One Conviction, One Mistrial in Elgin Killings

By Burnett, Sara | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), April 27, 2002 | Go to article overview

One Conviction, One Mistrial in Elgin Killings


Burnett, Sara, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Sara Burnett Daily Herald Staff Writer

Willie Buckhana and Sherman Williams were sent to the Burnham Schoolhouse Apartments in Elgin in August 1999 with orders to "take care of business," Kane County prosecutors alleged.

At the end of that August day, three men were dead and another man wounded, but on Friday, only Buckhana was found guilty.

Buckhana, 42, of Chicago, and Williams, 33, of Elgin, each were charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated battery with a firearm for the Aug. 16, 1999, shootings at 260 Center St. in Elgin. Buckhana was found guilty by a Kane County jury Friday afternoon. By 11:40 p.m. Friday, after more than 20 hours of deliberation, a mistrial was declared in the case against Williams.

Buckhana also was convicted of two drug charges but acquitted on charges of attempted murder in the case where a man was shot four times in the lower part of his body.

The convictions came more than a day after the two juries began deliberating and despite warnings from defense attorneys that many of the state's witnesses were unreliable. Two of those witnesses were co-defendants who stand to receive a 20-year prison term - rather than life in prison or, in one case, a possible death sentence - in exchange for their testimony.

Prosecutor Joe Cullen said he was pleased with the Buckhana verdict, but both he and public defender David Kliment described the Williams mistrial as "frustrating."

"We'll do this all over again," Kliment told Williams' family, who waited in the courthouse during the extensive deliberations. "We'll do this all over again."

Kane County Judge Donald Hudson is expected to decide later this year whether to sentence Buckhana to life in prison or death.

Williams and Buckhana were tried simultaneously before Hudson and two separate juries, both of which began deliberating early Thursday but were sent home Thursday night without reaching a verdict.

The first to return a verdict Friday was the Buckhana jury, which was made up of three men and nine women. In all, it took them about 15 hours to return their verdict.

As the verdict was read, Buckhana sat calmly at the defense table, staring straight ahead with no expression on his face. At one point he turned and looked into the audience and toward the prosecution, but still showed no reaction. None of his family was present in the courtroom.

The Williams jury returned two hours later, sending Judge Hudson a note stating they were unable to reach a verdict "after vigilant deliberation." That jury of nine men and three women heard different closing arguments and began deliberating several hours after the first jury. Hudson denied Kliment's motion for a mistrial and sent the jury back to work.

Five hours later, at 10 p.m., Judge Hudson told attorneys of his desire to sequester jurors if they were unable to reach a decision that night. At 11:40 p.m., Hudson received a second note from the jurors, again saying that they were at an impasse.

"To sequester the jury after 21 hours and after they told us twice they were at a deadlock would be coercive," Hudson said.

Liam Dixon, one of two attorneys defending Buckhana, said he believed his client was convicted "under the broad umbrella of accountability" and said he would appeal the verdict.

"Illinois should be careful trying to sentence someone to death by using jailhouse informants," Dixon said.

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