The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Cerda
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County
Honorable Fred G. Suria, Jr., Judge Presiding.
In 1991, defendant, Alcurtis Jackson, pleaded guilty to heinous battery (720 ILCS 5/12-4.1(a)(West 1994)) and was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment. On direct appeal from the denial of defendant's motion to vacate his guilty plea and dismissal of his post-conviction petition, this court remanded the cause for a hearing on defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea. On remand, the trial court allowed defendant to withdraw his guilty plea and the case proceeded to a jury trial. Following the jury trial, defendant was again convicted of heinous battery and was sentenced to 45 years' imprisonment.
On appeal, defendant asserts that (1) he was denied a fair trial because the State repeatedly shifted the burden of proof, improperly undermined defendant's credibility, and improperly bolstered the credibility of the State's witnesses; (2) the trial court improperly allowed the State to impeach defendant with a prior felony conviction that was more than 10 years old; (3) the cumulative effect of trial errors denied defendant a fair trial; (4) there was no legal basis for the extended sentence; and (5) the sentence was excessive. For the following reasons, we affirm the conviction and reduce defendant's sentence to 30 years' imprisonment.
At 4:15 p.m. on August 29, 1990, while driving in the area of 1455 West Madison Street, Chicago, Chicago police officer Lynn Casey saw a black man, who was later identified as Daniel Davis, running across the street. His pants were around his ankles and he was screaming, "Help me, help me. He poured acid on me." Officer Casey noticed liquid on Davis's upper body and blood dripping from his head. His clothes were disintegrating off his body, and there were burn holes in his shirt and pants.
Officer Casey got Davis into the squad car and drove him to the hospital. On the way, Davis continued to scream, "Help me, help me. Curtis did this. Curtis poured acid on me," as his clothes were being eaten away. In response to Casey's attempts to elicit as much information as possible, Davis told her that Curtis approached him at the jitney cab stand where they both worked and called, "Hey, 19," which was Davis's cab number. When Davis turned around, Curtis poured acid on him.
Officer Casey also testified that there was blood streaming from different areas of Davis's arms, upper body, and face, and a very foul odor was emanating from him as if his flesh was burning. After Officer Casey delivered Davis to the hospital, she noticed burn marks and globs of flesh on the backseat of her squad car. Based on her conversation with Davis, Officer Casey began looking for a black male cab driver named Curtis.
Dr. Williams told the jury that Davis initially had superficial, partial, and full thickness chemical burns over 23% of his body. As chemical burns often do, Davis's injuries continued to worsen over time to full thickness, which meant that the skin was completely destroyed and would not be able to spontaneously heal itself. When a burn is caused by a chemical, it continues to penetrate through the skin until the body's own defenses neutralize it. Therefore, the duration of the contact cannot be controlled very well. Eventually, Davis's burns covered 28% of his body.
Dr. Williams further stated that there were burns on Davis's face, neck, ears, chest, and back. In addition, Davis's neck wounds contracted as they healed, which rendered him unable to fully move his head. Based on the coverage, area, overall appearance of the wounds, and Davis's explanation of what had happened, Dr. Williams determined that Davis suffered from chemical caustic burns. Dr. Williams removed the burned tissue and grafted healthy skin taken from other parts of Davis's body. After receiving two separate grafts, Davis was discharged from the hospital in October 1990. He died two years later from unrelated causes.
Chicago police detective William Calabrese interviewed Davis in the hospital at 9 p.m. on August 29, 1990. After speaking with Davis, who had burns on his face, neck, and chest and who was in a lot of pain, Detective Calabrese went to the jitney cab stand at 1455 West Madison Street. There, he recovered a burned T-shirt that Davis had been wearing.
Alan Osaba, a forensics scientist, performed Ph and chemical tests on the torn T-shirt. The test results revealed the presence of sulfuric acid, which is an inorganic mineral acid that is very reactive and highly corrosive. Sulfuric acid dissolves metal and destructively attacks organic material such as cloth and living organic tissue. There was no muriatic acid on the T-shirt.
Chicago police detective James Capesius testified that he located defendant at 4:10 a.m. on August 30, 1990, near the jitney cab stand. When Detective Capesius approached defendant and asked him his name, defendant responded, "[T]hey call me Curtis. I got into it with number 19." Defendant was arrested, read his Miranda rights, and taken to the police station, where he told Detective Capesius that he and Davis had had an argument on August 18th after which Davis "sicced" his son and five other men on defendant. When the six men approached him while armed with tire irons, defendant pulled a straight razor and ran from the area. As he was running away, he was hit on the arm with a chunk of brick or concrete. Later that day, defendant went to a store and bought muriatic acid. The next day, he walked up behind Davis, who was standing in front of the cab stand. When Davis turned around, defendant threw the acid in his face because he wanted to get even for Davis's son's actions. There was no written or court-reported statement.
In his own behalf, defendant testified that he and Davis had worked as cab drivers for the Big Four livery cab stand. On August 28, 1990, defendant and Davis were in front of the cab stand waiting for work. Davis and another cab driver entered into a signifying match, an insult contest where the goal is to exchange outrageous insults to get laughs. After defendant got involved, Davis got angry and left.
Around 5 p.m., Davis returned with his son and five other men. Davis and the others walked toward defendant while carrying car jacks, baseball bats, iron pipes, and crowbars. Davis ordered the six men to kill defendant, who pulled his straight razor and ran away. As he ran, he got hit in the arm with a brick or rock. Defendant further testified that he went to the Racine Avenue police station to inquire about getting a peace bond (order of protection) against Davis.
Defendant returned to the cab stand at 9 a.m. on August 29, 1990, but left to repair his car because business was slow. He went to a junkyard located at Talman and Lake, talked with the junk man and bought a replacement part for his starter. He installed the part at a nearby tire shop and returned to the cab stand at 5 p.m., at which time he heard about the attack on Davis. On cross-examination, the prosecutor asked defendant why the junkyard operator was not testifying on his behalf.
Defendant denied throwing acid on Davis and denied that he told the police he went to a store and bought acid. Detective Capesius told defendant he could get a peace bond if he admitted involvement in the acid attack. Eventually, defendant told the police, "Yeah, I did it," then asked for his peace bond. The police left and returned with assistant State's Attorney Perkaus, who told defendant that he could get a peace bond and could go home because the attack was in ...