APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY. HONORABLE EUGENE L. WACHOWSKI, PRESIDING.
Released for Publication September 27, 1994.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Johnson
JUSTICE JOHNSON delivered the opinion of the court:
After a bench trial in the circuit court of Cook County, the parental rights of respondent, Hyman Kurnick (hereinafter Hyman), were terminated regarding his biological daughter, baby girl Casale (hereinafter referred to by the fictional name "baby Caroline"). The trial court thereafter entered a judgment order of adoption for baby Caroline in favor of petitioners, John and Jane Doe (hereinafter the Does). *fn1
On appeal, Hyman contends (1) the trial court improperlydetermined that he was an unfit parent because he failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern, or responsibility with respect to baby Caroline's welfare; (2) the trial court improperly found him to be depraved; and (3) the cumulative effect of the arguments, actions, and conduct of the Does' counsel was so prejudicial as to deny him a fair trial.
The following facts are pertinent. In 1986, Christina Casale (hereinafter Chris), the biological mother of baby Caroline, commenced a relationship with Hyman which continued for several years. Throughout the majority of that period, Chris testified that Hyman drank or used drugs. When he drank, he would consume an entire fifth of rum, vodka or tequila during a 4-hour period of time. He also used marijuana, cocaine, valium and quaaludes. She stated that every time she saw him he would smoke about two "joints" and that he was "very messed up because of all the drinking."
In fact, his inebriation was often so extreme that he slurred his speech and vomited. Chris stated that Hyman would mix drugs and alcohol for the purpose of increasing his level of intoxication. According to Chris, Hyman not only used drugs but he also sold them. She testified that she observed him sell marijuana "at least 100 times" and cocaine "at least 50 times." After the first 2 or 2 1/2 years of their relationship, Hyman's drinking and drug habits remained unchanged. At this time, she saw him about five times a week and he consumed alcohol every day they were together.
In July 1989, Chris began living with Hyman and his habits remained the same. In October of that year, Chris discovered she was pregnant. She told Hyman about the pregnancy and he demanded that she have an abortion. Shortly thereafter, she experienced bleeding associated with the pregnancy and was examined by a doctor who assured her the baby was fine. Hyman expressed his disappointment that she did not miscarry and again told her to have an abortion.
At the end of November 1989, because of their constant fights about the pregnancy, Chris left Hyman and moved in with her mother and stepfather. Suddenly, Hyman Chris to marry him, offered her an engagement ring, and asked her to move into the home he recently purchased in Morton Grove, Illinois. She attemptedto discuss the baby with him, but he was only interested in renewing their relationship. In May 1990, Chris decided to give the baby up for adoption. She accordingly contacted the lawyer of a couple she knew wanted a baby and lied about the paternity of the child to protect her from Hyman.
Chris' friend, Laura Gaunt, testified that when Chris and Hyman first began dating she saw him drink at least "half of a fifth" bottle of rum or vodka about once a week. She indicated that he used drugs "from the time I met him until the last time I saw him." The drugs he used included marijuana, cocaine and various types of pills. She estimated that about one half of the times she saw him he snorted cocaine and almost every time she saw him he drank alcohol excessively.
Laura also observed Hyman sell marijuana at his apartment. She suspected that he sold cocaine from his apartment although she did not actually see any transactions take place. Each time she visited Hyman's apartment there was always marijuana present. On social occasions she estimated that he smoked three to four "joints." Laura was unable to note differences in Hyman's behavior when he was high as opposed to when he was sober because most of the time he was under the influence of "something."
Regarding Chris' pregnancy, Laura testified that Hyman wanted Chris to have an abortion. After Chris moved out of Hyman's apartment, Laura had several telephone conversations with Hyman who only expressed his interest in getting back ...