Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

People v. Watson

March 18, 2004

[5] THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
HENRY WATSON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Edwin Gausselin, Judge Presiding.

[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Quinn

[8]  Following a bench trial, Henry Watson (defendant) was convicted of first degree murder and aggravated vehicular hijacking. Prior to the sentencing hearing, defendant waived his right to have a jury determine his eligibility for the death penalty. The trial court found defendant had committed the murder in a cold and calculated manner, making defendant eligible for the death penalty. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced defendant to death. The case was appealed directly to our supreme court.

[9]  On January 11, 2003, then-Governor George Ryan commuted defendant's death sentence to a term of natural life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. On April 4, 2003, the supreme court transferred defendant's appeal to this court. On appeal, defendant argues that he is entitled to a new sentencing hearing because the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed the murder in a cold and calculated manner. For the reasons that follow, we dismiss defendant's appeal as moot.

[10]   BACKGROUND

[11]   Between November 20, 1999, and November 23, 1999, defendant left numerous messages on the answering machine of his estranged wife, Sylvia, threatening to kill her for leaving him. On November 26, 1999, defendant went to the Harvey 100 Club where Sylvia was attending an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting. After his attempts to persuade Sylvia to leave the meeting with him proved unsuccessful, defendant stood up, unzipped his coat, pulled out a gun, and shot Sylvia twice in the back of her head in front of their 10-year-old son, Henry Junior, and numerous other witnesses. Defendant then ordered the other meeting attendees to leave. Gun in hand, defendant walked out of the Harvey 100 Club, walked up to a motorist, Angela Wallace, pointed the gun at her head, and ordered her out of her car. Defendant drove off, but was arrested by the police about a block away. At the time of the arrest, the police recovered a gun from the front passenger seat.

[12]   Defendant was indicted on two counts of first degree murder, three counts of attempted first degree murder, aggravated vehicular hijacking, three counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm, aggravated battery, and unlawful use of a weapon by a felon. The State subsequently dismissed all charges except for first degree murder and aggravated vehicular hijacking.

[13]   During the bench trial, Henry Watson, Jr., testified that the day before the murder, defendant appeared outside his bedroom window at Sylvia's house, tapped on Henry Jr.'s window, and said, "Shh, I am going to kill your mama." While attempting to pry open a window, defendant was interrupted by Sylvia and Henry Jr.'s sisters. Defendant told Sylvia he had a "surprise" for her, brandished a gun, and fled.

[14]   Henry Jr. testified that on November 26, 1999, he went with Sylvia to the Harvey 100 Club to attend an AA meeting. Henry Jr. sat behind Sylvia. At around 7:30 p.m., defendant arrived at the AA meeting and sat down next to Sylvia. Defendant started to whisper something to Sylvia, but she did not respond. Henry Jr. saw defendant stand up, unzip his coat, pull out a gun, and shoot Sylvia in the back of the head twice. Defendant then ordered Henry Jr. to leave. As Henry Jr. was walking toward the door, he heard defendant tell the other meeting attendees to get out.

[15]   Outside the Harvey 100 Club, Angela Wallace was parking her car across the street. Henry Jr. saw defendant walk across the street to Wallace's car, point his gun at her head, and order her to get out of the car. Wallace complied. Defendant then got into the car and drove less than a block before the police surrounded him.

[16]   Jimmie Strong testified that he went to the Harvey 100 Club to attend an AA meeting on November 26, 1999. At approximately 7:15 p.m., Strong saw defendant walk into the meeting and whisper something to Sylvia. Sylvia appeared to be concentrating on the book that she was reading. Strong then saw defendant stand up and, in an angry tone, state, "You don't believe me ***." Strong then saw defendant unzip his coat, pull a gun out, point the gun to the back of Sylvia's head and fire two shots. Strong then heard defendant order everybody to leave. As Strong was leaving the meeting room, he heard a third shot. Outside the Harvey 100 Club, Strong saw defendant walk across the street and pull Wallace out of her car. The next day, Strong identified defendant as the shooter in a police lineup.

[17]   Adrienne Alexander testified that she was at the Harvey 100 Club on the day of the shooting. Alexander saw Sylvia at the meeting with her son, Henry Jr. Alexander also saw defendant enter the meeting room, sit next to Sylvia, and whisper to her three times. Each time, Alexander heard Sylvia reply: "No, Henry." Defendant then stood up and said in an very angry and loud voice "Bitch, I told you." Defendant reached inside his coat, pulled out a silver gun, and raised it up. Alexander heard three shots and also heard defendant order Henry Jr. to leave the room. Defendant then told everybody "to get the fuck out." The next day, Alexander identified defendant in a police lineup at the Harvey police department.

[18]   Angela Wallace testified that, as she was parking her car across the street from the Harvey 100 Club, defendant approached her, pointed a gun at her head, and said, "bitch, get out of the car." As Wallace scrambled to get out of the car, defendant grabbed her by the coat and pulled her out. Defendant then drove away.

[19]   At trial, the State and defendant stipulated that when the defendant was stopped by Harvey police officer Steel, the murder weapon was recovered from the front passenger seat.

[20]   The parties stipulated that defendant had left many threatening messages on Sylvia's answering machine prior to the night she was killed.

[21]   The parties also stipulated that Elvia Dixon knew defendant for 20 years. On the night before the murder, defendant, Dixon, and two other people were drinking and playing cards in Dixon's apartment. Throughout the night, defendant repeatedly talked about killing Sylvia. Defendant said that he would go to the AA meeting and talk to Sylvia and, if she said one smart thing, "he would blow her brains out." Defendant then showed them a gun. Defendant left Dixon's apartment at 5:30 a.m. Before leaving, defendant told them that they would not be seeing him again because he would shoot his wife four times and then shoot himself.

[22]   At the conclusion of defendant's bench trial, the trial court found defendant guilty of first degree murder and aggravated vehicular hijacking.

[23]   During the sentencing phrase, defendant waived his right to have a jury determine his eligibility for the death penalty. The parties stipulated that when defendant appeared at the victim's house the day before the murder, he told Henry Jr., "Shh, I am going to kill your mama." The trial court found that defendant was eligible for a death sentence because the murder was committed in a cold and ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.