OCTOBER 2002 SESSION PRISONER
REVIEW BOARD STATE OF ILLINOIS
PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS
vs INMATE NO. B21483 DOROTHY WILLIAMS
The People of the State of
Illinois strenuously oppose petitioner Dorothy Williams’ request
that her death sentence be commuted and further request that the
Prisoner Review Board of the State of Illinois grant a full and
complete hearing in opposition to executive clemency.
A full hearing will demonstrate
that Williams is a serial murderer of the elderly who has
repeatedly and maliciously sought out the frailest victims, robbed
them of their possessions, and cruelly murdered them if they had
the temerity to resist her.
Williams’ legacy of horror and
heartache is rooted in her discovery of senior citizens’ housing
projects, for located in these buildings Williams accumulated and
cultivated an endless source of helpless victims. These havens for
the elderly became Williams’ hunting grounds.
Using various ruses to gain
access to the seniors, Williams used her cunning to move freely
through the buildings in search of quick cash and easy prey. As
her crimes mounted and the residents became more fearful and wary,
Williams simply became more cunning, ruthless and brutally
Whether posing as a worker, or
simply asking a kind-hearted soul for a glass of water, Williams
entered homes and ended lives, simply because she wanted a few
bucks. For pocket money, Williams beat and stabbed her three
Despite their frailty these
people fought hard for their lives and died slow, painful and, as
a result, chillingly horrific deaths. It is shameful that these
victims lived long and fruitful lives only to die during every
person’s worst nightmare: a home invasion by a brutal stranger.
These helpless seniors, frail with age and medical disabilities,
opened their doors to terrifying deaths, inflicted by a worthless
criminal who has no place in civilized society.
Williams is a street cunning,
brutal murderer convicted with overwhelming physical, forensic,
and testimonial evidence. Williams gave three court-reported
confessions to three separate murders of senior citizens. She has
never claimed actual innocence.
Through extended fitness
hearings and expert evaluations it has been demonstrated that she
attempted to translate her street smarts to forensic psychiatry
and failed miserably. These hearings exposed her as a manipulative
malingerer, still trying to avoid responsibility for her heinous
and callous acts. As set out below, Williams was convicted by
overwhelming evidence and sentenced due to overwhelming
To even consider commuting her
sentence would be the ultimate travesty of justice by violating
these elderly victims’ dignity yet again On April 18, 1991, the
Honorable Judge Shelvin Singer sentenced Dorothy Williams to death
in case No. 89CR-20869, for the first-degree strangulation murder
and robbery of 97-year-old Mary Harris. As the Illinois Supreme
Court unanimously stated, “the evidence of guilt marshaled by the
State against the defendant was overwhelming.” People v. Williams,
164 Ill.2d 1, 27, 645 N.E.2d 844, 853 (1994).
Her fingerprints were found at
the scene. The proceeds of the robbery were found at her home,
there was a witness placing her at the scene. Moreover, the
defendant confessed before a court- reporter to the murder of Mary
Harris. After the defendant was sentenced to death she plead
guilty to three other cases where she victimized frail senior
citizens. She was sentenced to natural life in 89CR-20870 and
89CR-20871, the felony murders of seniors Lonnie Laws and Caesar
The defendant was also sentenced
to 7 years in the penitentiary for the robbery of wheel- chair
bound Jasper Irving. The evidence in all of these cases showed
that the defendant preyed on the weak, feeble and elderly in their
own homes. Dorothy Williams’ conviction and sentence were
unanimously affirmed by the Illinois Supreme Court in 164 Ill.2d 1
A post-conviction petition where
she alleged a myriad of mental health issues that she was denied
by Judge Shelvin Singer on August 20, 1999. At that time Judge
Singer found that “there was overwhelming competent evidence from
the record of the trial court proceedings which reveals
convincingly that petitioner was not illiterate and did not have
impairment of her intellect.” The testimony adduced at this
lengthy, protracted hearing lasted several days and consists of
hundreds of pages of transcript. A copy of Judge Singer’s
fifty-page ruling is appended to this response.
The Illinois Supreme Court
recently found that Judge Singer should have addressed the issues
of fitness for post-conviction proceedings and the allegations
within the post-conviction petition separately and has remanded
the case for a hearing on the merits of the post-conviction
petition. The Court did not rule on the merits or lack thereof of
defendant’s claims. People v. Williams, __ Ill.2d__, 2002 Ill.
Lexis 340 (2002).
There exists a voluminous amount
of evidence establishing Dorothy Williams systematically robbed
and killed seniors on the South Side of Chicago over a three to
four year period. She also introduced her daughter Cherika
Williams to a senior, who Cherika in turn robbed, following
defendant’s death sentence. Dorothy Williams was clinically and
judicially found to be a malingerer, or faker, on the issue of her
alleged mental disability. Notwithstanding the above, the
defendant is asking for executive clemency claiming that she is
The People vehemently oppose
Facts of the Case
On July 25, 1989, 97-year-old
Mary Harris spent five hours of her last day on earth with her
daughter Marian at Mary’s apartment at 4030 South Lake Park in
Chicago. Mary had lived in apartment 1204 of the Chicago Housing
Authority Senior Building since the late 1960's or early 1970's.
When Marian left her mother at 2:30 p.m., Mary Harris was in good
health and wore a pink scarf around her head.
At 8 p.m., elderly friends of
the victim found her door ajar. She was discovered dead, with her
kerchief around her neck. The police were summoned and her
daughter was called.
Detectives Patrick McDonald and
Thomas Grady went to the victim's apartment and discovered no sign
of forced entry. They observed Mary Harris lying on her bed. Both
of Ms. Harris' eyes were blackened and a pink scarf was knotted
around her neck. Dresser drawers were open and in disarray, as was
her closet. Evidence technicians found fingerprint impressions on
five items that were sent to the crime laboratory.
When Marian Harris entered her
mother's apartment that night, she too saw that it had been
ransacked. A Realistic Clarinet Sixteen, a small stereo, was
missing as well as a small cardboard box and a lightweight sheer
bedspread. Marian Harris identified the stereo at the police
station after it had been recovered from defendant's apartment.
Seventy-one-year old Hubert
Carmichael reported to the police that at 6:30 p.m., while he was
in the day room on the first floor of 4030 S. Lake Park, he saw
the defendant leaving the building alone carrying a box large
enough to hold the missing stereo set. He had seen the defendant
many times before and knew she had no legitimate reason to be in
the senior citizens building, she did not live there, had no
relatives there, and did not work there.
It was Mr. Carmichael who helped
the police solve Mary Harris’ murder. On September 6, 1989, he saw
the defendant, who had died her hair red and was wearing glasses,
with another woman, walking away from the corner bus stop. Mr.
Carmichael excitedly pointed defendant out to Officer Betty Woods.
He told her what he had seen the night of the murder and that he
had also seen at another time the defendant choke another elderly
resident of the building.
Officer Woods, a senior citizens
officer for the Chicago Police Department, approached the two
women. Officer Woods spoke with defendant and her companion.
Defendant lied to Officer Woods, saying that her name was
"Deborah" Williams. Officer Woods transported the two to the Area
One Detective Division.
The defendant continued to claim
she was Deborah Williams to the detectives. After being advised of
her rights, she initially stated she had not been in the 4030 Lake
Park building in years and that she did not know the victim.
Following this conversation,
defendant signed a consent to search form. The officers went
to defendant's apartment and recovered a Realistic Clarinet Number
Sixteen stereo with two speakers. As the evidence against her
mounted, the defendant began to change her story bit by bit. When
confronted with Mary Harris’ stereo, Dorothy Williams admitted it
belonged to her. Defendant stated that she had purchased the
stolen stereo approximately one month earlier from an unknown male
black. Defendant could not estimate the person’s age, weight,
height or complexion. After this conversation an evidence
technician was called to take defendant's fingerprints.
The defendant then admitted that
she previously gone to 4030 S. Lake Park, but stated that she had
never been on the victim’s floor. Once again she claimed she could
not describe the person from whom she bought the stereo.
After speaking with Assistant
State’s Attorney Thomas Bilyk, Dorothy Williams, using her true
name, gave a handwritten statement, which she read and signed in
three places. Defendant stated that she was in the victim's
building on the evening of the murder to visit her friend "R.L."
She met Clyde in the elevator and agreed to buy a stereo from him.
They went to the twelfth floor and Clyde opened the victim's door
with a key.
The victim was "already
moaning." Clyde went in and choked the victim with both hands.
When he finished choking the victim, defendant gave Clyde twenty
dollars and lifted the stereo set off of a dresser. Defendant and
Clyde left the building together, Clyde carried the stereo set out
of the building. They walked together to defendant's apartment.
When a detective confronted her
with the fact that Hubert Carmichael had seen her leave the
building alone carrying a box, the defendant changed her story
once again. In this final version, which was subsequently
witnessed by Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Jacobs and
transcribed by a court reporter, the defendant stated that she had
gone to the victim's apartment looking for money to buy heroin.
Defendant knocked on Mary
Harris'door and was admitted by Ms. Harris. The two had a short
conversation. Ms. Harris gave defendant two dollars to go buy her
some milk. When Ms. Harris turned, defendant wrapped her arms
around the victim's waist, pulled her tight and the victim started
screaming. To silence her, the defendant took the "little rag"
that Ms. Harris was wearing on her head and pulled it tight into
the victim's mouth. The struggle continued and Ms. Harris
scratched at defendant. The "rag" came down around Ms. Harris'
neck and defendant tightened it. Ms. Harris lost consciousness and
defendant dragged the victim'sbody into the bedroom. Ms. Harris'
body was cold to the touch. Defendant took the stereo set and left
After the statement was typed,
the defendant read the first page of the statement out loud,
initialed each page and signed the final page of her statement.
Additionally, an expert
determined that the defendant’s fingerprints had been found on two
items in Mary Harris’s apartment, a gift box and a business card.
Dr. Robert J. Stein, the Chief
Medical Examiner of Cook County, performed Mary Harris’ autopsy.
Dr. Stein observed a "ligature," a pink handkerchief that was
knotted tightly around Ms. Harris' neck. Dr. Stein removed the
handkerchief and saw an abrasion on Ms. Harris' neck. The victim
also suffered two black eyes, caused by separate blows, and small
hemorrhages in the whites of the eyes that were consistent with
His internal examination showed
a hemorrhage to the neck and a hemorrhage to the 'strap' muscles.
Her hyoid bone, which sits above and behind the adam's apple, was
fractured. Dr. Stein determined that seventeen pounds of pressure
per square inch must have been exerted to fracture the hyoid bone.
Dr. Stein's expert opinion was that Mary Harris died from ligature
The defense offered no evidence
at trial. Both sides presented closing arguments and the jury was
instructed on the applicable law. The jury found defendant guilty
of murder and robbery.
Death Penalty Hearing
The defendant waived a jury for
purpose of the sentencing hearing. After the first phase of the
hearing was completed, Judge Singer concluded that the killing of
Mary Harris was executed during the completion of a robbery and
found Dorothy Williamseligible for the death penalty.
During the second phase of the
death penalty hearing, extensive evidence was presented showing
how the defendant preyed on the elderly. As the Supreme Court
noted, “The evidence indicated in order to gain entrance to the
apartments of many of these elderly persons, as well as the
apartments of still others, defendant used various ruses,
including the pretense that the resident knew or was related to
her and the deception that the defendant had come to aid the
resident. The evidence indicated that defendant was often
physically abusive of these elderly persons whom she robbed.” 164
Ill.2d at 25.
Testimony was given concerning
the two felony murders, 89CR-20870 and 89CR-20871, of senior
citizens Lonnie Laws and Caesar Zuell which the defendant
subsequently plead guilty to and was sentenced to natural life by
the Honorable Judge James Heyda. The defendant has never
challenged the validity of those convictions or sentences.
With respect to the murder of
79-year-old Lonnie Laws, on December 5, 1987 a police officer was
dispatched to 4218 South Cottage Grove, apartment 710 and found
Lonnie Laws motionless on his apartment floor. Two articles of
clothing were wrapped in a gag-like fashion around Mr. Laws face
and a belt was wrapped tightly by around his neck. As in the case
of Mary Harris, this apartment was in disarray, the closet was
rummaged through and clothes were thrown on the floor. There was
no sign of forced entry. A wallet was opened on the bed, drawers
were open and the contents were strewn about the room.
Due to the similarities between
the two murders, the defendant was questioned regarding the murder
of Lonnie Laws while in custody for Mary Harris’ murder. The
defendant gave another court-reported confession to Assistant
State’s Attorney Jacobs. Defendant stated that on the date of the
murder she had sex with Mr. Laws, who was intoxicated and "wild.”
When defendant asked for money,
Mr. Laws told defendant she would have to come back for it.
Defendant went through Mr. Laws' drawers when he cut defendant
with a knife. Defendant got angry and grabbed Mr. Laws. According
to defendant, she gagged him with a belt that was hanging around
his neck and asked for her money. When Mr. Laws did not give
defendant the money, defendant tightened the belt around his neck
and pushed Mr. Laws down. Defendant took the money from Mr.
Laws'robe and left.
The parties agreed that the
defendant’s fingerprint was recovered from the exterior door of
Mr. Laws' apartment. The parties also stipulated that the autopsy
revealed Mr. Laws was five feet five inches tall and weighed 94
pounds. Mr. Laws suffered hemorrhaging in both eyes and abrasions
to his face and nose. Mr. Laws was gagged with a pajama top that
was tied in the back of the neck. Around Mr. Laws' neck was a
belt. Between Mr. Laws' eyebrows were multiple, irregular areas of
abrasion and bruising. Internal examination revealed multiple
areas of hemorrhaging in the neck, throat, esophagus and tongue
and a fracture of the thyroid cartilage. The autopsy determined
that Lonnie Laws died of ligature strangulation. His blood alcohol
level was well below the legal definition of intoxication.
Concerning the murder of Caesar
Zuell, on December 6, 1988 another officer was summoned to
apartment 813 at the senior building at 740 East 43rd Street. Upon
entering the apartment, the officer observed the decomposed body.
The fire department was called, and air tanks were requested
because of the unbearable stench emanating fromthe apartment.
The parties agreed to the
testimony that an evidence technician found a latent fingerprint
impression from a whiskey bottle in Caesar Zuell's apartment and
sent it to the crime lab. The parties also stipulated that an
expert fingerprint examiner, found the defendant's palmprint on
Both sides also agreed to the
results of Caesar Zuell’s autopsy. It showed Caesar Zuell was five
foot, seven inches, weighed 120 pounds and was sixty-four years
old. Mr. Zuell's body exhibited skin slippage and discoloration
indicating decomposition. Mr. Zuell died from three stabs wounds
to the chest and a lacerated lung.
Assistant State's Attorney
Gabriel DeMatteo testified he took a court-reported statement from
the defendant on September 8, 1989. The defendant told him in
December of 1988 she got a call from Caesar Zuell asking defendant
to have sex with him for fifty dollars. After purchasing a pint of
whiskey, she went to Mr. Zuell's. Mr. Zuell did not want to pay
defendant, so she wrestled with him trying to go into his pockets.
Mr. Zuell told defendant to
leave his apartment brandishing a pocket-type knife. Defendant
grabbed Mr. Zuell by the wrist and pushed the knife into his
chest. After this struggle, defendant reached into Mr. Zuell's
pocket, took eighty seven dollars and left. She claimed Mr. Zuell
was still standing when she took the money.
During the death penalty
hearing, there was additional evidence concerning the defendant’s
victimization of the elderly. Seventy-two year old Jasper Irving
was wheeled into the courtroom. He testified that he suffered from
cancer of the vocal chords and had been using a walker for fifteen
or twenty years.
On January 11, 1986, Mr. Irving
was living at the senior citizen’s building at 4949 South Cottage
Grove. On that day, the defendant, who Mr. Irving had seen in the
building before, knocked on Mr. Irving's door. When the defendant
stated she wanted some beer, Mr. Irving put two dollars on the
The defendant stated it was not
enough, grabbed the money that Mr. Irving was holding in his hand
and the two dollars off the table and fled. After defendant left,
Mr. Irving called someformer neighbors who were familiar with
defendant who told Mr. Irving defendant's name. Mr. Irving then
called the police. One week later Mr. Irving identified the
defendant for the police.
Defendant was arrested, released
on bond and never appeared in court to answer these charges.
On April 4, 1989, Mr. Irving was
in his apartment at 4949 South Cottage Grove when someone knocked
on his door. The person outside Mr. Irving's door told himthere
was a gas leak. Mr. Irving cracked open the door and saw
defendant. She forced her way into his apartment, knocking him to
the floor. Defendant beat him in the head with a stick and Mr.
Irving fell backwards.
Defendant then put her foot in
the victim's face, got a dishtowel and tied it around Mr. Irving's
throat. Defendant then tightened the towel and dragged him to the
front of the apartment and said, "I don't know what I'm going to
do with you." Mr. Irving told defendant where he had two hundred
and sixty dollars hidden and she released him. Defendant took the
money and Mr. Irving's key and left the apartment.
Mr. Irving called the police and
identified her from a group of photographs. Two years later
defendant was apprehended and Mr. Irving went to court and
identified defendant. Mr. Irving testified that his skull was
fractured as the result of the beating he received from defendant.
At the time of her arrest for Mary Harris’ murder, defendant had
an outstanding bond forfeiture warrant for this second robbery of
Following defendant’s sentence
of death, she plead guilty to that robbery in Case No. 89CR-3376
and was sentenced to 7 years in the penitentiary by Judge Heyda.
Once again, defendant is not challenging this conviction or
The People also presented
evidence that the defendant had robbed three other seniors in Mary
Harris’ building or in surrounding senior buildings, Frederick
Adamson on July 4, 1989; Clyde Simmons on July 1, 1989, and Martha
Foster on April 4, 1989. The defendant’s July 4, 1989 robbery of
Adamson was the third time she had victimized him. During the
first robbery of Adamson, she had squeezed his tongue and pulled
it. During the Simmons robbery, she had twisted his genitals and
threatened to pull off his penis if he did not give her money.
On August 2, 1989, a mere eight
days after she killed Mary Harris, the defendant was arrested for
trespassing in the senior citizen building at 400 East 41stStreet.
In this case her attempt to enter a senior’s apartment by ruse was
thwarted. The defendant had already dyed her hair red claimed that
her identity was her deceased sister Peggy Williams when she was
arrested and questioned by the police.
Additional evidence showed that
in October of 1973, the defendant hit EmmaLipsey with a 18 square
inch wooden milk crate, knocking out two of her lower teeth. On
May 30, 1973, defendant kicked and stuck a police officer 10 to 12
times in the face and chest after he arrested her for creating a
disturbance. Defendant was convicted and fined for resisting
arrest. On March 10, 1975, defendant was convicted of delivery and
possession of marijuana and was sentenced to 18 months misdemeanor
probation and fined $200. While defendant was incarcerated pending
her trial for Mary Harris’ murder, she verbally abused and
threatened a female correctional officer.
In mitigation, the defendant
presented testimony that while pending trial, her only
disciplinary violation was the November 23, 1989 offense.
Defendant’s mother, Annie Pearl Williams testified that the
defendant’s deceased father’s contact with her had been limited
essentially to “writing.”
Annie Pearl Williams testified
that the defendant had attended school until she became pregnant
with Cherika at 15. At no time did Annie Pearl Williams testify
that the defendant was unable to read this correspondence or that
she was of limited intelligence.
Annie Pearl Williams testified
that at the time of the hearing defendant’s daughter Cherika was
22 years old and her son Terrance was 20. Cherika testified that
she had been raised by her mother and had a normal upbringing. (As
previously noted, subsequent to the defendant’s sentence of death,
Cherika Williams plead guilty to the July 3, 1992 aggravated
battery to a senior citizen of 80-year-old Nathaniel Crenshaw in
case 92CR-17216. In her statement to the police, Cherika stated
that she had been introduced to Crenshaw by her mother and that
she was attempting to take money from him when she cut him with a
knife (see appendix).
The defense presented no other
evidence in mitigation. After both sides presented arguments,
Judge Singer found that no mitigating factors existed sufficient
to preclude the sentence of death.
Petitioner claims that her death
sentence should be commuted in light of Atkins v.Virginia, 122 S.
Ct. 2242 (2002), because she is allegedly mentally retarded.
Although the court in Atkins noted that mental retardation is
characterized as having a significantly sub-average general
intellectual functioning and significant limitations in adaptive
functioning in at least two skill areas with the onset prior to
age 18 (122 S.Ct. at 2245 n.3), the Court expressly stated that it
was not adopting a definition of mental retardation and left it to
the various states to adopt a definition of mental retardation and
delineate procedures for determining whether or not a particular
defendant is mentally retarded. Id. at 2249-50.
No case, by any standard, for
mental retardation has been established regarding the defendant.
To the contrary, the testimony and rulings to date have portrayed
the defendant as a highly, skilled and highly manipulative person.
The People have detailed the facts of the defendant’s crimes that
were the basis of clinical psychologist Edward Blumstein’s
findings that “there was premeditation involved, that she was
rather deceptive, wily ruthless” in her victimization of the
Dr. Blumstein, further testified
that defendant’s IQ tests were all over the board, ranging from
59-73. He characterized her as a malingerer, a faker. Dr.
Blumstein, testified that a number of the defendant’s IQ test
scores were in the normal, although low normal range. It was his
expert opinion that the below normal scores were a result of the
defendant faking her condition.
Specifically, Dr. Blumstein
testified “(T)his is an individual who is attempting to portray
her intellectual functioning at a much lower level that it really
is, but at the same time that she’s doing that is unable to
actually recall exactly how she performed the time before. So
you’re going to have fluctuations that are occurring way beyond
chance. In other words, if this were an individual who were truly
brain damaged (defendant claimed in her post-conviction petition
that her alleged mental deficiencies were caused by an accident
which resulted in brain damage. She has been unable to
substantiate these allegations.), you pretty much see a flat line.
You know, you’d get two, three, possibly four point discrepancies.
But not ten points…(S)he’s malingering.”
Perhaps even more telling both
Dr. Blumstein and Dr. Mathew Markos, a forensic psychiatrist,
testified that the defendant was able to manipulate them when they
first evaluated her in 1995 to ascertain her fitness for
post-conviction petition and retroactive fitness for trial issues.
Defendant clearly has the intelligence to initially con both these
doctors before they reviewed her voluminous records and retested
her in detail.
Dr. Mathew Markos, director of
Cook County Forensic Clinical Services, testified that when he
first examined defendant in 1995, he found that she was not fit
for post-conviction proceedings and that he could not render an
opinion on whether she had been fit at the time of trial. Dr.
Markos explained that, in 1995, he had accepted defendant’s
"self-report" of severe head injury and that he gave defendant the
"benefit of the doubt" based upon her presentation and complaints
of memory loss. Also in 1995, Dr. Blumstein had also evaluated her
and found her unfit.
In 1997, Dr. Markos reexamined
defendant after reviewing extensive police reports concerning all
three murders, court-reported statements, the pre-sentence
investigation, Dr. Blumstein’s 1997 report [finding her fit],
medical and psychiatric records fromDwight correctional center,
Dr. Lahmeyer’ s report, Dr. Lillie’s report, and transcripts ofthe
trial and sentencing hearing. Dr. Markos also had additional
records from Cook County Jail and Dr. Blumstein’s 1997
reevaluation concerning his observations and the results of tests
that he administered.
Dr. Markos also reviewed the
findings of Dr. Lahmeyer and Dr. Lillie, both of whomoffered a
clinical diagnosis of malingering. These doctors also concluded
that defendant was fit for post-conviction proceedings and fit for
trial in 1991. Dr. Markos then discussed the absence of any
evidence of head injury. There were no medical records supporting
the injury, there was no consistent age given for the incident
allegedly resulting in such injury. After reviewing all the
documents and reports, Dr. Markos performed a clinical examination
of petitioner. Defendant was calm and cooperative, maintaining
good eye contact. Defendant was not disorganized, did not have
abnormal thought behavior. Defendant did not suffer from
delusions, hallucinations, nor was she paranoid.
Defendant, however, did report
serious memory problems for "just about everything." She did not
know what she was charged with, her date of birth, or how old her
two grown children were. Yet, she could recall being struck by a
car and that she went to a hospital. She also was able to give
details of treatment at Dwight penitentiary, including the names
and doses of medications that she was prescribed. Defendant
further stated that when she was transferred from Dwight to Cook
County Jail, one medication was substituted for another.
Dr. Markos noted that it was
unusual that defendant did not know basic facts like what day it
was, yet could recall "precise information regarding her head
injury and psychiatric treatment. This alone, created a strong
suspicion of malingering, or faking. Dr. Markos stated that it was
strange from a clinical standpoint that an "individual who had no
memory for basic personal details was able to spontaneously color
a picture of psychiatric sequela secondary to head injury which
was not established in the first place." Dr. Markos noted that the
head injury was never reported to authorities or examiners at
Dwight and remained unreported until 1995. There was no indication
"whatsoever that any head injury took place which was documented
by proper authority." Moreover, an MRI, EKG and CAT-scan showed no
evidence of hemorrhage, hematoma or lesions to the brain.
Dr. Markos further stated that
the police reports illustrated defendant was purposeful, very
organized, and goal directed in committing her crimes and during
the interrogation. The psychiatrist further found that there was
no evidence of any cognitive deficit or organic brain damage and
defendant was malingering or faking.
Dr. Markos explained the
discrepancy between his conclusion in 1995 and in 1997 stating:
"back in 1995 based on the information that was made available to
me...I rendered an opinion. But it so happened that Miss Williams
was malingering. And when I reexamined her in 1997, the data was
overwhelming. The clinical information and findings clearly
indicated a diagnosis of malingering and led me to make a finding
Dr. Blumstein also testified
that in 1995, he had no police reports, transcripts, or
court-reported statements and relied on defendant’s rendition of
her mental capabilities. After reading all these materials in
1997, he was able to develop relevant questions based upon the
facts and compare them with petitioner’s responses. He was also
better able to test petitioner. The records as well as her
responses demonstrated the defendant’s intelligence.
Although his ruling on her
post-conviction petition was overturned on other grounds, Judge
Shelvin Singer ruled on August 20, 1999 that “petitioner had a
basic formal education, was able to read; and, in addition, had a
crafty intelligence above that of a normal person’s.”
Judge Singer’s observations were
consistent with the Illinois Supreme Court’s findings that the
defendant used various ruses to gain entrance to the apartments of
her elderly victims. 164 Ill.2d at 33. This included telling one
victim there was a gas leak in the building. The defendant’s claim
of mental retardation is also belied by her various acts of
deception and lies to escape responsibility for her crimes. For
instance, following her murder of Mary Harris, the defendant dyed
her hair red, and gave multiple, conflicting versions of her
activities. She lied to the police about her real name, and denied
both being in the victim’s building, and knowing the victim.
In sentencing defendant to death
on April 18, 1991, Judge Singer made the following findings: “I do
believe that Mary Harris was brutally beaten before she was
killed, indeed beaten around the head, the eyes, the
face….Furthermore, I do believe that the defendant developed and
executed a scheme to prey on the elderly and the infirmed, to rob
these people, these people who could least afford it, and these
people who are most vulnerable. They are obviously easy victims
because they are elderly and infirmed, and they usually live
alone, extreme difficulty getting to could, should the defendant
be arrested, and once in court, because of the variety of physical
conditions and the like, as witnessed, they are not as articulate
as would other people bee—or other people be as witnesses. Miss
Williams took terrible advantage of these people in a most
cruel—in a most cruel way.” ( see appendix. pp. 102, 104-5) These
findings support the fact that defendant victimized seniors in a
cruel, heartless, systematic manner that a truly mentally retarded
person would be unable to do.
To bolster her claims, the
defendant has attached an unsworn, unsigned, “affidavit” made
allegedly by her brother John claiming that petitioner cannot read
and that she did not attend high school. He further claims that
the defendant dropped out of school at age 14. This individual did
not testify at the death penalty hearing. His “affidavit” directly
refutes his own mother’s testimony stating that defendant dropped
out of high school at age 15. It further contradicts the
information defendant gave to the probation officer preparing her
pre-sentence report wherein she stated that she dropped out of
Forrestville High School at age 15. Moreover, the school records
provided to this board are obviously incomplete in that since
defendant was born on December 24, 1954, she was 12 years of age
during the last grading period reflected in September 1967, not
age 14. Additionally, page 33 of the defendant’s appendix
indicates that the defendant’s total IQ score was 73, clearly not
within the mentally retarded range.
The records provided to the
board do not support defendant’s contentions. Defendant’s
disciplinary record in IDOC reflects conduct which is both defiant
and hostile. She has managed to come into possession of drugs and
other contraband; has violated rules, and has intimidated and
threatened others. (see appendix). It is clear that the defendant
has no desire to comport her behavior within the rule of law.
Dorothy Williams purposely
sought out the frailest and most defenseless seniors and preyed
upon them in their own homes. She robbed and strangled Mary Harris
to death, she robbed and strangled Lonnie Laws to death, she
robbed and stabbed Caesar Zuell to death and she terrorized and
stole from Jasper Irving, Frederick Adamson, Clyde Simmons and
Martha Foster. Just eight days after she strangled the life out of
Mary Harris, she was caught with her appearance altered giving a
false name at yet another senior citizen building. Her actions
were methodical and cruel. It is also significant to note that the
defendant has yet to express responsibility or remorse for her
crimes or that “mental retardation” has impaired her from doing
so. There simply is no justification or reason to grant this
unsigned baseless clemency petition, and the well-reasoned
decision imposing the sentence of death should not be compromised.
Illinois Supreme Court
September 22, 1994
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLEE,
DOROTHY WILLIAMS, APPELLANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by:
JUSTICE HARRISON delivered the opinion of the
In the circuit court of Cook County a jury
convicted the defendant, Dorothy Williams, of first degree murder
(Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)(1)) and robbery (Ill.
Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 38, par. 18-1(a)). Following a hearing the
circuit court denied her post-trial motion for a new trial or, in
the alternative, a judgment non obstante veredicto. Defendant
having waived a jury for sentencing, the cause was submitted for
hearing on sentencing to the court, which found the defendant
eligible for the imposition of the death penalty, pursuant to
section 9-1(b)(6) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat.
1991, ch. 38, par. 9-1(b)(6)), for the reason that she had
committed murder in the course of another felony, namely, robbery.
Following the consideration of aggravating and mitigating factors
(Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 38, par. 9-1(c)), the court found that
there were no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude the
imposition of the death sentence and, accordingly, sentenced her
to death. The cause comes directly to this court for review (Ill.
Const. 1970, art. VI, § 4(b); 134 Ill. 2d R. 603), where defendant
presents 19 issues for consideration.
Initially defendant contends that she was
arrested without probable cause in violation of her fourth
amendment rights and, as a result, her statement, together with
other products of the illegal arrest, must be suppressed. The
victim, 97-year-old Mary Harris, who resided in housing for senior
citizens operated by the Chicago Housing Authority, was strangled
on July 25, 1989, in her apartment, from which a stereo set was
found to be missing. At the hearing on the defendant'spretrial
motion to quash her arrest and to suppress statements that she
claimed to be the direct product of her unlawful arrest, the
following evidence was adduced.
Officer Betty Woods testified that she was
assigned to the division of the police department providing
services to senior citizens and was familiar with the
circumstances of Harris' death. On September 6, 1989, she was
using an unmarked squad car and working alone in plain clothes at
the building in which Harris' body had been discovered. While the
officer was in the building, a man whom she later learned was
Hubert Carmichael approached her at approximately 11 or 11:30 a.m.
He indicated that he had observed a woman carrying a box and
leaving the building on the date of Harris' murder, that he had
suspected that the woman might have been involved in this murder,
and that he had seen the woman in the building again on September
5, 1989. He indicated further to Officer Woods that the woman,
whom he had known as "Peggy," had altered her appearance since the
date of the homicide by shortening her hair and dyeing it red.
Although this woman had frequented the building prior to the death
of Harris, she had stopped coming there since that time. To the
best of the officer's knowledge, the woman described had no
friends or relatives in the building and no lawful reason to be in
it. The officer was aware that the person Carmichael had seen
leaving the building around the time of the murder of Harris had
also been identified by him as the same person whom he had
previously seen choke another resident of the building. The
officer was aware as well that the suspect in the strangulation of
still another elderly person, residing in a neighboring building
for senior citizens, fit the description of the woman whom
Carmichael had seen leaving on the evening of Harris' murder.
Later, as Officer Woods was departing from the building at about
noon, Carmichael pointed toa woman walking by the building outside
the window and indicated that this was the same woman about whom
he had spoken earlier.
Officer Woods then approached the woman,
identified herself as a police officer, showed the woman her
badge, and asked if she could speak with her. The woman was the
defendant, 35 years old at the time, who identified herself as
"Deborah" Williams and was accompanied by another woman, Michelle
McBride. At first Officer Woods attempted to have detectives who
were familiar with the case come out to interview the defendant,
but the detectives were unavailable at that time. Officer Woods
then informed defendant and her companion that it might be faster
and easier if they went to the place where the detectives are
generally stationed. Both women agreed to do so. When defendant's
companion expressed concern about picking up her child from
school, Officer Woods told her that the police would accommodate
her. McBride had wanted to be sure that either she would be back
in time to pick up her child or her child would be picked up by
someone else. The officer offered the two women transportation in
her car and drove them, without handcuffs, to the police station,
which was located a distance of less than two miles, or about 16
to 18 blocks, from the building where the offense occurred. The
drive took about 8 to 10 minutes. Although Officer Woods was
armed, her weapon was not visible, and the officer did not draw it
at any time. Officer Woods had no warrant for defendant's arrest.
Nor did she tell defendant or her companion that they did not have
to accompany her to the station. However, neither woman objected
to doing so.
At the station Officer Woods left the two women
in the middle of the large office on the second floor and went a
distance of about 40 feet to a desk to inform the officer on duty
there that she had a woman with her who hadbeen implicated in a
homicide. After the desk sergeant looked up the case, Officer
Woods told the two women, who were standing and waiting in the
middle of the room, that it would be only a few moments until they
found out which detective was handling the case. Once Officer
Woods located and spoke to the detective assigned to investigate
the murder of Mary Harris, she left the police station and had no
further involvement in the matter.
The other witness who testified at this hearing
was a police detective, Edward Schmitt, who stated that on July
27, 1989, during the course of the investigation into the death of
Harris, he had spoken with Carmichael. During his investigation he
had learned that a number of items were found to have been missing
from the apartment of Harris following her death, including a
Realistic Clarinet Number 16 stereo, two speakers, a bedspread,
and a cardboard box. On the afternoon of September 6, 1989, he and
his partner spoke with Officer Woods and then with the defendant,
who was with McBride in a large interview room measuring
approximately 10 by 20 feet on the second floor of the police
station. The door to the room was open. The officers asked McBride
to "step out" of the room. Their conversation with defendant began
at about 1:15 or 1:30 and lasted approximately 10 or 15 minutes.
At the beginning of the conversation he and his partner advised
defendant of her Miranda rights. When they asked her when she had
last been in the building in which Harris had lived, she responded
that it had been several years since she had been there. At the
end of the conversation the detective and his partner left the
interview room, leaving the door open. McBride, who had been asked
to leave the interview room while the police spoke with defendant,
was walking around in the police station when the officers left
the interview room and "might haveeven been sitting in there with
Miss Williams when we left." Defendant was not handcuffed when
they left the interview room.
Thereafter he and his partner spoke with
Carmichael, who advised them that he had seen the defendant there
the day before, on September 5, having changed her appearance by
dying her hair a reddish color. At approximately 2 p.m. the
detective asked defendant to sign a form consenting to the search
of her apartment; she did so using the name "Deborah" Williams.
From defendant's apartment the detective and his partner recovered
a Realistic Clarinet Number 16 stereo and two speakers. Shortly
after 3 that afternoon he and his partner conversed with defendant
again, this time for about five minutes, in the same interview
room in which they had spoken earlier, the door of which was open.
Defendant was not handcuffed upon their return. At that time
Detective Schmitt showed defendant the stereo. Defendant responded
that it was hers, that she had bought it "hot," that is, as stolen
property, on the street about a month earlier from a black man
whom she did not know. At that time she agreed to take a polygraph
examination and to be fingerprinted. During both conversations the
defendant appeared to be cool, calm, and unconcerned, answering
all questions freely.
Thereafter the defendant was fingerprinted and,
at about 6:30 p.m. that same day, transported to another location
where she took and failed a polygraph examination. Later, at about
8:30 p.m., police formally arrested her for the murder of Harris.
At the hearing on the motion to suppress, the
trial court expressly found that at the moment defendant responded
that the material discovered in her apartment was "hot" and that
she had so purchased it, probable cause existed to take her into
custody. In denying thedefendant's motion, the circuit court
observed, inter alia, that Officer Woods "is a very slightly built
woman * * * five feet tall at best and a hundred pounds at best."
The court described the defendant as "five-foot-five to
five-foot-seven in height and * * * accompanied by another woman."
The circuit court concluded that "during the period of time that
the Defendant was in the station I have no evidence of any
objective facts from which I believe I can rationally conclude she
was in custody until the time the officer says she was formally
Defendant asserts that the circuit court's
finding that she was not under arrest when Officer Woods took her
to the police station is against the manifest weight of the
evidence and, accordingly, must be reversed. She argues further
that she "was under arrest when she was taken to the police
station and interrogated by different detectives over a
twenty-four hour period. Dorothy did not choose to spend two days
and a night in the police station. The trial Judge's ruling to the
contrary was manifestly erroneous and should be reversed."
The constitutions of both the United States and
the State of Illinois protect individuals from unreasonable
searches and seizures. (U.S. Const., amend. IV; Ill. Const. 1970,
art. I, § 6.) For purposes of the fourth amendment, a seizure is
synonymous with an arrest, and an arrest effected without probable
cause or a warrant based thereon violates the protections of the
amendment. ( People v. Melock (1992), 149 Ill. 2d 423, 436, 174
Ill. Dec. 857, 599 N.E.2d 941.) An arrest occurs when a person's
freedom of movement has been restrained by means of physical force
or by a show of authority. ( Melock, 149 Ill. 2d at 436.) To
determine whether an arrest has, indeed, occurred, the question to
ask is whether a reasonable, innocent person would, under the
circumstances, have considered herself arrested or free to leave.
( People v. Reynolds (1983), 94 Ill. 2d 160, 165, 68 Ill. Dec.
122, 445 N.E.2d 766.) A reviewing court will not disturb the
determination of a circuit court on a motion to suppress evidence
unless the determination is manifestly erroneous. ( People v.
Galvin (1989), 127 Ill. 2d 153, 162, 129 Ill. Dec. 72, 535 N.E.2d
837; Reynolds, 94 Ill. 2d at 165.) On such a motion the defendant
bears the burden of proof that the search and seizure were
unlawful. People v. Hoskins (1984), 101 Ill. 2d 209, 212, 78 Ill.
Dec. 107, 461 N.E.2d 941.
The undisputed evidence here does not support
defendant's contention that she was under arrest when Officer
Woods took her to the police station. As we have said, the officer
attempted initially to have detectives familiar with the case come
out to interview the defendant, but when she learned they were
unable to do so, she advised the defendant and her companion that
it might be faster and easier if they went to the police station.
The women agreed, accepting the transportation offered by Officer
Woods, who was driving an unmarked car. Although the officer was
armed, her weapon was not visible and was at no time drawn. The
officer, a slight woman several inches shorter than the defendant,
was alone in her dealings with the two women. The officer, who was
wearing plain clothes, addressed the concerns of the defendant's
companion concerning her child's dismissal from school, advising
her that she would be back in time to pick the child up herself or
that someone would pick the child up for her. The drive to the
station was not long. At no time was the defendant handcuffed.
After transporting the defendant and her companion to the police
station, Officer Woods departed, leaving the two unattended in the
middle of a large room. Although the officer did not tell
defendant that she did not have to accompany her to the station,
nothing about these circumstances would lead a reasonable,
innocent person to consider herself arrested or to conclude that
she was not free to leave. The evidence ofrecord reveals that the
defendant accompanied Officer Woods to the police station
The defendant declares in her brief that after
she arrived at the police station she was detained unlawfully for
approximately 24 hours or longer. However, once she stated at
about 3 p.m. on September 6, 1989, that she had purchased the
stereo set resembling the one missing from Harris' apartment in
the knowledge that it was stolen, police had probable cause to
arrest her. Thus, after making that statement she could not have
been detained unlawfully.
Moreover, the conduct of the two detectives who
interviewed defendant at the police station prior to her making of
this statement would not cause a reasonable, innocent person to
conclude that she was either under arrest or deprived of her
freedom. What this court said in People v. Wipfler (1977), 68 Ill.
2d 158, 168, 11 Ill. Dec. 262, 368 N.E.2d 870, of station-house
interrogations applies equally to the detectives' initial
questioning of the defendant here:
"To hold that this amounted to an arrest would
be to hold that virtually any station-house interrogation is
necessarily so custodial as to indicate that the person questioned
has been placed under arrest. This would mean that the police
could not request the presence of anyone, even for noncustodial
questioning, unless and until they had probable cause to arrest
the person to be questioned. We see no reason to so restrict the
investigatory function of the police."
Although the officers did advise the instant
defendant of her Miranda rights at the beginning of their
conversation with her, a custodial situation cannot be created
merely by the giving of Miranda warnings ( Wipfler, 68 Ill. 2d at
171). Having given these warnings, the detectives spoke with
defendant but briefly, she was not handcuffed, and the door to the
large room in which they interviewed her was open. Further, her
companion was permitted to remain in the same room with her
before, and possibly after, the detectives' initial
conversationwith her. As the circuit court pointed out,
"apparently, at all times critical her companion was in the police
station with her." In addition, from the time defendant arrived at
the police station until she stated that she had bought the stereo
set as stolen property, none of the procedures, such as booking
and fingerprinting, that are normally associated with arrest were
performed. (See Melock, 149 Ill. 2d at 438.) The evidence adduced
at the motion to suppress does not tend to show that a reasonable,
innocent person would have felt that she was not free to leave
during the time that elapsed between defendant's arrival at the
police station and her statement concerning the purchase of the
stereo set at about 3 p.m. Plainly, the circuit court's
determination that defendant was not arrested at the time in
question is not manifestly erroneous. Thus, the circuit court
properly denied her motion to suppress.
As the second issue defendant presents for
review, she maintains that she was denied a fair hearing on her
pretrial motion to suppress evidence, in part because the circuit
court prevented her from eliciting from Officer Woods an answer to
the question whether defendant was free to leave once she arrived
at the police station. Defendant argues that this and other
rulings of the circuit court during the hearing rendered it a
"sham." Although the subjective intent of a police officer to
detain a suspect is relevant, such intent is not controlling. (See
Reynolds, 94 Ill. 2d at 165.) The record contains no indication
that the circuit court restricted defendant's examination of
Officer Woods concerning the officer's speech or any other conduct
by which the officer might have manifested a belief that the
defendant was not free to leave. In short, this record contains no
evidence whatsoever that, if Officer Woods did entertain such a
belief, it was communicated to the defendant in any way, either
directly or indirectly. In viewof the abundant evidence in the
record supporting the circuit court's denial of defendant's motion
to suppress, any error on the part of the court in sustaining the
State's objection to this question could not have affected the
outcome of the hearing on the motion and, as a consequence,
amounted to no more than harmless error. Likewise, even if we
assume that the circuit court erred with respect to the other
rulings about which defendant complains, in light of the evidence
adduced at this hearing, these errors could have been but
As the third and fourth issues defendant
advances on appeal, she contends that she was denied a fair trial
during voir dire for two reasons: (1) the circuit court failed to
exercise sound discretion when it improperly excused for cause
prospective juror Esther Smith, and (2) the State exercised a
peremptory challenge against prospective juror Alvin Pettigrew in
a systematic exclusion by the State of African-Americans from the
With respect to Esther Smith, the State asked
that she be excused for cause for her failure to acknowledge "that
she's currently under supervision for a marijuana case" and for
having "perjured herself." Earlier the circuit court had addressed
to a panel of four that included Smith the following question:
"Other than what you may have already told me, have you ever been
a party to or otherwise particularly interested in the outcome of
a criminal case? If you have please indicate by raising your
hand." The court's observation follows immediately in the record:
"I see no hands raised." Thereafter the State asked this question
of the same panel of four: "Now the four of you, has anyone you
know, a neighbor, friend or had [sic] anyone else been arrested,
convicted, put on probation, tried or sent to jail. If they have
could you raise your hand, please." The State then recognized
Smith, who stated in response: "Just hearing about different
people in the neighborhood or something. No one personally but I
have heard of people going to jail." When the State asked, "Anyone
close to you?" Smith responded in the negative. The State asserted
that Smith had responded in the negative in writing to a similar
question on a card she had filled out: "She was asked if she's
ever been accused or arrested and those are the only-knows any
person who was accused, arrested. Same age, same middle initial.
Here's the description and she checked the card no." Countering
the State's request that Smith be excused for cause, the defendant
asked that she be questioned again and asked specifically about
the marijuana case, adding that "people make mistakes when they
check the card and I think it would only be fair to ask." After
further Discussion the circuit court concluded, "I think that
there were enough questions that were asked of her. I'm going to
excuse her for cause." Defendant maintains that "the only fair way
to clear up any confusion would have been to ask Esther Smith a
few simple questions, as the defense requested."
The purpose of voir dire is to assure the
selection of an impartial panel of jurors free from either bias or
prejudice. ( People v. Bowel (1986), 111 Ill. 2d 58, 64, 94 Ill.
Dec. 748, 488 N.E.2d 995.) Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 234 (134
Ill. 2d R. 234), made applicable to criminal cases by Rule 431
(134 Ill. 2d R. 431), the primary responsibility for both
initiating and conducting the voir dire examination lies with the
circuit court, and the manner and scope of that examination rests
within the discretion of that court. ( People v. Porter (1986),
111 Ill. 2d 386, 401, 95 Ill. Dec. 465, 489 N.E.2d 1329; see
Kingston v. Turner (1987), 115 Ill. 2d 445, 464, 106 Ill. Dec. 14,
505 N.E.2d 320.) An abuse of the court's discretion will be found
only if, after a review of the record, it is determined that the
conduct of the court thwarted the selection of an impartial jury.
( Kingston, 115 Ill. 2d at 465.) Our review of this record in no
waysuggests that the conduct of the court impeded the selection of
an impartial jury. The veracity of those who testify during voir
dire is a matter lying solely within the sound discretion of the
circuit court, and the decision to excuse a potential juror
because of a reasonable belief that that person has been
untruthful under oath is a question best left with that court.
People v. Smith (1992), 152 Ill. 2d 229, 272, 178 Ill. Dec. 335,
604 N.E.2d 858.
With regard to Alvin Pettigrew, after the State
exercised a peremptory challenge against him, the defendant moved
pursuant to Batson v. Kentucky (1986), 476 U.S. 79, 90 L. Ed. 2d
69, 106 S. Ct. 1712, to require the State to "justify why they're
knocking the only black member of the venire off." The circuit
court expressed the belief that the defendant had made a prima
facie case "in light of the fact that there are no black people on
the jury." In response the State pointed out that "the first juror
that they knocked off was a black person so if they had an
all-white jury now this is not because of actions on our part, so
I'm just stating, Judge, that number one I'm just taking exception
and I will then explain for Your Honor." Thereafter the following
colloquy occurred between the circuit court and counsel for the
State and for the defendant:
"MS. LEVIN [Assistant State's Attorney]: I
don't believe that they've made a prima facie case by making one
challenge of one black person. The other people we've challenged
have been white. They have challenged a black person themselves.
THE COURT: That's true, but I believe they
MS. LEVIN: Judge, the reason why we're knocking
him off, number one, is the first time that he kept his hat on the
whole time and-He kept his hat on the whole time he was in the
courtroom until Your Honor-
THE COURT: It's my fault.
MS. LEVIN: The deputy sheriffs in this
courtroom has [sic] a practice of telling everybody to take their
hats off and we, number one, say that that shows disrespect of
thecourt system. Number two, when you asked him he was not
answering questions with full sentences. You asked him how long
have you worked at your job. He said 29. You had to pull from the
teeth 29 years.
He does not know where his own children are
working or what they are doing. All the people we accepted did. We
don't feel this is a person who would pay attention to the-with
respect to the court or that he in fact pays attention to his own
children, so we think there is a lack of attention that will be
paid to this case and this is why we are in fact knocking him off,
and we are taking exception to even giving you our reasons.
MR. McNERNEY [Assistant State's Attorney]: I'd
like to-If I may, I would like you to consider the fact we have
already passed other people that they excused. I just want the
Court to consider that.
THE COURT: I will consider that.
MS. PANTLE [defense counsel]: Judge, his
answers have been very responsive. They've been prompt. They've
been responsive to Your Honor's questions. You didn't have to pull
anything out of him. There was another woman that wasn't sure
where her-I believe it was where her daughter worked, that the
State accepted. Mr. Pettigrew was going bald. He might have some
sensitivity to that fact and that's why he kept his hat on and-
MS. LEVIN: We don't know that.
MS. PANTLE: We don't know that the sheriffs
told him to take their hats [sic] off either, Judge.
MS. LEVIN: There's a sign on the court room
THE COURT: I'm taking into consideration the
MS. LEVIN: Judge, the victim is also black in
THE COURT: I'm taking into consideration the
following factors. This is the first challenge State has made of a
person who is black-defense made a challenge of a person who was
black. Why there hasn't been anymore black people on the venire I
don't understand. I've never seen venire with less black people.
He did have his hat on and his answers were short, somewhat
cryptic. And I will also point out that from what I know the case
[sic] the alleged victim is black as well.
I'm going to find that-I'm going to find that
the State did make their case and I will accept their [peremptory]
The exclusion of just one minority venireperson
because of race is unconstitutional and requires reversal of a
defendant's conviction. ( People v. Harris (1989), 129 Ill. 2d
123, 175, 135 Ill. Dec. 861, 544 N.E.2d 357.) In Batson the court
outlined a three-step process for evaluating claims that a
prosecutor has used peremptory challenges in a manner violative of
the equal protection clause: (1) the defendant must make a prima
facie showing that the prosecutor has exercised peremptory
challenges on the basis of race; (2) if the requisite showing has
been made, the burden shifts to the prosecutor to articulate a
race neutral explanation for striking the prospective jurors in
question; and (3) the trial court must determine whether the
defendant has carried his burden of proving purposeful
discrimination. ( Hernandez v. New York (1991), 500 U.S. 352,
358-59, 114 L. Ed. 2d 395, 405, 111 S. Ct. 1859, 1865-66.) We turn
directly to the question whether the circuit court erred in
finding that the State articulated legitimate, race-neutral
reasons for exercising its peremptory challenge to exclude the
African-American venireperson Alvin Pettigrew.
A factual finding by the circuit court at a
Batson hearing is entitled to great deference on review and will
be set aside only if it is clearly erroneous. ( People v. Hope
(1992), 147 Ill. 2d 315, 321, 168 Ill. Dec. 103, 589 N.E.2d 503.)
Because an explanation that focuses on a venireperson's body
language or demeanor lends itself to pretext, such an explanation
must be scrutinized closely. ( Harris, 129 Ill. 2d at 176.)
However, the demeanor of a prospective juror has been
traditionally an important factor in jury selection, and a
prospective juror's demeanor constitutes a legitimate, racially
neutral reason for exercising a peremptory challenge. ( People v.
Young (1989), 128 Ill. 2d 1, 20, 131 Ill. Dec. 78, 538 N.E.2d
453.) The circuit court has both the opportunity to observe
ajuror's demeanor upon voir dire and the experience in supervising
such examinations to assess the explanations of the State
concerning the exercise of a peremptory challenge. Young, 128 Ill.
2d at 21.
In the instant case the circuit court found it
significant that Pettigrew failed to remove his hat during the
proceeding in the courtroom until requested to do so by the court
and that Pettigrew gave "short, somewhat cryptic" answers. The
defendant argues that two non-African-American jurors who were
accepted by the State answered questions in a "substantially
similar" manner. However, the record indicates that, whereas the
meaning of any abbreviated answers of either of these two jurors
was readily apparent, the meaning of some of Pettigrew's was not
and, to be ascertained, required further questioning by the court.
After observing the demeanor of prospective juror Pettigrew and
evaluating his responses to questions, the circuit court
determined that the State's concern was legitimate. We cannot say
that the court's assessment in this regard was erroneous.
In finding that the State had given legitimate,
race-neutral reasons for exercising a peremptory challenge against
Pettigrew, the circuit court did not mention as a factor a third
reason advanced by the State: Pettigrew's lack of knowledge
concerning the employment of one of his four children, a
24-year-old son who, he said, "works downtown somewhere." Although
the defendant contends that a non-African-American juror accepted
by the State was similarly uninformed about the employment of her
23-year-old daughter, the record shows that this juror provided
considerable information about the nature of her daughter's work.
Although the juror was "not positive" about her daughter's
occupation, she explained that "she works for a moving company.
She deals with the insurance for the furniture that's being moved
and that and the insurance for thedrivers." Thus, the record
reveals that the responses of the two are decidedly dissimilar.
Like the first two reasons set forth by the State for the exercise
of a peremptory challenge against Pettigrew, this third and final
reason appears to be a legitimate, race-neutral one. The record
makes plain that the finding of the circuit court is not clearly
erroneous. Accordingly, we may not disturb it.
At trial the evidence of guilt marshaled by the
State against the defendant was overwhelming. Not the least of it
was defendant's statement made to police on September 7, 1989,
before a court reporter that defendant had strangled Harris and
had taken a "component set" from the victim's apartment. In the
statement, which was read to the jury, defendant said that on July
25, 1989, she had gone into Harris' apartment and had talked with
Harris for about 10 minutes, at which time Harris asked her to go
to the store for her and gave her $2 for that purpose. As she gave
defendant the money, Hams turned around, and defendant "grabbed
her from the back," putting her arms around Harris' stomach and
"trying to stop her from talking." Defendant did so, she stated,
because she wanted to "get the component set" to sell for drugs.
Harris was telling defendant in a loud voice to let her go, and
when Harris began to scratch defendant, defendant "grabbed" a
"rag" Harris wore around her head and tried to put it over Harris'
mouth "so she wouldn't scream." As defendant put the rag over
Harris' mouth and around her neck, Harris was "pulling it trying
to get it off" and attempting to get away from defendant.
Defendant described the rag as having been around Harris' neck for
"about a half a minute or a minute." When Harris fainted and began
to fall, defendant "threw her on the bed." As Harris started to
fall, she was saying, "Oh"; when defendant threw her on the bed,
she had stopped speaking. Afterthrowing Harris down, defendant
said, she "grabbed the component set * * * left out."
Among other evidence introduced by the State
was the testimony of Marian Harris, the victim's daughter, that
when she had visited her mother on the morning of her death, Mary
Harris was wearing a pink scarf on her head. Marian Harris
testified further that following her mother's death a small
Realistic Clarinet 16 stereo set she had purchased for her mother
was missing. On the morning of September 7, 1989, she identified a
stereo set at the police station as the one she had purchased for
her mother. Following her mother's death the witness discovered
missing one of three large boxes that had been in her mother's
apartment on the morning of her death and a lightweight sheer
Hubert Carmichael, a resident of the same
apartment building as the victim, testified that at about 6:30
p.m. on July 25, 1989, as he was standing at the window of the day
room on the first floor, he saw a woman whom he identified as the
defendant leaving the building alone and carrying a box large
enough to hold the stereo set found to be missing from the
victim's apartment. The woman, whom Carmichael had seen on
numerous prior occasions, was dressed in what appeared to him to
be a white nurse's uniform. When he saw her again on September 6,
1989, defendant's hair color had been changed to red, and she was
wearing glasses. Another resident of the building, Willie Shelby,
testified that she had left the victim's apartment at about 6 p.m.
on the evening of her death.
A detective who had been called to the scene of
the homicide following its discovery at about 8 p.m. testified
that the dresser drawers of the victim's apartment were found to
be open and in disarray, as was her closet. Her body was lying on
the bed, a "bandanna" around her neck knotted in front. Entry
appeared not to have beenforced. Detective Schmidt testified
concerning the recovery of a "Realistic clarinet number sixteen
stereo system with two speakers" from the defendant's apartment on
the afternoon of September 6, 1989. He recounted defendant's
statement that it was her property and that she had bought it
"hot," as stolen merchandise, on the street about a month earlier
from a black male whom she did not know and was unable to
describe. Expert testimony established that the defendant's
fingerprints were found on objects that were inside the apartment
of Harris after her death. The medical examiner described the
victim's body as having a ligature around the neck, namely, a pink
"kerchief" knotted at the angle of the jaw and wrapped tightly
around the neck. The victim's hyoid bone had been fractured, an
indication that "really extreme pressure" had been applied to the
neck. In his opinion the cause of death of the victim, who was
approximately 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 99 pounds fully
clad, was ligature strangulation. Both of the victim's eyes were
black and blue, a result, in his opinion, of having been struck.
The defendant did not testify.
For our review the defendant presents five
minor evidentiary issues related to that part of her trial in
which guilt was determined. We have read the entire record on
appeal and have determined that these issues are not meritorious.
The State urges that many of them are waived for review by virtue
of the defendant's failure properly to preserve them for appeal.
However, should these issues not be deemed waived for review, the
overwhelming evidence adduced at trial against the defendant
renders any of these errors-if error they be-harmless beyond a
reasonable doubt, incapable of having deprived her of a fair
trial, as she argues before this court.
Defendant raises four issues in which she
asserts prosecutorial excess and other error related to closing
argument that served to deny her a fair trial and the right to
present a defense. Likewise, our examination of the record reveals
that these issues are without merit. Again, the State maintains
that defendant has waived for review a number of these claims of
error. If prosecutorial comment exceeds the bounds of proper
argument, the verdict must not be disturbed unless it can be said
that the remark caused substantial prejudice to the defendant. (
People v. Johnson (1992), 149 Ill. 2d 118, 145, 171 Ill. Dec. 401,
594 N.E.2d 253.) Here, even if those errors claimed to have been
waived should not be deemed so, in light of the overwhelming
evidence of defendant's guilt, any of the errors asserted to have
occurred during closing argument could have constituted nothing
more than error harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.
During the first phase of the sentencing
proceeding, in which the State sought to establish the defendant's
eligibility for the death penalty, the circuit court concluded
that the killing of Harris was motivated by robbery and for the
purpose of completing a robbery and, therefore, found defendant
eligible for imposition of the death penalty. During the second
phase of the sentencing proceeding, the State introduced
statements by the defendant in which she admitted having strangled
Lonnie Laws with his belt on December 5, 1987, and to having
stabbed Caesar Zuell during the first weeks of December 1988.
Defendant has been charged with first degree murder in their
deaths. In part by stipulation the State introduced considerable
evidence concerning the circumstances of the deaths of these two
slight, elderly men, including information obtained upon autopsy,
which was consistent with the details given by defendant in her
court-reported statements to police about their deaths.
The State introduced as well evidence that the
defendant had robbed four other elderly persons in their
apartments, which were located in the same building in which
Harris had lived and in similar housing nearby: Frederick Adamson
on July 4, 1989; Clyde Simmons on July 1, 1989; Martha Foster on
April 4, 1989; and Jasper Irving on both April 4, 1989, and
January 11, 1986. A police officer with whom Adamson had spoken
concerning the robbery of July 4, 1989, testified that Adamson had
stated that this was the third time that the defendant had robbed
him. The defendant's fingerprints or palmprints were found within
the apartments of Caesar Zuell and Martha Foster following the
commission of the offenses alleged to have been committed therein
and on the exterior door of the apartment of Lonnie Laws. The
evidence indicated that in order to gain entrance to the
apartments of many of these elderly persons, as well as the
apartments of still others, defendant used various ruses,
including the pretense that the resident knew or was related to
her and the deception that defendant had come to aid the resident.
The evidence indicated that defendant was often physically abusive
of these elderly persons whom she robbed. Another witness, Emma
Lipsey, described an episode in October of 1973 in which defendant
hit her in the mouth with a wooden milk crate about 18 inches
square, knocking out two of her lower teeth as a result. On May
30, 1973, defendant kicked a police officer 10 to 12 times in the
face and chest after he arrested her for creating a disturbance by
the use of loud, profane, and vulgar language in a crowd of about
50 that had gathered in response to a street fight between two
other persons. On March 10, 1975, defendant was convicted of the
offenses of delivery and possession of marijuana and sentenced to
18 months of misdemeanor probation and fined $200. On November 23,
1989, while the defendant was incarcerated awaitingtrial, she was
verbally abusive and verbally threatening to a correctional
In mitigation defendant introduced evidence
that during her incarceration prior to trial she was charged with
no disciplinary violation other than the one arising out of her
behavior on November 23, 1989. Defendant's mother testified that
she had separated from defendant's father shortly before
defendant's birth and that defendant's contact with her father,
who had died four years prior to the hearing, had been limited
essentially to "writing." Defendant's older sister, to whom
defendant had been close, had died of bronchial pneumonia in
January of 1987. Defendant has two children, a daughter aged 22 at
the time of the hearing in April of 1991 and a son aged 20.
Defendant became pregnant with her daughter when she was 15 years
old. The father of that child was killed in 1978. The father of
defendant's son appears to have provided no support for his child.
Defendant's daughter testified that she had been raised by her
mother, who had treated her and her brother very well.
Defendant presents six other issues for our
review, all of which are related to sentencing. Of these we turn
first to her contention that the death penalty is not the
appropriate punishment for her, that, instead, she should be
sentenced to natural life in prison without parole. When reviewing
a sentence of death, this court will make a separate evaluation of
the record, but it will not overturn the findings of the circuit
court when, as here, they are amply supported by the evidence. (
People v. Ward (1992), 154 Ill. 2d 272, 340, 181 Ill. Dec. 884,
609 N.E.2d 252; People v. Odle (1988), 128 Ill. 2d 111, 136, 131
Ill. Dec. 53, 538 N.E.2d 428.) We agree with the trial court's apt
and accurate observation that "the matters in aggravation so far
exceed the matters in mitigation as to reduce the matters in
mitigation to insignificance." In light of both the nature and the
amount of evidenceamassed by the State in aggravation, we cannot
say, as the defendant urges us to do, that imposition of the death
sentence here is an inappropriate punishment.
Defendant avers that she was denied a fair
sentencing hearing because the State introduced "unreliable"
evidence that she had committed "three robberies." She refers to
the robberies of Clyde Simmons and Frederick Adamson, who did not
themselves testify. Investigating police officers testified
concerning the robbery of Simmons and the three robberies of
Adamson. We note that an eyewitness, Floyd Blanchard, testified
about the robbery of Adamson by defendant on July 4, 1989. Hearsay
evidence of crimes that did not result in prosecution or
conviction is admissible in death sentencing hearings as long as
it is both relevant and reliable. ( Young, 128 Ill. 2d at 54.) The
determination of reliability and relevance lies within the sound
discretion of the trial Judge. ( Young, 128 Ill. 2d at 53-54.)
Defendant appears to take the position that this evidence is
unreliable because it is hearsay and that it was improperly
admitted because, in pronouncing it admissible, the circuit court
considered only its relevance and not its reliability. Since
defendant claims this testimony is unreliable only because it is
hearsay and there is no suggestion in the record that it is
unreliable for any other reason, we conclude that the circuit
court did not abuse its discretion in admitting it into evidence.
Although defendant contends that the circuit
court failed to consider fully and to give effect to the
mitigating evidence of her good record while incarcerated as she
awaited trial, the record does not support this contention, and we
deem the issue one without merit. Similarly lacking in merit is
defendant's assertion that she was denied a fair sentencing
hearing when the circuit court allowed Emma Lipsey to testify that
Billy Williams and his brother approached Lipsey later, asking her
not to go to court and offering to pay her dental bill. Billy
Williams, who is unrelated to defendant, was dating her at the
time in question. If the circuit court did err in the admission of
this evidence, its impact upon the trier of fact could have been
minimal at most and its effect upon the sentence imposed of no
Defendant challenges the constitutionality of
the death penalty statute in Illinois as violative of the eighth
and fourteenth amendments for placing a burden of proof on the
defendant that precludes meaningful consideration of evidence in
mitigation. This court rejected such a claim in People v. Hampton
(1992), 149 Ill. 2d 71, 117, 171 Ill. Dec. 439, 594 N.E.2d 291, in
which the defendant made the same arguments that the defendant
advances here. Having already determined that no such
constitutional infirmity exists, we decline to reconsider the
Finally, defendant contends that the death
penalty statute in Illinois is unconstitutional for failing to
minimize sufficiently the risk of arbitrary or capricious
imposition of a sentence of death. She acknowledges that this
court has already considered individually the arguments she sets
forth in this regard but asks us both to reconsider these
contentions and to consider whether in their totality the features
and omissions she cites render the statute unconstitutional.
Inasmuch as the defendant puts forth no new arguments in support
of her position, we refuse to reconsider the prior holdings of
this court concerning the individual constitutional defects she
identifies. Further, in People v. Phillips (1989), 127 Ill. 2d
499, 542-43, 131 Ill. Dec. 125, 538 N.E.2d 500, this court
rejected the argument that the cumulative effect of such features
and omissions renders the statute constitutionally infirm:
"While this court is cognizant of that old
adage that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, we fail
to see how such an adage could be of assistance in such a case
asthis. If all of the individual aspects are constitutional, we
stand by the Conclusion that the whole is also constitutional."
This court has since seen no reason to disturb
that decision ( People v. Ramey (1992), 151 Ill. 2d 498, 559, 177
Ill. Dec. 449, 603 N.E.2d 519; People v. Gosier (1991), 145 Ill.
2d 127, 165, 163 Ill. Dec. 823, 582 N.E.2d 89), and we see none
Therefore, for the reasons stated above, the
judgment of the circuit court of Cook County is affirmed. We
hereby direct the clerk of this court to enter an order setting
Tuesday, January 10, 1995, as the date on which the sentence of
death entered by the circuit court of Cook County is to be carried
out. The defendant shall be executed in a manner provided by law
(Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 38, par. 119-5). The clerk of this
court shall send a certified copy of the mandate in this case to
the Director of Corrections, the warden at Stateville Correctional
Center, and the warden of the institution where defendant is now