The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Kuehn
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County. No. 94-CF-156
Honorable David W. Watt, Jr., Judge, presiding.
Defendant took three wives. They wed into the Islamic faith. Defendant believed that the teachings of the Holy Koran empowered him to beat his wives. So he beat all three of them. Only two survived.
Defendant stands convicted by the circuit court of Jackson County sitting without a jury of first-degree murder, unlawful use of weapons by a felon, and two counts of aggravated battery. He was sentenced to natural-life imprisonment for the murder, 5 years' imprisonment each for the unlawful use of weapons and one count of aggravated battery, and 10 years' imprisonment for the other aggravated battery count. The 5- and 10-year prison sentences were ordered to be served concurrently with one another and to be served consecutively to the natural-life prison sentence. Defendant appeals his convictions and sentences.
Defendant challenges the evidence in support of his first-degree murder conviction. He claims that no rational trier of fact could have found more than involuntary manslaughter on the facts presented. He asks us to reduce the first-degree murder conviction to involuntary manslaughter.
We do not retry cases on review. We simply determine whether any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. People v. Collins, 106 Ill. 2d 237, 261, 478 N.E.2d 267, 277 (1985). We will not reverse a guilty verdict unless the evidence, viewed in a light most favorable to the State, is palpably contrary to the result reached. Collins, 106 Ill. 2d at 261, 478 N.E.2d at 277.
Jeannie Boyd-Jones succumbed to massive injuries sustained as a result of a prolonged beating administered by defendant. Portions of her deep body fat liquified, and the tissue died as a result of the force applied. Over one-third of her blood supply permeated the internal body cavity lost to circulation as a result of the force applied. Her lower torso and shanks were one massive contusion, with no portion of her frame free of visible welts and bruises. Jeannie Boyd-Jones was beaten to death. Of that there can be no dispute.
The question is whether the evidence establishes that defendant acted with knowledge that the beatings he inflicted created a strong probability of great bodily harm.
With this element of the State's case at issue, we look first to the instrument used to inflict the beatings. People's exhibit number three was identified by defendant. He admitted that the State's exhibit was the "stick" employed to "discipline" his three wives. There is no question about the weapon used to inflict the wounds that caused death.
The "stick" was 36 inches in length and 2½ inches in diameter. It was only slightly larger in length and slightly smaller in its barrel than the Louisville Slugger employed by Mark McGwire. The trial court characterized it as a cudgel. Over the course of 8½ hours it was applied with full force to various portions of Jeannie's body. At times, defendant would hold it with both hands like a baseball bat and swing for the fences with all the force he could muster. The defendant is six feet two inches in height and weighs 250 pounds.
Of course, defendant did not swing at Jeannie continuously during the 8½-hour "disciplinary period." Jeannie fell in and out of consciousness, a circumstance that on occasion brought a respite. Defendant had two other wives to address. There was also evidence of certain smoke breaks during the ordeal. On occasion, however, when defendant was not beating his other wives or smoking crack cocaine, he was reviving Jeannie in order to inflict further punishment. At one point, as Jeannie was about to collapse and pass out, defendant told her to "go ahead and die bitch."
Finally, Jeannie stopped breathing. Defendant rushed to her side and attempted CPR. He prayed for her to live. His prayers were to no avail.
The trial court noted, in observing the size of the defendant, the instrument he employed in the beatings, and the injuries this deadly combination produced, that "this was nothing less than torture." The trial court aptly found that the 8½-hour process literally reduced Jeannie's body tissue to a "bloody pulp."
Defendant insisted that Jeannie's clothing obscured her horrific bruising from his view. He disavowed knowledge of the harm he was producing. On appeal, defendant points to the efforts he made to save Jeannie and to the pleas for divine intervention and ...