Jaqueline Annette Williams, Black, sentenced to
death on May 11, 1998 for the murder of three white females (age
28, 10 and 7) in Addison (Dupage county) on Nov 16, 1995.
Caffey and Williams decided they wanted a baby.
So they stabbed to death a pregnant woman, Debra Evans, in her
Addison apartment and cut her nearly full-term fetus from her
body, according to prosecutors.
To eliminate witnesses, they also murdered
Evans' 10-year-old daughter, Samantha, and 8-year-old son, Joshua.
Another child, Jordan, was spared in the 1995
murder--children under the age of 2 aren't likely to be good
witnesses. And the newborn boy also survived.
Fortunately, Jordan's grandfather, Sam Evans,
says Jordan has no recollection today of the horrors he witnessed.
Fedell Caffey and Jacqueline Williams decided
they wanted to have a baby. On November 16, 1995, Debra Evans was
fatally shot and stabbed in the presence of her young children:
Samantha, age 10, Joshua, age 8, and Jordan, age 2.
Debra was nine months pregnant, and the
baby that she was carrying, Elijah Evans, was carved from Debra’s
womb with scissors. Samantha was also brutally murdered in the
apartment with her mother because she could be a potential witness
against Caffey and Williams. Joshua and Elijah were taken from the
apartment, and Jordan (because he was only two and would not be a
witness against them) was left alone in the apartment with his
dead mother and sister.
The day after Debra’s and Samantha’s murders,
police found Joshua’s dead body in an alley in Maywood. When
police arrested Williams, she was holding Elijah, who was still
a horrific triple homicide, Jacqueline Annette Williams wants her
case reopened, arguing that she has paid her debt to society for
her role in the slaying of an Addison woman whose full-term baby
was cut from her womb.
who has been locked up for 16 years, seeks to prove she is "a
changed woman," she wrote in her petition to have a judge
reconsider her case.
"I am a very
good person and feel I deserve to be back in society," wrote
Williams, 45, who also has filed a motion seeking executive
County jury deliberated two hours in March 1998 before convicting
Williams of the slayings of Debra Evans and her two children, as
well as helping to cut the baby from Evans' womb.
Elijah "Eli" James Evans, survived the attack on Nov. 16, 1995,
and was recently profiled in the Tribune. His brother, Jordan,
then 22 months old, also survived.
trials, Williams' boyfriend, Fedell Caffey, and cousin, Levern
Ward, of Wheaton, also were found guilty. Williams and Caffey each
received a death sentence. Ward, the biological father of Elijah
and Jordan, was sentenced to life.
In one of
his final acts in office, Gov. George Ryan in 2003 commuted the
death sentences of all condemned inmates in Illinois to life in
prison without parole.
"It's a plea
to a judge from a prisoner who already got the break of her life,"
DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said of Williams'
request. "She got a second chance when George Ryan commuted her
death sentence to life."
In a recent
letter filed in court, Williams denied being in Evans' apartment
during the murders.
before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board is expected in the
lived every day in regret and if I could redo this, I would," she
wrote. "I understand my guilt and I am so truly remorseful. But I
feel I have served enough time. I just want to be productive and
be a blessing to kids and other women who are in a predicament
like myself. I am guilty but not of all of this and I believe I
deserve a second chance."
said Williams faked her own pregnancy — complete with baby shower
and a bogus birth certificate — in a plot to steal Evans' baby.
formerly of Schaumburg, didn't testify during her trial.
letters, Williams asks to be reunited with her three adult
children and six grandchildren.
said she misses the little things, such as being able "to smell a
flower" or enjoy "a hug from my family." Williams has participated
in prison classes such as dog grooming, cosmetology, restaurant
management, anger management and Alcoholics Anonymous, she said.
Jordan have been raised by their grandfather, Sam Evans, in rural
said Williams doesn't deserve a second chance.
she'd say anything to get out of prison," Evans said. "They are in
for life and that doesn't mean 10, 15 or 20 years. I'm sorry but
they have already been tried and sentenced."
prosecution in the murder trial of Fedell Caffey rested its case
Tuesday after presenting the testimony of a Schaumburg convenience
store employee who said Caffey had purchased baby wipes hours
after Debra Evans and her daughter were murdered.
of Addison had been murdered hours earlier, prosecutors say, by
attackers who cut a full-term fetus from her womb and kidnapped
his former live-in girlfriend, Jacqueline Annette Williams, were
taking the newborn to their home at the time they were arrested
later on Nov. 17.
maintain that the motive for the crime was Williams' and Caffey's
desire for a newborn.
convicted at a separate trial and sentenced to death for killing
Evans, her 10-year-old daughter, Samantha, and her son, Joshua, 7.
cousin Levern Ward, who fathered the newborn who was cut from
Evans' womb, also has been convicted. He was sentenced to life in
defense attorneys told jurors in opening remarks that Caffey had
nothing to do with the killings but was duped by Williams, who had
faked a pregnancy and told Caffey that she had just given birth to
attorneys began mounting his defense Tuesday afternoon with
testimony from three individuals who described Williams as an
extremely jealous woman who had lied about being pregnant in the
witness, Kim Young, a former friend of Williams' who shared an
apartment with her in Maywood in 1994, testified that Williams had
said she was pregnant on two other occasions.
Had Normal Childhood, Mom Says
Testimony May Aid Prosecutors
By Janan Hanna -
In an effort
to spare Jacqueline Annette Williams the death penalty for the
murders of Debra Evans and two of her children, the defense on
Thursday brought to the stand a psychologist, as well as Williams'
mother and sister.
testimony, however, seemed to bolster the state's case.
examination by DuPage County Public Defender Stephen Baker, Dr.
Frank Cushing testified that he talked with Williams in the DuPage
County Jail and administered a battery of psychological tests. He
said that Williams knew right from wrong at the time of the
murders and that "she could have controlled these events."
mother, Martha Martin, testified that her daughter had a normal
childhood, had good relationships with her parents, did well in
school and attended church regularly. Williams dropped out of high
school during her sophomore year because she got pregnant, Martin
Martin, Williams' sister, said she had a close relationship with
Williams as a child and described her as a "daddy's girl."
described her sister as being "too trusting" and noted that
Williams' former husband and subsequent boyfriends had beaten her.
of Williams that began to emerge from the testimony was that of a
woman who had been raised in a close-knit family who left Chicago
in the 1960s for a better, safer life in Wheaton. Something seemed
to go wrong while she was in high school, but no one could say for
sure what it was.
In a brief
interview after her testimony, Martha Martin said she was at a
loss to describe how her daughter could have ended up where she is
"There are a
lot of pieces to the puzzle missing," Martin said, crying. "She
loved people too much. Not just kids, but all people."
mother said she wished she had money to hire a private lawyer.
the monster everyone thinks she is." she said.
testified that Williams has vehemently denied her involvement in
the crimes, even "in the face of overwhelming evidence" to the
contrary, and that she refuses to take responsibility for her
actions, blaming others instead.
not psychotic and was not having a psychotic episode during the
killings, nor did Williams tell the doctor that she had been
threatened before the murders, Cushing said. And since her
incarceration, Williams has been more preoccupied with "ridiculous
things," such as the lack of freedom or privacy in jail, rather
than the very serious issue of being charged with murder, Cushing
however, suffers from anti-social and bipolar personality
disorders, and has an IQ well below average.
also suffers from clinical depression, Cushing said. All the
disorders "made her psychologically vulnerable to predatory
males," he said.
Debra Evans' younger sister, also took the stand for the defense
Thursday, saying that Debra Evans had feared for her safety before
the murders because she was being harassed by her former
boyfriend, Lavern Ward.
Ward, 26, of
Wheaton, is Williams' cousin. He and Williams' former live-in
boyfriend, Fedell Caffey, 24, of Schaumburg, also have been
charged in the slayings. They are in DuPage County Jail awaiting
convicted last week of killing Evans and cutting a full-term fetus
from her womb. The baby, named Elijah, survived and is living with
She also was
convicted of killing Evans' 10-year-old daughter, Samantha, who
was stabbed to death in her bedroom, and Evans' 7-year-old son,
Joshua, who was killed several hours later because he had
witnessed the attacks. His body was found in a Maywood alley.
Convicted In Evans Slayings
Its Verdict After Deliberating 2 Hours
By Janan Hanna and Lisa
Black - ChicagoTribune.com
deliberating for just two hours Friday, a DuPage County jury found
Jacqueline Annette Williams guilty of murder and kidnapping in the
1995 killings of Debra Evans and two of her children by attackers
who cut a nearly full-term fetus from Evans' womb.
one of Evans' family members gasped after the verdict was read
about 5 p.m.
capped an emotional day. As prosecutors presented their closing
arguments, even some jurors sobbed and about two dozen Evans
family members clutched one another and wept.
showed no emotion as the verdict was read. But earlier in the day,
she had snapped at a prosecutor who said during closing arguments
that she had earned the title of a "sick, crazy killer."
you," Williams uttered, and one of her lawyers turned to grab her
shoulders and calm her.
prosecutors said Williams had confessed to them her involvement in
the crimes, saying she wanted a light-skinned baby to please her
cut from Evans' womb was found with Williams when she was
arrested. Prosecutors described the child, Elijah, as "the world's
youngest victim of crime." He now lives with his maternal
grandfather, Sam Evans, near Downstate Lawrenceville.
still decide whether Williams should be sentenced to death. On
Monday, they are scheduled to begin hearing testimony and
arguments from prosecutors and defense lawyers in the penalty
phase of the case.
brought a palpable sense of relief to Evans' family, who sat
through seven days of often-gruesome testimony.
three members of our family and will never get them back," Wendy
Williams, 27, Debra Evans' sister, said after the verdict was
announced. "How can you expect us not to be overwhelmed by
excitement and grief?"
thankful to the jury," said Debra Evans' mother, Jacalyn Arnold.
brother, Sam Evans Jr., referring to one of the child victims,
added: "I do want to wish Joshua a happy birthday. He would have
been 10 tomorrow."
28, was found slain on the living-room floor of her Addison
apartment in the early-morning hours of Nov. 17, 1995. She had
been shot once in the head, and her abdomen was mutilated by a
sharp instrument that was used to perform the amateur Caesarean
The body of
Samantha Evans, 10, clad in a bloody Pocahontas nightshirt, was
found in the children's bedroom. She had suffered multiple stab
wounds to the neck. Defense wounds on her arms were evidence she
had struggled with her attackers.
Joshua Evans, 7, was taken from the blood-splattered apartment by
the attackers, only to be repeatedly tortured and then killed
because he knew too much about the crime, testimony revealed.
His body was
found in a Maywood alley several hours after the slayings of his
mother and sister.
live-in boyfriend, Fedell Caffey, 24, and her cousin, Lavern Ward,
26, also have been charged in the slayings. They are in DuPage
County Jail awaiting separate trials.
lawyers did not dispute the testimony of prosecution witnesses
during the trial before Circuit Judge Peter Dockery and even
conceded in arguments that Williams was present during all the
But in an
apparent attempt to spare her from the death penalty, her lawyers
tried to portray Williams as the victim of an oppressive boyfriend
who demanded she have a light-skinned son for him.
attorneys also tried to depict Williams as a savior who breathed
air into baby Elijah's lungs after her boyfriend dropped the boy
on the floor.
Williams may have a lot of defects, but she is not an evil
person," Assistant Public Defender Jeanine Tobin said in closing
arguments. "She got caught up in a twisted relationship. . . . She
was an unwilling participant."
prosecutors reminded jurors of the numerous pieces of evidence,
circumstantial and physical, linking Williams to the crime scene:
a phony birth certificate and hospital discharge report; items
containing blood from Joshua and Elijah; and new baby clothes,
discovered in her Schaumburg home.
most damning were Joshua's own words before he died. Testimony
revealed that Joshua told Patrice Scott, a friend of Williams',
that he had seen his mother and sister killed, and he named the
had been brought by Williams after the slayings to Scott's Villa
Park apartment, which she shared with her boyfriend, Dwight
Pruitt. Pruitt called the police a few hours after hearing
Joshua's story, saying he heard on a news bulletin that the child
lying, and it ain't that little boy," prosecutor Jeff Kendall said
in his closing argument. Pruitt had used the same words when he
scoffed at defense contentions that Williams was an innocent
bystander who had no intention of killing anyone.
horrific crimes are an Annette Williams production," he said.
"Annette Williams picked the day Elijah Williams would be born.
She picked the day Debra Evans would die. She picked the day
(Evans') daughter would die."
Kendall, Michael Wolfe and John Kinsella called more than 30
witnesses during the trial to link Williams to the slayings. But
their star witnesses were Scott and Pruitt.
their testimony, Joshua was brought to Scott's apartment about 1
a.m., went to sleep and then awakened whimpering. When Scott tried
to console him, Joshua told Scott burglars had killed his mother
and sister. He identified three of the attackers as Williams,
Caffey and Ward, all friends of his mother's.
Williams learned what Joshua had said to Scott, she tried to
poison the boy, Scott testified. Later, when back in their
Schaumburg apartment, Williams and Caffey tried, without success,
to strangle the boy with a white cord, Scott testified.
Scott said, Williams held the boy down in the back seat of her car
while Caffey stabbed him. Scott, who was sitting in the front
seat, said she felt Joshua kicking the back of her seat.
Disputes Admission To Addison Killings
By Art Barnum -
In the first
public questioning of Jacqueline Williams since she was charged in
the triple slaying of the Evans family of Addison, the defendant
denied Thursday that she ever confessed to the crime.
tired. I couldn't focus" during police questioning, said Williams,
who later told an evidence hearing in the DuPage County courtroom
of Judge Peter Dockery that she was coming off a cocaine high
during the time she spent in police custody before signing a
was limited to questions about the confession, which defense
attorneys are trying to have thrown out before the murder trial.
That trial might get under way in spring.
admitted that she signed a seven-page confession on Nov. 18, 1995,
two days after the slayings of Debra Evans and two of her children
and the removal of a full-term live fetus from the dying Evans.
But Williams said she never looked at the papers before signing.
"I have a
habit of signing things without looking at them," she said.
She said she
was handcuffed for 14 hours and had refused to eat anything in the
Addison police station before she was taken to a lunchroom and
given the confession to sign.
combative cross-examination by 1st Assistant State's Atty. John
Kinsella, Williams denied telling police that she said her
boyfriend, Fedell Caffey, used a small silver automatic handgun to
shoot Evans, that the piece of cloth used to strangle Debra Evans'
son Joshua was thrown out near a Bellwood factory, that she had
supplied the knife used to stab Joshua or that she had ever told
anyone that the newborn infant was hers, having dropped off the
baby at a friend's house.
remember saying that stuff," she said. "but I was high, and
anything is possible."
contended through his questioning of Williams that there were
numerous conversations with police in which she gave information.
told Jeanine Tobin, assistant public defender representing her,
that the police "kept telling me that what I was saying wasn't
true because they were getting the facts from other people."
said Thomas Epach, former chief DuPage criminal prosecutor who now
holds that position in Cook County, "put a bunch of papers in
front of me and told me to sign them.
them so that I could use the telephone."
said that at one point, a Maywood detective told her she "was
going to fry and never see (her) kids again."
Williams completed her testimony, the hearing was continued to
testified that when she was arrested at the home in Schaumburg she
shared with Caffey, she asked for an attorney but was never
allowed to see one.
presented Thursday, police records show that when investigators
arrived at the Schaumburg condominium, neither Williams nor Caffey
was there. Present were five children, two of them Williams' and
three of them belonging to her friends, according to evidence. The
oldest child there was 13. Williams, carrying the newborn infant,
and Caffey were arrested when the arrived several minutes later.
only out 10 or 20 minutes, Fedell is a drug dealer and he was
dropping something off," Williams said.
Williams and Williams' cousin Lavern Ward are charged with
breaking into the Evans' home on Nov. 16, 1995, and killing Debra
Evans and her daughter, Samantha, as well as cutting the baby from
Debra Evans. Joshua was taken to various locations by the
attackers before being killed and dumped in a Maywood alley the
day after the home invasion.
Evans child, Jordan, then 1 and the son of Ward, was found
unharmed at the crime scene. Tests proved the fetus cut from the
womb is Ward's child.
Recounts Addison Killings
Gregory - ChicagoTribune.com
details of her daughter's slaying drove Jacalyn Arnold to weep
softly Tuesday during the inquest to formally find a cause of
gained a bit of comfort as well.
came from the grim revelation that 28-year-old Debra Evans was
dead of a gunshot wound before her assailants crudely cut a
healthy, full-term fetus from her womb.
"It makes me
feel better that at least she was shot first," Arnold said after
the hourlong inquest at the DuPage County coroner's office in
Wheaton certified the official cause of death as homicide.
her 10-year-old daughter, Samantha, were killed late Nov. 16 or
early Nov. 17 in their Addison apartment. Evans' 7-year-old son,
Joshua, was found slain Nov. 17.
have charged three people with the slayings: Fedell Caffey, 22,
and Jacqueline Annette Williams, 28, of Schaumburg, and Lavern
Ward, 24, of Wheaton. Authorities alleged that the three killed
Debra and Samantha, removed the fetus and abducted Joshua, leaving
behind another son, 21-month-old Jordan. Police found Joshua's
body in a Maywood alley.
pathologist determined the cause of death was multiple injuries.
The baby boy
whom Evans had been carrying survived. He has been named Elijah,
and he and Jordan were being cared for by Evans' family.
cousin Fred Moody said he also took some solace from learning at
the inquest that Evans probably was dead and did not suffer during
the crude Caesarian delivery.
mind-boggling that we have to take some comfort from something as
morbid as that," Moody said, "but that's all we've got right now."
doing fine," Arnold said.
was in the apartment during the killings and was left with the
bodies of his mother and sister for several hours, "is adjusting
but he's still having some difficulties," Moody said. "He has
that she and Evans' adult brothers and sisters "are all hurting
very, very deeply."
produced no further revelations but provided a bit more thorough
account of what occurred at Evans' second-floor apartment at 675
N. Swift Rd. on Nov. 16.
received a 911 emergency call about 2:11 a.m. Nov. 17 from James
Edwards, Evans' live-in boyfriend, who had arrived home from work.
When paramedics arrived with patrol officers, they found Debra
Evans' body face up in the living room, between a large chair and
a coffee table, according to Addison Police Detective Mike Simo
and evidence technician Barry Muniz.
suffered a gunshot wound to the back of the head and suffered
numerous "puncture wounds" at the base of her neck, Muniz stated.
that a horizontal wound had been inflicted just below her navel
and that part of the umbilical cord was protruding. At the time
she was killed, Debra Evans was five days from having labor
splattered on a nearby chair, the walls and along the hall leading
to the bedrooms, Muniz noted. He also said he detected blood in
the sink and floor of the bathroom.
that when he entered the southeast bedroom, he found Samantha's
body, in her pajamas and face up on a sleeping bag. She had
suffered puncture wounds to the neck, Muniz said, and
investigators found half of a pair of scissors nearby.
Williams and Ward have been charged with murder, aggravated
kidnapping and armed robbery. They were being held in DuPage
County Jail without bond. Prosecutors have indicated they will
seek the death penalty against the three of them.
Arnold expressed concern after the inquest that Gov. Jim Edgar's
clemency last week for Death Row inmate Guinevere Garcia may spare
Caffey, Williams and Ward from execution. About 14 hours before
Garcia was to receive a lethal injection for the 1991 murder of
her husband, Edgar commuted the death sentence to life in prison.
of Garcia's victims "never saw justice, and we're hoping and
praying to God that we don't have to go through the same thing,"
suspects, Vikki Iacullo and Dorothy Hale of Wheaton and Ranko
Kukic of Berwyn, have been charged with obstruction of justice in
connection with the Addison crimes. Indictments against them have
been sealed, but the three reportedly have been charged with
having obtained, tampered with and disposed of the handgun used.
Cops Charge Woman With Kidnapping In Slayings
By Stacey Singer -
26-year-old woman has been charged with aggravated kidnapping in
connection with the slayings of an Addison woman and two of her
children, authorities announced Saturday.
Williams was transported to DuPage County Jail, where she was
being held on $1 million bond, authorities said. Williams' bond
hearing was scheduled for Sunday.
police would not explain Williams' connection to the victims or
police investigation into the killlings continued Saturday, an
autopsy on the 7-year-old boy determined that he suffered
"multiple injuries" caused by "multiple instruments" before his
body was found in a Maywood alley.
mother, Debra Evans, 28, was nine months' pregnant with her fourth
child when she and her 10-year-old daughter were slain in the
family's Addison apartment overnight Thursday, Addison police
police also announced Saturday that the baby Debra Evans was
carrying had been removed from her body at the time of her
slaying. The boy is in good condition and is undergoing tests to
determine his parentage, police said. He is being cared for by an
undisclosed medical facility, authorities said.
had been shot once in the head and stabbed several times. Her
daughter, Samantha, had been stabbed.
while neighbors in the 600 block of North Swift Road built a small
memorial to the family, police questioned several people and
collected evidence at the apartment.
Evans child, 19-month-old Jordan, was found unhurt when the bodies
of his mother and sister were discovered. Debra Evans' cousin Fred
Moody said Jordan was being cared for by relatives. "He is safe
and is being taken care of," Moody said.
live-in boyfriend, James Edwards, told police that he found Debra
and Samantha dead when he came home from work early Friday. Police
said there were no signs of forced entry to the apartment. Edwards
was questioned by police and held on unrelated outstanding
warrants Friday, but police said he was not a suspect in the
Cogan, Cook County's assistant medical examiner, performed the
autopsy Saturday on Joshua Evans. He said the boy's numerous
injuries had been inflicted with several instruments while the boy
was alive. Cogan also determined that Joshua had been dead at
least six hours before police found him.
not specify the cause of Joshua's death, saying the investigation
"It is a
bizarre case," Cogan said. "It looks like the body was just dumped
there" in Maywood.
launched a full-scale hunt for Joshua shortly after the bodies of
his mother and sister were found. Addison Police Chief Melvin Mack
said officers used an infrared-scanning helicopter and bloodhounds
in hopes of locating the boy, but to no avail.
after 3 p.m. Friday, however, Maywood police were alerted by a
witness and found Joshua's body in an alley near 21st Avenue and
relatives have been devastated by the three deaths.
describe the pain that this family is feeling. This is a close
family," he said. "What this family needs now are prayers and
He said a
trust fund has been established at First Chicago Bank, 439 W.
Schick Rd., Bloomingdale, to help pay for funeral expenses and
counseling for Jordan.
apartment complex, friends and playmates of the Evans children
fashioned a memorial and wiped back tears as they recalled their
Docket No. 85453-Agenda 4-January 2000.
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
JACQUELINE ANNETTE WILLIAMS, Appellant.
Opinion filed October 12, 2000.
JUSTICE McMORROW delivered the opinion of the
On November 16, 1995, Debra Evans was fatally
shot and stabbed in the Addison apartment where she lived with
James Edwards and her children, Samantha, Joshua, and Jordan.
Debra was nine months pregnant, and the baby she was carrying,
Elijah Evans, was cut from her womb. Samantha was killed in the
apartment with her mother. Joshua and Elijah were taken from the
apartment, and Jordan was left alone in the apartment with his
dead mother and sister. The day after Debra's and Samantha's
murders, police found Joshua's dead body in an alley in Maywood.
When police arrested defendant, Jacqueline Annette Williams, on
November 17, she was holding Elijah, who was still alive. In
connection with the murders and kidnappings of the members of the
Evans family, defendant, her cousin Laverne Ward, and her
boyfriend Fedell Caffey were jointly indicted on several counts of
first degree murder and aggravated kidnapping. They were tried
Following a jury trial in the circuit court of
Du Page County, defendant was convicted of the first degree
murders of Debra, Samantha, and Joshua Evans. She was also
convicted of the aggravated kidnappings of Joshua and Elijah
Evans. The same jury found defendant eligible for the death
penalty and found no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude the
imposition of the death penalty. The circuit court sentenced
defendant to death for the first degree murders of Debra,
Samantha, and Joshua Evans. At a separate sentencing proceeding,
the circuit court sentenced defendant to 15 years' imprisonment
for the aggravated kidnapping of Joshua Evans and imposed a
consecutive 15-year sentence for the aggravated kidnapping of
Defendant directly appeals her murder
convictions and death sentence to this court. Ill. Const. 1970,
art. VI, §4(b); 134 Ill. 2d R. 603. Her death sentence has been
stayed pending our review. 134 Ill. 2d R. 609(a).
At defendant's trial, James Edwards testified
that in November 1995, he was living with Debra and her three
children in a two-bedroom apartment in Addison, Illinois. Samantha
was 10 years old, Joshua was 7 years old, and Jordan was almost 2
years old. Debra was nine months pregnant and was scheduled to
enter the hospital on Sunday, November 19, to have labor induced.
At about 5:30 p.m. on November 16, 1995,
Edwards left for his job. When he returned, after leaving work at
2:30 a.m., Jordan met him in the kitchen. Jordan was alive.
Edwards found Debra lying on the living room floor between a
coffee table and a love seat. She was unresponsive, and Edwards
observed a large wound to her stomach. Samantha was lying on the
floor in the children's bedroom. Her neck had been slashed. Joshua
was missing. Edwards called 911.
Edwards further testified that several items
were missing from the apartment, including a Grambling State
University Tigers jacket and a pair of poultry shears. In
addition, on the bed that he and Debra shared, there was an Ace
bandage that Edwards had never seen before.
Patrice Scott testified that, shortly after
midnight on November 17, 1995, defendant, who was a friend of
hers, came to the Villa Park apartment Scott shared with Dwight
Pruitt and Scott's three daughters. Joshua was with defendant, and
defendant had blood on her sweater. Joshua was wearing a coat and
boots but no socks or pants.
According to Scott, defendant asked if Joshua
could spend the night at Scott's apartment because his mother had
been shot "out west" during a drug deal, and defendant was going
to visit her in the hospital. Defendant also told Scott that she,
defendant, had given birth and would bring the new baby with her
when she came to retrieve Joshua in the morning.
After defendant left, Scott asked Joshua what
his name was. He told her his name and said he needed to use the
bathroom. Joshua used the bathroom, and Scott put him to bed on
her living room couch. During the night, Scott heard Joshua
whimpering and crying in his sleep. Around 5 a.m., Scott arose to
feed her newborn, Alexis. Joshua was still whimpering and crying
in his sleep. When he awakened around 6 or 7 a.m., he was crying.
Scott testified that she asked Joshua if he was
worried about his mother and told him that his mother would be
okay. Joshua replied, "No, no, she's not," and said that his
mother and sister were dead. He explained that four burglars had
come through the window and cut his mother and sister. He said
that his little brother had been left in the apartment and asked
Scott to get Jordan. Joshua told Scott that he had been hiding in
the apartment and that, when the burglars left, he ran out after
defendant, who brought him to Scott's apartment. Joshua repeated
this story several times.
Scott asked Joshua if he knew who the burglars
were. Joshua identified the burglars as Annette, Fedell, Vern, and
"Boo-Boo." According to Scott, defendant is usually called
Annette, and defendant has a relative named Bo Wilson. Scott
admitted that she did not initially tell police that Joshua had
named Fedell and "Boo-Boo" as two of the burglars. She testified
that she was afraid of Fedell.
Joshua continued crying after he told Scott
what had happened to his family. Scott's daughters entered the
living room and one of them read Joshua a book. Joshua listened to
her read, but his emotional state did not change significantly.
When Scott's daughters left for school, Joshua told Scott to chain
the door because the burglars might return.
Scott further testified that, around 9 a.m.,
defendant returned to the Villa Park apartment. Scott informed her
that there was a discrepancy between what defendant said had
happened to Joshua's mother and what Joshua said had happened.
Scott also told defendant that Joshua had named her, Vern, and
Fedell as the "burglars" who had entered his apartment. Defendant
became angry at Joshua, cursed at him, and accused him of lying.
In response, Joshua asserted repeatedly, "No, no, that's what
According to Scott, defendant then told Joshua
that his mother had left him some medicine. Joshua replied, "What
medicine, I don't take any medication." Defendant brought him into
the kitchen and gave him something, after which he gagged and
vomited. Scott again asked defendant about what Joshua had told
her that morning. Defendant said that Joshua talked too much and
that Caffey had told her to take him south to the "projects."
Scott testified that she then agreed to go to
defendant's house so that defendant could give Scott some baby
outfits for Alexis. Defendant drove Scott, Alexis, and Joshua in a
gray four-door car to her Schaumburg townhouse. At the townhouse,
defendant first brought Scott to a bedroom. Caffey and a white
baby boy with blond hair and tape on his stomach were on the bed
in the bedroom. Defendant then asked Scott to bring Joshua to the
laundry room in the townhouse.
Scott testified that Caffey and an unidentified
man were already in the laundry room. Scott denied that this man
was Ward or Bo Wilson and denied that Wilson had threatened to
kill her. After the unidentified man left, defendant told Caffey,
"[Joshua's] got a big mouth. He knows - he knows our names. He
said my name, your name and Vern's name." Caffey asked defendant
why she had brought Scott to the house and why she had not taken
Joshua "out south" as he had instructed.
Defendant told Joshua to sit on the day bed in
the laundry room and picked up a rope from the floor of the
laundry room. She wrapped it around Joshua's neck, and she and
Caffey began strangling Joshua with the rope. Joshua and Scott
screamed, Scott pushed defendant, and defendant dropped the rope.
Defendant then left the laundry room and
returned holding a knife behind her back. According to Scott,
Caffey did not instruct defendant to get the knife. When Scott saw
the knife, she screamed and asked Caffey and defendant to take her
home and to free Joshua. Defendant threw the knife on the bed.
Caffey instructed defendant to take Scott home and informed Scott
that, if she told anyone what had happened, he would kill her and
her whole family. Scott grabbed Alexis and sat in the front seat
of the gray car, which was parked in the garage of the townhouse.
Defendant instructed Joshua to sit in the back seat, which he did.
Scott looked into the back seat and saw Caffey stabbing Joshua as
defendant appeared to be holding Joshua's arm. Scott felt Joshua
kick the seat and heard him gagging.
Defendant then moved to the driver's seat of
the car, and Caffey told her, "You know where to go." Joshua was
whimpering in the back seat, and Scott was afraid for her life and
her baby's life. They drove to Maywood, where defendant and Caffey
took Joshua from the car and helped him walk to the back of a
building. Defendant and Caffey returned without Joshua. Defendant
left Caffey in Maywood and drove Scott to her apartment in Villa
When Scott and defendant arrived at Scott's
apartment, defendant asked Scott for cleaning products to remove
vomit from her car. Scott gave her some cleaning supplies, and
defendant drove away.
Pruitt's testimony about the events in Villa
Park essentially mirrored Scott's. He added that he was watching
the midday news around 11 a.m. on November 17 when he saw a
television news story about the homicides in Addison. He attempted
to call the police but could not find a working telephone until
after defendant left Scott at the Villa Park apartment, around 12
p.m. After the police arrived, Pruitt and Scott accompanied them
to Maywood, and Scott showed police the location where defendant
and Caffey had left Joshua.
Pruitt admitted that, at the time of trial, he
was serving a prison sentence for a weapons charge. He also
testified that he was a gang member and had previous convictions
for armed robbery and unlawful possession of a controlled
Defendant's sister, Tina Martin, testified
that, at 3:30 a.m. on November 17, 1995, she received a call from
defendant. Defendant stated that she had just given birth and was
at a friend's house. Martin and her mother went to the friend's
house, where they saw defendant, Caffey, and a baby with light
Members of several different police departments
and the Cook and Du Page County state's attorneys' offices
testified to the circumstances of defendant's arrest and her
statements to them. They testified that, during the afternoon of
November 17, Joshua's partially clothed body was found in an alley
in Maywood. That night, police arrested defendant and Caffey at
defendant's Schaumburg townhouse. At the time of their arrest,
defendant was carrying Elijah in an infant carrier, and Caffey was
wearing the Grambling Tigers jacket taken from the Addison
apartment. Police examined Elijah, who was alive, and observed a
bloody piece of gauze taped over his navel.
In her initial conversations with police and
prosecutors, defendant minimized her role in the murders and
kidnappings. For example, during some conversations, she stated
that Elijah was her son, and she had given birth at a friend's
house on November 16. Defendant also stated that Caffey was the
baby's father and that the baby's name was Fedell Caffey, Jr. In
other conversations, defendant told police that Caffey and Ward
went to the Addison apartment to speak to Debra about the unborn
baby and to teach Debra a lesson. Defendant knew there would be
"trouble" when they went to the apartment. At Caffey and Ward's
request, defendant met them in the apartment building parking lot
at about 10 p.m. on November 16. Caffey exited the building and
handed a newborn baby to defendant.
Similarly, defendant attributed much of the
responsibility for Joshua's kidnapping and murder to Scott and
Caffey. For example, she told police that Scott gave Joshua Visine
and soda pop to drink. Defendant also said that Caffey and Scott
wanted her to leave Joshua in the "projects," but she could not,
so she brought him to the Schaumburg townhouse. According to
defendant, Caffey was angry that she brought Joshua to the
townhouse and asked her to get a knife, which she did. Caffey then
instructed defendant and Scott to pull on the ends of a cord
wrapped around Joshua's neck. Caffey told defendant to drive to
Maywood and stabbed Joshua during the car ride. Defendant further
stated that, after they left Joshua in an alley in Maywood, Scott
threw a sheet in which Joshua had been wrapped out of the car
window as they drove by the Baldwin piano factory.
In a written statement defendant signed on
November 18, however, defendant admitted to a greater role in the
murders and kidnappings of the members of the Evans family. She
stated that she and Caffey had been dating for two years.
Throughout their relationship, defendant and Caffey had attempted
to conceive a child. Caffey wanted a baby boy with light skin so
that the baby would resemble him. Defendant had become pregnant,
but one pregnancy had ended in an abortion and another had ended
with a miscarriage.
According to defendant's statement, Ward was
upset with Debra during the four months that preceded the murders.
On November 16, 1995, Ward, Caffey, and defendant drove to Debra's
apartment in the gray Sable because Ward wanted to talk to Debra
about their son Jordan. Debra was pregnant and planned to deliver
her baby on Monday. Debra had chosen to name the baby Elijah.
Defendant further stated that she, Caffey, and
Ward arrived at the Evans apartment at about 9 p.m. Debra let them
into the building and apartment. Debra sat on a small couch, and
she and defendant had a conversation about their children.
Subsequently, while defendant was in the bathroom, she heard a
loud ringing noise. She exited the bathroom and saw Debra lying on
her back. Debra's eyes were blinking rapidly, and bubbles were
coming from her mouth. Caffey was holding a small silver automatic
gun. Ward was standing beside Debra and appeared to be stabbing
her in the neck.
Caffey then made a cut "crossways" on Debra's
abdomen with the poultry shears. As he cut, defendant could see
the head of a baby. She and Caffey wanted the baby because it was
a boy. Caffey pulled the baby from Debra and cut the umbilical
cord while defendant stood next to him. Caffey did not want the
baby at that point because he thought he had killed the baby, but
defendant still wanted the baby. She blew into the baby's nose and
mouth, and he began breathing.
Defendant further stated that, as she dressed
the baby in a sleeper, Caffey and Ward went into the children's
bedroom. Joshua ran from the bedroom crying that Caffey and Ward
were hurting his sister. Defendant covered Debra with a blanket,
but when Joshua saw his mother, he vomited and ran to the
Defendant began to leave the apartment with the
baby. Joshua grabbed her legs and said that he did not want to
stay there because Caffey and Ward were bad. Defendant and Joshua
exited the apartment through the back entrance. Caffey and Ward
joined them in the car and they all drove to a location on
Roosevelt Road, where Ward exited the car. Defendant and Caffey
then drove to Scott's, where they left Joshua. Defendant lied and
told Scott that Joshua's mother had been shot at a "drug spot."
Defendant stated that she and Caffey then drove
to the house of a friend, where they placed a bandage on the
baby's navel. Defendant and Caffey spent the night at the
Schaumburg townhouse, where they washed some of the baby's blood
from the coat Caffey had stolen from the Addison apartment.
On Friday morning, defendant returned to
Scott's apartment and learned that Joshua had told Scott about the
murders. Defendant knew at that point that they "were in deep
trouble." She took Joshua to the Schaumburg townhouse. Scott came
with them because she wanted to see defendant's baby.
According to defendant's written statement,
Caffey and Ward were at the townhouse. They were all afraid that
Joshua would identify them. Caffey told defendant to tie a scarf
around Joshua's mouth, which she did. Ward left the townhouse at
that point. Defendant asked Joshua to sit on the bed and tried to
poison him by having him swallow "antiseptic." Caffey asked
defendant to get a knife. Defendant did so and gave Caffey the
knife. Joshua was screaming and frightened. Scott was also
frightened because Caffey was threatening her.
Defendant further stated that they put Joshua
in the car on the floor behind the driver's seat. Defendant sat in
the driver's seat, and Caffey sat in the back seat. Caffey wrapped
a cord around Joshua's neck several times and ordered defendant
and Scott to pull on the ends of the cord. Joshua was screaming,
crying, and moaning. Defendant and Scott dropped the cord, and
Caffey began stabbing Joshua. Defendant drove to Maywood, where
she pulled into an alley. She removed the sheet that was wrapped
around Joshua and left him in the alley. Defendant dumped the
sheet at a piano company and drove Scott to her apartment. They
killed Joshua because he knew who committed the murders.
In addition to evidence of defendant's
statements to police, the State presented police testimony
describing the scene of Debra's and Samantha's murders. On the
sidewalk in front of the apartment building, police found the
poultry shears described by Edwards and by defendant in her
written statement. There was blood on the shears, and one of the
handles was broken. The windows and doors of the apartment showed
no signs of forced entry. There was blood spattered in the living
room, hallway, and bathroom of the apartment. Police found an
emissions test notice addressed to Debra Evans on a hutch in the
living room. The State's fingerprint expert opined that a
fingerprint on the emissions test notice matched defendant's. In
the master bedroom, police discovered an Ace bandage soaked in
blood next to a bloodstain on the bed.
In the dishwasher in defendant's Schaumburg
townhouse, police found the knife defendant had identified in her
written statement as the weapon used to kill Joshua. In a garbage
bag in the garage, police found a white coaxial cable. There was a
bed and scarf in the laundry area. There was what appeared to be a
pool of blood on the floor of the back seat of the gray car in the
With respect to Joshua's kidnapping and murder,
police recovered an empty brown iodine bottle from the kitchen
garbage in Scott's apartment. On November 18, police discovered a
bloodstained bed sheet near the Baldwin Piano Company in Bellwood,
seven blocks from the alley where defendant left Joshua's body.
Police found a matching sheet and pillowcase in defendant's
According to the State's serology expert, the
samples from the following items tested positive for human blood:
the poultry shears, the bathroom vanity in the Addison apartment,
the Ace bandage, the emissions test notice, the Grambling Tigers
jacket, the bed sheet found by the piano company, and the carpet
from the gray Sable. In addition, there was saliva on the scarf
found in defendant's townhouse, although it could not be
determined whether the saliva was human. The State's DNA experts
opined that blood on the white cord from defendant's garage
belonged to Joshua; blood from the Addison apartment vanity
belonged to Elijah; blood on the Grambling Tigers jacket belonged
to both Elijah and Jordan; blood on the poultry shears belonged to
Samantha; blood on the carpet of the gray Sable belonged to
Joshua; and blood on the sheet recovered near the piano company
belonged to Joshua. In addition, one of the State's DNA experts
testified that in his opinion Ward was the father of both Elijah
Dr. Shaku Teas testified concerning the
autopsies she performed on Debra's and Samantha's bodies. Samantha
had seven stab and incised wounds on her neck and some incised
wounds to her left arm. Dr. Teas explained that, generally, a stab
wound is deeper than it is long and an incised wound is longer
than it is deep. According to Dr. Teas, the cause of Samantha's
death was multiple stab wounds.
With respect to Debra's autopsy, Dr. Teas
testified that a bullet had entered the back of her head and
traveled through the right side of her brain to the area behind
her forehead. In addition, Debra had four incised wounds to her
neck. There was a 13-inch gaping wound from one side to the other
of Debra's abdomen. Her uterus had been sliced open. The placenta
and umbilical cord, which had been cut with a sharp instrument,
remained in the uterus, but there was no fetus. Some intestines
near the uterus had also been cut. Dr. Teas testified that the
temporal order of Debra's wounds could not be determined from the
autopsy alone. With respect to the ability of a fetus to survive
when its mother dies, Dr. Teas testified that a fetus can survive
as long as the mother's heart is beating. After the mother's heart
stops, however, the fetus can survive for only three to five
minutes. In Dr. Teas' opinion, the main cause of Debra's death was
the gunshot wound, and the multiple stab and incised wounds were
contributing causes. Dr. Teas further opined that all of the stab
and incised wounds to Samantha and Debra could have been caused by
the poultry shears.
Dr. Christopher Olson, Debra's obstetrician and
gynecologist, testified that, when a Caesarean is performed in an
appropriate medical manner, three persons are required to deliver
a child. If there were no concern for the well-being of the mother
and child, fewer persons would be needed. Dr. Olson testified,
however, that more than two hands are needed to deliver a baby by
Caesarean, particularly if a horizontal incision, such as the one
on Debra's abdomen, is made. Dr. Olson further testified that the
incision used to remove the baby from Debra's uterus was at the
back of the uterus. Therefore, the uterus must have been pulled to
the side or lifted out of the abdomen to make this cut. According
to Dr. Olson, it was unlikely that this could have been
accomplished by one person.
Dr. Olson also stated that, for a fetus to
survive, it would have to be removed from a nonbreathing mother
within two to three minutes. In Dr. Olson's opinion, Debra's heart
was beating when the baby was removed from her body because the
baby survived and because the blood spatters around her body
suggested a certain amount of blood pressure.
Dr. Joseph Cogan testified that he performed an
autopsy on Joshua. Dr. Cogan stated that Joshua had injuries, such
as ligature marks, that indicated strangulation. The marks
appeared to be from some sort of cord wrapped around his neck two
times. There were several stab wounds to Joshua's neck. Joshua had
no defensive wounds. Dr. Cogan also found evidence of aspiration,
that is, evidence that Joshua had inhaled his own vomit.
Dr. Cogan further testified that the stab
wounds occurred while Joshua was still alive. The strangulation
preceded the stab wounds, and the aspiration occurred after he was
stabbed. Dr. Cogan opined that, although he did not analyze
Joshua's stomach contents, the unusual damage to the tissue of
Joshua's lungs from the aspirated stomach contents was consistent
with the ingestion of iodine. Dr. Cogan also testified that the
ligature marks were consistent with the white cord found in
defendant's garage, and the stab wounds were consistent with the
butcher knife found in defendant's dishwasher. Dr. Cogan testified
that Joshua would not have died instantaneously from his injuries
but would not have lived for more than 30 minutes. In Dr. Cogan's
opinion, Joshua died from multiple injuries: the strangulation,
the stab wounds, and the aspiration of the stomach contents.
In addition to this testimony describing the
circumstances of the murders and kidnappings of members of the
Evans family, the State presented evidence concerning defendant's
and her codefendant's activities in the months preceding the
murders and evidence of their relationships with the Evans family.
Edwards testified that he had been living with Debra since 1989.
Between 1989 and 1995, Edwards and Debra separated several times.
During these separations, another defendant, Ward, lived with
Debra and fathered Jordan and Elijah. Edwards stated that, several
months prior to the murders, Debra had decided to name the baby
she was carrying Elijah. During the last few weeks before the
murders, Ward telephoned the Evans apartment several times, and
Edwards overheard Debra arguing with Ward.
Edwards further testified that one week before
the murders defendant came to the Evans apartment unexpectedly.
Defendant and Edwards had a short conversation, during which
defendant asked Edwards what time he went to work and how he
traveled to work. Edwards told her that he worked from about 6
p.m. to 2:30 a.m.
Scott testified that, in the fall of 1995,
defendant asked her if Pruitt knew where she could get a gun.
Pruitt testified that defendant had asked him on several occasions
to obtain a gun for her in the summer of 1995. Caffey was with her
the last time.
Defendant's cousin John Pettaway testified that
he saw defendant, Ward, and Caffey together during the afternoon
of November 16, 1995. As Pettaway and Ward were driving around
Wheaton that afternoon, they met defendant and Caffey twice. On
both occasions, defendant, Caffey, and Ward had a brief
conversation. Pettaway further testified that, the following day,
he saw defendant at a car wash vacuuming the back seat area of the
gray four-door car she was driving.
Defendant's sister, Tina Martin, testified
that, around 6:50 p.m. on November 16, 1995, Ward came to the
house Tina shared with her mother on Crescent Street in Wheaton.
Ward made a telephone call to Debra Evans. Tina overheard a
portion of their conversation, during which Ward asked, "Is the
baby mine, or is it his." Ward left the Martin house around 8:10
Cynthia Sawyer, a friend of Debra and
defendant, testified that Debra and defendant had lived together
at one time. Sawyer further testified that Ward and Debra had
argued about the paternity of Jordan for several years before the
murders. A few days before the murders, Sawyer observed defendant
wearing an Ace bandage on her right arm.
According to the testimony of several State
witnesses, defendant was unable to have children in 1995, but, in
the months before the murders, pretended that she was pregnant.
Defendant's sister, Tina Martin, testified that defendant told her
that she was pregnant in April 1995. Defendant said that the baby
was due in August, and Tina held a baby shower for defendant.
Defendant later told her sister that the baby was due in October.
She did not have a baby in October but continued to claim that she
was pregnant. Darlene Bearden, defendant's probation officer,
testified that, on November 1, 1995, defendant told her over the
telephone that she had given birth. At an appointment on November
9, defendant told Bearden that she had named the baby Elijah.
Following the presentation of this evidence,
the State rested its case in chief. Defendant's case consisted
primarily of testimony intended to impeach Scott and Pruitt's
testimony. One police officer testified that she showed Scott a
photo array on January 19, 1996. Scott selected a photo of Bo
Wilson from this array and, contrary to her trial testimony,
stated that she was "fairly positive" that he was the other man in
the Schaumburg townhouse when she, defendant, and Joshua arrived
there. Scott told the officer that Wilson appeared angry that
Joshua was with her and defendant. Scott also stated that Wilson
was a gang member, terrified her, and had threatened her.
Another police officer testified that, when
Scott spoke to him on November 17, she said that Joshua had told
her that four black men had entered the Addison apartment and two
of them had come through the bedroom window. In addition, she
stated that Joshua had said that, after the "bad men" left, he ran
out and found defendant. Still another police officer testified
that Scott had told him on November 18 that she did not know who
held Joshua as Caffey stabbed him. Defendant also presented the
testimony of a police officer who stated that Pruitt had said that
he first heard of the murder on the 10 a.m. news, and Scott
returned to the apartment around 11 a.m.
The only other witness for the defense was Kim
Young, another friend of defendant. She testified that defendant
had made false claims of pregnancy several times prior to 1994 as
part of a "female game" they played to keep the men they were
dating. In addition, the defense presented two stipulations.
According to one, the time of Pruitt's 911 call was 12:44 p.m.
According to the other, during an interview on November 18, 1995,
with assistant State's Attorneys, Scott said that Caffey wanted
defendant to take Joshua to the projects on the south side, but
defendant had told Caffey that Joshua could be hurt there.
In rebuttal, the State called a police officer,
who testified that, on November 18, 1995, Scott stated that
defendant held Joshua while Caffey stabbed him.
The jury found defendant guilty of the first
degree murders of Debra, Samantha, and Joshua Evans. In addition,
the jury found her guilty of the aggravated kidnappings of Joshua
At the first stage of defendant's sentencing
hearing, the jury considered the evidence presented at trial and
defendant's convictions for first degree murder and aggravated
kidnapping. In addition, the State presented evidence that
defendant's date of birth was December 22, 1966. The jury returned
eight separate eligibility verdicts. In connection with Debra
Evans' murder, the jury found defendant eligible for the death
penalty under the multiple-murder and felony-murder statutory
aggravating factors. See 720 ILCS 5/9-1(b)(3), (b)(6) (West 1994).
In connection with Samantha Evans' murder, the jury found
defendant eligible for the death penalty under the multiple-murder
and brutal and heinous murder of a child under 12 statutory
aggravating factors. See 720 ILCS 5/9-1(b)(3), (b)(7) (West 1994).
In connection with Joshua Evans' murder, the jury found defendant
eligible for the death penalty under the multiple-murder,
felony-murder, brutal and heinous murder of a child under 12, and
murder of a witness statutory aggravating factors. See 720 ILCS
5/9-1(b)(3), (b)(6), (b)(7), (b)(8) (West 1994).
At the second stage of sentencing, the State
presented evidence concerning defendant's criminal history. This
history included evidence that, in 1988, defendant had been
sentenced to court supervision for the offense of theft by
deception and for the offense of retail theft. In 1991 she was
arrested for credit card fraud. In addition, she was convicted of
theft based on her 1991 possession of jewelry and checks that had
been stolen during a series of burglaries in the area around the
Wheaton house she shared with a male companion. In 1993, defendant
and another woman were arrested for cashing and attempting to cash
forged checks at local banks. The checks had been stolen from the
office of a Wheaton attorney whose office defendant's mother
cleaned. According to the woman arrested with defendant, they
planned to give the money from the forged checks to defendant's
male companion. Defendant was convicted of forgery.
Defendant's probation officers testified that,
in January 1992, defendant was sentenced to 24 months of probation
for felony theft. Defendant was sentenced to additional terms of
probation for violating the terms of her probation and remained on
probation in November 1995.
One of defendant's friends testified that, in
January 1995, she and defendant visited Caffey in the hospital.
Defendant said that she had accidentally stabbed Caffey, and
Caffey's lung had been punctured. A few months earlier, Caffey and
his friends had severely beaten defendant.
Members of the Du Page County sheriff's office
testified concerning defendant's conduct in jail while awaiting
trial in this case. In July 1996, a comb that had been fashioned
into a shank was found hidden in defendant's cell. Later that
year, defendant grabbed the shoulder of a sheriff's deputy as he
was escorting another inmate past defendant's cell.
Christie DeSmedt, the administrator for the
general assistance program for Milton Township in Wheaton,
described a document she found in defendant's general assistance
file. This document was an application in defendant's name for one
of the holiday baskets local organizations and individuals donated
to needy families through a township program. The application,
which was dated November 6, 1995, gave an address on Crescent in
Wheaton and provided defendant's mother's telephone number. It
listed the names and ages of defendant's three children, as well
as a fourth child, Fedell, age one month.
In addition to this evidence in aggravation,
the State presented victim impact statements read by Debra's
father and sister and Samantha's father.
In mitigation, defendant presented the
testimony of an inmate who met Ward in the Du Page County jail.
The inmate testified that, in February 1997, he and some other
inmates were engaged in horseplay. Ward told them to stop or he
would "f-- [them] up like [he] did that b-- in Addison."
An Addison police detective testified for the
defense that another inmate contacted police concerning a
conversation he had had with Ward in jail. According to this
inmate, Ward had said he went to Debra's apartment with $2,000,
some of which he planned to give to Debra in exchange for the
unborn baby. He and Debra had an argument, however, and she would
not take the money.
Debra's sister Katy Evans testified that, in
August 1995, Ward had indicated that he wanted the baby Debra was
carrying, but Debra said that there was no way that he was going
to get any of her children. Two days before the murder, Debra told
Katy that Ward was harassing her and picking fights with her and
that she was worried. Debra said that she was scared something was
going to happen and asked Katy to take her children.
An Addison police officer testified that she
showed Patrice Scott a photo array. Scott began to cry when she
looked at one photo and stated that she was scared to identify the
individual in the photo. Scott stated that this individual was
Calvin "Bo" Wilson and that Wilson was the other man at the
Schaumburg townhouse. He was surprised that Joshua was still alive
and upset that defendant had brought Scott to the townhouse. He
threatened to kill Scott and her daughters.
The defense also presented the testimony of
several police officers who described incidents of domestic
violence between defendant and her boyfriends. According to these
police officers, in January 1990, defendant made a complaint that
a boyfriend, with whom she had just ended a relationship, entered
her apartment, punched her in the face, and choked her. The
boyfriend's niece had threatened defendant with a .25-caliber
In 1991 and 1993 police responded to four calls
of domestic violence involving defendant and another boyfriend. In
connection with these incidents, the boyfriend was charged with,
inter alia, battery, aggravated assault, and domestic
battery. These charges were based on conduct including choking
defendant, threatening her with a loaded gun, hitting her in the
head with a crescent wrench, and dragging her by her hair.
In 1994, defendant made two complaints of
domestic violence against Caffey. She told police that Caffey had
thrown bricks at the car in which she was riding, had pushed her,
and had struck her in the face. Based on these allegations, Caffey
was charged with criminal damage to property and domestic battery.
Tina Martin testified that she and defendant
grew up in Wheaton. Tina had witnessed one of defendant's
boyfriends physically abusing her, and defendant's children had
told her that another boyfriend beat defendant frequently. Tina
had observed defendant with bruises on her face. According to Tina
Martin, defendant is too trusting of people and has poor judgment
in her choice of friends.
Defendant's mother, Martha Martin, testified
that defendant dropped out of high school during her sophomore
year when she became pregnant with her son. According to Martin,
defendant did not have trouble in school and had a normal
relationship with her and a good relationship with her father.
Martin testified that defendant could be influenced by other
people, but she was a good mother and loved children.
Dr. Frank Cushing, a psychologist who evaluated
defendant in 1996, testified that defendant had a full scale IQ of
81, which is below average or borderline mentally retarded. Dr.
Cushing diagnosed defendant with major depression and opined that
she suffered from this condition prior to the murders. In
addition, Dr. Cushing found that defendant had a generalized
anxiety disorder and a borderline personality disorder with
dependent features. Characteristics of a borderline personality
disorder that defendant possessed included volatile interpersonal
relationships, impulsivity, rapid mood swings, instances of poorly
controlled anger, and fear of abandonment and rejection.
Dr. Cushing testified that, because of
defendant's dependent personality traits and her history of abuse,
she was psychologically vulnerable to predatory males. Dr. Cushing
speculated that threats from these men could cause defendant to
act in ways she would not normally act. He opined that there was a
strong possibility that defendant was coerced by Ward and Caffey
into participating in the murders and aggravated kidnappings of
members of the Evans family. Based on his evaluation, Dr. Cushing
believed that defendant was more susceptible to coercion than the
Dr. Cushing also diagnosed defendant as having
a paranoid personality disorder with antisocial traits. Her
inability to accept blame for her actions was characteristic of
the paranoid personality disorder. Her repeated violation of the
law, deceitfulness, and lack of remorse were antisocial traits.
Dr. Cushing testified that these disorders may be treated through
the administration of psychotropic medications. In addition,
individuals with antisocial personality disorders adjust well to
structured environments, such as prison.
Du Page County jail employees testified that,
while defendant was in the jail, she was disciplined for offenses
such as having extra linen, not wearing her uniform correctly,
having an unauthorized pen, possessing a plastic shank, and
throwing water on another inmate. The watch supervisor also
testified that defendant had requested to be placed in
administrative segregation in order to avoid confrontations with
The defense also presented testimony that, in
1993, defendant completed a program to become a certified nursing
assistant. While she was in jail on the murder charges, defendant
obtained her general equivalency diploma (GED).
The jury found no mitigating factors sufficient
to preclude the imposition of the death penalty, and the circuit
court sentenced defendant to death based on her first degree
murder convictions. The circuit court held an additional
sentencing hearing on defendant's two aggravated kidnapping
convictions. The circuit court imposed a 15-year sentence for each
conviction and ordered these sentences to run consecutively.
Defendant's death sentence was stayed, pending direct review by
I. Voir Dire
We begin by addressing defendant's challenge to
the selection of the jury in her case. Prior to voir dire,
defendant filed a motion in which she asked the circuit court to
prohibit the State from exercising peremptory challenges against
venirepersons who indicated reservations against the death
penalty. The circuit court denied the motion. During voir dire,
the defense objected, consistent with its motion, to the State's
exercise of peremptory challenges against four prospective jurors
and two prospective alternate jurors. According to defendant, a
new sentencing hearing is required because the State's use of
peremptory challenges to exclude these jurors was unconstitutional
under Witherspoon v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 510, 20 L. Ed. 2d
776, 88 S. Ct. 1770 (1968).
A prospective juror may be excused for cause
based on his or her views on the death penalty only if those views
"prevent or substantially impair the performance of his duties as
a juror in accordance with his instructions and oath." People
v. Terrell, 185 Ill. 2d 467, 488 (1998), citing
Wainwright v. Witt, 469 U.S. 412, 424, 83 L. Ed. 2d 841,
851-52, 105 S. Ct. 844, 852 (1985). In Witherspoon, the
United States Supreme Court held that a prospective juror may not
be removed for cause solely because he or she expresses a general
objection to the death penalty. People v. Armstrong, 183
Ill. 2d 130, 143 (1998), citing Witherspoon, 391 U.S. at
522, 20 L. Ed. 2d at 784-85, 88 S. Ct. at 1777. The Court
explained that, if the State were permitted to remove all such
jurors, it would not only produce a jury capable of imposing the
death penalty, it would create a jury "uncommonly willing to
condemn a man to die." Witherspoon, 391 U.S. at 521, 20
L. Ed. 2d at 784, 88 S. Ct. at 1776 (1968).
Defendant contends that the concerns that
motivated the Witherspoon holding with respect to
challenges for cause also apply to the State's use of peremptory
challenges. Thus, according to defendant, the State should be
prevented from using peremptory challenges to accomplish what
Witherspoon prevents it from doing with its challenges for
As defendant acknowledges, however, this court
has previously rejected the argument she makes. See People v.
Coleman, 168 Ill. 2d 509, 549 (1995), citing People v.
Williams, 161 Ill. 2d 1, 55-56 (1994); People v. Howard,
147 Ill. 2d 103, 136-38 (1991); People v. Stewart, 104
Ill. 2d 463, 481-82 (1984). Defendant offers us no persuasive
reason to reconsider those holdings, and we decline to do so.
With respect to the guilt-innocence phase of
proceedings in defendant's case, defendant argues that her
convictions for the murders of Debra and Samantha Evans must be
reversed based on insufficient evidence. In addition, she contends
that she is entitled to a new trial as a result of two erroneous
evidentiary rulings by the circuit court. According to defendant,
the circuit court erred when it permitted Scott and Pruitt to
testify concerning statements Joshua made to them. In addition,
defendant asserts that the circuit court improperly limited the
jury's consideration of testimony that Scott identified Bo Wilson
in a photo array. Defendant does not challenge the circuit court's
denial of her motion to suppress her statements to police or the
admission of these statements at trial.
A. Sufficiency of the Evidence
According to defendant, her convictions for the
murders of Debra and Samantha Evans must be reversed because there
was no evidence that defendant inflicted any injuries to Debra or
Samantha. Defendant further contends that the State failed to
prove that she was accountable for Debra's and Samantha's murders
because there was no evidence that she knew that Ward, Caffey, or
the unidentified third man went to the Evans apartment with the
intent to commit a crime or that she joined this group with
knowledge that criminal acts were going to occur. Defendant does
not contend that there was insufficient evidence to support her
conviction for Joshua's murder or her convictions for the
aggravated kidnappings of Joshua and Elijah.
When a defendant challenges the sufficiency of
the evidence supporting her conviction, a reviewing court must
determine whether, viewing the evidence in the light most
favorable to the State, any rational trier of fact could have
found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable
doubt. People v. Heard, 187 Ill. 2d 36, 85 (1999). It is
the responsibility of the trier of fact to determine the
credibility of witnesses, to weigh their testimony, to resolve
conflicts in the evidence, and to draw reasonable inferences from
the evidence. People v. Brooks, 187 Ill. 2d 91, 132
(1999). A reviewing court will not overturn a defendant's
conviction based on insufficient evidence unless the proof is so
improbable or unsatisfactory that a reasonable doubt exists as to
the defendant's guilt. People v. Taylor, 186 Ill. 2d 439,
Section 5-2(c) of the Criminal Code of 1961
provides that a person is legally accountable for the criminal
conduct of another if "[e]ither before or during the commission of
an offense, and with the intent to promote or facilitate such
commission, he solicits, aids, abets, agrees or attempts to aid,
such other person in the planning or commission of the offense."
720 ILCS 5/5-2(c) (West 1994). To prove that the defendant
possessed the intent to promote or facilitate the crime, the State
may present evidence which establishes beyond a reasonable doubt
that (1) the defendant shared the criminal intent of the principal
or (2) there was a common criminal design. In re W.C.,
167 Ill. 2d 307, 337 (1995). A defendant's intent may be inferred
from the nature of her actions and the circumstances accompanying
the criminal conduct. People v. Perez, 189 Ill. 2d 254,
266 (2000). Under the common-design rule, if "two or more persons
engage in a common criminal design or agreement, any acts in the
furtherance of that common design committed by one party are
considered to be the acts of all parties to the design or
agreement and all are equally responsible for the consequences of
the further acts." In re W.C., 167 Ill. 2d at 337. Words
of agreement are not needed to establish a common design; rather,
like intent, a common design may be inferred from the
circumstances surrounding the commission of the crime. People
v. Batchelor, 171 Ill. 2d 367, 376 (1996). Mere presence at a
crime, even when combined with knowledge that a crime is being
committed and flight from the scene, is insufficient to establish
guilt by accountability. People v. Shaw, 186 Ill. 2d 301,
323 (1998). However, "[e]vidence that a defendant voluntarily
attached himself to a group bent on illegal acts with knowledge of
its design supports an inference that he shared the common purpose
and will sustain his conviction for an offense committed by
another." In re W.C., 167 Ill. 2d at 338.
Viewing the evidence in the light most
favorable to the prosecution, we hold that a rational trier of
fact could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant was
accountable for Debra's and Samantha's murders. Evidence presented
at trial indicated that defendant aided and abetted Ward and
Caffey in the planning and commission of Debra's and Samantha's
murders and that these murders were committed in furtherance of a
common design to take Elijah from Debra by force.
With respect to defendant's role in the
planning and commission of the murders, there was testimony that,
during the months that preceded the murders, defendant attempted
to obtain a gun from Pruitt. One week before the murders,
defendant visited the Evans apartment and asked Edwards when he
left for work and how he traveled to work. Hours before the
murders, defendant was seen having two conversations with Ward and
Caffey. Defendant admitted in her written statement that she stood
next to Caffey as he cut open Debra's abdomen, and there was
medical testimony that more than one person would have been
required to make the incision to her uterus and remove the baby.
Further, a bloody Ace bandage was discovered in a bedroom in the
Evans apartment. Edwards had not seen this bandage before, and
defendant had been seen wearing an Ace bandage on her arm a few
days before the murders.
Evidence of defendant's participation in a
common design to take Elijah from Debra by force included
testimony that Ward was Elijah's father, that Ward and Debra had
argued about the baby's paternity, and that defendant knew that
Ward and Caffey went to the Evans apartment to talk to Debra about
the unborn baby and to "teach [her] a lesson." There was also
evidence that defendant and Caffey wanted Elijah and planned to
pretend he was their son. In her written statement, defendant
admitted that she and Caffey wanted a light-skinned baby boy but
had been unable to have one. Defendant knew that Debra had planned
to enter the hospital to give birth on Monday, November 20. During
the months that preceded the murders, defendant had made false
claims that she was pregnant and indicated that her due date was
in October, a few weeks before Debra was due to give birth. A few
days before the murders, defendant told her probation officer that
she had given birth to a baby named Elijah, the name that Debra
had chosen for the child she was carrying. After the murders,
defendant told her mother, sister, and police that Elijah was her
son. Evidence of defendant's presence in the Evans apartment
during the murders, her flight from the apartment with Ward and
Caffey, her failure to report the murders to police, and her
continued close affiliation with Caffey after the murders also
supported a finding of common design. See Batchelor, 171
Ill. 2d at 376. Based on this evidence, we believe a rational jury
could have found defendant accountable for Debra's and Samantha's
murders, and we reject defendant's challenge to the sufficiency of
B. Admission of Joshua's Statements
Next, defendant argues that the admission of
evidence concerning Joshua's statements deprived her of a fair
trial. Prior to trial, the State filed a petition seeking the
admission of Joshua's statements under section 115-10 of the Code
of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (725 ILCS 5/115-10 (West 1994)). The
State also offered the statements under the excited utterance or
spontaneous declaration exception to the hearsay rule. Defendant
filed a motion in limine to exclude these statements.
The circuit court held a hearing on the State's
petition and defendant's motion in limine. At the
hearing, an Addison police department detective summarized the
evidence discovered by police during their investigations of the
murders and kidnappings of members of the Evans family. Scott and
Pruitt also testified. Their testimony at the hearing was
essentially the same as their trial testimony, although they did
provide some additional detail concerning their communications
with Joshua and his mental state. Scott testified that, when
Joshua first awakened on November 17, he was very upset and said
he was worried about his mother. Scott offered Joshua something to
eat or drink, but he declined. According to Pruitt, Joshua was
scared, crying, and talking in a frantic voice as he told Scott
the events leading up to his arrival at her apartment. After
Scott's daughters left for school, Joshua acted hysterical and
upset. He repeated his story about the burglars and said that he
had to go back to the apartment to get his little brother.
The defense presented testimony by police
officers and detectives who had spoken to Scott and Pruitt. The
police testimony showed differences between what these individuals
had told police and their testimony at the hearing.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the circuit
court ruled that all of Joshua's statements were admissible under
section 115-10. In addition, the circuit court held that, except
for his denial that he took medication, Joshua's statements were
also admissible under the common law spontaneous declaration
exception to the hearsay rule.
Defendant argues that Joshua's statements were
inadmissible hearsay and should not have been admitted under
either the statutory or the spontaneous declaration exception to
the hearsay rule. We begin with an examination of the circuit
court's decision to admit the statements under section 115-10 of
the Code of Criminal Procedure. Section 115-10 provides in
"(a) In a prosecution for a physical or sexual
act perpetrated upon or against a child under the age of 13 *** at
the time the act was committed ***, the following evidence shall
be admitted as an exception to the hearsay rule:
(2) testimony of an out of court statement made
by such child *** describing any complaint of such act or matter
or detail pertaining to any act which is an element of an offense
which is the subject of a prosecution for a sexual or physical act
perpetrated upon or against a child ***.
(b) Such testimony shall only be admitted if:
(1) The court finds in a hearing conducted
outside the presence of the jury that the time, content, and
circumstances of the statement provide sufficient safeguards of
(2) The child ***:
(B) is unavailable as a witness and there is
corroborative evidence of the act which is the subject of the
statement." 725 ILCS 5/115-10 (West 1994).
Under this statute, the State has the burden of
proving that the time, content, and circumstances of the statement
provide sufficient safeguards of reliability. People v. Zwart,
151 Ill. 2d 37, 43 (1992).
With respect to the applicable standard of
review, this court has held that the circuit court's decision to
admit evidence under section 115-10 will not be reversed unless
the record clearly demonstrates that the circuit court abused its
discretion. See People v. Bowen, 183 Ill. 2d 103 (1998);
Zwart, 151 Ill. 2d at 44. Defendant contends, however,
that a de novo standard of review should apply to the
circuit court's evidentiary rulings under section 115-10.
According to defendant, in People v. Coleman, 183 Ill. 2d
366 (1998), this court "seemingly" overruled the standard of
review set forth in Bowen and Zwart. Defendant
relies on a statement in Coleman that "courts of review
have traditionally reserved the abuse of discretion standard for
those decisions of the lower court which deserve great deference
on review, i.e., decisions made by the trial judge in
overseeing his or her courtroom or in maintaining the progress of
a trial" (Coleman, 183 Ill. 2d at 387). Defendant asserts
that determining the admissibility of a statement under section
115-10 does not involve the progress of the trial or the
administration of the courtroom. Instead, she argues, it is a
legal decision and, therefore, should be reviewed de novo.
Contrary to defendant's assertion, our decision
in Coleman did not affect holdings in Bowen and
Zwart that the abuse of discretion standard of review
applies to admissibility determinations under section 115-10. In
Coleman, unlike Bowen and Zwart, the
admissibility of hearsay statements under section 115-10 was not
at issue. In Coleman, we held that a de novo,
rather than an abuse of discretion or manifestly erroneous,
standard of review applies to a circuit court's decision to
dismiss a defendant's claims under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act
(725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. (West 1994)) without an
evidentiary hearing. Also, the language in Coleman on
which defendant relies does not suggest that the application of an
abuse of discretion standard is inappropriate for decisions
concerning the admissibility of evidence. In Coleman, we
explained that an abuse of discretion standard should not apply at
the dismissal stage of post-conviction proceedings because there
are no factual inquiries at that stage. Admissibility
determinations under section 115-10 involve factual inquiries, as
illustrated by the statutory requirement that a hearing be
conducted. See 725 ILCS 5/115-10(d)(1) (West 1994). Thus,
Coleman is inapplicable. Moreover, in decisions since
Coleman, this court has reiterated that an abuse of
discretion standard of review applies to evidentiary decisions by
the circuit court. See, e.g., People v. Buss,
187 Ill. 2d 144, 219 (1999); Heard, 187 Ill. 2d at 58;
People v. Bull, 185 Ill. 2d 179 (1998). Accordingly, we
will not reverse the circuit court's decision to admit Joshua's
statements under section 115-10 absent an abuse of discretion.
As to the merits of this evidentiary issue,
defendant contends that the circuit court erred in admitting
Joshua's statements under section 115-10 because (1) the
statements did not relate to an offense against Joshua, (2) the
circuit court improperly relied on a finding that Joshua had been
concealed from his "stepfather," and (3) the statements could not
satisfy the constitutional or statutory requirements for
reliability because the witnesses who described them, Scott and
Pruitt, were not credible.
Defendant asserts that testimony concerning
Joshua's statements should not have been admitted under section
115-10 because the statements failed to satisfy the statutory
requirement that they "pertain[ ] to any act which is an element
of an offense which is the subject of a prosecution for a sexual
or physical act perpetrated upon or against a child." 725 ILCS
5/115-10(a)(2) (West 1994). According to defendant, testimony
concerning Joshua's description of the events in the Evans
apartment should not have been admitted because it concerned
offenses committed against individuals other than Joshua. In
addition, defendant argues that Joshua's statements that he did
not take medicine and was not a liar did not pertain to the charge
that defendant committed an aggravated kidnapping of Joshua.
We hold that the circuit court properly found
that, in the statements at issue, Joshua related an "act or matter
or detail pertaining to any act which is an element of an offense
which is the subject of a prosecution for a sexual or physical act
against" him. With respect to the events in the Evans apartment,
Joshua stated that burglars entered his apartment and cut his
mother and sister, that his mother and sister were dead, that his
brother was left in the apartment, that the burglars were Annette,
Fedell, and Vern, and that he hid and ran out after defendant. In
addition, when defendant accused him of lying, Joshua stated, "No,
no, that's what happened."
These statements pertained to acts that were
elements of the aggravated kidnapping charge against defendant.
Aggravated kidnapping may be proved with evidence of secret
confinement of a child under the age of 13 without the consent of
his parent or guardian. See 720 ILCS 5/10-1(a)(1), 10-2(a)(2)
(West 1994). Joshua's statements explained how and why Joshua came
to be confined by defendant and established that the confinement
was without the consent of his mother.
Similarly, Joshua's statement, "What medicine,
I don't take any medication," related to the acts that formed the
basis of defendant's charge for Joshua's murder. This statement
was relevant to determining the nature of the substance defendant
had given him, as well as her role in the acts that caused his
In support of her argument that Joshua's
statements describing the events in the Evans apartment were
inadmissible because they pertained to offenses against
individuals other than Joshua, defendant cites People v. Peck,
285 Ill. App. 3d 14 (1996). In that case, the court held that
statements by one sexual abuse victim about the defendant's sexual
abuse of another victim were not admissible under section 115-10
because the State failed to show that the statements involved
" 'components of the contemporaneous and ongoing series of events
constituting a matter or detail pertaining to the offense
perpetrated against [the declarant] herself.' "
(Emphasis in original.) Peck, 285 Ill. App. 3d at 17,
quoting People v. Embry, 249 Ill. App. 3d 750, 763
(1993). For example, the Peck court held that one of the
victims' statement that, as she watched from a tree, she had seen
the defendant sexually abuse the other victim was inadmissible
because it clearly did not involve a matter or detail pertaining
to an act committed contemporaneously against the declarant.
Peck, 285 Ill. App. 3d at 17-18.
In the case before us, by contrast, the acts
against Joshua's mother and sister did pertain to offenses against
Joshua. Joshua's description of his mother's murder showed he was
taken without her consent, and his witnessing of his mother's and
sister's murders provided the reason for his kidnapping and
murder. Accordingly, the circuit court did not abuse its
discretion in finding that the admission of evidence concerning
Joshua's statements complied with subsection (a)(2) of section
Defendant also attacks the circuit court's
decision to admit Joshua's statements under section 115-10 on the
basis that the circuit court relied on a mistaken belief that
Edwards was Joshua's stepfather. In deciding that Joshua's
statements related to elements of the aggravated kidnapping
charge, the circuit court found that these statements showed
Joshua's secret confinement from his stepfather. According to
defendant, Edwards was not Joshua's stepfather, and the circuit
court's mischaracterization of the relationship between Edwards
and Joshua requires reversal of its decision that Joshua's
statements were admissible under section 115-10. Defendant
explains: "the court's ruling depended on a finding that Joshua
had been concealed from his parent or legal guardian. [Citation.]
As James Edwards was neither Joshua's parent nor his legal
guardian, that ruling is reversible error."
At trial, defendant failed to object to the
circuit court's characterization of Edwards as Joshua's
stepfather, and her post-trial motion makes no mention of the
circuit court's conclusion that Edwards was Joshua's stepfather.
In her reply brief, defendant asserts that she preserved her
argument regarding Edwards by generally objecting to the
admissibility of Joshua's statements and by arguing in her
post-trial motion that the circuit court erred in admitting these
statements. Due to defendant's failure to specifically raise this
issue in the circuit court, however, we agree with the State that
it is waived. See, e.g., People v. Byron, 164
Ill. 2d 279, 293 (1995); People v. Towns, 157 Ill. 2d 90,
100 (1993); People v. Enoch, 122 Ill. 2d 176, 186 (1988);
see also 725 ILCS 5/116-1(c) (West 1994).
Defendant argues that we may nevertheless
recognize the error as plain error. The State contends that we may
not consider defendant's plain error argument because defendant
raised it for the first time in her reply brief, and, under
Supreme Court Rule 341(e)(7), "[p]oints not argued are waived and
shall not be raised in the reply brief." 177 Ill. 2d R. 341(e)(7).
We disagree that defendant's failure to include her plain error
argument in her opening brief precludes us from considering it.
The rules of waiver are applicable to the State
as well as the defendant in criminal proceedings, and the State
may waive an argument that the defendant waived an issue by
failing to argue waiver in a timely manner. See, e.g.,
People v. Henderson, 142 Ill. 2d 258, 283 (1990) (finding
that the State waived its argument that the defendant failed to
make a timely Batson objection by failing to make this
argument in the trial court); People v. O'Neal, 104 Ill.
2d 399, 407 (1984) ("The principle of waiver applies to the State
as well as the defendant in a criminal case"). Under these
principles, in order to obtain review of an argument that a
defendant waived an issue for review, the State must raise this
argument in its appellee's brief. See 177 Ill. 2d R. 341(e)(7).
Accordingly, we believe it would be unfair to require a defendant
to assert plain error in his or her opening brief.
Moreover, in applying the plain error doctrine
to review claims not preserved at the trial level, this court has
stated that the purpose of the plain error rule is to guard
"against the 'possibility that an innocent person may have been
convicted due to some error which is obvious from the record, but
not properly preserved' " (People v. Ward, 154 Ill. 2d
272, 294 (1992), quoting People v. Carlson, 79 Ill. 2d
564, 576 (1980)) and to protect and to preserve the integrity and
the reputation of the judicial process (People v. Gard,
158 Ill. 2d 191, 205 (1994)). These considerations also justify
our consideration of a defendant's plain error argument despite
his or her failure to include it in an opening brief. Indeed, this
court has previously considered a defendant's plain error argument
raised for the first time in a reply brief. See People v.
Thomas, 178 Ill. 2d 215, 235 (1997).
Although we find it appropriate to consider
defendant's plain error argument, we conclude that no plain error
resulted from the circuit court's mistaken characterization of
Edwards as Joshua's stepfather. Under the plain error doctrine, a
reviewing court may consider a trial error not properly preserved
when (1) the evidence in a criminal case is closely balanced or
(2) where the error is so fundamental and of such magnitude that
the accused was denied a right to a fair trial. Byron,
164 Ill. 2d at 293. Absent reversible error, however, there can be
no plain error. See People v. Keene, 169 Ill. 2d 1, 17
(1995). No reversible error occurred as a result of the circuit
court's characterization of Edwards as Joshua's stepfather.
The aggravated kidnapping statute requires that
a child's confinement be against the will of the child.
Confinement of a child is deemed against the child's will if it is
without the consent of a parent or legal guardian. 720 ILCS
5/10-1(b), 10-2(a)(2) (West 1994). At the hearing, there was
evidence that Edwards was Debra's live-in boyfriend, had acted as
a father figure to Joshua, and that Joshua called him his
"stepdad." There was no evidence that Edwards had any legal status
as Joshua's stepfather or guardian.
As the State argues, however, we may affirm the
circuit court's decision for any appropriate reason, regardless of
whether the circuit court relied on those grounds and regardless
of whether the circuit court's reasoning was correct. See,
e.g., Buss, 187 Ill. 2d at 205; People v. Novak,
163 Ill. 2d 93, 101 (1994). Even assuming the circuit court erred
in basing its admissibility determination on a finding that Joshua
was confined without the consent of Edwards, who was not his
parent or legal guardian, we may affirm the circuit court based on
evidence that defendant confined Joshua without the consent of his
mother. As stated, Joshua's description of the events in the Evans
apartment related to this element by describing how his mother was
killed and how he was taken from the apartment. Thus, the circuit
court properly admitted these statements under section 115-10
regardless of its error with respect to the relationship between
Joshua and Edwards.
Defendant further contends that the circuit
court erred in admitting Joshua's statements under section 115-10
"because Patrice Scott and Dwight Pruitt, the 'conduits' for the
hearsay statement, were so unreliable themselves that the
statements satisfy neither constitutional nor statutory
requirements for reliability." In support of this argument,
defendant relies on evidence of inconsistencies in Scott's and
Pruitt's testimonies and their statements to police. For example,
defendant recites evidence that Scott failed to initially tell
police that Joshua said Caffey was involved in the crimes and that
Joshua had been fatally stabbed; first told police that she and
defendant had stopped at a Wal-Mart store, left Joshua in Maywood,
and then traveled to defendant's townhouse; and told police that
Joshua had said four black males rather than four burglars had
entered the apartment. With respect to Pruitt's reliability,
defendant relies on evidence that Pruitt was an incarcerated gang
member and failed to initially tell police the names of the
perpetrators identified by Joshua. Further, Pruitt told police
that defendant brought Elijah to the Villa Park apartment with
her, that he had seen the story about Joshua on the 10 a.m. news,
that defendant and Scott had returned to the Villa Park apartment
at 11 a.m., and that defendant and Scott left Joshua in Maywood
before going to Schaumburg.
To satisfy the requirements of the
confrontation clause of the sixth amendment to the United States
Constitution, hearsay statements of an unavailable child declarant
admitted under an exception to the hearsay rule must bear adequate
"indicia of reliability." Idaho v. Wright, 497 U.S. 805,
816, 111 L. Ed. 2d 638, 653, 110 S. Ct. 3139, 3147 (1990). A
hearsay statement possesses sufficient "indicia of reliability"
(1) if the hearsay statement falls within a firmly rooted hearsay
exception or (2) if there is a showing of " 'particularized
guarantees of trustworthiness.' " Wright, 497 U.S. at
816, 111 L. Ed. 2d at 653, 110 S. Ct. at 3147, quoting Ohio v.
Roberts, 448 U.S. 56, 66, 65 L. Ed. 2d 597, 608, 100 S. Ct.
2531, 2539 (1980). Section 115-10 does not contain a firmly rooted
hearsay exception. See People v. March, 250 Ill. App. 3d
1062, 1073 (1993). However, under section 115-10, a hearsay
statement by a child declarant may not be admitted unless the
circuit court first finds "in a hearing conducted outside the
presence of the jury that the time, content, and circumstances of
the statement provide sufficient safeguards of reliability." 725
ILCS 5/115-10 (West 1994).
In the instant case, the circuit court found
that the time, content, and circumstances of Joshua's statements
provided sufficient safeguards of reliability to permit their
introduction under section 115-10. In addition, the circuit court
decided that Joshua's statements possessed the "particularized
guarantees of trustworthiness" required by Wright for
admission under the confrontation clause. In considering
the time, content, and circumstances of Joshua's statements, the
circuit court expressly stated that it considered and weighed the
credibility of the witnesses at the hearing.
Many of the inconsistencies in Scott's and
Pruitt's testimonies and statements to police could be explained
by the evidence that, when police first spoke to Scott, she was
hysterical and afraid of Caffey, who had threatened to kill her
and her family. Other inconsistencies, such as the time of the
news story Pruitt viewed and defendant and Scott's travels to
Maywood and Schaumburg, did not relate to circumstances of
Joshua's statements. The circuit court was in the best position to
assess the credibility of the witnesses at the hearing, and, after
reviewing the record, we cannot conclude that the circuit court
abused its discretion in admitting Joshua's statements under
section 115-10. See People v. R.D., 155 Ill. 2d 122, 146
(1993) (deferring to the circuit court's credibility
Having upheld the admission of Joshua's
statements under section 115-10, we also reject defendant's
argument that the circuit court erred in finding that certain
statements by Joshua were admissible under the common law
spontaneous declaration exception to the hearsay rule. After
ruling that all of Joshua's statements were admissible under
section 115-10, the circuit court concluded that his statements
about the events in the Evans apartment were also admissible under
the spontaneous declaration exception to the hearsay rule. The
circuit court found, however, that Joshua's denial that he took
medicine was not admissible under this common law exception
because it did not relate to the events in the apartment.
Nevertheless, the circuit court admitted this statement under
For a hearsay statement to be admissible under
the spontaneous declaration exception, (1) there must be an
occurrence sufficiently startling to produce a spontaneous and
unreflecting statement, (2) there must be an absence of time for
the declarant to fabricate the statement, and (3) the statement
must relate to the circumstances of the occurrence. People v.
Edwards, 144 Ill. 2d 108, 169 (1991). In determining whether
a hearsay statement is admissible under the spontaneous
declaration exception, courts employ a totality of the
circumstances analysis. People v. Georgakapoulos, 303
Ill. App. 3d 1001, 1012 (1999); M. Graham, Cleary & Graham's
Handbook of Illinois Evidence §803.3, at 793 (7th ed. 1999). This
analysis involves the consideration of several factors, including
time, "the nature of the event, the mental and physical condition
of the declarant, and the presence or absence of self-interest."
People v. House, 141 Ill. 2d 323, 382 (1990).
In addition, the fact that a declarant's
statement is made at the first opportunity to speak supports a
finding of spontaneity (see, e.g., People v. Gacho,
122 Ill. 2d 221, 241 (1988)), but a declarant may make a
spontaneous declaration to a person even after having spoken
previously to another (House, 141 Ill. 2d at 386).
Although a statement made in response to persistent interrogation
might not be admitted under the spontaneous declaration exception
(see, e.g., People v. Sommerville, 193 Ill. App.
3d 161, 174-75 (1990)), the fact that a statement was made in
response to a question does not necessarily destroy spontaneity
(see, e.g., People v. Smith, 152 Ill. 2d 229,
260 (1992); see also M. Graham, Cleary & Graham's Handbook of
Illinois Evidence §803.3, at 795-96 (7th ed. 1999)). That a
statement is volunteered has also been found to support a finding
of admissibility under the spontaneous declaration exception. See,
e.g., People v. Merideth, 152 Ill. App. 3d 304,
315 (1987). No one factor is dispositive. Georgakapoulos,
303 Ill. App. 3d at 1012.
The time factor has been described as an
"elusive" factor, "whose significance will vary with the facts of
each case." House, 141 Ill. 2d at 382. Indeed, the period
of time that may pass without affecting the admissibility of a
statement under the spontaneous declaration exception varies
greatly. See, e.g., People v. Gacho, 122 Ill. 2d
221 (1988) (statement made 6˝ hours after the occurrence was
admissible); People v. Newell, 135 Ill. App. 3d 417
(1985) (statement made 20 minutes after the occurrence was
properly excluded). The critical inquiry is " 'whether the
statement was made while the excitement of the event
predominated.' " Smith, 152 Ill. 2d at 260, quoting M.
Graham, Cleary & Graham's Handbook of Illinois Evidence §803.3, at
627 (5th ed. 1990).
Defendant does not dispute that the murders of
Joshua's sister and mother qualify as a startling event sufficient
to produce a spontaneous and unreflecting statement. Defendant
challenges, however, the circuit court's finding that there was an
absence of time for Joshua to fabricate his statements. According
to defendant, by the time Joshua made his statements at 5 a.m. and
9 a.m. the day after the murders, the excitement of the murders
The evidence indicated that Joshua witnessed
the murders of his mother and sister sometime between 10 p.m. and
midnight on November 16. Scott's testimony indicated that Joshua's
first statements to her about the events occurred at about 6 a.m.
or 7 a.m. on November 17 and his statements denying that he was
lying or took medication occurred shortly after defendant's return
to the Villa Park apartment around 9 a.m. Thus, 6 to 9 hours
passed between the murders and Joshua's first statements to Scott
about the events, and 9 to 11 hours passed between the murders and
his statements to defendant.
In other cases involving child declarants,
courts have found that similar delays do not preclude the
application of the spontaneous declaration exception. See M.
Graham, Cleary & Graham's Handbook of Illinois Evidence §803.3, at
796 (7th ed. 1999) (noting that courts have been liberal in
applying the spontaneous declaration exception to children of
tender years). For example, in People v. Chatman, 110
Ill. App. 3d 19 (1982), the appellate court held that the
statement of a four-year-old made 18 hours after witnessing a
shooting was admissible where the child was emotionally distraught
and was found in an uninhabited area. Similarly, in People v.
Phillips, 159 Ill. App. 3d 483, 491 (1987), the appellate
court held that a 15-hour delay between a sexual assault and the
statements of a 2˝-year-old did not destroy the statement's
spontaneity because "[t]he stress caused by the defendant's acts
would have lingered long after the acts themselves were
committed." See also, e.g., Meredith, 152 Ill.
App. 3d at 316 (7˝ hours). Based on this authority, we reject
defendant's argument that the passage of time between the murders
and Joshua's statements destroyed their spontaneity.
Further, we find that the other circumstances
surrounding Joshua's statements support the circuit court's
admission of these statements under the spontaneous declaration
exception. Caffey and Ward entered the bedroom where Joshua and
his sister were sleeping and fatally stabbed Samantha as Joshua
watched. Joshua ran from the bedroom, only to see his mother, who
had also been brutally murdered, lying in a blood-spattered living
room. Joshua was then taken by his mother's and sister's killers
to a strange apartment in the middle of the night. Certainly
exhausted from the events, Joshua fell into a fitful sleep shortly
after defendant left him with Scott. He cried out during his sleep
and awakened crying early in the morning. After refusing Scott's
offer of food, he volunteered a description of the events at the
Evans apartment. He spoke in a frantic voice and appeared scared.
Although he listened to one of Scott's children read a book, he
became hysterical and upset again after the children left for
school and expressed fear that the "burglars" would return.
Defendant arrived, swore at him, and accused him of lying. Joshua,
however, maintained that what he had said was correct. There is no
evidence that Joshua had any motive to fabricate his version of
events. Under these circumstances, we agree with the circuit court
that the excitement of the murders predominated at the time Joshua
made his statements in Scott's apartment and that Joshua's
statements were a product of these events rather than reflection.
Defendant argues that the fact Scott described
Joshua as "worried" proved that his statements were not
spontaneous because worry results from reflection. We believe,
however, that the evidence of Joshua's mental state demonstrates
that Joshua's "worry" was fear and anxiety about his mother's and
sister's murders and not reflection. We also cannot accept
defendant's argument that "[t]he fact that Joshua related a series
of events, rather than making a simple statement, also shows that
he reflected upon the events." According to defendant, reflection
was required for Joshua to organize the events in his mind. See
People v. Smith, 127 Ill. App. 3d 622, 628 (1984) (the
fact that declarant gave a step-by-step description of his actions
following the attack on his aunt suggested reflection). We decline
to find that the mere fact that Joshua described a series of
events demonstrates reflection. He stated only that burglars had
entered his apartment through a window, that they had cut his
mother and sister, and that he hid and ran out of the apartment
after defendant, who brought him to Scott's apartment. This was a
very simplified description of the events in the Evans apartment,
which Joshua could have related without reflection. Moreover, as
noted, the totality of the circumstances surrounding his
statements supports a conclusion that they were spontaneous.
Accordingly, we hold that the circuit court correctly decided
that, except for Joshua's denial that he took medication, his
statements were admissible under the spontaneous declaration
exception to the hearsay rule.
In addition to challenging the admissibility of
Joshua's statements, defendant contends that the circuit court
erred by failing to instruct the jury as required by section
115-10(c). Section 115-10(c) provides: "If a statement is admitted
pursuant to this Section, the court shall instruct the jury that
it is for the jury to determine the weight and credibility to be
given the statement and that, in making the determination, it
shall consider the age and maturity of the child, *** the nature
of the statement, the circumstances under which the statement was
made, and any other relevant factor." 725 ILCS 5/115-10(c) (West
1994). Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions, Criminal, No. 11.66 (3d
ed. 1992) (hereinafter IPI Criminal 3d) tracks this statutory
The State argues that defendant may not now
claim that the circuit court erred by failing to instruct the jury
according to IPI Criminal 3d No. 11.66 because she did not tender
this instruction and did not object to the absence of this
instruction in the trial court. In addition, the State asserts
that any error resulting from the circuit court's failure to give
the instruction was harmless. Defendant does not dispute that she
waived this issue for review. Instead, she asserts that we may
consider it as plain error under Supreme Court Rules 451(c) (177
Ill. 2d R. 451(c)) and 615(a) (134 Ill. 2d R. 615(a)).
Under an exception to the waiver rule, Rule
451(c) permits a court to consider substantial defects in
instructions despite a defendant's failure to make a timely
objection, if the interests of justice require. People v.
Brown, 172 Ill. 2d 1, 45-46 (1996). Under Rule 615(a), a
procedural default may be excused when the evidence is closely
balanced or when the error is of such magnitude that it deprives
the defendant of a fair trial. People v. Alvine, 173 Ill.
2d 273, 297 (1996).
Defendant argues that this court's decision in
People v. Mitchell, 155 Ill. 2d 344 (1993), requires a
finding in this case that the failure to instruct the jury
according to IPI Criminal 3d No. 11.66 was plain error. In
Mitchell, this court held that the circuit court erred in
admitting hearsay statements by a child alleging sexual abuse
because the circuit court failed to conduct a hearing, as required
by section 115-10, and because the record did not support a
conclusion that the statements were reliable. We further held in
Mitchell that it was error for the circuit court to fail
to provide the jury with IPI Criminal 3d No. 11.66. In light of
the prejudicial testimony concerning the child victim's
statements, which were improperly admitted without a hearing, and
the inconsistencies in the victim's testimony at trial, this court
concluded that the evidence was sufficiently close that the
circuit court's failure to instruct the jury was plain error.
Mitchell, 155 Ill. 2d at 354.
Our decision in Mitchell does not
support a finding of plain error in this case. Unlike the circuit
court in Mitchell, the circuit court in the case before
us conducted a thorough hearing, and the record does not indicate
that the circuit court's conclusion that Joshua's statements were
reliable was an abuse of discretion. Moreover, all but one of
Joshua's statements admitted at trial were admissible under the
spontaneous declaration exception to the hearsay rule, as well as
section 115-10. Section 115-10 provided the exclusive basis for
the admission of only Joshua's statement that he did not take any
medicine. IPI Criminal 3d No. 11.66 is not required when
statements are admitted under the spontaneous declaration
exception. See People v. Pitts, 299 Ill. App. 3d 469,
478-79 (1998). Accordingly, we find that the circuit court's
failure to give this instruction did not deprive defendant of a
C. Limiting Instruction
Defendant also claims that she was denied a
fair trial by a limiting instruction the circuit court gave to the
jury regarding its consideration of evidence of Scott's
identification of Bo Wilson. During her testimony at trial, Scott
denied that the unidentified man at the Schaumburg townhouse was
Bo Wilson. The defense presented the testimony of a police
detective who had showed Scott a photo array in January 1996.
According to this detective, a photograph of Bo Wilson was
included in this array, and, upon viewing Wilson's photograph,
Scott became visibly upset. The detective testified that Scott
said that she was fairly positive Wilson was the unidentified man
in Schaumburg, that he had appeared angry that Joshua was with her
and defendant, that he was a gang member, that he terrified her,
and that he had made threats that caused her to fear for the
safety of her family.
During closing argument, the defense argued
that defendant was afraid of Caffey and Wilson, and, in committing
the crimes against the Evans family, she was only following
Caffey's orders. As part of this argument, the defense stated:
"I suggest to you, also, that when she went to
the house in Schaumburg and Bo Calvin Wilson was angry and
surprised she brought Joshua there -"
The State interrupted, objecting that it was
improper to argue these facts as substantive evidence. The circuit
court instructed the jury that "any evidence that was introduced
in impeachment that is in contradiction with the witness'
testimony here, by means of a prior inconsistent statement, is
received for the purpose of your consideration and believability
of that witness, and I so instruct you." Subsequently, the defense
argued: "You heard testimony that Bo Calvin Williams was in
Schaumburg. Patrice Scott was afraid of him. She was afraid of
him. Why would that not apply to Annette Williams and her children
Defendant now argues that Scott's
identification of Wilson supported the theory that defendant was
the "unwitting observer of a crime committed by a group of violent
men." She contends that, by prohibiting the jury from considering
Scott's identification of Wilson as substantive evidence, the
circuit court denied her a fair trial. According to defendant,
this evidence was admissible substantively under section 115-12 of
the Code of Criminal Procedure (725 ILCS 5/115-12 (West 1994)),
which provides in relevant part: "A statement is not rendered
inadmissible by the hearsay rule if (a) the declarant testifies at
the trial or hearing, and (b) the declarant is subject to
cross-examination concerning the statement, and (c) the statement
is one of identification of a person made after perceiving him."
725 ILCS 5/115-12 (West 1994). Based on this statutory exception,
defendant contends that she was entitled to use Scott's
identification of Wilson to argue that Wilson was one of the men
in the Evans apartment. In addition, defendant asserts that
"because Scott's fearful and agitated reaction to his photograph
established the accuracy of her identification, the defense was
entitled to argue that Patrice Scott was afraid of Bo Wilson."
The State responds that defendant waived this
issue by failing to include it in her post-trial motion and that
she waived any claim of plain error by failing to assert it in her
opening brief. In her reply brief, defendant argues that the issue
may be considered as plain error.
As the State observes, defendant has waived
this issue by failing to include it in her post-trial motion. See
Enoch, 122 Ill. 2d at 186. Although defendant's failure
to assert plain error in her opening brief does not preclude us
from considering her plain error argument, we find that no plain
error occurred as a result of the circuit court's limiting
We agree with defendant that Scott's
identification could be admitted as substantive evidence under
section 115-12, and, therefore, the circuit court erred in
limiting the jury's consideration of this evidence. This error,
however, did not rise to the level of plain error.
As our discussion of defendant's sufficiency of
the evidence argument demonstrates, the evidence in this case was
not closely balanced. Defendant has also failed to establish that
the asserted error amounts to plain error under the second prong
of the plain error analysis. Under this prong, relief under the
plain error rule is proper only if "the error is of such magnitude
that there is a substantial risk that the accused was denied a
fair and impartial trial, and remedying the error is necessary to
preserve the integrity of the judicial process." People v.
Nielson, 187 Ill. 2d 271, 297 (1999). There was overwhelming
evidence that defendant was accountable for Caffey's and Ward's
acts in killing Debra and Samantha. Substantive admission of
Scott's identification of Wilson may have supported a conclusion
that Wilson accompanied defendant, Caffey, and Ward to the Evans
apartment. Such evidence would not, however, have changed
defendant's accountability for the events in the apartment,
particularly since there was no evidence that Wilson had a role in
these events. Further, even if the jury had considered Scott's
fear of Wilson as substantive evidence, there was no evidence that
defendant was afraid of Wilson or that her actions resulted from
any such fear. Thus, we find no plain error resulting from the
circuit court's limiting instruction.
We now turn to defendant's assertions of error
at the sentencing proceedings. At the first stage of the
sentencing hearing, the jury returned eight separate eligibility
verdicts. In connection with Debra's murder, defendant was found
eligible for the death penalty under the multiple-murder
aggravating factor (720 ILCS 5/9-1(b)(3) (West 1994)) and the
felony-murder aggravating factor (720 ILCS 5/9-1(b)(6) (West
1994)). With respect to the first degree murder of Samantha Evans,
the jury also found the existence of two statutory aggravating
factors: the multiple-murder aggravating factor (720 ILCS
5/9-1(b)(3) (West 1994)) and the factor concerning the brutal and
heinous murder of a child under 12 years of age (720 ILCS
5/9-1(b)(7) (West 1994)). In regards to Joshua's murder, the jury
found defendant eligible under four statutory aggravating factors:
multiple murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(b)(3) (West 1994)), brutal and
heinous murder of a child under 12 years of age (720 ILCS
5/9-1(b)(7) (West 1994)), felony murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(b)(6)
(West 1994)), and murder of a witness (720 ILCS 5/9-1(b)(8) (West
Defendant challenges the validity of each of
these eligibility verdicts. In addition, she asserts that she is
entitled to a new second stage sentencing hearing because (1) the
circuit court erred in admitting evidence of the holiday basket
application and (2) her counsel were ineffective for failing to
request an instruction on the statutory aggravating factor of
A. Validity of Statutory Aggravating
Defendant argues that all eight of the
eligibility verdicts must be reversed for the following reasons:
(1) the verdict forms relating to her eligibility under sections
9-1(b)(3) and 9-1(b)(6) were defective because they omitted the
mental state elements of these statutory aggravating factors; (2)
the nonpattern instructions the jury received under sections
9-1(b)(3), 9-1(b)(7), and 9-1(b)(8) did not require the jury to
find the elements of the statutory aggravating factors but instead
permitted the jury to base eligibility on a finding that
"defendant was a major participant acting with a reckless
indifference for human life while committing an Aggravated
Kidnaping"; (3) there was insufficient evidence that defendant
personally inflicted any injuries to Debra and therefore
insufficient evidence to support her eligibility under section
9-1(b)(6); (4) there was insufficient evidence to establish
defendant's guilt for Debra's and Samantha's murders; (5) section
9-1(b)(7) is unconstitutional as applied to defendant because her
eligibility under this factor could have been based on her
accountability for Ward's and Caffey's actions in killing Joshua
and Samantha; and (6) section 9-1(b)(7) is unconstitutionally
vague on its face.
1. Eligibility Based on Section 9-1(b)(6) for
We hold that defendant's eligibility may be
upheld based on the felony-murder statutory aggravating factor
predicated on Joshua's murder. " '[W]here a defendant is found
eligible based upon two or more statutory aggravating factors, the
fact that one of those factors may later be invalidated will not
generally impair the eligibility finding as long as a separate,
valid aggravating factor supported eligibility.' " People v.
Jackson, 182 Ill. 2d 30, 64 (1998), quoting People v.
Brown, 169 Ill. 2d 132, 165 (1996). The Illinois death
penalty statute does not place special emphasis on any single
aggravating factor and gives no added significance to multiple
aggravating factors as opposed to a single factor. People v.
Macri, 185 Ill. 2d 1 (1998). The purpose of finding a
statutory aggravating factor at the first stage of sentencing is
to narrow the class of persons convicted of murder who are
eligible for the death penalty. People v. Hampton, 149
Ill. 2d 71, 90-91 (1992). "[O]nce one such factor is proved, the
defendant is eligible for death regardless of whether other
factors exist as well." Hampton, 149 Ill. 2d at 91.
The only challenge defendant makes to the
finding of eligibility based on defendant's murder of Joshua
during an aggravated kidnapping is that the verdict form was
defective under this court's decision in People v. Mack,
167 Ill. 2d 525 (1995), because it omitted certain elements
required for eligibility under section 9-1(b)(6). Among the
elements for eligibility under the felony-murder statutory
aggravating factor are requirements that the "murdered individual
*** received physical injuries personally inflicted by the
defendant substantially contemporaneously with physical injuries
caused by one or more persons for whose conduct the defendant is
legally accountable" and that the defendant "acted with the intent
to kill the murdered individual or with the knowledge that his
acts created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm to
the murdered individual or another." 720 ILCS 5/9-1(b)(6)(a)(ii),
(b)(6)(b) (West 1994).
The felony-murder eligibility verdict form
premised on Joshua's murder provided:
"We, the jury, unanimously find beyond a
reasonable doubt that the defendant Jacqueline Annette Williams is
eligible for a death sentence under the law. We unanimously find
beyond a reasonable doubt that: the defendant was 18 years old or
older at the time of the murder of Joshua Evans for which she was
convicted in this case; and the following statutory aggravating
factor exists: that Joshua Evans was killed in the course of an
Aggravated Kidnapping as set forth in paragraph  of the second
proposition concerning the First Degree Murder of Joshua Evans."
According to defendant, this verdict form was
defective because it omitted the statutory requirements that the
defendant actually kill or inflict injuries to the murdered
individual and did not require a finding that defendant intended
to kill or knew her acts created a strong probability of death or
great bodily harm. Defendant contends that there was no "actual
verdict" for eligibility under section 9-1(b)(6) because the
verdict form did not contain a complete statement of the necessary
elements for eligibility under this aggravating factor.
The State responds that defendant cannot raise
this issue on appeal because she failed to object to the verdict
form, failed to tender an alternative verdict form, and failed to
include the issue in her post-trial motion. Alternatively, the
State argues that the verdict form was not defective.
We find that defendant has waived this issue
for review for the reasons advanced by the State. See People
v. Redd, 173 Ill. 2d 1, 41 (1996); Enoch, 122 Ill.
2d at 186. Defendant asserts, however, that the defective verdict
form constituted plain error under Rules 451(c) and 615(a). We
hold that the challenged verdict form did not omit the required
elements for eligibility under section 9-1(b)(6) and, therefore,
find no plain error. See generally Keene, 169 Ill. 2d at
In People v. Mack, 167 Ill. 2d 525
(1995), this court reversed the jury's finding of eligibility
because of a defective verdict form. As in the instant case, the
defendant's eligibility in Mack was based on section
9-1(b)(6). The verdict form at issue in Mack provided:
"We, the jury, unanimously find beyond a reasonable doubt that the
following aggravating factor exists in relation to this Murder:
Larry Mack killed Joseph Kolar in the course of an Armed Robbery."
See Mack, 167 Ill. 2d at 529-30. The Mack court
found that this verdict form was improper. It explained, "where
the verdict purports to set out the elements of the offense as
specific findings, it must do so completely or be held
insufficient." Mack, 167 Ill. 2d at 538. The Mack
court concluded that the verdict form at issue was defective
because it attempted to set forth a statutory aggravating factor
but did so incompletely by omitting the mental state element under
In evaluating the effect of this omission, the
Mack court noted that "[t]he test of the sufficiency of a
verdict is whether the jury's intention can by ascertained with
reasonable certainty from the language used." Mack, 167
Ill. 2d at 537. In addition, "all parts of the record will be
searched and interpreted together in determining the meaning of a
verdict." Mack, 167 Ill. 2d at 537. The Mack
court rejected, however, the State's argument that the presence of
the mental state requirement in the jury instructions cured any
error resulting from the absence of this element from the verdict
form. The Mack court stated that it could not "lightly
discount" the possibility that the jury was confused as a result
of the discrepancy between the jury instructions and the verdict
form. Mack, 167 Ill. 2d at 535. In addition, to conclude
that the jury found the existence of the mental state under
section 9-1(b)(6), when this element was missing from the verdict
form, would be "a speculative attempt to reconstruct the jury's
deliberations and divine its unexpressed conclusions." Mack,
167 Ill. 2d at 536-37. For these reasons, the Mack court
reversed the eligibility verdict and remanded the cause for
resentencing. Mack, 167 Ill. 2d at 538-39; see also,
e.g., Buss, 187 Ill. 2d at 225 (finding the
eligibility verdict forms legally insufficient).
We disagree with defendant's argument that the
verdict form relating to her eligibility for the death penalty
under section 9-1(b)(6) for Joshua's murder is invalid under
Mack. Instead, we find that the verdict form is like those
this court upheld in People v. McNeal, 175 Ill. 2d 335
In McNeal, this court rejected a
defendant's Mack challenge to the six jury verdicts
finding him guilty of first degree murder. The defendant had been
charged under three different theories of first degree murder for
the murder of two victims. The verdict forms described the
different theories in parentheticals. For example, one form
stated, " 'We, the jury, find the defendant, Aldwin McNeal, Guilty
of the offense of first degree murder (was committing the offense
of robbery) of Corey Gerlach.' " McNeal, 175 Ill. 2d at
359. Another stated, " 'We, the jury, find the defendant, Aldwin
McNeal, Guilty of the offense of first degree murder (intended to
kill) of Perry Austin.' " McNeal, 175 Ill. 2d at 360. The
defendant in McNeal argued that these verdict forms were
invalid under Mack because they failed to require a
finding that the defendant performed the acts that caused the
victims' deaths or a finding that the defendant possessed the
mental state when he performed these acts. McNeal, 175
Ill. 2d at 360.
This court found no Mack violation. It
observed that the jury had been properly instructed as to the
elements of the different theories of first degree murder. In
addition, unlike Mack, there was no discrepancy between
the jury instructions and the verdict forms. The parenthetical
material referred to theories of first degree murder under which
defendant was charged and conformed with the description of these
theories in the instructions. McNeal, 175 Ill. 2d at 362.
Based on this reasoning, the McNeal court found that the
verdict forms were proper. McNeal, 175 Ill. 2d at 362.
As in McNeal, the verdict form and the
record in this case permit us to conclude with reasonable
certainty that the jury found the existence of the elements
required for eligibility under section 9-1(b)(6). There is no
discrepancy between the jury instructions and the felony-murder
verdict forms in defendant's case. Instead, the felony-murder
eligibility verdict form relating to Joshua's murder contains an
express reference to portions of the jury instructions. These
instructions contained a complete statement of the necessary
elements for eligibility under section 9-1(b)(6). The jury
instruction relating to defendant's eligibility for the death
penalty as a result of Joshua Evans' murder provided in relevant
"Before the defendant may be found eligible for
a death sentence under the law for the first degree murder of
Joshua Evans, the State must prove the following propositions:
First Proposition: That the defendant was 18
years old or older at the time of the commission of the murder of
Joshua Evans of which she was found guilty at the trial of this
Second Proposition: That one or more of the
following statutory aggravating factors exist
* * *
 Joshua Evans was killed in the course of
Aggravated Kidnapping and Joshua Evans received physical injuries
personally inflicted by the defendant substantially
contemporaneously with physical injuries caused by one or more
persons for whose conduct the defendant was legally responsible
and the physical injuries inflicted by either the defendant or
other persons for whose conduct she is legally responsible caused
the death of Joshua Evans; and in performing the acts which
resulted in physical injuries personally inflicted by the
defendant on Joshua Evans substantially contemporaneously with
physical injuries caused by one or more persons for whose conduct
the defendant was legally responsible, the defendant acted with
the intent to kill Joshua Evans or with the knowledge that her
acts created a strong probability of death to Joshua Evans."
By referring to "paragraph  of the second
proposition concerning the First Degree Murder of Joshua Evans,"
the felony- murder eligibility verdict forms in defendant's case
incorporated the necessary elements under section 9-1(b)(6),
including the required mental state and defendant's infliction of
injuries on the decedent.
As a result, unlike Mack, a conclusion
in defendant's case that the jury found the necessary elements
under section 9-1(b)(6) need not be based on speculation. When we
consider the verdict forms in the context of the record in
defendant's case, we can conclude with reasonable certainty that
the jury found these elements. Accordingly, we hold that defendant
was properly found eligible for the death penalty based on the
felony-murder statutory aggravating factor premised on Joshua's
As a consequence of this holding, we need not
decide the merits of defendant's challenge to the eligibility
verdict under section 9-1(b)(6) for Debra's murder or her
challenges to the eligibility verdicts based on section 9-1(b)(3),
9-1(b)(7), or 9-1(b)(8). Defendant was independently eligible for
the death penalty on the ground that she murdered Joshua during an
aggravated kidnapping. See, e.g., People v. Williams,
181 Ill. 2d 297, 320-21 (1998); People v. Page, 156 Ill.
2d 258, 268 (1993); Hampton, 149 Ill. 2d at 90; Thus, the
jury's reliance on any other aggravating factors did not affect
its finding that defendant was eligible for the death penalty. See
People v. Coleman, 129 Ill. 2d 321, 345 (1989).
2. Consideration of Invalid Statutory
Aggravating Factors at the Second Stage Sentencing Hearing
Defendant, however, argues that, under
People v. Brownell, 79 Ill. 2d 508 (1980), and People v.
Pasch, 152 Ill. 2d 133 (1992), the jury's consideration of
invalid aggravating factors at the second stage of sentencing
requires that her death sentence be vacated. In Brownell,
this court held that the defendant was entitled to a new second
stage sentencing hearing because the jury had considered an
invalid aggravating factor at that stage. The defendant was
convicted of the murder, rape, and aggravated kidnapping of Louise
Betts. The circuit court found defendant eligible for the death
penalty under the felony-murder and murder of a witness statutory
aggravating factors. The circuit court had determined that,
because Betts was a witness to defendant's crimes, her murder
satisfied the requirements of the murder of a witness statutory
aggravating factor. This court reversed the circuit court's
eligibility finding, holding that the legislature intended the
murder of a witness eligibility factor to apply only when the
murder victim is a witness in a separate offense. Brownell,
79 Ill. 2d at 525-26. Although the Brownell court upheld
the circuit court's eligibility finding based on the felony-murder
factor, it concluded that a new second stage sentencing hearing
was required because the circuit court had weighed an aggravating
factor that the Brownell court "concluded figured
erroneously in the court's sentencing decision." Brownell,
79 Ill. 2d at 536.
In cases decided after Brownell, this
court has held that the jury's consideration of invalid statutory
aggravating factors at the second stage of a capital sentencing
hearing is subject to a harmless error analysis. See, e.g.,
People v. Cole, 172 Ill. 2d 85, 103 (1996); People v.
Bounds, 171 Ill. 2d 1, 69 (1995); see also Shaw, 186
Ill. 2d at 345 (applying a harmless error analysis to the jury's
consideration of evidence of a nonstatutory aggravating factor).
For example, in Pasch, this court held that the
felony-murder statutory aggravating factor was invalid because the
evidence at trial did not support the predicate felony, but the
jury's consideration of this factor at the aggravation-mitigation
stage was harmless. In Pasch, defendant was found
eligible for the death penalty under the felony-murder,
multiple-murder, and murder of a police officer statutory
aggravating factors. Aggravated kidnapping was the underlying
felony for the felony-murder statutory aggravating factor. This
court reversed defendant's conviction for aggravated kidnapping,
finding insufficient evidence of the "secret confinement" element.
Pasch, 152 Ill. 2d at 187-88. The court, therefore, held
that the felony-murder aggravating factor was invalid.
The Pasch court rejected, however,
defendant's claim that the jury's consideration of this invalid
factor at the second stage of sentencing required resentencing
under Brownell. The Pasch court explained that,
whereas in Brownell the sentencer had weighed a factor
that was "not warranted by the evidence," in the case before it,
the jury "did not rely on anything it should not have during the
second phase of the hearing." Pasch, 152 Ill. 2d at 190.
According to the Pasch court:
"Once it had been determined that defendant was
eligible for the death penalty, by virtue of his actions falling
within one of the 10 aggravating factors detailed under section
9-1(b) of the Criminal Code of 1961 [citation], the jury could
consider any aggravating factors. It was not limited to
those set forth in subsection (b) in determining whether to impose
the death penalty. [Citation.] As a result, even though the jury
should not have considered defendant's restraint of [the victim]
in terms of its being a felony, it was entirely proper to have
considered defendant's identical conduct as an aggravating factor
in determining whether to impose the death penalty.
Therefore, the absence of a conviction for
aggravated kidnapping should not have affected the jury's decision
here, since the jury would have been able to consider the same
aggravating and mitigating factors that the defendant claims it
actually did consider." (Emphasis in original.) Pasch,
152 Ill. 2d at 190.
The Pasch court, therefore, held that
no new sentencing hearing was required. See also, e.g.,
Williams, 181 Ill. 2d at 321-22; Cole, 172 Ill.
2d at 103; Bounds, 171 Ill. 2d at 69; Page, 156
Ill. 2d at 270; Pasch, 152 Ill. 2d at 190; Hampton,
149 Ill. 2d at 92; Coleman, 129 Ill. 2d at 347; but see
Shaw, 186 Ill. 2d at 345 (the jury's consideration of
evidence of a nonstatutory aggravating factor required
In the case before us, we have held that
defendant was properly found eligible for the death penalty on the
basis that she murdered Joshua during an aggravated kidnapping.
Even assuming, arguendo, the invalidity of the remaining
statutory aggravating factors, we find that the jury's
consideration of these factors at the second stage of sentencing
does not require resentencing. See Williams, 181 Ill. 2d
at 321 (assuming the invalidity of a statutory aggravating factor,
finding that the jury's consideration of this factor did not
require resentencing); Page, 156 Ill. 2d at 269 (same);
Coleman, 129 Ill. 2d at 345-46 (same).
At the second stage of sentencing, the jury was
instructed that it could consider, as aggravation, the factors it
had found at eligibility. The State also briefly argued that
aggravating factors the jury could weigh included those that the
jury had found at eligibility. As in Pasch, however, even
if the jury should not have weighed the challenged statutory
aggravating factors, it could have properly considered the conduct
underlying these allegedly invalid factors. An examination of this
underlying conduct, as well as the other evidence presented at the
aggravation-mitigation stage, supports the conclusion that the
jury's consideration of the challenged factors, even if improper,
was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.
Aggravating evidence at the second stage
hearing included evidence that defendant had planned to take the
unborn child of her friend Debra in order to satisfy her and her
boyfriend's desire for a light-skinned baby boy. She attempted to
obtain a gun and ascertained when Edwards would be absent from the
apartment. After Caffey shot Debra, defendant stood next to Caffey
as he ripped Elijah from Debra's womb. Defendant did nothing to
help Debra or Samantha, and concerned herself only with Elijah,
the baby she wanted. To conceal these crimes, defendant hid Joshua
at her friend's apartment. Upon learning that Joshua could
identify her, defendant swore at him and attempted to poison him
by forcing him to drink iodine, a substance that contributed to
his death. She participated further in the torture of this
terrified little boy, who tried in vain to get help for his little
brother who had been left alone in the apartment with his brutally
murdered mother and sister. She helped to strangle Joshua,
retrieved a knife to stab him, held him while Caffey stabbed him,
and eventually left him to die alone in an alley, half-dressed, in
Other evidence presented at the
aggravation-mitigation stage showed that such violent conduct by
defendant was not an isolated incident. She had previously stabbed
Caffey, puncturing a lung, and an object fashioned into a shank
was found in her jail cell as she awaited trial in this case.
Defendant had a criminal history, including possession of stolen
property and forgery, and was on probation at the time of the
murders in this case.
The evidence in mitigation was that defendant
had dropped out of school when she became pregnant in her
sophomore year of high school, she was a good mother, she had a
below-average IQ, her boyfriends had physically abused her, and
she was psychologically vulnerable to predatory males and more
susceptible to coercion than the average person. The defense also
presented evidence that Ward wanted the baby Debra was carrying,
and Ward had admitted responsibility for Debra's injuries to
This mitigating evidence did little to explain
or excuse defendant's involvement in the horrific crimes against
the Evans family. She was accountable for Ward's conduct and,
although she may have been abused in the past and was susceptible
to coercion, there was no evidence that coercion or physical
threats caused her acts on November 16. To the contrary, the
evidence indicates that defendant was motivated by her own desire
for a baby and acted apart from and contrary to Caffey's
instructions at times.
In light of the overwhelming aggravating
evidence supporting the imposition of the death penalty, we find
that any error resulting from the jury's consideration of
allegedly invalid statutory aggravating factors was harmless
beyond a reasonable doubt.
B. Holiday Basket Application
Defendant also contends that she is entitled to
a new second-stage sentencing hearing because the circuit court
erred in admitting evidence of the holiday basket application form
from her general assistance file. In a pretrial motion in
limine, defendant requested that evidence of the form be
excluded because it was disclosed in violation of section 11-9 of
the Illinois Public Aid Code (305 ILCS 5/11-9 (West 1996)), which
prohibits disclosure of public aid documents, except under certain
circumstances. The circuit court denied defendant's motion.
We will not order a new sentencing hearing
based on the admission of this form. Admission of the holiday
basket application was cumulative in light of other evidence that
defendant wanted Debra Evans' baby and planned to pretend that
Elijah was her son. Any error in the admission of the holiday
basket application was, therefore, harmless. See Jackson,
182 Ill. 2d at 74-75. Even assuming that the admission of this
evidence was improper, therefore, no new sentencing hearing is
C. Defense Counsel's Failure to Request a
Defendant further argues that she was denied
the effective assistance of counsel at the second stage of her
capital sentencing hearing by her attorneys' failure to have the
jury instructed that compulsion is a statutory mitigating factor.
The Illinois death penalty statute includes compulsion among the
statutory mitigating factors a jury may consider:
"The court shall consider, or shall instruct
the jury to consider any aggravating and any mitigating factors
which are relevant to the imposition of the death penalty.
Aggravating factors may include but need not be limited to those
factors set forth in subsection (b). Mitigating factors may
include but need not be limited to the following:
* * *
(4) the defendant acted under the compulsion of
threat or menace of the imminent infliction of death or great
bodily harm." 720 ILCS 5/9-1(c) (West 1994).
Although some statutory mitigating factors were
included in the jury instructions, compulsion was not one of them.
The jury did receive a general instruction that "[w]here there is
evidence of a mitigating factor, the fact that such mitigating
factor is not a factor specifically listed in these instructions
does not preclude your consideration of the evidence." Defendant
contends, however, that a specific instruction regarding
compulsion was necessary. According to defendant, such an
instruction was warranted by evidence that her boyfriends,
including Caffey, had abused her, and evidence that defendant had
a dependent personality and attached herself to predatory males
who could make her do things she would not normally do on her own.
Under Strickland v. Washington, 466
U.S. 668, 80 L. Ed. 2d 674, 104 S. Ct. 2052 (1984), to establish a
claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must
establish (1) that defense " 'counsel's representation fell below
an objective standard of reasonableness' " and (2) that " 'there
is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional
errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.' "
People v. Morgan, 187 Ill. 2d 500, 529-30 (1999), quoting
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688, 694, 80 L. Ed. 2d at 693,
698, 104 S. Ct. at 2064, 2068. There is a "strong presumption that
the challenged action or inaction of counsel was the product of
sound trial strategy and not of incompetence." Coleman,
183 Ill. 2d at 397. A defendant's failure to satisfy either prong
of the Strickland analysis will result in the rejection
of his ineffective assistance claim. Shaw, 186 Ill. 2d at
We find that defendant in this case has failed
to overcome the presumption that her attorneys' performance was
adequate. A defendant is entitled to have the jury receive
instructions on the law that applies to her theory of the case,
provided there is evidence in the record to support that theory.
People v. Gilliam, 172 Ill. 2d 484, 519 (1996). The
evidence in this case did not support an instruction on the
statutory mitigating factor of compulsion. Although there was
evidence that defendant was psychologically vulnerable to
predatory males who could cause her to do things she would not
normally do by threatening her, there was no evidence that Caffey
or anyone else threatened defendant or that her actions were the
result of threats. To the contrary, there was evidence that,
against Caffey's wishes, defendant brought Joshua to the
Schaumburg townhouse. Also, whereas there was evidence that Caffey
had beaten defendant in 1994, there was no evidence that he had
threatened her with any "imminent" "death or great bodily harm,"
as required by the compulsion statutory mitigating factor. Given
that the evidence did not support an instruction on the statutory
mitigating factor of compulsion, defendant was not entitled to
one, and we cannot say that defense counsel were deficient for
failing to request a compulsion instruction. See Alvine,
173 Ill. 2d at 297. Accordingly, we reject defendant's ineffective
assistance of counsel claim.
IV. Constitutionality of the Death Penalty
Defendant makes several additional
constitutional challenges to the Illinois death penalty statute.
This court has, however, previously rejected the arguments that
the death penalty statute is unconstitutional because (1) it
places a burden of proof on defendants that precludes meaningful
consideration of mitigation (see, e.g., Kliner,
185 Ill. 2d at 177-78; People v. Johnson, 182 Ill. 2d 96,
112 (1998); People v. Simpson, 172 Ill. 2d 117, 152
(1996)); and (2) it allows the jury to weigh the vague aggravating
factor "any other reason" a defendant should be sentenced to death
(see, e.g., Johnson, 182 Ill. 2d at 112-13;
People v. Mulero, 176 Ill. 2d 444, 481 (1997); People v.
Hope, 168 Ill. 2d 1, 48 (1995)). In other cases, this court
has also found no merit to the arguments that the death penalty
statute is unconstitutional because (1) prosecutors have
discretion to decide to seek the death penalty (see, e.g.,
People v. Fair, 159 Ill. 2d 51, 96 (1994)); (2) the
prosecution need not give a defendant pretrial notice of its
intent to seek the death penalty (People v. Harris, 182
Ill. 2d 114, 161 (1998)); (3) there is limited comparative
proportionality review of death sentences (see, e.g.,
People v. Cloutier, 178 Ill. 2d 141, 173-74 (1997);
People v. Harris, 164 Ill. 2d 322, 351 (1994)); (4) there is
no requirement that the sentencing body make written findings
(see, e.g., Cloutier, 178 Ill. 2d at 173-74);
(5) the sentencing body may consider nonstatutory aggravating
factors (see, e.g., Buss, 187 Ill. 2d at 248;
Johnson, 182 Ill. 2d at 112-13); (6) there is no
requirement for pretrial notice to defendants of evidence of
aggravating circumstances (see People v. Mahaffey, 166
Ill. 2d 1, 33 (1995)); (7) the State has no burden of proof (see,
e.g., Cloutier, 178 Ill. 2d at 173-74); (8) the
language of the statute may cause the jury to place the burden of
proof on the defendant (see, e.g., Kliner, 185
Ill. 2d at 177-78; Harris, 182 Ill. 2d at 161;
Johnson, 182 Ill. 2d at 112); and (9) the jury is precluded
from considering the range of sentences that apply if the death
penalty is not imposed (see People v. Childress, 158 Ill.
2d 275, 318 (1994)). Defendant offers no persuasive reason for our
reconsideration of these holdings. We also decline to find that
these aspects of the death penalty statute combine to make it
unconstitutional. As this court stated in Childress,
" '[i]f all of the individual aspects are constitutional, we stand
by the conclusion that the whole is also constitutional.' "
Childress, 158 Ill. 2d at 318, quoting People v. Phillips,
127 Ill. 2d 499, 542-43 (1989); see also, e.g.,
People v. Woolley, 178 Ill. 2d 175, 215 (1997); People v.
Edgeston, 157 Ill. 2d 201, 247 (1993).
For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the
circuit court is affirmed. We direct the clerk of this court to
enter an order setting Wednesday, January 17, 2001, as the date on
which the sentence of death, entered by the circuit court of
Du Page County, shall be carried out. Defendant shall be executed
in the manner provided by law. 725 ILCS 5/119-5 (West 1996). The
clerk of this court shall send a certified copy of the mandate in
this case to the Director of Corrections, the warden of Tamms
Correctional Center, and the warden of the institution where
defendant is confined.
CHIEF JUSTICE HARRISON, concurring in part and
dissenting in part:
I agree that Williams' convictions should not
be disturbed. In my view, however, her sentence of death cannot be
allowed to stand. For the reasons set forth in my partial
concurrence and partial dissent in People v. Bull, 185
Ill. 2d 179 (1998), the Illinois death penalty law is void and
unenforceable because it violates the eighth and fourteenth
amendments to the United States Constitution (U.S. Const., amends.
VIII, XIV) and article I, section 2, of the Illinois Constitution
(Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §2). Williams' sentence of death should
therefore be vacated, and she should be sentenced to a term of
imprisonment. 720 ILCS 5/9-1(j) (West 1994). Because Williams was
found guilty of murdering more than one victim, the term of her
imprisonment must be natural life. 730 ILCS 5/5-8-1(a)(1)(c)(ii)