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People v. Williams

June 28, 2002


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 96 CR 22798 Honorable Daniel J. Kelley, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Greiman


Following a jury trial, defendant Otis Williams was convicted of first degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm. He was sentenced to consecutive prison terms of 45 years and 10 years, respectively. On appeal, he makes the following contentions: (1) his conviction for aggravated battery must be reversed because there was no evidence to establish that the victim had been injured; (2) he was denied due process and a fair trial when the State's witness gave false testimony regarding a benefit he received in exchange for cooperation with authorities and the State failed to correct it; (3) irrelevant gang evidence was introduced which improperly suggested that defendant had engaged in other criminal conduct and the jury was improperly instructed with regard to that evidence; (4) the State made improper remarks during closing argument; (5) trial counsel was ineffective for not presenting evidence that the witness was lying and failing to object to improper evidence and arguments; (6) the trial court erred in imposing a consecutive sentence where no severe bodily injury was established; and (7) his consecutive sentence is unconstitutional pursuant to the holding in Apprendi v. New, 530 U.S. 466, 147 L. Ed.2d 435, 120 S. Ct. 2348 (2000). For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

Defendant's conviction arose from the gang-related shooting of Gregory Sharp while seated in his car with Felicia Robinson, near the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago, on November 28, 1994. The shooting involved an internal struggle between leaders of the Gangster Disciple street gang.

Detective Christian Tito testified that at about 3:45 p.m. on November 28, 1994, she and her partner exited the Eisenhower Expressway at Kostner Avenue in response to a call about an accident. In the middle of the street, they saw a black car with a broken back window and bullet holes. They also observed bullet casings and broken glass on the ground on either side of the vehicle. There was a gray Pontiac with its rear window shot out, parked illegally next to the driver's side of the black car. Tito saw Sharp on the driver's side of the black car, lying on top of Robinson, who was on the passenger side of the car. Sharp had bullet wounds in his buttocks. Robinson was moaning and asking for help because she could not breathe. Tito and her partner moved Sharp's heavy body off of Robinson. Robinson was breathing normally when the ambulance arrived at the scene. When Sharp was taken from the car to the ambulance, several spent bullets fell from his body and clothing. Sharp subsequently died as a result of 17 gunshot wounds. Six bullets were recovered from his body.

Evidence technician Gorski collected the bullets and casings from the scene, and examined the Pontiac. He noticed that the back window was shattered. There was a bullet lodged in the frame of the back window. The roof had three bullet-type holes in it, and the front windshield had a crack. Firearms examiner James Van Tilburg testified that he examined the various bullets, fragments and casings recovered in the shooting. He determined that 9 millimeter, .380 and .40 caliber S & W bullets were fired during the shooting. He was able to connect them to the bullet wounds on the victim.

Chicago police sergeant Joseph Gorman testified that there was a "take-down" of the Gangster Disciples street gang in 1995, and that at some point following the "take-down," various people came forward with information about the death of Gregory Sharp, including Delano Finch, his nephew Ramone Finch, and Kelly Quarles. Delano, Ramone and Quarles testified at trial that they were members of the gang along with defendant and explained the hierarchy and rules. Their testimony established that the levels of the gang included Larry Hoover as the head, the board of directors, governors, regents, coordinators, and soldiers or outstanding members. They explained that the leaders in the gang had armed personal security to protect them or to secure areas from police interference with drug sales and from rival gang members' control. If a gang member violated the rules of silence and secrecy, he could be punished and killed. The main source of income for the gang was selling drugs.

Delano Finch testified that in November 1994, Darryl "Pops" Johnson and Gregory Sharp were board members in the gang. Delano was a governor at the time, and defendant was a member of his personal security detail. According to Delano, a week before the murder, Johnson met with him at a restaurant, and in a conversation outside the restaurant, Johnson told him that they had to kill Sharp. Defendant was present for this conversation. Delano tried to contact Sharp that day, but Sharp never responded to his call.

On November 28, 1994, Delano was paged again by Johnson and told to meet him at 87 Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway at a gas station. Delano then told his nephew Ramone and defendant to meet him at the station and to bring the .40-caliber gun. The gun had been given to Delano by Johnson. Delano testified that when he arrived at the gas station, defendant and several other members of the gang were present, including Ramone, Kelly Quarles, Antoine "Ug" Smith, Kevin Williams, Quan Ray, "Heavy," Cedric "Little Fool" Cato, and Mike" J." While at the gas station, Johnson spoke with Delano, Little Fool, Kevin Williams and Mike J. and told them to call Sharp, make him feel comfortable, and then kill him. After Johnson gave the order, Delano told defendant to get into his car because defendant was working security for Delano and had a gun, and told Ramone and Quarles to leave.

According to Delano, the gang members headed to the west side in different cars and exited the expressway at Kostner Avenue. Traffic was stopped all the way to the stoplight at the top of the exit ramp. Little Fool pulled his car alongside Delano's car on the ramp. He pointed out that Gregory Sharp was sitting with a woman in a black Mercedes about two-to-three cars ahead of them. Little Fool asked Delano if they should "do it" and Delano stated that he did not know. Little Fool then said "it's a go," and Kevin Williams went to the driver's side of Sharp's car with a 9-millimeter gun. Heavy jumped out with either a 9-millimeter or .380 gun and went to the passenger side of Sharp's car. Defendant jumped out of Delano's car with the .40-caliber gun and approached the Mercedes. According to Delano, defendant was shooting at another car which appeared to have Sharp's security. When that car drove away, defendant started shooting at Sharp's car. After about a minute of gunfire, Delano told defendant to get back in the car, and they took off heading for the expressway. As they left, they drove alongside of Sharp's car and saw a woman slumped down and saw Sharp, who was slumped over the steering wheel, fall on top of the woman.

According to Ramone, on the day of the shooting, his uncle Delano paged him and told him to bring defendant to the gas station of the expressway on 87 Street and to make sure that defendant had a gun. When they arrived at the station, Delano told defendant to go with him and told Ramone and Quarles that they could leave. Delano stated that he did not want Quarles around because he had recently gotten out on bond on a federal case and was supposed to be cooperating with the authorities. Ramone testified that he followed Delano to the west side because he did not trust the people that were with Delano. Quarles was in the car with Ramone and testified that he did not know what they were planning to do and fell asleep in the car.

While he and Quarles were on the ramp exiting the expressway, they heard gunshots, Quarles woke up, and they both ducked down. When they looked up, Ramone saw K-dog, Quan, Heavy, and defendant. Ramone testified that he saw Heavy and Quan shooting on the passenger side of Sharp's car, and defendant shooting from the trunk of Sharp's car into the back window. Quarles testified that he saw K-dog open the driver's side door of a dark Mercedez Benz or BMW and start shooting. He saw defendant next to the black car he had been driving in, shooting over the door of the car. Quarles also saw a "big dude" shooting from the passenger side of the dark car. After the gunfire stopped, they headed back towards the expressway and ended up back on the south side of Chicago.

Delano further testified that he was currently incarcerated, and had been since September 1995, when he was indicted for conspiring with other members of the gang to distribute narcotics and for other gang-related crimes. At that time, he was charged with about 50 counts in a drug conspiracy and faced a minimum sentence of life in prison. He stated that he entered into a written plea agreement with the government in which he promised to cooperate and testify truthfully in this case in exchange for a 15 year sentence. As part of the agreement, Delano admitted to his role in the murder of Sharp, and testified at the trials of many other gang members.

Ramone further testified that he quit the gang in 1995 when the federal indictments were handed down against other members of the gang. He came forward about the Sharp murder in May 1996 because someone had implicated him as a witness to the murder , and he testified the next month before the grand jury. It was stipulated by the parties that he signed a proffer letter, which he understood to mean that whatever he told authorities would not be used against him. Ramone additionally testified that in June of 1998, he pled guilty to armed robbery and home invasion for which he could have received a sentence of six to thirty years. He received an eight year sentence for his cooperation with the authorities. As part of the State's agreement to recommend eight years, he had to testify against defendant in this case. He was incarcerated at the time of the trial.

Quarles further testified that prior to the murder in 1994, he was arrested in Missouri on drug charges and pled guilty to federal racketeering. The Sharp murder occurred while he was out on bond between his plea and the sentencing date. According to Quarles, after the shooting, he was sentenced to 60 months in prison on the racketeering plea. Subsequently, in May 1996, the Chicago police visited him in prison, wanting to discuss the Sharp murder. He told them what he knew and stated that no promises were made to him when he talked with authorities. He then went to Chicago and talked to other officers and ...

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