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People v. Moreno

February 02, 2001

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MARINA MORENO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 97 CR 30404 Honorable Lawrence P. Fox, Judge Presiding.

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

Defendant Marina Moreno appeals the denial of her motion to bar prosecution and dismiss the criminal charges against her. 145 Ill. 2d R. 604(f). On appeal, defendant contends the State is collaterally estopped from criminally prosecuting her for aggravated battery of a child because every contested factual issue to be tried in the criminal case was resolved in her favor in a prior juvenile court proceeding. We affirm.

Defendant is the mother of four minors named in separate juvenile wardship petitions. The petition alleged that the minors, ranging in age from two to eight years, were subject to a substantial risk of physical injury and thus, abused, solely because of an injury sustained by their seven-month-old cousin, G.M., while in defendant's care. While the juvenile petitions were pending, the State filed criminal charges against defendant, alleging that she committed aggravated battery of a child upon G.M.

At the juvenile adjudicatory hearing, defendant testified that she was G.M.'s maternal aunt, and that since he was six weeks old, she had been caring for him daily while her sister worked. On the morning of September 10, 1997, she fed G.M. while he was seated, but unbuckled, in his car seat on the kitchen table. She then started dressing her two-year-old so they could pick up her four-year-old from his prekindergarten class. While defendant was tying the two-year-old's shoes, she saw G.M.'s feet dangling from the car seat and tried to get to him. Before she could do so, G.M. toppled head-first out of the seat and onto the floor three feet below. When she picked him up, she saw a circular red spot on his forehead.

Defendant took G.M. into the bedroom. She noticed that his eyes rolled upwards, his extremities stiffened, and he made some vocal noises. Defendant also noticed that his lips lost color, but she was able to reverse that by applying light pressure on his heart.

Defendant called her sister and then dialed 911. When defendant went outside to meet the paramedics, G.M. vomited twice. Defendant then accompanied G.M. to the hospital, where she informed medical personnel of the occurrence and stayed with the baby's parents until G.M. was released.

About 11 p.m. defendant's sister called from another hospital, Children's Memorial Hospital, informing her that G.M. had a fractured skull, cerebral edema, and a subdural hematoma. Defendant joined her sister at the hospital, but was never interviewed by social workers there regarding how the injury occurred.

G.M.'s mother testified that G.M. was fine when she dropped him off at defendant's home on the day in question. Two months after the incident, she had no reason to believe that defendant had abused him.

The State's expert witness testified that she was a pediatric radiologist and a member of the protective services team at Children's Memorial Hospital (CMH). The juvenile court qualified her as an expert in child abuse and shaken baby syndrome. The State's expert testified that a social worker came to her with this case and that she read the CT scan done on G.M. She observed an interhemispheric subdural hematoma and a subdural hematoma on the right side and right hemisphere which, she testified, are symptoms of shaken baby syndrome. She claimed that she had not seen interhemispheric subdural hematomas from even high falls, but had seen it in an automobile accident case where the baby received a whiplash injury as a result of the car rolling at very high speed.

The State's expert further testified that she reviewed the four skull X rays taken of G.M. and found no evidence of fractures to his skull as had been initially reported by the resident physician and that G.M.'s bone scan was normal, but he had bilateral retinal hemorrhages. She told the team social worker that the findings on the CT scan were not consistent with the history given and that in her opinion the injuries sustained were not accidental and could not have been caused by the fall described.

During cross-examination, the State's expert acknowledged that she had not examined G.M. She also testified that she had not spoken to defendant, but did speak to G.M.'s mother in the MRI unit. She acknowledged that she had not seen evidence of the bilateral retinal hemorrhages reported by an ophthalmologist whose level of training was unknown to her. She relied on the chart as confirmation of the "attending." She also acknowledged that she did not see any associated skeletal injuries and agreed that retinal hemorrhages can occur from accidental or noninflicted causes. She indicated that the ophthalmologist noted that G.M. had an occipital skull fracture, which he had taken from the chart, and that there was retinal hemorrhaging. She testified that the ophthalmologist knew nothing about occipital injuries and was wrong in reporting it. Nevertheless, the State's expert opined that the force necessary to cause the right interhemispheric subdural hematoma sustained by G.M. could not have been generated by the weight of the infant falling down on the floor even if he was in a car seat.

The State rested its case in chief after publishing sections of the medical reports that had been received into evidence. Defendant's motion for a directed finding was denied by the court and her counsel published additional excerpts from the medical reports.

The court then interviewed defendant's eight-year-old son in chambers and gave a synopsis of their conversation for the record. The boy told the juvenile court that his mother never hurt him or his siblings and that he wanted to know why he could not live with his parents.

On the following court date, the juvenile court heard testimony from a child welfare specialist who had been assigned by the court and the Department of Children and Family Services to provide an evaluation of defendant's family. She concluded the family was loving, found no evidence of abuse to any of the minors, believed they had never been abused by their parents, and believed they were not at any risk of abuse or neglect. Additionally, two teachers at the school attended by defendant's three oldest children testified that they had never observed any evidence of abuse or neglect ...


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