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March 23, 1995


The Honorable Justice Harrison delivered the opinion of the court:

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harrison

JUSTICE HARRISON delivered the opinion of the court:

Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County, Carl Williams was convicted of attempt to commit murder under sections 8-4 and 9-1 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, pars. 8-4, 9-1) and sentenced to an extended term of 60 years' imprisonment. The appellate court subsequently reversed and remanded for a new trial. (252 Ill. App. 3d 704.) For the reasons that follow, we reverse the appellate court's judgment and affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

We begin our review with the familiar proposition that once a defendant has been found guilty of the crime charged, as Williams was here, the evidence cannot be reweighed. Resolution of conflicts in the evidence is a matter within the exclusive province of the finder of fact. It is not the function of this court to retry the defendant. Accordingly, upon judicial review, all of the evidence is to be considered in the light most favorable to the prosecution. People v. Collins (1985), 106 Ill. 2d 237, 261-62, 87 Ill. Dec. 910, 478 N.E.2d 267.

The evidence in this case showed that Williams lived with his girlfriend, Marie Henry, and her two children, Denise and Ernie. Ernie, who was two, was the son of Erskine Wilson, a man whom Williams hated. Shortly after moving in with the Henrys, Williams began abusing Ernie. He would beat the toddler's seminude body with a leather belt, punch him in the chest so hard that he could not breathe, force him to stand in a corner for five hours or so at a time, deprive him of food, and humiliate him verbally.

On the evening of July 23, 1987, Williams' abuse took an especially heinous turn. During dinner, Williams struck Ernie in the face with a television remote control device, grabbed the toddler's face so hard that it left marks, then slammed the back of his head on the uncarpeted hardwood floor four times. The force of the blows was substantial, for although Williams was not a large man, the evidence showed that he possessed strength enough to lift a grown man completely off the ground and set him down in a chair. Ernie, by contrast, was only about three feet tall and weighed under 30 pounds.

As Ernie cried out, Williams called him names and repeatedly slapped his face back and forth. The situation then quieted temporarily when Ernie and his sister were sent to bed and Williams set about drinking a pint of gin. This was in addition to 40 ounces of beer he had consumed earlier. At about 11:30 p.m., Williams roused Ernie on the pretext of chastising him for the way he was lying in bed. For some bizarre reason, Williams insisted that the toddler sleep with his arms to his side, and apparently Ernie had deviated from the required position.

Williams left the room, then returned around midnight and began punching Ernie in the chest. He struck the child four or five times with such force that his mother, Marie, could hear the blows from the next room. As usual, Marie stood by and made no attempt to intercede. When Ernie subsequently attempted to use the bathroom, Williams went in after him, picked him up by the shirt collar, threw him to the ground, and again pounded his head against the floor. Marie counted four blows, the last of which struck Ernie on the side of the face.

Ernie could do nothing but cry. Williams responded by telling the two-year-old that he was a "pussy" and a "punk" just like his father. The boy was then sent to bed, but Williams followed him and administered more abuse. From another room, Marie just listened as her battered child pleaded with Williams to leave him alone. "Stop it" was the last thing she heard Ernie say. It was the last coherent thing he was able to say.

When Marie awoke the following morning, she found her child in a daze. He was conscious, but could not comprehend what she said to him. Rather than seeking medical care, as one would expect, Marie responded by taking a shower, again leaving the boy alone with Williams.

The inevitable happened. During the shower, Marie heard the now familiar sound of Williams' pounding her son's head against the hardwood floor. So loud was the thumping that a neighbor in the apartment below heard it as well. When Marie finally emerged from the bathroom, she found Williams carrying the child. The boy's body was shaking, and his eyes had rolled up into his head.

An ambulance was eventually summoned, and Ernie was taken to the emergency room of St. Francis Hospital in Evanston. The boy was comatose on arrival. He exhibited fresh bruises on his body and face. A CAT scan revealed the presence of a large, right subdural hematoma. The emergency room doctor determined that immediate neurosurgical intervention was necessary. Because the neurosurgeons from St. Francis were not available at the time, the medical staff stabilized the child and made arrangements to have him transferred to Children's Memorial Hospital for further care.

Dr. David McLone, the head of pediatric neurosurgery at Children's Memorial, examined Ernie upon his arrival. He found the boy's pupils fixed and dilated, indicating that his brain was herniating. That means that pressure was forcing Ernie's brain through the opening in the base of the skull and down into his spinal column. There was active bleeding within the skull, and clots had formed. The older clots were estimated to have formed 24 hours or more prior to the examination, while the new bleeding had started within the previous eight hours.

Dr. McLone performed surgery on Ernie almost immediately. He removed the child's skull plate and opened the coverings of the brain to gain access to the intercranial area. When he did so, he was "confronted with blood clots and active bleeding squirting out through the opening in the coverings of the brain." McLone testified that ...

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