COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — A Cook County jury has found Bernard Williams guilty of murdering off-duty Chicago Police Officer David Blake in 2010.
The jury reached its verdict about 5 p.m. Tuesday after nearly four hours of deliberation. Williams was also found guilty of armed robbery and discharging a firearm.
"Dave [Blake] was a very nice guy. Very unassuming. Very quiet," said Sgt. Tim Kusinski, who coached Blake on the CPD Enforcers football team. "He didn't deserve this."
According to Kusinski, Blake had very few living relatives following his mother's death in 2009. No family attended the trial, but dozens of police officers and sheriff's deputies packed the gallery Tuesday morning. At least 10 members of the city's SWAT team, Blake's unit, appeared in sage-green uniforms.
"The police was his family, that's for sure," Kusinski said.
Williams' relatives declined to comment Tuesday. Two women quietly wept as the verdict was delivered.
Prosecutors are expected to seek life in prison when sentencing begins before Cook County Judge Lawrence Edward Flood later this spring.
Assistant Public Defender Crystal Carbellos on Tuesday said she was "very disappointed" by the jury's verdict and plans to file an appeal. She will seek a new trial and argue against a life sentence, she said.
The trial began last week at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, 2650 S. California Ave.
Williams' sister, Keana Baylis, was dating Blake on Nov. 22, 2010, when prosecutors said Williams fatally shot the SWAT officer to steal his extensive gun collection. Blake was found dead inside his Dodge Durango about 6:30 p.m. in the 2900 block of West Seipp Street in Ashburn.
In his closing arguments Tuesday, Assistant State's Attorney Arunas Buntinas called Williams a "cold-blooded killer" who "was tired of being poor." Prosecutors claim Williams shot Blake six times in his head and stole the man's keys in an attempt to later steal and sell Blake's guns.
But police secured Blake's home before Williams was able to get there and take the weapons, prosecutors said.
The defense team was quick to counter that there was no physical evidence directly linking Williams to the murder. Williams was not a match for a palm print found in Blake's SUV, and a boot print on the scene couldn't conclusively be linked to Williams. The murder weapon was never found.
"This is a case about prepping and priming," Assistant Public Defender Crystal Carbellos said in her closing arguments, building on an earlier defense claim that police rushed their investigation.
A month after Blake's murder, Baylis testified before a grand jury that she overheard Williams tell his girlfriend, "he couldn't take it anymore. He killed Officer David [Blake]," Assistant State's Attorney John Brassil said.
But when Baylis took the stand last week, she answered almost every question about that 2010 testimony with, "I can't recall." Baylis uttered the sentence at least 80 times over a 2½-hour period. She claimed Chicago Police officers threatened to take away her children if she didn't testify against Williams.
"It was very clear to everyone that she didn't want to testify" last week, Carbellos said. "They prepped her and they primed her for her performance in front of the grand jury" in 2010.
Brassil on Tuesday played for the jury portions of a videotaped interview with Williams, in which he confesses to killing Blake.
Carbellos pointed out that Williams made that confession during a 34-hour police hold in which he was interrogated for seven hours.
"They had to prep him and prime him; that's what they were doing," Carbellos said. Williams, at 5-foot-2, is "a little guy. He could get some street cred, maybe, by confessing. There's a million reasons someone could lie about something like this."
Blake was a 15-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department. Brassil said his death "made the world a much darker, a much lonelier, a much colder place."