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People v. Beasley

March 12, 1999


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. 95 CR 13718 Honorable Daniel J. Kelly, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Zwick

Defendant, Otis Beasley, was charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault (3 counts), criminal sexual assault (3 counts) and unlawful restraint. The first counts were predicated on the unlawful restraint charge. Following a jury trial he was convicted of criminal sexual assault and was sentenced to serve 30 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. He now appeals, raising the following claims: (1) whether the trial court committed error in not admitting a medical report of the victim's treating physician under the past-recollection recorded hearsay exception; (2) whether the trial court committed error in not allowing the treating physician more time in order to refresh his recollection, or, alternatively, allowing the treating physician to be questioned as a hostile witness; (3) whether defendant was proven guilty by proof beyond a reasonable doubt; and (4) whether defendant's sentence is excessive.

The evidence at trial showed that the complainant was walking home from an Easter Sunday celebration with her friends on April 16, 1995, at approximately 8 p.m. She had several drinks at the party. Eventually she separated from the people with whom she was walking and encountered the defendant who greeted her and introduced himself as "Otis." According to the complainant, she talked with him briefly, said goodbye and then headed on her way. As she cut through an alley, defendant reappeared and dragged her into an alcove and up against the wall of a nearby building where he forced her to engage in oral, vaginal and anal intercourse. She begged him to stop. However, when she felt something sharp against her neck, she stopped resisting.

Diane Means, one of the State's witnesses who lived near the alcove where the defendant was arrested, testified that she was in her home resting at the time the complainant was walking home. She heard slapping sounds coming from outside and a woman screaming "please don't hurt me, don't hurt me." She looked out the window and decided that the situation required the police. She went to a neighbor's home where there was a telephone and instructed him to call for help.

Officer Andre Cureton testified that when he responded to a radio call in the area, he and other officers encountered a man who directed them to drive down an alley. Cureton there observed the defendant hunched over the complainant making rocking motions "backwards and forwards." The complainant had her back to the defendant at this time and her dress was off her shoulder and over her head. The defendant attempted to pull up his pants and run from the scene, but was only able to move a short distance before being captured by other officers.

Cureton attended to the complainant who appeared bruised and upset and was bleeding from her lower lip. She was taken for treatment to a nearby hospital. While there, she told Cureton that she was bruised all over her back, her arms and her face and that her eye had been cut in the attack. Later, she told police that the defendant had taken her wallet from her bra during the attack. Eventually, she was examined, her finger was bandaged and she was released.

After leaving the complainant, Officer Cureton and his partner returned to the scene to look for the complainant's wallet. At this point, it was approximately one to two hours after officers had originally left the scene. No other officers had yet searched the area. They found neither a wallet nor any sort of weapon at the scene, which was covered in all types of garbage, debris and rats. Cureton returned to the location later to look for the wallet or weapon, again with no success. No weapon or wallet was ever recovered either from the scene or from the defendant.

Following the close of the State's case, the defendant presented his defense. Detective Jack Stewart, who interviewed the complainant shortly after the attack, testified first. He indicated that the complainant told him that she met defendant not where she had testified, but rather, as she exited a store at 36th and State, and she did not tell Stewart that they had parted company before she was assaulted. In addition, she told Stewart that defendant brandished a "sharp object."

The defense next offered the testimony of Dr. Ralph Jackson. He testified that he was employed at the hospital where the complainant was taken on April 16, 1995. He did not specifically remember treating the complainant. Instead, he stated that he had read a report from the hospital's records which indicated he had done so. He testified that he routinely prepared reports with regard to everyone he treated at the hospital. After dictating such reports, he received them, read them and signed them. The reports were prepared shortly after a patient's physical examination. This was done to memorialize the details of the patient's examination.

Dr. Jackson reiterated that he did not remember treating the complainant but stated that the emergency department's chart would refresh his recollection. However, after reviewing the report which contained his signature, he said that he had "no immediate personal recall" of the event. He added, "I can only stand by my record at this point."

Thereafter, a side bar was held where the State argued that since the doctor did not remember the totality of the document report, he could not remember individual parts and so defense counsel could not ask questions regarding particular parts of the report. Defense counsel responded that she did not see why this should be so, since the doctor had conceded to authoring the report and signing it. Defense counsel then suggested that she be allowed to read from the report and to ask leading questions such as "isn't that what your report indicates?" The trial court sustained the State's objection and ruled that Dr. Jackson could not testify. The defense then asked to be allowed to examine Dr. Jackson as a hostile witness given that he was being uncooperative, but the trial court refused. When defense counsel noted that the doctor appeared to become uncooperative only after talking to the assistant State's Attorney, the doctor was called outside the presence of the jury and asked what had caused his story to change. He stated: "I was asked in the hallway, maybe 45 minutes ago, to remember an incident, an isolated incident that happened almost two years ago to date. I honestly looked at the medical record. I read that medical record. I would forever stand by that medical record, but I cannot honestly tell you I remember that specific patient on that specific day."

Later, while still outside the presence of the jury, and amidst the State's many objections, defense counsel asked Dr. Jackson, "Doctor, has your memory been refreshed as to whether or not [the complainant] had any evidence of bruising, hematoma, trauma or abrasions?" The Doctor responded, "From reading my medical record she did not have those findings." The answer was allowed to stand but the State objected again on grounds that the doctor's memory was not refreshed. The doctor then explained, "I saw that record when I showed up at court today. I had no prior knowledge, no Discussion with anybody regarding that record, no time to review that record. I mean, you're asking me to recall an event two years ago on a split, you know notice or a split decision." The State objected again, arguing that Jackson still had no personal recollection. The court stated that Jackson's memory was "for all practical purposes, refreshed the way it stands" after reading his report. The State continued its objection, however, saying that it would not be able to cross-examine, since the only response it would receive is, "I stand by my report." At that point, the court specifically asked Jackson, "Doctor, your memory is not refreshed at all?" Jackson replied, "Your Honor, I really wish I could tell you more." The court continued, "All you're testifying from is what that record says?" Jackson again stated that he had only seen the record when he arrived in court that day, that he had no time to review it.

After hearing this, the court decided that the State was correct and that Jackson was only testifying from the report and not his independent recollection. Defense counsel then requested that the report be admitted into evidence. The court denied the request. The court also rejected defense counsel's idea that the doctor be allowed extra time to refresh his recollection.

The defense then made an offer of proof which showed that the medical record included statements by the complainant that "the man jumped out and showed her a gun," that she was "struck in the face and mouth with assailant's fists" and that she was "knocked down and dragged on the dirt and rocks." The medical report also stated that the assailant "brandished a knife" and that she was assaulted with "vaginal, rectal and anal penetration." Jackson's findings, as per the medical record, included that there was "no evidence of facial trauma," ...

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