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People v. Williams

October 21, 1999


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Bilandic

-Agenda 5-January 1999.

The issue in this case is whether the trial court's statements in response to defendant's motion for a directed finding of not guilty amounted to an acquittal for double jeopardy purposes. We hold that these statements did not constitute an acquittal.


Defendant, Tracy Williams, and co-defendant, Jamal Crumble, were charged with first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1 (West 1992)) and armed robbery (720 ILCS 5/18-2 (West 1992)). These charges arose out of the December 27, 1993, murder of Thomas Yednak. Defendant's case was severed from his co-defendant's case, and defendant waived his right to a jury trial.

Theresa Yednak testified at trial that her husband, Thomas Yednak, received a pager message on the morning of December 27, 1993. Because Thomas was sleeping at this time, Theresa returned the call and spoke with someone. When Thomas awoke, he too called the number which appeared on the pager and spoke with someone. Theresa's testimony reveals no information regarding the contents of these conversations. Thomas left for work at approximately 4 p.m. that day, and he told Theresa that he was first going to 87th Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway. When Thomas did not call Theresa from work, as was customary, Theresa called Thomas' employer and learned that he had not arrived. Theresa asked to talk to defendant, who worked with Thomas. Defendant did not provide any information to Theresa regarding the whereabouts of Thomas. At approximately 11 p.m. that night, Chicago Police Detectives James Butler and Michael Kill came to Theresa's home and told her that her husband had been killed. Theresa told the detectives about the pager call, and that she had spoken to defendant, who worked with her husband.

Detective Butler testified that, on December 27, 1993, he and Detective Kill investigated a shooting at 521 West 91st Street in Chicago. At 8:30 p.m., the detectives observed the victim in the driver's seat of his car. The victim was slumped over toward the passenger side with a gunshot wound in the back of his head. The detectives found a bullet casing on the driver's seat.

Assistant State's Attorney Kelly Bolan-Chevalier testified that on December 28, 1993, she took a statement from defendant. Defendant stated that he and the victim worked at the same company. About one week before the crimes at issue occurred, co-defendant Jamal Crumbell told defendant that he wanted to sell a minicamera. In response, defendant gave Jamal the victim's pager number. According to defendant, on December 27, 1993, defendant drove Jamal to a grocery store parking lot near 87th Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway where they met the victim at about 4 p.m. Defendant and Jamal, followed by the victim in his car, drove to a side street near 91st Street. At this point, defendant and Jamal got out of defendant's car and walked to the victim's car. Defendant sat in the passenger seat of the victim's car, and Jamal sat in the back seat, behind the victim.

According to defendant, Jamal requested $500 for the minicamera; however, the victim wanted to pay for the minicamera with marijuana and cocaine. Consequently, Jamal and the victim argued about the terms of the transaction. The victim then grabbed Jamal by the coat, and Jamal punched the victim in the face. At this point, defendant pushed the victim against the driver's side door of the car, and defendant and the victim began to punch each other. Jamal pointed a silver semiautomatic handgun at the back of the victim's head and fired a single shot. The victim's body slumped over the front seat. Defendant took $20 from the victim's lap and then drove to work.

Sharon Quinn testified that at approximately 9 p.m. on December 27, 1993, Jamal came to her home at 9036 South Laflin, handed Sharon a black duffel bag, and told her to give the bag to her "brother." Defendant was Sharon's cousin. Sharon placed the bag in the dining room without opening it and went to sleep. The next morning, at 9 a.m., two police officers came to Sharon's home, and Sharon showed the officers the bag. The police officers recovered a gun, marijuana, and blue jeans from the bag.

Chicago Police Detective Thomas Byron went to Sharon Quinn's home at 9 a.m. on December 28, 1993. According to Detective Byron, the duffel bag recovered from Sharon's home contained a Greyhound bus ticket in Jamal's name, a plastic bag containing green crushed plants, a plastic bag containing white powder, clothes, a small semiautomatic pistol, and two .25-caliber bullets.

The parties stipulated that pathologist Dr. Lawrence Cogan would testify that the cause of the victim's death was a single gunshot wound to the back of the head, inflicted from a distance of one inch. The parties also stipulated that Chicago police department firearms examiner Robert Smith would testify that the bullet removed from the victim's body during the autopsy was fired from the .25-caliber pistol recovered from the duffel bag in Sharon Quinn's home.

At the close of the State's case in chief, defendant moved for a directed finding of not guilty on both charges. See 725 ILCS 5/115-4(k) (West 1992). Following argument on the motion from both parties, the trial court stated:

"I simply cannot find based on the evidence that's presented to me that the State even in the light most favorable to the State has met a prima facie case at this juncture, so I'm going to grant the motion for a directed finding and finding of not guilty as to the armed robbery as well because I believe it would have to be established that that-that there was an intention to do that prior to the killing and I don't find that he participated in that. I find that-I believe that the evidence established that he did not know until the gun was produced what occurred. I do not see he was-I don't see that he profited other than the $20. He didn't participate as far as taking the drugs. We don't have him taking anything anywhere. We do not have him-his name is not on the bus ticket. There's nothing to indicate that the gun belonged to him or that there was any participation in the weapon. I don't think that that would be appropriate where there's nothing that's established to show that there was any kind of conspiracy prior to the act if something is taken after the act. Now, if you want to provide me with something, I'll be happy to look at it if you want me to hold that in abeyance but I don't think that it's established."

The prosecutor responded: "Judge, if you would hold that particular portion of the ruling in abeyance, we would ask for a date." The trial court paused for a moment and reviewed a copy of the charges against defendant. The trial court then stated:

"All right. There's a finding of not guilty as to the charges of murder. As to the armed robbery charge, I am more than willing to look at any authority. How long would it take for you to get something to me on that issue because I am-be clear that I am making a finding that he did not aid or abet, that he did not know what was happening as far as the murder was concerned until it was already accomplished. I'm making that finding based on the evidence I've received."

The prosecutor stated that he understood, and the trial court reiterated that "the issue is if he then took the money is that an armed robbery. I don't believe that it is." The parties agreed with the trial court that the matter would be held until the next day.

The following day, the trial court stated:

"We were at the end of the trial yesterday, the [c]court had ruled with respect to the [m]urder counts. There was a question as to the armed robbery count. The [c]court expressed its belief that, based upon the [c]court's findings of the facts, the armed robbery charge would be inappropriate, but we put it over to today's date for the parties to supply any authority."

The State presented authority as to whether taking money from the victim constituted an armed robbery. Following argument from both parties, the trial court denied defendant's motion for a directed finding as to the armed robbery charge. The State presented no further evidence, and the defense rested. Following closing arguments, the trial court found defendant guilty of armed robbery. The trial court sentenced defendant to a term of 17 years' imprisonment.

The appellate court affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence. No. 1-96-4394 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). We allowed defendant's petition for leave to appeal (177 Ill. 2d R. 315). We now affirm the judgment of the appellate court.


Defendant contends that the trial court unequivocally granted his motion for a directed finding of not guilty on the armed robbery charge. According to defendant, this directed finding of not guilty constituted an acquittal, and double jeopardy therefore prohibited the State from continuing its prosecution against defendant.

The double jeopardy clause of the fifth amendment to the United States Constitution provides that no person shall "be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb." Likewise, article I, section 10, of the Illinois Constitution of 1970 provides that no person shall "be twice put in jeopardy for the same offense." These prohibitions against double jeopardy mean, among other things, that a defendant may not be prosecuted for an offense if the defendant has already been acquitted of the same offense. United States v. Dixon, 509 U.S. 688, 695-96, 125 L. Ed. 2d 556, 567, 113 S. Ct. 2849, 2855 (1993); People v. Placek, 184 Ill. 2d 370, 376 (1998). A judgment of acquittal triggers double jeopardy protection when it " `actually represents a resolution, correct or not, of some or all of the factual elements of the offense charged.' " People ex rel. Daley v. Crilly, 108 Ill. 2d 301, 311 (1985), quoting United States v. Martin Linen Supply Co., 430 U.S. 564, 571, 51 L. Ed. 2d 642, 651, 97 S. Ct. 1349, 1355 (1977).

A directed verdict constitutes an acquittal for double jeopardy purposes when it is based on insufficiency of the evidence. See Smalis v. Pennsylvania, 476 U.S. 140, 144-46, 90 L. Ed. 2d 116, 121-22, 106 S. Ct. 1745, 1748-49 (1986); Crilly, 108 Ill. 2d at 311-12. This is the rule regardless of whether the trial court's ruling was based upon a mistake of fact or law. People v. Poe, 121 Ill. App. 3d 457, 462 (1984); see also Fong Foo v. United States, 369 U.S. 141, 143, 7 L. Ed. 2d 629, 631, 82 S. Ct. 671, 672 (1962). Thus, reconsideration and vacation of an order directing a verdict of not guilty exposes a criminal defendant ...

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