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The People of the State of Illinois v. James Almore

March 24, 2011

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
APPELLANT,
v.
JAMES ALMORE,
APPELLEE.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Burke

JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Karmeier, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

Defendant James Almore was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in relation to the death of two-year-old Ethan Hamilton. Almore was later sentenced to an extended term of 12 years' imprisonment pursuant to section 9--3(f) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Code) (720 ILCS 5/9--3(f) (West 2006)). The extended sentence was based on the Cook County circuit court's finding that defendant and the victim were "family or household members" as that term is defined in section 112A--3(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (725 ILCS 5/112A--3(3) (West 2006)).

On appeal, the appellate court affirmed defendant's conviction, but vacated defendant's sentence. No. 1--08--1459 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). The appellate court held that the evidence did not support the trial court's finding that defendant and the victim were "family or household members" within the meaning of the statute. The matter was remanded to the circuit court for resentencing.

We granted the State's petition for leave to appeal. The single issue before us is whether the evidence supports the trial court's finding that defendant and the victim "shared a common dwelling" within the meaning of section 112A--3(3) and, thus, were "family or household members," justifying an extended sentence.

For reasons that follow, we reverse the judgment of the appellate court.

BACKGROUND

On the morning of August 23, 2006, Lovia Hampton went to work and left her two-year-old son, Ethan, in the care of her boyfriend, defendant James Almore. Defendant had been Lovia's boyfriend since November 2004 and on August 23, 2006, Lovia and Ethan had been staying with defendant at his temporary residence at 1228 West 99th Street in Chicago for the previous five days.

Neither Lovia nor defendant had a residence of their own. Lovia and Ethan ordinarily lived with Lovia's mother, siblings, and other extended family in the Hampton family home at 56 West 114th Place in Chicago. Defendant had stayed with Lovia and Ethan in the Hampton home on several occasions. Defendant's temporary residence was the upstairs apartment in the home of his aunt, Ruby Watkins, at 1228 West 99th Street in Chicago. There, defendant lived with his two cousins, Charles Watkins and Howard Terrell Williams. Watkins and Williams had their own bedrooms, but defendant slept on an air mattress in the living room of the upstairs apartment.

When Lovia left for work around 7 a.m. that August morning, Ethan was still sleeping. According to defendant, Ethan woke up around 10 a.m. and they played "wrestling" and "boxing" games together. Defendant then left Ethan on the air mattress with a juice box and some powdered doughnuts while defendant went into another room to use a computer. Later, defendant allegedly heard Ethan coughing and returned to the living room. There he found Ethan lying lifelessly on the floor near the air mattress. Defendant also noticed that Ethan had "spit up" on the air mattress.

Believing that Ethan had choked on a doughnut, defendant yelled for his cousin, Williams, and they each attempted the Heimlich maneuver on Ethan. Defendant also called 911 and was given instructions on how to perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Defendant and Williams both attempted to perform CPR on Ethan until paramedics arrived.

The 911 call was received just before 11 a.m. on August 23, 2006. Within a few minutes of the call, paramedics arrived at defendant's residence. They continued to perform CPR on Ethan as they transported him to the hospital. At the hospital, advanced lifesaving measures were taken. Nonetheless, Ethan could not be revived. He was pronounced dead soon after his arrival at the hospital. An autopsy was performed and the medical examiner ruled Ethan's death a homicide. The autopsy report indicated that Ethan was covered in fresh bruises consistent with abuse and that he had internal injuries which suggested that Ethan had been held against a wall or floor while ...


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