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December 8, 1997


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable William J. Hibbler, Judge Presiding.

Rehearing Denied Jaunary 13, 1998. Released for Publication January 22, 1998.

The Honorable Justice Gallagher delivered the opinion of the court. Buckley and O'brien, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gallagher

The Honorable Justice GALLAGHER delivered the opinion of the court:

On August 29, 1992, a jury convicted the defendant, Antillio Watkins, of two counts of first degree murder for the shooting deaths of Dovette Russell and Vastille Blakely. That jury also convicted defendant of the attempted murder of Michael Jones. The State requested a death penalty hearing, and defendant waived his right to have that hearing conducted before a jury. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 38, par. 9-1 (West 1991)(now 720 ILCS 5/9-1 (West 1996)). On September 24, 1992, the trial court found defendant eligible for the death penalty and sentenced him to death by lethal injection for the murders of Russell and Blakely; the court also imposed a 30-year sentence for the attempted first degree murder of Michael Jones. The Illinois Supreme Court subsequently remanded the case to the trial court, ordering it to entertain a postsentencing motion, which is required to preserve sentencing issues for review in capital cases. People v. Szabo, 113 Ill. 2d 83, 93, 497 N.E.2d 995, 999, 100 Ill. Dec. 726 (1986). Defendant's trial counsel had failed to file any such motion. On September 20, 1995, after a hearing on the postsentencing motion, the trial court vacated defendant's death sentence, imposing instead a sentence of natural life imprisonment for defendant's murder convictions. On September 22, 1995, defendant filed a pro se postconviction petition and motion for appointment of counsel; that petition was dismissed as frivolous without the appointment of counsel.

Defendant now appeals from his murder and attempted murder convictions, and from the summary dismissal of his postconviction petition.

The State's primary witness was Michael Jones. He testified that on October 13, 1990, he borrowed a yellow Cadillac from his friend, Dovette Russell. Russell gave Jones her pager so that she might contact him if she needed her car. At around 10 or 11 o'clock that night, Russell paged Jones and asked him to pick up her friend, Tip. Michael Jones then made an in-court identification of defendant as the man he knew as Tip. Jones had met defendant roughly one week prior to the night of the shooting. After Jones picked defendant up outside a bar, defendant instructed Jones how to get to an apartment located at 1063 West Glenlake on the north side of Chicago. The drive took approximately 25 minutes. Jones then accompanied defendant into a first-floor apartment at 1063 West Glenlake, in which Dovette Russell and Vastille Blakely were waiting. Jones went into the apartment to use the bathroom and to get gas money from Dovette for picking up her friend, meaning defendant. On his way to the bathroom, Jones heard Russell tell defendant that she wanted him to act as her bodyguard as she "took care of something." Jones said that, by this time, it was past midnight.

Once Jones returned from the bathroom, defendant said, "look, you all just get on the bed." Jones did not think defendant was serious, until he felt a shot, like a "sledge hammer," hit him in the jaw. As he was shot, Jones briefly saw a gun out of the corner of his eye. Defendant was holding what looked like a small, automatic weapon. Jones then saw Vastille and Dovette jump upon the bed and heard them begging for their lives, saying "please, no, don't," to defendant as he reached toward them with the gun in his hand. Jones saw defendant point the gun at Dovette's head and then Vastille's chest before Jones passed out. When he came to, Jones noticed that the screaming had stopped, but he did hear defendant walking toward him. Jones pretended to be dead. Defendant took the car keys out of Jones' hand and left.

After waiting a few minutes to be sure defendant had gone, Jones dialed 911. He saw the bodies of Dovette Russell and Vastille Blakely. Jones met the police outside the apartment and described his assailant as a black male, 5 feet 10 inches tall and approximately 200 pounds, with a goatee mustache and a nose ring. He also stated that the shooter wore a black and white jogging suit and a dark felt hat. Paramedics then took Jones to Illinois Masonic Hospital, where he underwent surgery and had his jaw wired shut. After about a day and a half, police visited Jones at the hospital. Jones identified defendant through two separate photographic lineups.

On cross-examination, Jones stated that he never gave the name of his assailant to the 911 telephone operator. He simply repeated, "please help me, hurry. Help me."

Linda Moy testified for the prosecution as well. Dovette Russell was Moy's friend, and whenever she needed to contact Dovette, she would page her. The prosecutor then showed Ms. Moy a pager, which Moy identified as Dovette Russell's pager. Ms. Moy stated that the last time she had seen that pager was in Dovette Russell's possession on October 11, 1990.

Deborah Bugaj-Moeller, a paramedic with the Chicago fire department, testified that she and a partner responded to a call at 1063 West Glenlake at 3 a.m. on October 14, 1990. Upon their arrival, Bugaj-Moeller saw Michael Jones lying in the courtyard of the building with a gunshot wound to his jaw. Jones repeatedly mumbled "Tip" or "Trip" as the paramedics treated him and took him to Illinois Masonic Hospital.

The results of the autopsies indicated that both Dovette Russell and Vastille Blakely died from gunshot wounds. When the police found their bodies, each victim's clothing was in disarray. A search of the crime scene revealed three fired bullets, four cartridges and several unfired bullets; all of the recovered ammunition fit a 9 millimeter, automatic handgun. A sizeable amount of narcotics was hidden behind the headboard of the bed, although no money was found.

The State also called Anthony Demus, defendant's next-door neighbor. He testified that on October 14, 1990, defendant spoke with him on Demus' back porch. This occurred at roughly 4:00 a.m. Defendant informed Demus that Dovette was dead. Defendant next stated that "the Colombians" had killed her. Finally, defendant admitted to Demus that defendant himself had killed Dovette; however, in Demus' opinion, defendant made this admission in jest.

Detective Joseph Guzolek of the Chicago police department testified that he had been assigned to investigate the homicides of Dovette Russell and Vastille Blakely. Guzolek first attempted to interview Michael Jones at the hospital on October 14, 1990; however, this attempt proved unsuccessful as Jones was sedated and sleeping. Using the nickname "Tip" (obtained, presumably, from information provided by the paramedics), Guzolek discovered the proper name of Antillio Watkins, residing at 6826 South Cornell in Chicago, in a nickname file compiled by the Chicago police. He retrieved a 1988 "mug shot" photo of defendant, along with three other photos, and again went to Illinois Masonic Hospital to attempt to interview Michael Jones. This time, Jones was awake. Jones identified defendant as his assailant from the four photos presented by Guzolek. Jones could not speak but wrote out "looked like" on a piece of paper, indicating toward defendant's photograph. When Guzolek asked the victim the name of his attacker, Jones wrote out "TIP." This identification occurred at roughly 12:35 a.m. on October 15, 1990. Guzolek next proceeded to 6826 South Cornell, where he awaited the defendant. Defendant, however, could not be found at that address. Guzolek remained until approximately 6 a.m., at which time he returned to the police station to write his reports and be relieved.

Chicago police detective Paul Hagen took over the investigation from Detective Guzolek at 10:45 a.m. on October 15, 1990. Hagen and his partner proceeded directly to 6826 South Cornell. Defendant's brother admitted the police to the apartment, where they found defendant asleep in bed. Hagen woke defendant and placed him under arrest. Searching defendant's bedroom, the police found numerous articles of brand new clothing, approximately $180 in cash, and a pager resting upon the pile of cash. Defendant pointed to the pile and informed the police that he wanted to bring "that" with him. The police complied, and they confiscated both the cash and the pager. Defendant stated that the pager belonged to him. Later, the police returned and seized the clothing they observed in the bedroom, as well as a black felt hat. Once they returned to the station, the police took a Polaroid ...

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