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05/12/88 the People of the State of v. Ronald Jerry Land

May 12, 1988





523 N.E.2d 711, 169 Ill. App. 3d 342, 119 Ill. Dec. 955 1988.IL.736

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Vermilion County; the Hon. James K. Robinson, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE McCULLOUGH delivered the opinion of the court. GREEN, P.J., and KNECHT, J., concur.


On April 28, 1986, a delinquency petition was filed against Ronald Land alleging attempt (murder). Simultaneously, the State filed a motion seeking prosecution under the criminal laws. Following hearing, the court granted the motion to transfer and on May 5, 1986, the defendant was charged by information with seven counts of murder and two counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault. The cause proceeded to trial and the jury returned guilty verdicts on charges of felony murder and involuntary manslaughter. The defendant was subsequently sentenced to the Department of Corrections, Juvenile Division, for a term of 30 years. From this conviction and sentence, the defendant appeals.

The defendant raises numerous issues for our consideration on appeal, including: (1) whether the juvenile court had proper jurisdiction to enter the transfer order; (2) whether the determination to transfer constituted an abuse of discretion; (3) whether the defendant's statements to Officer Woodard were properly admitted into evidence at trial; (4) whether the convictions for felony murder and involuntary manslaughter are legally inconsistent; (5) whether the State properly proved the elements of cruelty to children which presumably served as the predicate offense for felony murder; (6) whether the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing; and (7) whether the court erred in entering a judgment on both convictions.

The delinquency petition filed on April 28, 1986, alleged that the defendant, on April 26, 1986, committed the offense of attempt (murder) by submerging the 16-month-old victim underwater with knowledge that such conduct would cause death or great bodily harm. On April 28, 1986, the defendant appeared in juvenile court with his mother and was ordered detained.

On May 1, 1986, the petition was amended alleging four counts of murder and one count of aggravated criminal sexual assault. On May 5, 1986, hearing was held on the State's motion to transfer. The motion was granted. There were no objections to the jurisdiction of the court.

On May 5, 1986, the defendant was charged by information with seven counts of murder and two counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault. On July 25, 1986, summons was issued by the clerk, directed to the natural parent and the minor in detention. Service was obtained on July 28, 1986. It is undisputed that no service of summons was had upon the minor or his mother prior to this point in time.

On July 28, 1986, the State filed an amended information charging the defendant with seven counts of murder and one count of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

On July 28, 1986, a motion to dismiss the criminal information was filed. On the same date, a motion was filed in the juvenile case seeking to vacate the transfer order due to a lack of personal jurisdiction. The matter proceeded to hearing in the juvenile division and on August 8, 1986, the motion to vacate the transfer order was denied.

On September 15, 1986, arguments were heard on the motion to dismiss the criminal information. The court denied the motion, specifically finding that the minor voluntarily submitted to the jurisdiction of the courts under the Juvenile Court Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 37, par. 701-1 et seq.) as well as the adult courts, thereby waiving service of process. The court noted the minor appeared on numerous occasions and at all times was represented by counsel and was accompanied by his mother.

A jury trial commenced on October 22, 1986. The State presented Dawn Walls, mother of the 16-month-old victim. She testified that on the weekend of April 25, 1986, she went to stay with Patti Foote at her apartment in Danville. Patti lived with her two children, Brent Michael, age 11 months, and Loyal Wayne, who was four years old. Patti Foote's mother, Janet Land, and Patti's brother, the defendant Ronald Land, lived in the apartment upstairs.

On the evening of April 26, at approximately 9 p.m., Dawn Walls and Patti Foote left the victim, Brent, and Loyal in the care of Janet Land. It was understood that when the defendant returned, he would baby-sit for the three children as he often did. Between 10 and 10:30 p.m. the defendant returned and Janet Land went to the upstairs apartment, leaving the defendant to care for the three children. Janet Land testified that when she left Loyal was awake and the victim and Brent were sleeping. At approximately 11 p.m., the defendant called his mother at the upstairs apartment informing her that the victim was having trouble breathing. Janet Land ran to the downstairs apartment, called 911 for help, and instructed the defendant to find Dawn Walls and Patti Foote.

At 11:04 p.m., police officer Richard Anderson arrived at the scene. According to Anderson, the victim was cool to the touch and was not breathing. A few seconds later, police officer Robert Huff and fire fighters David Hilliger and Glen Laird arrived. Hilliger observed that the child had no pulse, was not breathing, and was covered with bruises. Hilliger and Laird both observed that the child was cold to the touch and blue in color. They stated that the child's hair and diaper were dry. Hilliger immediately administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation to the child. Shortly thereafter, an emergency team of three paramedics arrived in an ambulance. The victim was immediately transported to Lakeview Hospital.

The State presented a great deal of evidence regarding the victim's medical condition and treatment, the details of which are not pertinent to our Disposition here. Briefly, however, the victim was admitted to the emergency room at Lakeview Hospital at approximately 11 p.m. She was not breathing and had no heartbeat. Within a few minutes of admission, a heartbeat and breathing were established. The victim was then attached to a life support system and was later transferred to the intensive care unit of the hospital. All of the medical staff that worked with the victim in the emergency room testified that her body was covered with bruises.

After two days of extensive monitoring and testing, it was determined that the victim was brain dead. Brain death is defined as the irreversible cessation of all brain functions. A decision was then made to remove the victim from the life support equipment.

Dr. William Steinmetz, the pathologist who performed the autopsy on the victim, testified to extensive bruising all over the child's body. His internal examination revealed two fractured ribs, hemorrhages in the soft tissues of the neck, congestion of the spleen, pneumonia in both lungs, and other abnormalities in the stomach and urinary tract. Although there was no evidence of external traumatic injury to the head, Dr. Steinmetz found large areas of hemorrhage underneath the dura, the membrane surrounding the brain. There was also an accumulation of fluid in the tissue of the brain. It was Dr. Steinmetz' professional opinion that death resulted from anoxic encephalopathy or death of the brain due to lack of oxygen. Steinmetz further opined that the condition was the result of traumatic injuries to the head.

The defendant was brought into custody on the evening of the incident, April 27, 1986. At approximately 3 a.m., Romadelle Austin, an investigator with the juvenile division of the Danville police department, took a taped statement from the defendant. The tape was played for the jury at trial.

After being informed of his rights, the defendant told Austin he was baby-sitting for the victim and his two nephews, Loyal Wayne and Brent Michael, on the evening of April 26, 1986. The victim, who was 16 months old, and Brent Michael were sleeping while Loyal Wayne was watching television. The victim then woke up and started to cry. The defendant tried to quiet the victim with toys and then decided to give her a bath. The defendant left the victim alone in the bathtub while he went to check on the other children and find the victim a fresh diaper. Upon returning to the bathroom, the defendant found the victim lying face first in the water. He took the victim out of the tub, placed her on the floor, and attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Approximately 15 minutes later, the defendant called his mother for help. The ...

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