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In re D.P.

December 28, 2001


(The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee, v. Jesse C., Respondent-Appellant) Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Donna Cervini, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Quinn


On June 15, 1999, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship alleging that D.P., a minor, was both neglected and abused by his mother and respondent. Respondent made two motions to continue the hearing until the outcome of his pending criminal trial arising from respondent's beating of the minor. The trial court denied both motions. Following an adjudicatory hearing on November 19, 1999, a finding of neglect and abuse was entered. On January 19, 2000, D.P. was adjudicated a ward of the court and the Department of Children and Family Service (DCFS) was appointed guardian.

On appeal respondent argues that his case must be remanded for a new hearing where the trial court's refusal to continue the adjudication proceedings until after his criminal trial violated his fifth amendment rights against self-incrimination.

I. Background

The minor, D.P., was born on March 13, 1999. On June 15, 1999, a petition for adjudication of wardship was filed against his father, Jesse C., and his mother, Patty P. The petition alleged that on May 25, 1999, Jesse shook D.P. violently and struck him in the face. On August 26, 1999, the juvenile court heard a pretrial defense motion to continue the adjudication proceedings until the outcome of respondent's pending criminal charges which arose from the respondent's alleged abuse of the minor. The court denied the motion, stating that the best interest of the child required the court to hold the proceedings in 90 days. The court noted that it had already granted one continuance exceeding the 90 days in order to obtain D.P.'s birth records.

On November 17, 1999, just prior to the hearing on the adjudication of wardship of the minor, D.P., respondent renewed his August 26 oral motion for a continuance. Respondent again requested that the matter be heard subsequent to the resolution of the criminal charges pending against respondent. Respondent's counsel maintained that "it's important that the father has the right to participate fully in his defense in this matter involving his son." The trial court denied the motion stating "criminal cases can go on for two years***I will not grant the continuance for that reason." Respondent's counsel again renewed the motion on November 18, stating that Jesse would be unable to present a complete defense because the pending criminal matter prevented him from participating in his defense. The court again denied the motion. The case proceeded to hearing.

During the hearing, Detective Scott Rotkovich testified that on May 26, 1999, he was a violent crimes detective assigned to investigate the aggravated battery of a two-month-old child named D.P. Rotkovich testified that on that date, at approximately 1 a.m., he took a statement from D.P.'s father, respondent Jesse C.. The statement contained the following information:

"Jesse [C.] stated that he is 26 years old and is currently residing at 4000 East 134th Street, trailer lot number 1225. Jesse currently lives at that address with his girlfriend, Patricia, and their son, [D.P.]. Jesse stated that it was a stressful situation because he had some problems in Indiana, was going to school and was barely paying the bills. Jesse remarked that Patty was immature and not 'owning up' to her own responsibilities. Jesse stated that he was tired of coming home to fast food, a crying baby and a dirty crib.

Jesse was attempting to get a job as an auto mechanic but was required to pass a urine test. On the day of the incident, Jesse took Patty and [D.P.] to pick up Ray, the 5 year old nephew of a friend. Jesse wanted Ray to provide a urine sample for him. Ray refused. While Patty took Ray upstairs to his home, Jesse remained in the car with [D.P.]. When [D.P.] woke up, Jesse put the pacifier in his mouth but he spit it out and began to cry. Jesse stated that tension had built up because Patty always wanted to go with him with the baby and 'a man just needs some peace of mind.' Jesse stated he wanted some relief and the only solution was to grab the baby and quiet him down. Jesse said he reached over the back seat with one hand and grabbed, yanked [D.P.] up quickly by his pajamas and pulled him into the front seat. The baby was whimpering like he was afraid.

When Patty came down, Jesse gave her the baby. Jesse stated that Patty took too long to come down and he was upset and 'pissed off' because "a man has things to do for his family." Jesse began yelling at Patty in the car. When they arrived home, Jesse told Patty to put the baby down because he knew he was going to hit her. Jesse stated that he hit Patty real hard with his open right hand in the left side of her face. Jesse stated that when he went to hit her again, Patty put her hand up to block her face and then laid back. When he turned around Patty picked up the baby and that pissed him off because it looked like she was hiding behind the baby. Jesse said he went to hit Patty again, but his right hand was getting sore. Jesse stated that he swung at her face with his left hand. Jesse stated that he hit the baby in the side of the head and the baby started crying.

Jesse stated he told Patty 'change my son.' Jesse then told Patty to "make those phone calls" to take care of some family business. Jesse said that he went to 'cool off' and when he returned home he looked in on [D.P.] Jesse stated the baby did not look right. The baby had turned blue, was not breathing and was dangling. Patty's grandmother performed CPR on [D.P.] until the ambulance came. Jesse stated that he told police officer's a 'little different story' before because he wanted this to all go away."

Rotkovich testified that Assistant State's Attorney Oppenheimer read the entire statement out loud to respondent. Rotkovich testified that he, respondent, and Oppenheimer signed each page, making any corrections respondent requested.

Detective Michael Baker testified he was assigned to investigate the aggravated battery of a child, D.P. Baker testified that on May 25, 1999, at approximately 1:30 a.m. he interviewed Patricia and took her ...

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