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People v. Massey

OPINION FILED MAY 10, 1977.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

JAMES MASSEY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. SAUL A. EPTON, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE STAMOS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant, James Massey, was charged by indictment with the offense of murder in connection with the death of two-year-old Janeen Butler. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 38, par. 9-1.) Upon a bench trial defendant was found to be guilty as charged. Judgment was entered upon the finding and defendant was sentenced to serve a term of confinement in the Illinois State Penitentiary of 14 years to 14 years and 1 day. From entry of the judgment of conviction defendant appeals and contends that the evidence adduced at trial was insufficient to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

A review of such evidence indicates that the deceased expired as the result of shock induced by the infliction of multiple external injuries imposed over a period of 24-48 hours preceding her death on December 28, 1972.

The child's mother, Janice Butler, testified that on December 27, 1972, she lived at 7242 South Constance Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, with her two-year-old daughter, Janeen, and defendant, James Massey. Butler and defendant had cohabited for a period of approximately eight months preceding the child's death, the final three months of which were spent at the aforementioned address. During this time, Butler was employed as a clerical worker and her absence from the home on a daily basis necessitated that the child be placed in the custody of her grandmother, Clementine Butler. The child was returned to her mother's care each weekend.

For reasons unapparent from the record, this pattern was disrupted on December 27-28, 1972, and the child was left in the sole care and custody of defendant. Janice Butler testified that when she departed for her place of employment on the morning of December 27, 1972, her child was in perfect physical health.

Upon her return from work on December 27, 1972, at approximately 5:45-6 p.m., she observed that the child had a mark on the side of her face. Butler questioned defendant as to its origin. He responded that he had visited a museum with the child during the course of the day where some candy had become lodged in her throat. Defendant indicated that he had struck the child's face and pressed her stomach in an effort to dislodge the foreign object and that he had been assisted in his efforts by several other unidentified persons. Following this discussion, Butler changed her daughter's clothing inasmuch as the child had been vomiting, fed her and put her to bed.

The following day, December 28, 1972, Butler departed for work and again entrusted her child to the custody of defendant, instructing him to telephone her place of employment should the child's condition fail to improve. Shortly after her arrival at work, Butler telephoned defendant who indicated that the child's health had, indeed, improved and was no longer vomiting. She telephoned again that afternoon but obtained no answer.

Butler returned home that evening between 5:30 and 6 and observed defendant and the child in the living room. Their coats, which had been removed, bore vomit stains. Butler observed that her daughter had bruises on her forehead which had not been present that morning. Butler told defendant that she would take her daughter to the hospital for treatment. Defendant replied that he had transported the child to the hospital earlier in the day where an examining physician had prescribed warm milk and a suppository. Butler insisted upon obtaining further treatment and defendant, aided by police escort, drove Butler and the child to Jackson Park Hospital.

They arrived at the hospital's emergency room and sought immediate attention. After a period of approximately 20 minutes without assistance, Butler and defendant drove to Cook County Hospital where they registered and Butler began to undress the child preparatory to a physical examination. In so doing, she noticed that a trickle of blood emanated from her daughter's nose and immediately carried the child to a physician and oxygen was administered. Before she left the hospital on the evening of December 28, 1972, Butler was informed that her daughter had died.

Butler also testified that during the course of that evening she observed defendant in the hospital emergency room while she sought treatment for the child. However, assisted by police officers, she subsequently attempted to locate him and his vehicle, without success. Butler indicated that during the time in which she and defendant had lived together she had not observed defendant strike the child and that prior to December 27, 1972, she had not left the child in defendant's care for an entire day.

Several months thereafter, Butler had occasion to speak to defendant concerning the child's death. On this occasion defendant told Butler that the bruises found on the child's head on December 28, 1972, had been sustained by the child having fallen down an unspecified number of stairs. Defendant had not informed Butler of such an accident prior to the date of this conversation. Defendant also reiterated his explanation of the events of December 27, 1972. However, defendant admitted to Butler that he lied in telling her that he had obtained medical treatment for the child at the hospital on December 28, 1972.

The State also adduced the testimony of the child's grandmother, Clementine Butler, who indicated that to her knowledge the child had not been physically abused by either Janice Butler or defendant.

Chicago Police Officer Robert Lewis testified that pursuant to his investigation of the death of Janeen Butler he had occasion to speak to defendant in the early afternoon hours of January 3, 1973. After advising defendant of his constitutional rights, Officer Lewis questioned defendant regarding the source of the child's injuries. Defendant reportedly told the officer that on December 27, 1972, he had taken the child to visit the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois. Defendant apparently had been participating in a methadone treatment program on that date but had missed his scheduled appointment for that morning and had decided to pass the time until an afternoon appointment in guiding the child through the museum. According to Officer Lewis, defendant informed him that between 11 a.m. and noon on that date some candy had become lodged in the child's throat and that with the assistance of a uniformed employee of the museum working in the vicinity of a "cancer display," defendant had struck the child about the neck and abdomen in an effort to dislodge the candy.

Officer Lewis commented that the child's injuries had been somewhat severe and asked defendant to explain the great number of bruises on the body. Defendant was unable to explain the bruises but, according to Lewis, defendant indicated that he might have struck the child with excessive force because he was "high" at the time. Lewis reminded defendant that defendant had earlier indicated that he had missed his scheduled methadone appointment on the morning of December 27, 1972. Defendant told the officer that he had taken some methadone in his apartment earlier in the day. Lewis asked defendant if, in light of the child's injuries, he had taken her to the ...


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