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People v. Phelps

January 23, 2004

[5] THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT AND CROSS-APPELLEE,
v.
KEVIN PHELPS, APPELLEE AND CROSS-APPELLANT.



[6] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Thomas

[7]  Docket No. 93830-Agenda 1-November 2003.

[8]  Defendant, Kevin Phelps, was convicted by a jury of heinous battery (720 ILCS 5/12-4.1(a) (West 1996)) and aggravated kidnaping (720 ILCS 5/10-2(a)(3) (West 1996)). The circuit court of Cook County sentenced defendant to consecutive prison terms of 15 years for the aggravated kidnaping and 30 years for the heinous battery. The appellate court affirmed defendant's convictions but modified the sentences to run concurrently. 329 Ill. App. 3d 1. We allowed the State's petition for leave to appeal. 177 Ill. 2d R. 315(a).

[9]  BACKGROUND

[10]   P.H., a high school student, testified that, in late 1996, she befriended defendant, a paraplegic who she knew also as "Sniper." During the summer of 1997, P.H. visited defendant almost every other day at his townhouse on South St. Lawrence in Chicago. In August 1997, P.H. was grounded and told she could not see defendant anymore.

[11]   On September 4, 1997, as P.H. was leaving school, two men she had never seen before called out to her, using her nickname. One of the men said, "Folks said come get your stuff." P.H. knew that the man was referring to defendant, as she had left some things at defendant's house. She told the men that she would pick it up later and got on a bus to head home. When she exited the bus, the same two men drove up behind her. One of the men grabbed P.H.'s jacket and told her to get into the car. The two men drove her to defendant's house, escorted her inside, and then left her alone with defendant.

[12]   Defendant asked P.H. where she had been, what she had been doing, and whom she had been seeing for the past several weeks. Although she explained to defendant that her sister had grounded her, defendant continued to interrogate her for the next hour. During this time, defendant twice asked P.H. to get him a glass of water from the kitchen, and P.H. agreed. Defendant then told P.H. to take off her clothes. When she refused, defendant pulled out a gun, placed it his lap, and again asked P.H. to take off her clothes. This time she complied. Once P.H.'s clothes were off, defendant threw a cup of flammable liquid on her and set her on fire. P.H. ran to an upstairs bathroom, climbed into the tub, and extinguished the flames with water. Hoping to jump out the window, P.H. searched for some clothes. Unable to find any, she had no choice but to return to the room that defendant occupied.

[13]   P.H. remained with defendant for approximately an hour, during which time she repeatedly asked for her clothes so that she could leave. P.H. explained that she did not leave immediately after the burning both because defendant would not return her clothes and because defendant had a gun. Defendant gave P.H. some Vaseline to rub on her wounds and, when that proved ineffective, poured hydrogen peroxide over her burns. Eventually, defendant asked P.H. whether anyone knew where she was, to which she replied, "my family would think that this would be the first place I was because this was the place I was told not to come." Defendant then asked P.H. what she would tell people if he "let [her] go." P.H. assured defendant that she would blame her attack on someone else. Defendant then gave P.H. her clothes back, told her to get dressed, and allowed her to leave. On cross-examination, P.H. admitted that defendant never actually told her that she could not leave.

[14]   P.H. returned home around 8 p.m., screaming, "Sniper burnt me." P.H.'s sister called an ambulance, and P.H. was taken to the hospital where she was diagnosed with second and third degree burns over 36 percent of her body. P.H. spent two weeks in the intensive care unit and two months in a rehabilitation center. The burns and resulting skin grafts left P.H. with permanent and prominent scarring over 80% of her body.

[15]   Defendant, in turn, testified that he did not see P.H. on September 4, 1997, and that he was not at the South St. Lawrence townhouse at all that day. According to defendant, he had lived in the South St. Lawrence townhouse until June of 1997, at which point he moved onto East 62nd Street with his mother, his brother, and his stepfather. On the day of P.H.'s attack, he never left the house on East 62nd Street. Although P.H. had been his girlfriend for several months at the time of the attack, defendant had not seen her in several weeks because she was grounded. He first learned of P.H.'s injuries at approximately 10:30 p.m. on the night of September 4, 1997, when the police arrived at the house on East 62nd Street to question him.

[16]   Defendant was charged with kidnaping (720 ILCS 5/10-1(a)(1) (West 1996)), aggravated kidnaping (720 ILCS 5/10-2(a)(3) (West 1996)), heinous battery (720 ILCS 5/12-4.1(a) (West 1996)), and attempted first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/8-4(a), 9-1(a)(1) (West 1996)). The jury convicted defendant of aggravated kidnaping and heinous battery, and the trial court sentenced defendant to consecutive prison terms of 15 and 30 years respectively.

[17]   On appeal, defendant argued that (1) the State failed to prove him guilty of aggravated kidnaping beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the prosecutor misstated the evidence in closing argument; (3) the imposition of consecutive sentences constituted an improper double enhancement; and (4) the use of the same factor to enhance both of the crimes for which he was convicted constituted an improper double enhancement. The appellate court rejected all but the consecutive sentencing argument. Accordingly, it affirmed defendant's convictions but modified the sentences to run concurrently. 329 Ill. App. 3d at 12.

[18]   Before this court, the State argues that the imposition of consecutive sentences in this case does not constitute a double enhancement. By way of cross-appeal, defendant renews his arguments with respect to the sufficiency of the evidence, the prosecutor's closing argument, and the use of the same factor to enhance both of the crimes for which he was convicted.

[19]   ANALYSIS

[20]   1. Sufficiency of ...


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