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People v. Gray

OPINION FILED FEBRUARY 6, 1984.

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

v.

LAWRENCE GRAY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. James M. Schreier, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE GOLDBERG DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Lawrence Gray (defendant) was indicted for murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 9-1), concealment of homicidal death (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 9-3.1) and obstructing justice (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 31-4). The victim was the 2 1/2-year-old daughter of defendant's wife. After a bench trial, defendant was convicted of the lesser included offense of involuntary manslaughter (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 9-3), concealment of homicidal death, and obstructing justice.

Defendant was sentenced to concurrent sentences of five years in prison for involuntary manslaughter and three years for obstructing justice. Defendant also received a nine-year extended-term sentence for concealment of homicidal death to run consecutively to the other sentences. Defendant appeals.

The evidence establishes that after defendant's wife and her child came to live with defendant in September of 1980, the child sustained injuries such as laceration of her right forehead, a large burn on her right forehead, swollen jaws, contusions on her back and bruises on her legs and back.

On February 15, 1981, defendant told police he and his wife had been robbed by two men who had taken the child and fled. Approximately 48 hours later, defendant's wife told police the robbery and kidnap story was a hoax and that she and defendant had actually placed the child's body in a garbage bag and discarded it in an abandoned building.

Defendant admitted to police he had struck the child twice, once causing the victim to fall and strike her head against a door so as to cause bleeding.

At trial, defendant denied these admissions. He testified his wife had taken the child into the bathroom of their home, and then told defendant something was wrong with the child. Defendant stated he found the child lying on the floor, unconscious and bleeding from a wound in her head. Defendant also testified he saw his wife twice pick the child up and drop it from shoulder height into the bathtub, causing the child's head to strike the edge of the bathtub.

Defendant testified he attempted artificial resuscitation without result. Defendant placed, or allowed the child to be placed, on a radiator, and he and his wife went to visit his mother. When they returned, they found the child's ear and the right side of her face had been burned by the radiator. Defendant and his wife placed the child and her bloody clothes in plastic garbage bags and discarded the bags in abandoned buildings nearby.

The State's chief medical expert, Dr. Robert Stein, performed the autopsy on the child. He identified the cause of death as severe blunt trauma to the head and face coupled with third degree burns to the side of the face. Dr. Stein testified there was a tremendous, markedly diffused hemorrhage under the scalp. He stated such a subgaleal hemorrhage was consistent with severe blunt trauma to the head and face occurring before death. There was no skull fracture. This would have been expected if the child had been dropped from shoulder height into a bathtub.

Dr. Stein testified the injuries to the face resulted from direct blunt trauma. They were not consistent with a single blow or with being dropped on her head in a bathtub. The child's lips were bruised and swollen, and there was an incised wound, caused by a sharp object, above the left eye. Both eyes had subconjunctival hemorrhages and were black and blue.

Two of defendant's expert witnesses testified that, in their opinion, the hemorrhage under the scalp was caused by incisions made during the autopsy and not by blunt trauma. Each expert admitted on cross-examination that such a hemorrhage is consistent with blunt trauma to the head. None of defendant's experts was present during the autopsy.

Another of defendant's experts testified the facial swelling and discoloration occurred after death and, in his opinion, resulted from the seepage of blood from the hemorrhage under the scalp. However, another of defendant's experts conceded that the facial injuries were consistent with direct blunt trauma to the head and face. Another expert, testifying for the State in rebuttal, stated that the facial injuries were inconsistent with seepage from a hemorrhage under the scalp. She concluded the injuries were inflicted while the child was alive and were the result of child abuse.

I

Defendant urges the evidence was insufficient to prove him guilty of involuntary manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt. In the instant case, there are conflicts in the evidence. Defendant admitted to the police that he struck the child twice so that she fell and struck her head upon a door. At trial defendant denied he struck the child but he testified his wife bathed the child to wash off blood. Defendant testified his wife dropped the child from shoulder height into the bathtub two times. However, the State's expert testified the injuries ...


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