A Cook County jury on Tuesday found Bernard Williams guilty of shooting Chicago Police Officer David Blake to death in a South Side alley in 2010.
Williams, who faces a sentence of natural life, showed no reaction when the verdicts were read four hours after the jury began its deliberations.
Williams’ mother wept in her seat in the front row of the tiny courtroom gallery, and the handful of his family members were the only people on hand for the reading of the verdict.
Blake, 45 when he was killed, was an only child and his parents both preceded him in death, but a steady stream of uniformed police officers had been on hand each day of the five-day trial. Sgt. Tim Kusinski, who coached Blake on the CPD’s Police Enforcers football team, arrived a few minutes after the jury filed out around 5:30 p.m.
“It’s good to know there is still justice in Cook County,” said Kusinski, who remembered Blake as soft-spoken and good-natured. “This was a cold-blooded killing, and he was killed because he was a policeman. David didn’t deserve this.”
Assistant Public Defender Crystal Carbellos said she was disappointed with the guilty verdict, and said Williams would appeal.
“I will go with what [Williams’] girlfriend from 2010 said,” Carbellos said, referring to the woman’s testimony at trial. “‘This is not like him. This is not something David would do.'”
During five days of testimony, prosecutors built their case that Blake was lured to the alley by Williams, then 18, the younger brother of Blake’s girlfriend. The plan, prosecutors said, was to kill Blake, a veteran SWAT officer, and raid a gun safe at his house.
“David has a nice collection [of guns]. He welcomed Bernard Williams into his home, [showed him] his possessions, he knew the young man was interested in them,” Assistant State’s Attorney John Brassil told the jury in his closing argument, as Brassil stood in front of a monitor screen showing a photo of Blake in his football uniform for the CPD’s Enforcers team.
“That was [Blake’s] downfall.”
During closing arguments Tuesday, Williams sat placidly at a table beside his lawyers, with his family filling the front row of the courtroom gallery, as they had each day of the trial. On the opposite side of the aisle, a dozen police officers, most wearing green fatigues-style SWAT uniforms, nodded along as Brassil outlined the case against Williams.
Physical evidence against Williams was all but nonexistent. Investigators never recovered the murder weapon, nor the keys Williams allegedly stole, nor any of the clothing he wore the night of the killing.
But several of Williams’ friends testified that he had tried to recruit them to help in the murder and robbery, and then confessed after killing Blake. Tyrone “T.J.” Jerry said Williams ran to Jerry’s house near the shooting scene after killing Blake and said, “I did it! I did it,” and described shooting Blake in the face and taking his keys from the Durango.
But defense lawyers claimed Williams and his friends had been coached by detectives during the hourslong interrogations, and that Williams himself had spent 34 hours with police without a lawyer when he gave his statement.
Williams’ sister, Keana Bayliss, who had dated Blake for five months before the shooting, testified before a grand jury — after spending nearly two days being questioned by police — and provided damning evidence against her brother. But in three hours on the witness stand last week, Bayliss offered “I do not recall” in response to nearly every question about her prior statements to police and grand jurors.
Carbellos noted that while Williams had admitted to Blake’s murder in a videotaped interrogation seven years ago, the then-teenager also had told detectives he didn’t do it.
“Nothing ties him to the crime scene. They have no evidence that he was there,” Carbellos said in her closing. “There’s no forensic evidence that put him there, or implicated him at all. No evidence. Just some words that could be hollow and shallow.”
Williams also was found guilty on charges of armed robbery and discharging a firearm.
He will return to court May 23 for a post-trial hearing.