APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Rock Island; the Hon. GEORGE
O. HEBEL, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE SCOTT DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
This is an appeal from the circuit court of the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit, Rock Island County, Illinois. Defendant, Eddie L. Mead, was found guilty of the offense of murder after a jury trial. The defendant was sentenced to a term of from 14 to 30 years in the Illinois Penitentiary System.
Defendant contends that the State failed to prove both the cause of death and his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; and further that the court erred in refusing a tendered instruction of the defendant.
On May 4, 1970, at approximately 10:00 P.M., decedent, Edward J. DeFauw, was beaten about the head in an alley and was shortly thereafter pronounced dead.
Defendant, on May 4, 1970, voluntarily appeared at a Police Station and made a statement that at about 8:30 to 8:45 P.M. on May 3, 1970, he was attacked by the decedent and two other men in the alley and fought with a board and a rock, which struck the decedent on the head. He replaced the rock and left the decedent lying in the alley and was home at approximately 10:00 P.M. He made some identification of one of the other men. This man was examined by the police and did not have any marks or bruises from a fight.
All of the witnesses who saw or heard part of the fight in the alley placed the time at about 10:00 P.M., May 3, 1970, and limited the number of persons involved to two men.
Except for the time of the fight, both the defendant, by his statement, and the witnesses, by their testimony, agree that a bottle was broken, a man was hit with a board, a rock was replaced, and the decedent was lying in the ally after the altercation.
Although blood was found on the rock, it could not be identified as to type. The defendant was not identified by the witnesses. Photographs were admitted into evidence showing the condition of the decedent's head. No medical testimony was introduced as to the cause of death.
• 1 Defendant in support of his contention that the State failed to prove the cause of death cites People v. Wilson, 400 Ill. 461, 81 N.E.2d 211, which correctly sets forth the rule that:
"The elements of murder which must be established are: The proof of death and the proof of a criminal agency causing death. Both of these elements must be established by evidence beyond a reasonable doubt."
The State's evidence was to the effect that around 10:00 P.M. on May 3, 1970, an altercation occurred in an alley between two men. One man was hit on the back with a board and a man was seen handling a rock, on which there was later found to be blood, although it could not be identified as to type. That decedent was found lying in the alley and was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead by a doctor. That decedent had wounds to the head, scalp and hands. Pictures which accurately portrayed the condition of the head wounds were introduced into evidence. Defendant's statement admitting that he hit the decedent on the head with a rock was read into the record. No medical evidence as to the cause of death was introduced.
"While prudent practice suggests that the People should produce medical testimony as to the cause of death where such testimony is readily available, the failure to do so is not in itself grounds for reversal where the cause of death has been established beyond reasonable doubt by other competent evidence. The question before us is not whether the People might have pursued a better method of establishing the cause of death, but whether the fact that the death was caused by a criminal agency has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt." People v. Jones, 22 Ill.2d 592, 177 N.E.2d 112.
Defendant cites cases which do not support his contention. In People v. Wilson, 400 Ill. 461, 81 N.E.2d 211, there was not only evidence that the cause of death was other than by a criminal agency, but the preponderance of the evidence was to that effect.
Defendant cites the cases of Wistrand v. People, 213 Ill. 72, 72 N.E. 748, and People v. Rodgers, 415 Ill. 343, 114 N.E.2d 398, for the proposition that the corpus delicti could not be proven by the statements or admissions of the defendant. These cases do not apply here for the reason that apart from the statement of the ...