People v. Williams

Decision Date20 February 2020
Docket NumberNo. 1-16-3417,1-16-3417
Citation2020 IL App (1st) 163417,158 N.E.3d 1143,442 Ill.Dec. 108
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Jeffrey WILLIAMS, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

James E. Chadd, Patricia Mysza, and Ashlee Johnson, of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Chicago, for appellant.

Kimberly M. Foxx, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, John E. Nowak, and Noah Montague, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

PRESIDING JUSTICE GORDON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

¶ 1 After a jury trial, defendant Jeffrey Williams was convicted of one count of being an armed habitual criminal and sentenced to 14 years with the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC).

¶ 2 Defendant's conviction was based on his possession of a firearm after having been previously convicted of burglary and the manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance. Since the parties stipulated at trial that he had been convicted of two qualifying offenses, the issue at trial concerned the element of possession. On appeal, defendant claims that the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct when it argued that defendant's decision to go to trial amounted to a refusal to take responsibility for his actions, as compared to his codefendant who had pled guilty. Defendant acknowledges that he forfeited this claim for appellate review and asks us to review it under the plain error doctrine. For reasons explained below, we do not find that this error rises to the level of plain error and affirm.

¶ 3 In his initial brief, defendant also raised fines-and-fees issues, but he concedes in his reply brief that we lack the authority to review them. Pursuant to the newly revised Illinois Supreme Court Rule 472(e) (eff. May 17, 2019) and for reasons explained below, we remand the fines-and-fees claims to the trial court in order to permit defendant to file a motion in that court, if he chooses to do so.


¶ 5 The case at bar stemmed from the accidental shooting of a child by another child, and the central issue was whether defendant possessed the gun used in the accidental shooting. At trial, the State called as event witnesses (1) the injured child, (2) his sister, and (3) their mother. We provide below the details of what each event witness testified to because defendant's case consisted largely of establishing inconsistencies between their trial testimony and their prior statements and inconsistencies among their individual trial testimonies.

¶ 6 At trial, T.H., 10 years old, testified that on April 7, 2015, he was 8 years old and living in a third-floor apartment with his mother, his sister, and defendant. His sister slept in her own room, while T.H. slept in his mother's room. Defendant did not sleep over every night, but when he did, he slept in the mother's room. On the night of April 6, 2015, T.H. had a friend, Antonio,1 sleep over and they slept in the front room. Defendant also spent the night of April 6 in the apartment. On the morning of April 7, 2015, T.H., Antonio, defendant, and T.H.'s sister and mother were all present in the mother's room, when the mother "told [defendant] to get the gun out of the house." After the defense objected, the prosecutor explained that the State was not admitting her statement for the truth of the matter asserted but to explain later actions. After the trial court overruled the objection, T.H. testified that defendant removed a gun from under the bed, wrapped it one of T.H.'s shirts, and walked toward the kitchen. While T.H. did not observe defendant either enter or exit the kitchen, T.H. did hear the back door2 close.

¶ 7 T.H. testified that, after defendant exited the apartment, T.H. and Antonio were playing basketball in the house, and T.H.'s mother and sister departed to go to a store. While T.H. stood by the bedroom door, Antonio entered the bedroom and looked under the bed, and both boys observed a gun under the bed. Then Antonio walked to the kitchen, followed by T.H., who asked Antonio what he was doing. Antonio climbed on top of the counter, and so did T.H. Antonio grabbed the gun from above the refrigerator and descended from the counter with it. At that moment, T.H. was still on the counter, and Antonio was below him. Antonio pulled the trigger once, and nothing happened, so he pulled the trigger again. This time the gun fired a shot, which hit T.H. in the stomach and then traveled through the cabinet. T.H. testified that, after the gun fired, Antonio placed it on the counter, gathered his things, and left the house. T.H. wiped off some of the blood with a tissue, changed his clothes, and retrieved the shell discharged by the gun.

¶ 8 T.H. testified that he threw the shell from the balcony at the back of the apartment. When his mother and sister returned, he opened the door for them. They told him to put on his shoes, which he did, and they all left the apartment together. Once outside, they ran into defendant, who hollered at T.H.: " ‘Why did you touch the gun?’ " After T.H. replied that he had not touched the gun, defendant started crying and dropped to his knees. Defendant then walked back toward the apartment. T.H., his mother, and his sister met T.H.'s cousin "Tone Tone," as well as a friend. The friend's mother then transported T.H. and his mother, sister, and cousin Tone Tone to the hospital.

¶ 9 T.H. testified that, while they were in the vehicle heading to the hospital, his mother told him to lie and to say that he was shot outside. When he arrived at the hospital and met with nurses and doctors, that is what he told them. T.H. explained that he lied "so my mama wouldn't go away." After T.H. finished speaking with a police detective, his grandmother arrived at the hospital. After having a conversation with his grandmother about telling the truth, T.H. spoke to the detectives again and told them what had really happened.

¶ 10 On cross-examination, T.H. testified as follows. On the night of April 6, 2015, defendant slept with T.H.'s mother in the mother's bedroom. When T.H. woke up on April 7, 2015, it was light out, defendant was talking to T.H.'s mother in her room, and T.H. walked into her room. Later, T.H. told Detective Nathaniel that T.H. observed defendant "walk in" with a gun and a shirt. The testimony did not specify whether defendant was walking into a specific room or the apartment as a whole. Although Antonio and T.H. observed a gun under the bed, they did not remove it from there. When they observed a gun above the refrigerator, it was not wrapped in a shirt. When T.H. observed defendant walk toward the kitchen, the gun was wrapped in a short-sleeved black shirt. The next time that T.H. observed the shirt, the shirt was "in the window."

¶ 11 T.H. and his family moved into the apartment a month before the shooting. On April 7, 2015, his mother and sister departed the apartment for the store only a few minutes after defendant had left. After the shooting, Antonio took his things and ran out of the apartment, but Antonio left his basketball and his rim. After his mother returned, they exited the third-floor apartment, walked down the stairs, went across the street, and observed defendant by the gas station. His mother started yelling at defendant, and they began arguing. Then defendant started yelling at T.H. " ‘Why [did] you touch the gun?’ " Defendant fell to his knees and started crying.

¶ 12 T.H. did not know defendant prior to moving to the new apartment, but defendant knew T.H.'s uncles. During the ride to the hospital, his mother told him to say that he was outside when the shooting occurred and that some boy was shooting. She told him to say this "[s]o she won't go away." T.H. did not want her to go away; he loves her, and he does what she tells him to do, so when she told him not to tell the truth, he did not tell the truth. When T.H. arrived at the hospital, he told the doctors, nurses, and police that he had been shot outside because his mother had told him to.

¶ 13 Finally, on cross-examination, T.H. testified that, when he observed the gun in the kitchen, it was above the cabinets that, in turn, were above the refrigerator. After the shooting, Antonio placed the gun on the counter. When T.H. was at the hospital, the police took his mother, and he did not see her again for a while. After his mother was arrested, he started living with his grandmother, with whom he was still living at the time of trial.

¶ 14 T.H.'s sister, D.B., testified that she was 13 years old and in the eighth grade at the time of trial. On April 7, 2015, she lived with her brother and mother, and she knew defendant as a friend of her uncle. On April 7, 2015, defendant arrived at their apartment when D.B. had just woken up. Her mother, her brother, and her brother's friend Antonio were already there. Normally, her brother slept in her mother's bedroom, and D.B. slept in her own room. But, on the night of April 6, T.H. and his friend Antonio slept in the front room. After defendant arrived at the apartment on April 7, defendant asked D.B.'s mother for "the gun" and told her that "he was gonna get into it with somebody." When defendant made this statement, defendant, D.B., T.H. and their mother were all in the mother's room, while Antonio was outside of the room. In response, their mother retrieved a gun from under the bed, wrapped it in a shirt and gave it to defendant, who walked out of the bedroom, toward the kitchen.

¶ 15 D.B. testified that, after defendant walked out of the bedroom, D.B. started putting on her shoes because her mother told her they were going to the store. When D.B. and her mother exited the apartment, T.H. and Antonio were still at home. As D.B. and her mother were walking back home from the store, they observed Antonio running toward his house but, when he noticed them, he ran toward them and told them that T.H. had been shot. When D.B. and her m...

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  • Preliminaries
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Trial Objections
    • May 5, 2022
    ...and thus was not reversible error, where comment was limited and fleeting. ILLINOIS People v. Williams , 2020 IL App (1st) 163417, 158 N.E.3d 1143. Prosecutorial misconduct in prosecutor’s opening statement and closing argument was not so pervasive as to deprive defendant of fundamentally f......

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