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People v. Williamson

December 30, 1999

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
DAMEN WILLIAMSON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Rakowski

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable James P. Flannery, Jr., Judge Presiding.

Following a bench trial in which he was simultaneously tried with co-defendants Raygene Jackson and John Warship, defendant Damen Williamson was convicted of the murder of Isaac Jackson and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was also convicted of the attempted murder of Bernice Lovett and sentenced to six years in prison, sentences to be served consecutively. *fn1 Co-defendant Jackson's convictions were reversed and the cause was remanded to the circuit court for a new trial because he did not understandingly waive his right to a jury trial. People v. Jackson, No. 1-98-1795 (1999) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).

On appeal, defendant contends (1) that he did not waive his right to a jury trial; (2) that he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of any offense for which he was convicted; and (3) that the trial court improperly imposed consecutive sentences. For the reasons that follow, we conclude that defendant did not validly waive his right to a jury trial and therefore reverse the judgment of the circuit court and remand this matter for a new trial.

FACTS

We first address defendant's contention that he did not waive his right to a jury trial. At the status hearing on March 1, 1996, the following colloquy occurred:

"THE COURT: All right. You want to demand at this time?

MR. BODE [co-defendant Warship's attorney]: We're demanding trial.

THE COURT: All right, on Williamson.

MR. BODE: Would like a trial date.

MR. MANN [defendant's attorney]: I'll fill out the form in a minute, on my client as well, we'll demand but without waiving, to file the motions.

THE COURT: Are you indicating juries at this time or benches?

MR. MANN: We'll take a bench Judge."

The trial court and the attorneys continued to discuss scheduling matters. At the conclusion of the hearing the judge stated, "Defendants are demanding trial, March 29th. Each one will be a bench."

On March 29, 1996, the assistant State's Attorney stated, "By agreement, 4-26, status. That's for motions and bench." At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge stated, "By agreement, 4-26 for bench trial." Apparently, defendant's attorney and co-defendant Jackson's attorney were present at that time. Although defendant Warship was present, his attorney was not.

On April 26, 1996, the assistant State's Attorney indicated that the case was "set for motions and bench trial" on defendants Williamson and Jackson and for a bench trial on defendant Warship. However, because the court was engaged in an unrelated jury trial, the assistant State's Attorney spoke with the attorneys for defendants and they had agreed to postpone this case. The court responded, "You've got one witness here. We will get it started today." The assistant State's Attorney then replied, "We can start the bench." The case was then passed until later that afternoon. When the case was recalled, defendant's attorney and co-defendants' attorneys agreed ...


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