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05/27/87 the People of the State of v. Burdette Wehmeyer

May 27, 1987

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

BURDETTE WEHMEYER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, SECOND DISTRICT

509 N.E.2d 605, 155 Ill. App. 3d 931, 108 Ill. Dec. 909 1987.IL.680

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Stephenson County; the Hon. John E. Payne, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE DUNN delivered the opinion of the court. REINHARD and UNVERZAGT, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE DUNN

Defendant, Burdette Wehmeyer, and codefendant, Robert Gasoske, were jointly charged by information with battery and reckless conduct, stemming from corporal punishment inflicted by Gasoske, a teacher, on Scott Meyers, a sixth-grade student. Defendant was principal of the school and present when Gasoske physically disciplined Meyers. Defendant's bench trial and codefendant's jury trial were heard simultaneously. At the close of the State's case, the court entered a finding in favor of defendant on the reckless conduct charge. The jury found co-defendant not guilty of battery but guilty of reckless conduct. The court then found defendant guilty of battery based on accountability. On November 26, 1985, defendant was placed on court supervision for one year, with the conditions that he not violate any penal statute or ordinance, pay the costs of the proceedings, and perform 100 hours of public service work. This appeal followed.

On appeal, defendant raises three issues for review: (1) whether defendant was proved guilty of battery under a theory of accountability beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) whether the trial court applied the correct standard of law in determining that defendant was accountable; and (3) whether codefendant's acquittal of battery by the jury raises a reasonable doubt as to defendant's conviction of battery by the trial Judge.

At trial, Scott Meyers testified that on April 19, 1985, he was 12 years old and a sixth-grade student at the Pearl City Junior High School located in Stephenson County. During Scott's fifth-hour mathematics class, his teacher, co-defendant Robert Gasoske, discovered that Scott had cheated on a test by giving answers to a fellow student. As a consequence, Gasoske brought Scott and his companion to the principal's office and told the principal, defendant Burdette Wehmeyer, that the boys had cheated on a test. Gasoske determined that Scott would receive three detentions and be corporally punished, while the other student would receive three detentions. After the other student was sent back to class, Gasoske directed Scott to stand up next to the defendant's desk and bend over. Gasoske then struck Scott's buttocks 12 times with a paddle. Scott was advised that he would receive another 12 swats during the eighth school hour. Scott testified that he was crying while he was being paddled, and the paddling hurt. Scott added that he had never before felt such pain. After the paddling was administered, Gasoske accompanied Scott to his next class. Scott stated that during this class it hurt to sit down in a normal way. At his seventh-hour class Scott's buttocks still hurt, but not as much as before. At the beginning of the eighth hour, Gasoske brought Scott to the principal's office, where another 12 swats were administered in the same manner as before. Once again, Scott testified that he was crying and the paddling hurt. Gasoske also gave Scott detention papers, which were to be taken home and signed by his mother. Thereafter, Scott returned to his eighth-hour class. Scott admitted on cross-examination that he did not tell his sixth- or seventh-hour teachers that he had problems sitting at his desk, nor did he complain to his eighth-hour teacher that he was hurting because of the swats he received. He also testified that he was not crying when he returned to class after receiving the first 12 swats, although he did have tears in his eyes during the eighth hour.

After school, Scott went home to his mother's house. He did not give the detention papers to his mother because he believed that she would get angry at him if she learned he had received detention. Scott spent the weekend at his father's home, where he played baseball, went for walks, and engaged in other activities. Scott did not tell his father about the paddling incident.

On Monday morning before school, Scott gave the detention papers to his mother to sign; however, she refused to sign them. When Gasoske learned that the detention papers were not signed, he advised Scott that another detention would be added on and 48 swats would be administered after school. Scott did not stay after school as ordered by Gasoske because he did not want to be hit again. Instead, Scott went home and for the first time told his mother what had happened the previous Friday.

Shortly thereafter, Gasoske telephoned and spoke with Scott's mother. Scott then returned to school and wrote a three-page paper on cheating. Scott's mother then transported Scott to a doctor to be examined. Scott and his mother then went to the sheriff's office. The next day, a detective took photographs of the affected area of Scott's buttocks, which were later introduced into evidence.

Shirley Meyers, Scott's mother, stated that on Monday, April 22, 1985, Scott returned from school and was very upset. Scott related the incident of the previous Friday and showed his mother his buttocks, which were black and blue. Shortly afterwards, Mrs. Meyers received a telephone call from Gasoske, who inquired why Scott did not stay for his detention after school. Mrs. Meyers told Gasoske that Scott was afraid to go to his detention and related that she had observed Scott's buttocks. Mrs. Meyers notified Gasoske that she would bring Scott to the detention period, but that Gasoske was not to touch him. She testified that Gasoske admitted he had gotten carried away and assured her he would not touch Scott. After the detention, Mrs. Meyers brought Scott to the doctor's office for a checkup. Thereafter, she took Scott to the sheriff's department. The bruises that Mrs. Meyers observed on April 22 had disappeared by the following weekend, and Scott did not suffer any problems as a result of the incident.

Prior to the incident on April 19, Mrs. Meyers had received notices from the defendant indicating that corporal punishment had been administered to Scott. Mrs. Meyers talked to Scott about the circumstances surrounding the punishment; however, she did not attempt to contact the defendant or any other teacher to discuss the situation. Mrs. Meyers knew that Scott was having disciplinary and academic problems in school, and she expected the teachers to discipline him when necessary. Mrs. Meyers had not been informed that a wooden paddle was used to strike Scott. Instead, Mrs. Meyers believed that the swats she was advised of were actually spankings with an open hand on Scott's buttocks. Mrs. Meyers was aware that the Pearl City School District had in effect a policy allowing the use of corporal punishment. She also knew that if she did not want her child to be subject to corporal punishment, she merely had to sign a note indicating that its use was prohibited. Mrs. Meyers admitted she did not elect to prohibit the use of corporal punishment.

Dr. James Haigh, a pediatrician, testified that Scott Meyers was a patient of his and he examined Scott on April 22, 1985, at the Freeport clinic. Dr. Haigh observed two large, fairly fresh, purplish bruises on Scott's buttocks. In Dr. Haigh's opinion, the bruises were caused by a series of acts involving a great deal of force. At the time of the examination, Scott was 58 inches tall and weighed between 85 and 90 pounds. No X rays or other diagnostic tests were conducted as they were determined by Dr. Haigh to be ...


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