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August 21, 1997


Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit, Rock Island County, Illinois. No. 95--CF--517. Honorable James T. Teros, Judge Presiding.

Rehearing Denied September 29, 1997. Released for Publication September 29, 1997.

Present - Honorable Michael P. Mccuskey, Justice, Honorable Kent Slater, Justice, Honorable John F. Michela, Justice. Justice McCUSKEY delivered the opinion of the court. Slater and Michela, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mccuskey

The Honorable Justice McCUSKEY delivered the opinion of the court:

Following a jury trial, the defendant, William P. Ripley, was convicted of aggravated battery of a child (720 ILCS 5/12--4.3(a) (West 1994)). The defendant was sentenced to a term of 10 years' imprisonment.

On appeal, the defendant argues: (1) he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; and (2) the sentence imposed was excessive. Following our careful review of the record, we affirm.


On May 30, 1995, paramedics received a call that a child was not breathing. They went to the defendant's home and found the victim, the defendant's 15-month-old foster son, in a nonresponsive state. The victim was transported to Trinity East Medical Center. He was found to be unresponsive, very pale, flaccid and had difficulty breathing on his own. He was transferred to St. Francis Hospital in Peoria by helicopter and was treated by Dr. Robert Paul Cruse, a pediatric neurologist.

Dr. Cruse testified that he examined the victim's eyes and saw hemorrhages of fresh blood in the back of both eyes. The victim underwent a computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Both tests revealed bleeding and areas of hemorrhage in the brain. They also showed some swelling of the brain. Dr. Cruse concluded that the bleeding occurred within three to four days of the tests and that the injuries were caused by an acceleration deceleration trauma, or shaken baby syndrome. Dr. Cruse testified that a violent force is necessary to cause the type of injuries found in the victim. He said that this type of injury requires much more violent force than the force which would cause a typical whiplash injury in a car accident. As a result of the violent force, the veins in the victim's brain tore. The doctor said that this is called a shear injury. Dr. Cruse specifically stated that bouncing or jarring a child does not cause this type of injury. Violent and rapid force of acceleration deceleration, or shaking, is required to cause a shear injury.

Dr. Cruse testified that brain swelling caused by violent shaking usually peaks in the third or fourth day following the injury. Because this type of injury is like a "mega concussion," vomiting results and is a common symptom. Seizures are also common from this type of trauma. Dr. Cruse said that the victim had suffered damage to themotor area of the brain which controlled the right side of his body. Because of this damage, the victim has persistent paralysis to his right side and delayed language development.

The defendant initially told the police that the victim had fallen on May 27, 1995. When told by the police that the victim's injuries had been caused by a violent shaking, the defendant admitted shaking the victim in the shower on May 27. The defendant said that he shook the victim a little bit to get him to settle down.

At trial, the defendant's wife, Mary Ripley, testified that she and the defendant obtained custody of the victim in November 1994. They were in the process of adopting the victim before he was injured. She testified that neither she nor the defendant had any experience in taking care of young children. She stated that the defendant gave the victim a shower on the evening of May 27, 1995. She said she heard the defendant tell the victim to settle down. After the shower, the victim acted like he was tired and would not stand up. His eyes looked bugged out and bloodshot. Shortly after the shower, the victim threw up. The next morning, the victim went with them to church and acted normally. However, during the next few days the victim had frequent episodes of vomiting. He also had a fever the afternoon of May 29, 1995. On the morning of May 30, 1995, the victim had a seizure and appeared to stop breathing. The defendant called 911, and Mary started cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

The defendant, who was 39 years old and weighed 337 pounds, testified that the victim started to fall in the shower the evening of May 27, 1995. He grabbed the victim and yanked him back. The victim's head snapped back, and the defendant told him to settle down or he was going to get hurt. During cross-examination, the defendant admitted that he shook the victim in the shower. The defendant said he was not angry but was trying to settle the victim down. He demonstrated for the jury that he did not shake the victim very hard. The defendant testified he did not intend to hurt the victim and was not aware that shaking could cause an injury to a child.

The State presented a rebuttal witness who testified she talked to Mary on the telephone the morning of May 27, 1995. Mary stated that she and the defendant put the victim in the shower ...

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