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January 23, 1998



Presiding Justice Campbell delivered the opinion of the court. O'brien, J., concurs. Presiding Justice Buckley dissents.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Campbell

PRESIDING JUSTICE CAMPBELL delivered the opinion of the court:

Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant Patrick Tainter was found guilty of the murder of Yvonne Johnson. The trial court found defendant eligible for an extended term sentence and sentenced him to 75 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Defendant now appeals.

The record on appeal indicates the following facts. Before trial, defendant filed motions in limine to bar certain evidence. One motion sought to bar testimony regarding acts of violence toward Johnson committed by defendant within the six years prior to the murder. Another motion sought to bar reference to a possible weapon mentioned in hospital records. The trial court denied both motions.

At trial, William Ramirez testified that on April 14, 1994, Johnson, who was the aunt of Ramirez's "common law" wife, was staying at Ramirez's apartment. At approximately 9 p.m., Ramirez saw Johnson and defendant laying on the living room couch; defendant and Johnson had been dating for 13 years. Ramirez asked defendant or the couple to leave. Defendant and Johnson left at 1:30 a.m. Ramirez testified that Johnson returned at 1:45 a.m., bleeding from the mouth and nose. Johnson went to the bathroom, washed up, and slept on the couch.

On the morning of April 15, 1994, Ramirez saw that Johnson's face and lips were swollen. When Johnson spoke, the words did not sound "right," as though her tongue was swollen. Ramirez asked Johnson what happened. After speaking to Johnson, Ramirez suggested that she go to the hospital, but she declined. Ramirez did not see Johnson eat or drink that day; he tried to feed her, but she could not chew. Johnson stayed in bed the entire day, which Ramirez testified was unusual for her.

On April 16, 1994, Johnson remained in bed. Ramirez again tried to feed Johnson, but was unsuccessful. Johnson's right cheek was getting darker; her lips continued to swell. Ramirez had a neighbor, Georgianna Starr, watch Johnson while he went to the grocery store. Starr testified that Johnson's face and jaw were swollen, with a dark bruise on the right side. Although her speech was slurred, Johnson told Starr how she was injured. Both Ramirez and Starr suggested that Johnson go to the hospital, but Johnson declined.

On April 17, 1994, Ramirez saw that Johnson's face was still black and swollen. Johnson could barely walk. The first time that Johnson went to the bathroom that day, she limped and appeared weak. The second time that Johnson went to the bathroom, Ramirez helped her due to her weakness. While she sat on the toilet, Johnson slumped forward and had passed blood. Johnson asked Ramirez to telephone for an ambulance. The paramedics arrived approximately 15 minutes later. Johnson was carried out of the bathroom by paramedics and Georgianna Starr. Johnson's eyes were rolling; she was unable to speak to anyone. Johnson was ultimately taken to Illinois Masonic Hospital.

Dr. Abraham Jacob testified that he treated Johnson when she was brought into the emergency room at approximately 11 a.m. on April 17, 1994. Dr. Jacob testified that Johnson was in a "shockey state," with multiple contusions to her right shoulder, left breast, right knee and the right side of her face. Johnson's face was swollen. Dr. Jacob noticed that Johnson was mottled "all over, blotchy, reddish, like bluish." According to Dr. Jacob, x-rays revealed that Johnson had a fractured mandible and older fractures of the ribs. Johnson had a cut and scrape of the knee. Rectal bleeding was also noted.

In addition, Johnson was "markedly jaundiced," which Dr. Jacob stated was caused by liver failure. Based on information from Johnson's family, Dr. Jacob was aware that Johnson was being treated for cirrhosis of the liver. Dr. Jacob was also aware that Johnson was being treated for a possible stomach ulcer, high blood pressure and a prior infection. Dr. Jacob testified that he had received information from Johnson's family "or whomever was with her" and the paramedics that Johnson had been assaulted with a blunt object three days earlier. Dr. Jacob testified that there were "two different versions;" one involved a crow bar, one involved a two by four. Johnson was admitted to the intensive care unit, with complete respiratory support.

In the early morning hours of April 18, 1994, Johnson was in a coma. Johnson was unable to produce urine, despite being given diuretics and intravenous fluids. Dr. Jacob testified that Johnson died between 5:30 and 6 that morning.

Dr. Joseph Cogan, an Assistant Forensic Medical Examiner with the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office, testified that on April 19, 1994, he performed an autopsy on Johnson. Dr. Cogan testified that Johnson was approximately 5' 2" tall, weighing 191 pounds. Dr. Cogan catalogued Johnson's injuries, including swelling and hemorrhaging of the scalp and shoulders, injuries to the back of the head, hemorrhaging on both sides of the head, discoloration of the right side of her face and her right ear, and contusions of the left breast area. There was also bruising of the chest, right breast and upper abdomen. Dr. Cogan stated that trauma to the body -- various blows to the body -- causes hemorrhage underneath the skin.

Dr. Cogan also testified regarding the fractured mandible. Dr. Cogan stated that it was very hard to break an adult jaw in the manner Johnson's jaw was broken. Dr. Cogan testified that it would take "a considerable amount of force."

Dr. Cogan opined that Johnson died as a consequence of multiple injuries from a beating. The fracture of Johnson's jaw produced a disruption in the barrier between the mouth and the inside of her body, allowing bacteria to spread through her head, neck and shoulders. Ultimately, Johnson's organs shut down due to the bacteria spreading through her body.

Dr. Cogan testified that the hemorrhaging in this case was consistent with "a punch, a kick, a blow with some object, a lot of different things *** ." Dr. Cogan testified that defendant may have used a two by four to inflict some of the blows against Johnson. Dr. Cogan testified that the hospital records mentioned the possibility that a crow bar or a two by four was used in the beating, and that he later learned of the possibility of a fist or foot. Dr. Cogan also testified that a two by four could cause a fracture of the kind involved in this case, but that he would not list a crow bar as a likely weapon.

The parties stipulated that Chicago Police Detective T. O'Connor would testify that he was assigned to investigate the homicide of Johnson on April 18, 1994. During the course of investigation, he left a business card with defendant's sister. On the evening of April 18, 1994, defendant telephoned Detective O'Connor and agreed to speak with Detective O'Connor regarding the homicide. Defendant met Detective O'Connor and then agreed to accompany him to the police station. Defendant was interviewed by Detective O'Connor and Assistant State's Attorney (ASA) Bigane. Defendant was arrested at 2 p.m. on April 19.

ASA Virginia Bigane testified that she interviewed defendant at 3 p.m. on April 19, 1994. Following Miranda warnings, defendant stated that he had been Johnson's boyfriend for 12 years. On April 14, 1994, defendant and Johnson had been drinking alcohol in Chase Park, then went to Ramirez's apartment. Ramirez ordered defendant out of his apartment. Defendant asked Johnson to leave with him. Ramirez continued to order defendant to leave; defendant kept asking Johnson to go with him until she agreed.

After leaving the apartment, defendant and Johnson went to an outside alley area. Johnson suggested to the defendant that they go to Rudy's house because she had a key to the house. Defendant told ASA Bigane that the fact that Johnson had another man's house key made him mad and jealous. Defendant told ASA Bigane that he punched Johnson in the face, which caused Johnson to spin around. Johnson attempted to grab onto a dumpster to regain her balance. Defendant told ASA ...

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