequent interrogations but was similarly refused. Defendant stated that he had difficulty walking and used a cane. During one of these interviews, Detective O'Connor told him that a man named Tubb had a contract out on his life.

Detective Michael O'Connor testified that he had been a police officer since 1966. On the night of January 21, 1986, defendant was arrested outside of the apartment of his girlfriend, Darlene McCoy. Defendant was given his Miranda warnings in the squad car. Thereafter, O'Connor and his partner Patrick Carroll interviewed defendant. O'Connor stated that he told defendant his girlfriend had given them a statement incriminating him in a double homicide. He showed defendant an unloaded gun, but did not point the gun at him. He neither threatened nor coerced defendant in order to obtain a statement. O'Connor maintained that defendant never requested a lawyer. He further testified that defendant walked with the use of a cane but denied that he had ever asked for medical attention during the interviews.

Detective Patrick Carroll's testimony was substantially the same as O'Connor's. He stated that defendant was offered food and water but refused them during the interviews. Carroll's testimony corroborated O'Connor's in that defendant never asked for an attorney, and no one ever told him it was too late to obtain a public defender. On cross examination, Carroll stated that he had been a detective for 20 years. He noticed defendant's disability and that he had a difficult time walking.

The trial court denied defendant's motion to suppress the statements. The trial Judge stated that it was a question of credibility of the witnesses and there was no question that the officers were more believable. Before trial, defendant waived his right to a jury for the death penalty phase of his sentencing hearing.

During the trial several witnesses testified on behalf of the State to the following events. Police officer Michael Feldman testified that on January 21, 1986, in response to a call at approximately 4:12 a.m., he discovered the bodies of two black males who had been shot at 54th and Dearborn Streets in Chicago. He found one body with no signs of life and blood coming from the head lying next to a car. He found a wallet on this body but no weapon. He saw another person still alive, lying 100 feet to the north who was rushed to the hospital.

An evidence technician testified that he photographed the area. He recovered a spent bullet lying in the parking area next to the curb. He identified a photograph showing metal fragments in the area where Crittendon was found lying face down on the street. The metal fragments of a disintegrated bullet was found underneath his left ear. Crittendon had been wearing a grey jacket and a brown sweater.

Dr. Mitra Kalelkar, a deputy medical examiner, testified that she performed autopsies on the body of each victim. Crittendon was shot twice with a through and through bullet wound to the left temple and a bullet wound to the chest that went through the heart, exited the body and caused his death. Nate suffered a bullet wound to the abdomen, that lodged in his left hip bone and caused his death. On cross-examination Dr. Kalelkar stated that an autopsy can reveal whether a gunshot wound is from close or far range. There was no evidence of close range firing to Crittendon because there was no evidence of powder or stippling around the wound. However, on redirect she conceded that stippling is generally not found when a gun is shot any further away than 24 inches.

Laura Wenton, a barmaid at Pretty's Lounge, testified that when defendant and his girlfriend, Darlene, entered the bar between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m., Nate was already there shooting pool. Crittendon came into the bar at approximately 3:00 a.m. When Crittendon came in, he walked over to the defendant who was seated at the bar, and they talked with each other until closing time. At 4:00 a.m. defendant, Darlene and the victims all left together and got ...

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