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In re J.A.

January 10, 2003

IN RE J.A., A MINOR (THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
J.A., A MINOR, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Marianne Jackson, Judge Presiding.

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

Unpublished

Following a bench trial, respondent J.A. was adjudicated delinquent of aggravated battery causing great bodily harm. He was sentenced to 2 years' probation and 30 hours of community service. On appeal, he contends that the State failed to prove the element of great bodily harm beyond a reasonable doubt. He asks that his delinquency finding be reduced to battery.

On October 10, 1999, approximately 10 to 15 people were involved in a fight that broke out in the parking lot of the McDonald's restaurant at 600 North Clark Street in Chicago. Respondent stabbed Trevor Banks once in his back left shoulder. Banks felt his shoulder being punctured; he did not know how deep the wound was. He stated, "It's like somebody pinch you; that's how it felt almost." At the hospital, Banks was advised to have his wound stitched, but Banks refused and was given pain pills. Respondent J.A. was charged with aggravated battery predicated upon great bodily harm.

The offense of battery is defined as intentionally or knowingly causing bodily harm to an individual. 720 ILCS 5/12-3(a)(1) (West 2000). In defining the term "bodily harm" as it relates to simple battery, the Illinois Supreme Court has indicated as follows: "Although it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly what constitutes bodily harm for the purposes of the statute, some sort of physical pain or damage to the body, like lacerations, bruises or abrasions, whether temporary or permanent, is required." People v. Mays, 91 Ill. 2d 251, 256 (1982).

Aggravated battery consists of intentionally or knowingly causing great bodily harm or permanent disability while committing a battery. 720 ILCS 5/12-4(a) (West 2000). The statute provides as follows:

"Aggravated Battery.

(a) A person who, in committing a battery, intentionally or knowingly causes great bodily harm, or permanent disability or disfigurement commits aggravated battery." 720 ILCS 5/12-4(a) (West 2000).

The infliction of great bodily harm is an essential element of the offense of aggravated battery as defined in subsection 12-4(a). People v. Figures, 216 Ill. App. 3d 398, 401 (1991). In the instant case, the respondent was charged with aggravated battery predicated upon great bodily harm. While the element of great bodily harm does not lend itself to a precise legal definition, it requires proof of an injury of a greater and more serious nature than a simple battery. People v. Costello, 95 Ill. App. 3d 680, 684 (1981). Aggravated battery requires more serious injury and is determined by the actual injury received. In re T.G., 285 Ill. App. 3d 838, 846 (1996); Figures, 216 Ill. App. 3d at 401.

In Figures, we recognized the guidance provided by the Illinois Supreme Court regarding the distinction between "bodily harm" and "great bodily harm." We noted as follows:

"Because great bodily harm requires an injury of a graver and more serious character than an ordinary battery, simple logic dictates that the injury must be more severe than that set out in the Mays definition. The word 'great' must be given effect in construing the aggravated battery statute; statutes should be interpreted so that no word or phrase is rendered superfluous or meaningless." Figures, 216 Ill. App. 3d at 401, citing People v. Parvin, 125 Ill. 2d 519 (1988).

When a defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, the relevant inquiry is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U. S. 307, 319, 61 L. Ed. 2d 560, 573, 99 S. Ct. 2781, 2789 (1979); People v. Cox, 195 Ill. 2d 378, 387 (2001). In this case the only element at issue is the element of great bodily harm. If the State failed to prove great bodily harm beyond a reasonable doubt, a conviction for aggravated battery predicated upon great bodily harm must be vacated. People v. Watkins, 243 Ill. App. 3d 271, 278 (1993).

Whether the defendant inflicted great bodily harm upon the victim is a question for the trier of fact. Figures, 216 Ill. App. 3d at 401. However, when a victim suffers bodily harm, rather than great bodily harm, a conviction for aggravated battery predicated upon great bodily harm must be vacated. Figures, 216 Ill. App. 3d at 402. We are mindful that it is not the function of this court to retry a defendant when presented with a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. People v. Collins, 106 Ill. 2d 237, 261 (1985). A criminal conviction will not be set aside unless the evidence when viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution is so "unsatisfactory, improbable or implausible" that it creates a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt. People v. Slim, 127 Ill. 2d 302, 307 (1989).

In the instant case, in support of its argument that the respondent inflicted great bodily harm on the victim, the State relies on People v. Matthews, 126 Ill. App. 3d 710 (1984), and contends that "a simple bruise on the head caused by a baseball bat and butt of a gun is sufficient to constitute great bodily harm and aggravated battery." The victim in Matthews testified that she only had a bruise on her head. However, Matthews does not support the State's argument because it does not stand for the proposition that a bruise is sufficient to prove great bodily harm. The evidence in Matthews demonstrated that the victim was struck on the head with the gun and then was repeatedly struck by several full-force blows on the head and ...


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