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January 22, 1998


Appeal from Circuit Court of McLean County. No. 95CF1046. Honorable Ronald C. Dozier, Judge Presiding.

Honorable Robert J. Steigmann, J., Honorable James A. Knecht, J. - Concur, Honorable Frederick S. Green, J. - Concur. Justice Steigmann delivered the opinion of the court.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Steigmann

The Honorable Justice STEIGMANN delivered the opinion of the court:

In November 1996, a jury convicted defendant, Jackie Lynn Corrie, of aggravated battery of a child, finding that she knowingly caused great bodily harm to her son, A.C. (born June 20, 1995), when he was under 13 years of age (720 ILCS 5/12-4.3(a) (West 1994)). The trial court later sentenced her to 30 months' probation, subject to various conditions. Defendant appeals, arguing that (1) the court erred in instructing the jury; (2) the State failed to prove her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; and (3) the court erred in sentencing her. We affirm.


At defendant's trial, the evidence showed the following. At approximately 7:15 a.m. on October 26, 1995, defendant's mother, Karen Skaggs, picked up A.C. (who was four months old at the time) and his four-year-old brother to take them to their baby-sitter's house. Skaggs testified that A.C. was sitting in his car seat when she arrived at defendant's house, and he appeared to be "fine." She stopped on the way to the baby-sitter's house to buy doughnuts and left the children in the car for a couple of minutes. When Skaggs dropped the children off at the baby-sitter's house, nothing seemed wrong with A.C. She left the baby-sitter's house shortly after 7:30 a.m.

Robin Champion, A.C.'s baby-sitter, testified that after Skaggs left, she put A.C. on the living room floor in his car seat. He was playing with some plastic toys and seemed fine. At some point, Champion began changing A.C.'s clothes and noticed "his whole body was limp," his head was tilted, and his eyes were partially closed. Champion then held A.C.'s hands and tried to get him to respond. After a few seconds to a minute, she called defendant, who stated "oh, my God, or oh, my gosh," but did not ask any questions about what was wrong with A.C. Champion denied shaking A.C. to get him to respond to her.

A.C. was transported from Champion's house to BroMenn Medical Center (BroMenn). At BroMenn, A.C. was initially diagnosed with "meningitis, encephalitis." Because his condition was worsening (he was experiencing seizures and a lessening level of alertness), he was transferred to St. Francis Medical Center (St. Francis) on the evening of October 26, 1995. Soon after his admission, A.C. underwent a computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A radiologist initially interpreted the CAT scan as normal and the MRI as showing some areas of irritation in the brain.

Dr. Robert Cruse is a child neurologist and professor at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. On October 30, 1995, Cruse took over A.C.'s care from Cruse's medical partner. On that date, Cruse examined A.C. and found him "sluggish, lethargic, *** [and without] purposeful movement." He also examined A.C.'s eyes and found hemorrhaging which had previously gone unnoticed. Cruse reviewed the previous CAT scan and found there was "blood on the original CAT scan that had not been appreciated." Cruse then reviewed the MRI and the CAT scan with a neuroradiologist (a radiologist specializing in brain hemorrhage), who agreed that the CAT scan revealed blood and the irritation shown on the MRI was "compatible with blood." Cruse stated that "at that point[,] it was clear there had been bleeding in the brain." Cruse also stated that most of the blood was on the surface of A.C.'s brain, a condition which is "quite abnormal."

Cruse then called in two ophthalmologists to more thoroughly examine A.C.'s eyes. Cruse stated that their examinations confirmed the hemorrhage and showed retinal tears and blood on different layers of A.C.'s eyes. Cruse also stated that after reviewing their examination findings, he changed A.C.'s diagnosis from encephalitis to "shaken baby syndrome."

Dr. Cruse testified that "shaken baby syndrome is a term used for children who experience a vigorous, violent force of movement of their head forward and backwards." When a child is shaken, his head is "going violently forward and backward with an acceleration/deceleration force," which results in bleeding on the brain's surface between the skull and brain. Cruse also stated that such surface bleeding is typically the only symptom of shaken baby syndrome, and that, although he cannot give the exact amount of force required to cause the injuries suffered by A.C., it does require "a very vigorous and violent force." Cruse opined that the onset of symptoms occurs within "a few hours" of a baby being shaken. He also opined that A.C.'s injuries were significant, stating that the life-threatening injuries "put him in [the] Intensive Care Unit, [and] caused coma and seizures and hemorrhage to his brain."

Dr. Peter Lagouros was one of the ophthalmologists who conducted an eye examination on A.C. He observed hemorrhage with schisis (a splitting of the retinal layers) within both retinas and blood in the front of the retinas. Lagouros opined that the combination of schisis and hemorrhage "is tantamount of Shaken Baby Syndrome, meaning there cannot be other causes." On cross-examination, Lagouros stated that it is possible for shaken baby syndrome to occur during vigorous resuscitation efforts on a baby. Lagouros also stated that the damage to the eyes of a baby suffering from shaken baby syndrome would "develop very quickly."

Jay Brenneman, an investigator for the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), testified that he first spoke with defendant on November 1, 1995, after Kathy McVey, a social worker at St. Francis, contacted DCFS. During the first interview, defendant gave the following story: (1) on October 25, 1995, she and her husband, John, went to bed around 10 p.m., at which time A.C. was fine; (2) defendant starting feeling ill during the night; (3) A.C. awakened around 3:30 a.m. and John fed him; (4) the next morning, John left for work without taking the children to the baby-sitter, so defendant called Skaggs and asked her to do so; and (5) defendant put A.C. in his car seat before Skaggs arrived.

At some point during the interview, Brenneman told defendant that he thought she knew what happened, and she replied, "Is it possible that I could have done this and not known it?" Brenneman said he did not believe so and that he wanted to know how many times she shook A.C. Defendant said, "You're right, but I only did it twice." Defendant stated that as she was preparing to feed A.C. at around 6:45 a.m. on October 26, 1995, he was "fussy." She shook him twice and told him to "wait a minute" for his bottle.

At this point in the interview, defendant began sobbing and said, "No, wait, I couldn't have done this. I am just telling you this so[] you won't take my children from me." John then came into the room, and Brenneman told John what had taken place in the interview. Brenneman told John he thought defendant knew in her heart what happened. He then left defendant and John alone, and when he returned, defendant again admitted shaking A.C. Defendant signed a written statement indicating that she had shaken A.C. twice and that she was sorry for what happened.

The State also presented other evidence of defendant's conflicting statements, in which she sometimes acknowledged that she had shaken A.C. and then later recanted, claiming that she had been coerced into making those admissions.

Defendant testified and denied ever shaking A.C. She stated that she was not feeling well on October 26, 1995, so she decided not to go to work. She called her mother around 7 a.m. and asked her to pick up the children and take them to the baby-sitter's house. Defendant put A.C. in his car seat around 7:05 or 7:10 a.m., and Skaggs arrived around 7:15 or 7:20 a.m. A.C. was smiling and "normal."

Defendant stated that during her initial interview with Brenneman, she denied any wrongdoing, and Brenneman began accusing her of shaking A.C. Defendant acknowledged that at some point during the interview, she asked Brenneman if it was possible that she had injured A.C. and not realized it. He said, "no," and defendant asked what was going to happen. When he discussed the placement options for the children, she decided to lie so that the children would be placed with family members. Defendant also claimed that she was pressured into admitting that she had shaken A.C., which she denied ever doing.

On cross-examination, defendant acknowledged that she knew that infants' heads are "particularly delicate" and should not be allowed to "flop" around. Defendant also stated that she had seen a flyer at work entitled, "Never Shake Your Baby." She denied that she had admitted shaking A.C. before John came into the room during the first interview. John testified and essentially corroborated defendant's version of events.

Dr. Mark Greenwald, an associate professor of ophthalmology at Northwestern University and an expert on shaken baby syndrome, testified on defendant's behalf. He stated that he does not know exactly how hard a person must shake a baby to cause shaken baby syndrome. He also stated that it is possible for a person to cause shaken baby syndrome in an accidental manner, "particularly by someone maybe relatively inexperienced *** with infants."

Greenwald first examined A.C. in December 1995, and he has treated him three or four times since. Greenwald diagnosed A.C. as having sustained a shaking injury and opined that A.C.'s vision in his left eye will be normal or close to normal, but his vision in his right eye might "suffer permanent visual loss."

On cross-examination, Greenwald testified that A.C.'s injuries could have been inflicted on October 26, 1995. He also stated that shaken baby syndrome does not occur "without repetitive deceleration." Greenwald further stated that he had never heard of a case in which a baby suffered shaken baby syndrome while strapped in a car seat.

On this evidence, the jury convicted defendant of aggravated ...

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