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People v. Reed

July 27, 1998

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
KEITH REED, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'brien delivered the opinion of the court:

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County

Honorable Bertina Lampkin, Judge Presiding

Following a bench trial, defendant, Keith Reed, was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 1996)) and sentenced to 60-years' imprisonment. On appeal, he contends: (1) he was denied his sixth amendment right to counsel when the trial court ordered his attorney to withdraw from the case; (2) his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance; (3) the trial court evidenced personal bias against him; (4) the State failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; (5) the trial court abused its discretion when sentencing him; (6) the cumulative effect of the errors denied him a fair trial; and (7) one of his two murder convictions should be vacated. We affirm defendant's conviction under section 9-1(a)(1), and vacate his conviction under section 9-1(a)(2).

At trial, Crystal Thomas testified she met defendant on May 23, 1992, and they became boyfriend and girlfriend. Crystal had a 21-month- old son, Kevin, by a previous relationship, and she and Kevin sometimes spent the night with defendant at his house on 5927 South Carpenter.

Crystal testified that in June 1992, her sister gave defendant's phone number to Kevin's father, who proceeded to call defendant's house on numerous occasions in order to speak with Crystal. Defendant apparently did not like Kevin's father calling Crystal, and after one such phone conversation between Kevin's father and Crystal, defendant threw some furniture and slammed a door.

On July 20, 1992, Kevin was playing in the bedroom of Crystal's mother's house. As he jumped up and down on the bed, Kevin tumbled over and hit his head on a window pane. Crystal applied some ice to Kevin's head, after which he resumed his play. Later that afternoon, Kevin hit his head on a glass table in Crystal's mother's living room. Crystal applied some cold water to stop the bleeding, and Kevin again resumed his play.

Later that evening, Crystal and Kevin went to defendant's house, where they spent the next five days. On July 21 and July 22, 1992, Crystal noticed some new injures to Kevin, specifically, a discoloration of his eye and a little cut on the side of his lip. She asked defendant about the cause of Kevin's injuries, and defendant responded that the cut lip was from a "rug burn" and the discolored eye resulted from some bacteria or dust.

On July 24, 1992, Crystal and defendant had an argument concerning the frequent phone calls from Kevin's father. Defendant wanted the phone calls to stop, and he wanted to know whether Crystal intended to get back together with Kevin's father. During the argument, defendant knocked over some items that were sitting on the dining room table, punched and broke a fan, and swung a trophy around.

Later that evening, Crystal gave Kevin a bath. She did not notice any injuries to his chest or abdomen at that time. Kevin slept in defendant's room that night, while defendant and Crystal slept in the living room.

The following morning, July 25, 1992, Kevin woke up, walked into the living room, and sat down next to Crystal and defendant. Crystal testified that Kevin had no problem walking out from the bedroom.

Defendant then brought Kevin back into defendant's bedroom, where Kevin went back to sleep. Crystal took a bath and got ready to run some errands. Before leaving, she checked on Kevin, who was sleeping in only a diaper. Crystal did not notice any marks on Kevin's chest, nor did she notice anything wrong with him.

Crystal returned to the house around 3 p.m. and was met there by defendant's brother, who told her that Kevin was at Wyler's Children's Hospital. Crystal went to the hospital, where she was told that her baby was in surgery. A policeman then took her to 39th and California, where they questioned her and told her that Kevin was dead.

Officer Joseph Battaglia testified that at about 12:40 p.m. on July 25, 1992, he received a call about a possible child abuse victim at 5927 South Carpenter. He arrived at the house within two minutes of the call. After speaking with defendant's brother and another officer, Battaglia drove to Wyler's Children's Hospital, where he spoke with defendant about the child, Kevin.

Defendant explained to Officer Battaglia that Kevin was his girlfriend's (Crystal Thomas') child, and that Crystal and Kevin had been staying with him that week. Defendant told Officer Battaglia that Crystal went shopping that morning at about 9 a.m. and left Kevin with defendant. While Crystal was out, Kevin began to "look sick," so defendant's brother called paramedics via 911. Officer Battaglia asked defendant whether he had ever seen Crystal harm Kevin in any fashion, and defendant responded negatively.

Detectives John McCann and Louis Caesar testified that around 2 p.m. on July 25, 1992, they received an assignment to proceed to Wyler's Children's Hospital regarding a seriously injured child, possibly the result of child abuse. At the hospital, the detectives spoke with Officer Battaglia and learned that Kevin was receiving medical treatment and that defendant was present in the hospital.

The detectives interviewed defendant in a police room in the hospital. Defendant told the detectives that around 9:30 a.m. on July 25, Crystal left his house, leaving defendant alone with Kevin. The baby was asleep when Crystal left.

Defendant further told the detectives that Kevin woke up around noon, and defendant went to change his diaper. At that time, defendant noticed that Kevin was having trouble walking. Defendant picked up Kevin, carried him to a rocking chair, and gave him a bottle. Defendant noticed that Kevin's eyes did not look right and that he appeared "spacey."

Defendant called his brother, who was a former medical technician. The brother came to the house, looked at Kevin, and told defendant that Kevin appeared to have problems with his abdomen and that his hands were white, cold, and clammy. The brother told defendant to call the paramedics. The paramedics arrived and took Kevin to the hospital.

Detectives McCann and Caesar testified they checked on Kevin after talking to defendant. The doctor showed them Kevin's body; he had been pronounced dead around 2:30 p.m. When viewing the body, Detective Caesar noticed swelling on the back of Kevin's head, a laceration of the lip, a dark eye, and bruises across his chest and abdomen.

Detectives McCann and Caesar testified they later took defendant to the police station at 39th and California, where they spoke with him in an interview room on the third floor. Defendant told the detectives that he had called the paramedics because Kevin "looked funny" when he woke up. Detective Caesar asked about the injuries to Kevin's lip and the back of his head, and defendant responded that Crystal had told him that Kevin hit his head on a table and while playing on a bed at her mother's house. Defendant stated he did not know how Kevin suffered the injuries that caused his death.

Detectives McCann and Caesar attended Kevin's autopsy on July 26, which was performed by Doctor Edmond Donoghue. Doctor Donoghue testified that he found extensive bruising on Kevin's head, chest, abdomen, arms, and legs. There was also a large area of hemorrhage beneath the scalp on the right and left side of the head. Doctor Donoghue found 14 internal injuries in the chest and abdominal cavity. Doctor Donoghue testified that Kevin died of multiple injuries due to blunt trauma and that the injuries were of the type seen in an automobile accident or in a child who had fallen out of a third-story window. Doctor Donoghue opined that Kevin's internal injuries happened only hours before his death.

Detectives McCann and Caesar testified they thereafter brought defendant back in for questioning. Around 6 p.m. on July 26, Detective Caesar spoke with defendant and asked if he knew how Kevin had been injured. Defendant told Detective Caesar that on July 25, 1992, when he brought Kevin from the front room to the bedroom, Kevin slipped out of his hand. Defendant caught Kevin on his forearm "kind of roughly"; defendant said that Kevin might have hurt his abdomen then. Defendant also told Detective Caesar that he played with Kevin later that morning by tossing him up in the air. Defendant opined that Kevin could have been injured then as well.

Defendant further told Detective Caesar that he had rearranged some furniture in his house on July 25. At one point, defendant retrieved a dolly from the basement in order to move the entertainment center. Kevin got behind him, so defendant slapped Kevin in the chest with the back of his right hand. Kevin fell into the couch and whimpered a little bit.

Defendant told Detective Caesar that he later noticed Kevin by a table, playing with some books and a prom mug. When Kevin grabbed the mug, defendant again back handed him on the chest, causing Kevin to fall down. Defendant then picked Kevin up and placed him on a couch. Around noon, he prepared a bath for Kevin. However, when defendant tried to walk Kevin toward the bath, Kevin was unable to walk correctly; he kept falling down. Defendant then called his brother, who came over and said the baby did not look right. Specifically, defendant's brother stated that Kevin's abdomen looked abnormal, that he was pale, and that defendant should call the paramedics.

Detective Caesar testified that he asked defendant about the red marks on Kevin's chest. Defendant replied that he did not notice any marks on Kevin's chest until after he hit him.

Assistant State's Attorney Steven Rosenblum testified he spoke with defendant at about 8 p.m. on July 26 in an interview room on the third floor of the police station. Defendant told Rosenblum that Crystal had left him alone with Kevin on July 25. After Crystal left, defendant began rearranging some furniture in his living room. Kevin came into the living room, and defendant played with him by tossing him up in the air and spinning him around a little bit. After he stopped playing with Kevin, defendant went back to moving the furniture. At one point, defendant got out a dolly and was moving the entertainment center. Kevin got in the way, so defendant hit Kevin hard in the chest area with the back of his hand in order to move him out of the way.

Defendant further told Rosenblum that he later saw Kevin playing with some prom glasses and a trophy that were on a table. Defendant did not want Kevin playing with those items, so again he hit Kevin hard in the chest with the back of his hand. Defendant then took Kevin into the bedroom, and Kevin fell asleep. About an hour later, when defendant tried to wake Kevin so he could take a bath, Kevin appeared sluggish and had a strange look on his face. Defendant called his brother, who came over, looked at Kevin, and told defendant that Kevin had some internal bleeding and cold, pale, clammy hands. Defendant called an ambulance for Kevin.

Defendant testified on his own behalf that he was home alone with Kevin on the morning of July 25, 1992. When Kevin awoke, defendant played with him by picking him up, swinging him around, and catching him. However, defendant soon noticed that Kevin did not appear to be feeling well, so defendant then left him alone and started moving some furniture. As defendant was moving his entertainment center toward a wall, he noticed that Kevin was behind him. To keep Kevin from being injured by the entertainment center, defendant pushed Kevin out of the way. Defendant testified he did not push him hard; rather, "it was more like a reflex, a real quick blow to get him out of the way." After defendant hit him, Kevin fell down, then got back up.

Defendant testified that he later noticed Kevin playing with a prom glass and a couple of trophies. Defendant took the prom glass and trophies away from Kevin, picked him up, and set him on a couch. Defendant gave Kevin some milk and cookies, and Kevin fell asleep on the couch. Defendant finished cleaning while Kevin slept.

Defendant woke Kevin so he could take a bath. Kevin took a couple of steps toward the bathroom, then fell down. Defendant picked Kevin up and noticed that he looked "spaced in the face." Defendant called his brother, who came over and said Kevin had internal bleeding. Defendant called an ambulance.

Defendant testified that he never intended to hurt Kevin at any time.

On cross-examination, defendant acknowledged an argument he had with Crystal after Kevin's father called defendant's house and threatened to shoot him. Defendant also testified that the night before Kevin's death, he ...


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