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People v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division

September 30, 2016

HALIK WILLIAMS, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 00 CR 3807 Honorable Matthew E. Coghlan, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE NEVILLE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Mason concurred in the judgment and opinion. Presiding Justice Hyman specially concurred, with opinion.



         ¶ 1 Halik Williams, the defendant, appeals from the circuit court's dismissal, upon the State's motion, of his petition and supplemental petition for relief pursuant to the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (the Act) (725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. (West 2004)). On appeal, defendant contends that the court erred in dismissing the petitions because they made a substantial showing that he was denied effective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. He also contends that the court erred because the petitions made a substantial showing of actual innocence based upon new evidence that establishes that no one that defendant was accountable for caused the victim's death, and, therefore, the victim's death was not first degree murder. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 Following simultaneous, but severed, bench trials with codefendants Warren Hardy and David Sapp, defendant was found guilty of first degree murder based upon a theory of accountability. Defendant was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

         ¶ 3 The evidence at defendant's trial established that the victim, Anthony King, died from electrocution on the "third rail" of Chicago Transit Authority train tracks on September 5, 1999. The victim's death arose out of confrontation at the Morse Station platform between a group of Gangster Disciples consisting of defendant, codefendants and Jason Moody, and a group of current and former Vice Lords consisting of the victim, Jonathan Lejman, Dennis Myles, and Dwayne Johnson.

         ¶ 4 At trial, Jason Moody testified that he was walking when he heard a "woo, woo" so he looked up and saw codefendant Sapp on the "el" platform "waving" him up. As Moody continued walking, he saw Lawrence Brooks sitting in a parked car and codefendant Hardy on the street. Codefendant Hardy said that some "Hooks" were on the platform. Moody explained that "Hooks" was a "disrespectful term" for members of the Vice Lords gang. Moody was a member of the Gangster Disciples and the Morse "el" stop was part of the gang's "territory."

         ¶ 5 Once on the platform, Moody saw the victim and codefendant Hardy fighting on the train tracks. Codefendant Hardy was punching the victim and the victim was trying to push codefendant Hardy away. At one point, Moody "heard sparks." The victim was on the "third rail" and codefendant Hardy was on the platform. Moody then saw defendant hit the victim on the head with a cane five times. After the fifth blow, the cane broke.

         ¶ 6 Jonathan Lejman testified that he was a former member of the Vice Lords and grew up with the victim. On the night of the victim's death, he, the victim, Myles and Johnson were celebrating both the victim's release from prison and the victim's birthday. Although the group exited the train at the Morse stop, they "had no business over there" because it was Gangster Disciple territory, so they went back up to the platform. Lejman, Myles and the victim sat on a bench. Johnson went to the other entrance to the platform.

         ¶ 7 Defendant, who was holding a cane, and codefendant Sapp then approached. Defendant asked if Lejman was "White C." Lejman stood up and replied that White C was dead. He stated that his group was not "on any gang banging or none of that, " that is, they were not looking for trouble. Codefendant Sapp replied "we're hook killers." Lejman understood this to mean that codefendant Sapp's group belonged to the Vice Lords. As Lejman continued to say that his group was just trying to get home, he moved closer to defendant, who was "being fidgety" so that defendant would not be able to swing the cane at him. As Lejman moved closer, defendant said "man didn't I tell your bitch ass to back up off me." Lejman backed up. Shortly thereafter, defendant swung the cane at Lejman. Lejman, the victim and Myles all ran to the end of the platform. Lejman jumped on the tracks and kept running. He stopped when he did not hear anyone behind him. When Lejman turned around, he saw defendant swinging a cane at someone on the tracks. He ran back and discovered the victim on the tracks.

         ¶ 8 Dennis Myles testified that although he was in a gang, he was not "gang banging" that night. When defendant took a swing at Lejman with the cane, Lejman ran away. Myles and the victim followed. When Myles saw Lejman jump onto the tracks and defendant "fixing to go after him, " Myles turned around. Although the victim initially turned around, the victim then jumped onto the tracks. Myles followed the victim onto the tracks and ran past him. Myles then heard "oh we got one, " and turned around to see the victim "on the floor." Defendant was on the tracks, and he hit the victim three times in the head with the cane. During cross-examination, Myles acknowledged that he had made a statement to police which indicated that the victim jumped off the platform. However, he testified that the person who transcribed his statement "didn't hear [him] all the way right, " and that the statement was incorrect.

         ¶ 9 Detective Steve Schorsch testified that he and another detective spoke with defendant on September 7, 1999, in an interview room at Area 3. He was also present when defendant later spoke to an assistant State's Attorney. Defendant declined to make a written or videotaped statement; rather, defendant agreed to say what had happened. Schorsch took notes as defendant spoke. Defendant later reviewed these notes and agreed that they were accurate.

         ¶ 10 Defendant stated that he was driving with codefendant Sapp and Sapp's cousin Lawrence Brooks when he looked up and saw "White C." He told Brooks to pull over. Defendant and codefendant Sapp got out of the car. Defendant was holding a cane. Once up on the platform, codefendant Sapp stated "they were Vice Lord Killers, Hook Killers." Codefendant Hardy and Moody were also on the platform. Defendant asked one of the men if he was White C. At one point White C. and the two men with him began to run. Defendant chased White C. The other two men ran toward codefendant Hardy. As defendant turned, he saw codefendant Hardy grab one of the men. He watched as codefendant Hardy and this man fell onto the train tracks. Codefendant Hardy pushed the other man onto the tracks and this man was "electrified."

         ¶ 11 Assistant Chief Medical Examiner Mitra Kalelkar testified that she performed an autopsy on the victim. She noted electrical burns on the victim's abdomen, hands, and left wrist. There were also lacerations and cuts on the victim's head and face. After an internal and external examination, she concluded that the victim died as the result of electrocution.

         ¶ 12 In finding defendant and codefendants guilty of first degree murder, the trial court relied on the common design rule as stated in People v. Terry, 99 Ill.2d 508, 514-15 (1984). In denying defendant's motion for a new trial which argued, in pertinent part, that the victim's fall to the tracks was an accident after the completion of the underlying felony of assault or battery, the trial court stated that when two or more persons join together to commit an offense, even "a minor offense which involves violence, " the parties are responsible for "everything" that occurs as a result of the agreement. The court stated that the circumstances of the case "all lead to the conclusion that these parties entered into an agreement to at least commit an assault or misdemeanor battery on the victim in this case, which resulted in his death." The court "agreed" that "perhaps" defendant and codefendants did not set out to commit a murder, "but they are responsible for all of the consequences of that which they did set out to do." The court then sentenced defendant to 30 years in prison.

         ¶ 13 On appeal, defendant contended that the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty of first degree murder pursuant to an accountability theory. Defendant argued, inter alia, that he did not have the intent or knowledge required to support a murder conviction.

         ¶ 14 In rejecting defendant's argument this court found that the evidence "clearly established" that defendant was not only present during the crime, but that he "actively devised and initiated the encounter" with the victim. See People v. Williams, No 1-03-0292 (2005), order at 9-10 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). This court noted that defendant was the first to notice the Vice Lords on the platform, he directed Brooks to park, he confronted the Vice Lords on the platform, and he struck the victim five times on the head with a cane after the victim was electrocuted. Id. We therefore concluded that the trial court did not err in finding that there was a common design to establish defendant's intent, and properly held defendant accountable for the victim's death. Id. at 9.

         ¶ 15 In 2005, defendant filed a pro se petition for postconviction relief alleging, inter alia, that he was denied the effective assistance of trial counsel by counsel's failure to impeach Jason Moody with an affidavit in which Moody averred that he struck the victim on the head with a cane, and to argue at trial that defendant was actually innocent because it was Moody, rather than defendant, who struck the victim on the head with a cane. Attached to the petition in support was defendant's unnotarized affidavit.

         ¶ 16 In his affidavit, defendant averred that Moody met with trial counsel's investigator sometime in 2000. Defendant further averred that trial counsel told him that during this meeting Moody admitted that Moody was the person who struck the victim with a cane after the victim was electrocuted. Defendant then averred that trial counsel "assured" him that counsel would subpoena the investigator to testify at trial regarding this meeting, and that counsel would submit Moody's affidavit as evidence at trial. However, trial counsel did not submit the affidavit at trial. When defendant asked trial counsel why the affidavit was not submitted at trial and why counsel did not cross-examine Moody about the affidavit, counsel replied that he did not believe that the State had sufficient evidence to convict defendant and he therefore did not think that he needed to present the testimony of the investigator at trial.

         ¶ 17 Defendant also averred that Moody came to visit him twice before trial. During the first meeting, Moody stated that if defendant wanted him to "tell the truth" defendant had to pay him $5, 000 before trial and $5, 000 after trial. During the second meeting, defendant told Moody that he needed more time to get the money. Moody responded that defendant's "time was up" and left. Defendant averred that although he told trial counsel and the jail's Office of Internal Affairs about the first meeting, so that the second meeting could be recorded, he did not receive a response from either the jail or trial counsel.

         ¶ 18 Defendant finally averred that he had tried unsuccessfully to obtain a copy of Moody's affidavit and the name of the investigator from trial counsel. However, trial counsel refused to disclose the name of the investigator, or to give defendant a copy of Moody's ...

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