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July 19, 1995



Rehearing Denied August 24, 1995. Petition for Leave to Appeal Denied December 6, 1995.

The Honorable Justice Rizzi delivered the opinion of the court: Tully and Cerda, J.j., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rizzi

JUSTICE RIZZI delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant Kirk Williams was convicted of murder and aggravated battery to a child, in a jury trial. After the jury found defendant eligible for the death penalty, it was unable to reach a unanimous verdict as to whether the death penalty should be imposed. Defendant was then sentenced to life imprisonment on the murder conviction and a concurrent term of 14 years imprisonment on the aggravated battery conviction. We affirm.

Tansie and Andrew Williams were married for about three years before they separated. Andrew Williams is not related to defendant Kirk Williams. Before they separated, Tansie and Andrew Williams had two children, Lynesshia and Gloria. After they separated, Tansie had another child, Jessica. Apparently, Andrew Williams believed that he was Jessica's father, and defendant believed that defendant was Jessica's father.

After Jessica was born, in June of 1986 Tansie and the three children moved into an apartment with defendant. While living in the apartment, defendant would beat Tansie "mostly every night," and he would beat Lynesshia and Gloria "twice out of a month."

On May 21, 1987, Lynesshia was 4 years old and Gloria was 3 years old. On that day, Tansie left the apartment with Jessica in the early morning. Lynesshia and Gloria were left alone in the apartment from early morning until about 6 p.m., when Tansie returned along with Jessica and defendant. There had been no food except a peanut butter sandwich in the apartment.

Defendant went to put a six-pack of beer that he had purchased into the refrigerator. In the refrigerator, defendant saw an apple core. Defendant asked Tansie whether she had given the kids anything to eat, and when she replied that she had not, defendant said that he was going to the bedroom to ask Lynesshia and Gloria if they went in the refrigerator.

Lynesshia and Gloria denied going into the refrigerator and "blamed" each other. Defendant then said that he was going to whip both of them. He got two belts and beat the two children with the belts and his fists. He also beat their heads against the floor.

When Tansie heard the children crying, she went to the bedroom and saw Gloria face down on the floor with defendant on top of her; his knee was in her back. Defendant then grabbed Tansie and took her into another bedroom and tied her up with an extension cord. Defendant returned to the other bedroom and beat the children again with the belts and his fists. After beating the children for about an hour, defendant went to the other bedroom and watched television.

Lynesshia cried for about 20 minutes. Defendant went back into the bedroom where she was crying and beat her again for about 20 minutes. After silencing her, defendant returned to his bedroom and went to sleep. The next morning, at about 4 a.m., defendant awoke and untied Tansie. She went to the other bedroom to see the children. In the bedroom, she saw Lynesshia lying behind the door in a pool of blood and vomit. Lynesshia was dead. Gloria was sleeping in the closet.

Although Lynesshia was dead, Tansie cleaned and dressed her and placed her on the couch. Tansie also washed and cleaned Gloria. In addition, Tansie washed and cleaned the blood and vomit in the bedroom. Tansie then went to a neighbor and telephoned the police, telling the operator that she thought her daughter was dead. Tansie then returned to her apartment and told defendant that she would have him arrested when the police arrived. Defendant urged her to tell the police that Lynesshia had fallen down the stairs, and Tansie agreed to do so.

The police arrived at the apartment at about 6 p.m. Tansie told the police that Lynesshia had fallen down the stairs. The next day, at about 7 a.m., defendant and Tansie were taken to the police station. Later, after she learned of the incident and saw that Gloria was bruised, beaten and feverish, Tansie's mother, Marjorie Williams, took Gloria to Bethany Hospital. They arrived at the hospital at about 8 a.m.

At about 8:30 a.m., Gloria was examined by a doctor in the emergency room. He observed multiple bruises to the body, and blood in her urine. Also, he noted that Gloria would cry from pain if any part of her body was touched.

About 12 hours after the beatings had taken place, Gloria awoke while she was lying on a gurney in the emergency room of the hospital. Her grandmother, Marjorie Williams, an aunt, a cousin, and David Volkman, an investigator with the Department of Children and Family Services were present. Upon awakening, Gloria looked at her grandmother and said: "Kirk is going to kill me, I want my daddy, Kirk is going to kill me, I want my daddy."

Detective John McKenna worked on the investigation of the case. After hearing that Tansie changed her story and accused defendant of beating the children, McKenna obtained a search warrant for defendant's apartment. McKenna then went to the police station where he met with defendant in an interview room at about 2 p.m. McKenna read defendant his Miranda rights and placed him under arrest. McKenna then conversed with defendant for about a half-hour. McKenna told defendant that Tansie said he had beaten the girls and that Gloria made a statement that he had beaten them.

McKenna then executed the search warrant by entering defendant's apartment with a key that had been given to him by defendant or Tansie. At the apartment, McKenna discovered and obtained two leather belts that appeared to have been used in the beatings. Afterward, McKenna returned to the police station, and at about 5 p.m., he called for an assistant State's Attorney. Shortly after 7 p.m., McKenna and the Assistant State's Attorney, Jack Bailey, went to speak to defendant, who was still at the police station. While they were there, McKenna and Bailey had a conversation with defendant.

McKenna told defendant that (1) Tansie said that defendant beat the girls, (2) Gloria made a statement that defendant beat her and Lynesshia, and (3) that the medical evidence showed that the injuries to Lynesshia were not consistent with falling down stairs. Immediately thereafter, defendant confessed and gave his statement as to what occurred. Defendant's statement was reduced to writing by Bailey and signed by defendant at 9:15 p.m., more than 12 hours after defendant had arrived at the police station.

Defendant's signed statement relates that he arrived at the apartment at 8 p.m. and noticed that Lynesshia and Gloria had messed up the refrigerator and partially turned on the stove. He took the two girls into their bedroom and told them they would get a whipping. Defendant then struck Gloria with a leather belt for three to four minutes. Then defendant struck Lynesshia three or four times on the chest with his open hand, and five or six times with a belt on the back and once on the face when she ducked. Defendant then went to bed and woke at 4:15 a.m., and noticed that Lynesshia was dead. Defendant woke Tansie, and together they made up a story that Lynesshia had fallen down the stairs. Defendant's statement finally provides that he and Tansie made up the story because they were nervous.

On appeal, defendant first contends that "the trial court erred in admitting hearsay evidence regarding Gloria Williams' statement to Mr. Volkman of DCFS where the requirements for a spontaneous declaration were not satisfied." Volkman testified to what Gloria said to her grandmother in the emergency room of the hospital. The gist of defendant's argument is that Gloria's statement in the emergency room was not admissible because it "was made nearly 12 hours after the beatings occurred and after she came into contact with numerous people, two of whom were witnesses testifying for the prosecution." Defendant's argument is untenable.

The requirements for admissibility of a statement as a spontaneous declaration are threefold. First, there must be an event sufficiently startling to produce a spontaneous and unreflecting statement. Second, there must be an absence of time to fabricate. Third, the statement must relate to the circumstances of the occurrence. People v. House (1990), 141 Ill. 2d 323, 381, 566 N.E.2d 259, 285, 152 Ill. Dec. 572. A consideration of these three factors must demonstrate that the statement is truthful rather than fabricated. The three factors, however, must not be considered in discrete vacuums. Rather, they must be considered together within the totality of the circumstances.

Here, the totality of the circumstances plainly demonstrates that the three factors for a spontaneous declaration were met and that Gloria's statement was truthful rather than fabricated. Gloria was 4 years old at the time, and her statement related to a senseless beating that she had suffered merely 12 hours earlier. Common sense and everyday life experience leave no room for doubt that the stress and fear of such emotional trauma to a child of Gloria's age will plainly endure for more than 12 hours. In addition, the fact that a child of her age may have had contact with numerous people during the 12-hour interval does not detract from the spontaneity of the outburst to her grandmother upon awakening while lying on a gurney in the emergency room of a hospital. Moreover, defendant does not even allege that any specific conversation that Gloria may have had with anyone influenced the spontaneity of her declaration when she saw her grandmother. Thus, there is no merit to defendant's contention that the statement was not admissible as a spontaneous declaration.

Next, defendant contends that "the trial court erred in permitting Detective McKenna to testify regarding the hearsay statement attributed to Gloria Williams implicating Kirk Williams in the beatings." Specifically, defendant refers to the following testimony by McKenna:

Q: Did you also learn whether or not Gloria Williams, the 3 year old girl who was taken to the hospital whether or not she had said anything with regard to the beating?

A: Yes, I did.

Q: What did you learn that she had said?

A: I had learned that she told me that she had ...

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