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Criminal Nuggets


Apr 24, 2019

People v. Drake, 2019 IL 123734 (March). Episode 620 (Duration 11:14)

Although the reversal is still good the lower court judgement that double jeopardy barred a retrial is reversed.

Gist

Defendant was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for aggravated battery of a child.

Facts

At defendant’s bench trial, the nurse testified that, as a registered nurse, she treated J.H. in the pediatric intensive care unit at Stroger Hospital for burns to his buttocks, genital area, and legs.

When the nurse entered his room one day, J.H. called to her and stated he was going to tell her something. J.H. then revealed that defendant poured hot water on him while he was in the bathtub.

When the nurse asked if J.H. had done anything to upset defendant, J.H. replied that he had done nothing.

Statement Came In

The trial court ruled that J.H.’s statement was admissible under the hearsay exception for statements made for purposes of medical diagnosis or treatment. See Ill. R. Evid. 803(4).

Lower Court Opinion

The appellate court held that the trial court erred in admitting J.H.’s statement identifying defendant as the offender under the hearsay exception for statements made for the purpose of medical diagnosis and treatment.

The appellate court concluded the hearsay statement was not made for that purpose and admission of the statement could not be considered harmless error.

Barred Retrial

The appellate court further held that the double jeopardy clause barred retrial because the evidence presented by the State was insufficient to prove defendant guilty of the offenses beyond a reasonable doubt.

Issue Now

According to the State, the appellate court failed to give adequate weight to J.H.’s out-of-court statement identifying defendant as the offender in its double jeopardy analysis. 

More On The Statement

J.H.’s hearsay statement that defendant poured hot water on him was the only evidence that defendant was even present in the bathroom, but the statement is inconsistent with Dr. Fujara’s opinion that the burns could have resulted only from forcible immersion.

Additionally, the evidence showed the hot and cold water lines were reversed, and the hot water temperature was 160 degrees, indicating the burns could have been caused accidentally. Defendant, therefore, concludes that this court should affirm the appellate court’s judgment. The applicable law is well established.

Double Jeopardy

The double jeopardy clause prohibits a second, or successive, trial to afford the prosecution another opportunity to provide evidence that it failed to present at the first trial. People v. Lopez, 229 Ill. 2d 322, 367 (2008).

The double jeopardy clause does not preclude retrial when a conviction has been overturned because of an error in the trial proceedings, but retrial is barred if the evidence introduced at the initial trial was insufficient to sustain the conviction. Lopez, 229 Ill. 2d at 367.

“For purposes of double jeopardy all evidence submitted at the original trial may be considered when determining the sufficiency of the evidence.” People v. Olivera, 164 Ill. 2d 382, 393 (1995).

Retrial is the proper remedy if the evidence presented at the initial trial, including any improperly admitted evidence, was sufficient to sustain the conviction. People v. McKown, 236 Ill. 2d 278, 311 (2010). 

On Double Jeopardy See Also...

Double Jeopardy Concerns

Double Jeopardy

The fifth amendment to the United States Constitution, made applicable to the states via the fourteenth amendment, provides, in part, that no person shall “be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” U.S. Const., amend. V. See also Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 10; 720 ILCS 5/3-4.

The double jeopardy clause protects against

(1) a second prosecution for the same offense following acquittal, 
(2) a second prosecution for the same offense following conviction, and 
(3) multiple punishments for the same offense.

However, the rules with regard to double jeopardy, however, should not be applied in a mechanical nature, especially if the situation is such that the interests the rules seek to protect are not endangered and a mechanical application would frustrate society’s interest in enforcing its criminal laws.

The Expert Witness

In this case, a rational trier of fact could have credited Dr. Fujara’s testimony that J.H.’s burns resulted from forcible immersion in hot water. Indeed, Dr. Fujara provided the only expert testimony explaining J.H.’s burns.

In this case, Dr. Fujara offered persuasive expert testimony that J.H.’s burns resulted from forcible immersion in hot water.

Dr. Fujara’s testimony ruling out alternative causes rebuts defendant’s argument that J.H. may have been burned accidentally as a result of the faulty water heater installation. We conclude that the trial court reasonably credited Dr. Fujara’s testimony that J.H.’s injuries resulted from forcible immersion.

Was The Evidence Sufficient Beyond A Reasonable Doubt?

The critical issue, therefore, becomes whether the evidence was sufficient to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant was the offender.

  • The evidence showed defendant was the only adult present in the house at the time J.H. was injured.
  • He did not seek prompt treatment for the severe injuries suffered.
  • Kid taken to the hospital for treatment only after the other children informed their mother.
  • The injuries apparently occurred when J.H. took a bath at some point in the morning.
  • J.H.’s mother did not return home from work until late that night.
  • Defendant lied at the hospital about his name and relationship.
  • And, of course, the expert evidence outlined above.

Accordingly, substantial evidence pointed to defendant as the offender even without the excluded hearsay statement.

Before concluding that the evidence was insufficient to prove defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the appellate court observed that “J.H.’s erroneously admitted hearsay statement was the only piece of evidence placing defendant in the bathroom where the injury occurred” and “[t]he State provided no other identification evidence.” 2017 IL App (1st) 142882, ¶ 40.

Analysis

Although the appellate court mentioned the excluded hearsay statement in its analysis, we do not believe that statement was given the proper weight.  The excluded hearsay statement is, therefore, competent evidence that defendant caused J.H.’s injuries for the purpose of the sufficiency of the evidence analysis.

Further, all of the evidence, including J.H.’s hearsay statement, must be viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution. Given that standard, we believe a rational trier of fact could have considered J.H.’s hearsay statement simply as an identification of the person who caused his injuries.

We do not believe a rational trier of fact is required to completely discount the part of J.H.’s statement identifying defendant as the person who caused his injuries merely because part of his statement is not perfectly consistent with the expert’s testimony.

In sum, our decision in this case is guided by the standard for reviewing this issue.

Holding

We must determine whether after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.  We believe the evidence, including J.H.’s hearsay statement identifying defendant as the person who caused his injuries, was sufficient when viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution for a rational trier of fact to find defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Accordingly, the double jeopardy clause does not bar retrial, and this case must be remanded to the circuit court for retrial without the excluded hearsay evidence.