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People v. Gresham





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Peoria County; the Hon. STEPHEN J. COVEY, Judge, presiding.


This is an appeal from the circuit court of Peoria County, Illinois, from an order of conviction entered after jury trial. The defendant, Michael Gresham, was convicted of murder.

On February 21, 1977, an ambulance was sent to 2011 Griswald Street, Apt. 536, in Peoria, Illinois. The rescue personnel found a young, three-or four- year-old girl who was unconscious and breathing. Doreen Douglas, mother of the child, told a firefighter at the scene that the child had slipped on water on the floor and hit her head. Later, Douglas stated that she had whipped the child for drinking from the toilet. The child was taken to the hospital.

Officer Eddie Stinson of the Peoria Police Department went to the emergency room where the child had been taken for treatment. After talking to the attending physician and observing the child being treated, Stinson went to the child's home to get clothing for her. There he observed a puddle of water on the living room floor. He also saw an extension cord. Stinson then returned to the hospital where he could not locate the mother of the child, Doreen Douglas. She was later arrested pending further investigation.

At 7:40 p.m. that evening, Stinson received a telephone call from a man identifying himself as the defendant, Michael Gresham. Gresham said he knew his wife, Doreen Douglas, was in custody and she had nothing to do with the child's injuries.

Defendant stated he had inflicted the injuries and was willing to surrender himself, but wanted his wife released when he gave himself up. He was later arrested and gave an oral statement to the police which was reduced to writing the next day.

According to Stinson, during his oral statement the defendant said he "caught her by the neck and started bumping her off the wall, bumping her head on the wall as he did this." He also said he had beaten Darlene previously for drinking out of the toilet.

In the written statement which was entered into evidence at the trial, defendant claimed he returned home after having been drinking. Once home, he was told by his wife that their daughter, Darlene, had been drinking out of the toilet bowl once again. After confronting the child, defendant told her to bring him his belt. Defendant then began striking Darlene with the belt and, although she was crying initially, she stopped. Defendant then went to the closet and got an extension cord and started striking Darlene once again. After she again began crying, defendant put the extension cord down and started pushing her head against the wall. Defendant told her to be quiet, and when she was not, he went to the kitchen to get his belt.

While on his way to the kitchen, Darlene started running away towards the stairs, slipped in a large puddle of water in the living room and fell. She got back up and began running up the stairs and collapsed on about the fourth step. Defendant called her name two or three times, but there was no response. He sent his wife to summon an ambulance and began administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until the fire department arrived. Once the emergency equipment arrived, defendant left by the back door.

When he heard that his wife had been arrested, defendant called Officer Stinson and said he was ready to turn himself in.

At the trial, Dr. Patrick Elwood, neurological surgeon at St. Francis Hospital, testified he examined Darlene Douglas on February 21, 1977, and at that time the child was "deeply unconscious" and breathing with the assistance of a respirator. He operated to remove a blood clot near the brain. It was his opinion that whatever caused the blood clot would have been the cause of death. He could not say what caused the hematoma, located on the side of the head, and felt the clot itself was between a few hours and several days old. Darlene never regained consciousness and was maintained on a respirator until her death on February 28, 1977.

Dr. John McGowan, a pathologist, performed the autopsy on Darlene. The cause of death was brain swelling, secondary to trauma. No determination could be reached on when the trauma to the head would have occurred or from what direction.

In McGowan's opinion the child's injuries were caused by blunt trauma and were consistent with striking upon a wall, floor, edge of a step or side of a table.

After the State rested, defendant moved for a directed verdict, based in part on the State's failure to prove causation ...

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