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In Re S.D., L.D. and E.T v. Clarence T

August 5, 2011

IN RE S.D., L.D. AND E.T.,
MINORS
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
CLARENCE T,
RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria County, Illinois, Circuit Nos. 10 JA 30, 10 JA 31, 10 JA 32 Honorable Mark E. Gilles, Judge Presiding,

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Wright

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

Presiding Justice Carter and Justice Lytton concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 The court found the State proved the allegations of a neglect petition alleging the minors' environment was injurious to their welfare because their biological father, appellant Clarence T., stabbed their biological "mother 30 times while in the presence of [E.T.] and a five year old girl, killing the mother," and because father had several prior criminal convictions. Subsequently, the State filed a petition to terminate father's parental rights.

¶ 2 On the morning of the unfitness hearing, the record reveals that individuals, who were not involved in the termination proceedings, were engaged in conversation in the courtroom while the judge was seated on the bench. According to the prosecutor, this conversation included a discussion of photographs of blood-splatter evidence presented by the State during father's murder trial.

¶ 3 The Judge denied father's motion for recusal noting that anything the court overheard would not affect his decision and he would rely on only the evidence presented to him at the termination hearing. At the close of the termination hearing evidence, the court found father unfit. Then, following a best interest hearing, the court also found it was in the minors' best interests to terminate father's parental rights and allow the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to consent to their adoption.

¶ 4 Father appeals the court's ruling denying his oral motion for recusal of the judge and the court's finding that it was in the best interests of the minors to terminate his parental rights and place the minors for adoption. We affirm.

¶ 5 BACKGROUND

¶ 6 Respondent-appellant Clarence T. is the father of the minor children, S.D., L.D. and E.T., born October 17, 2002, June 15, 2006, and August 21, 2008, respectively. The mother of the minors, Martha T., was deceased. On February 4, 2010, the State filed a neglect petition alleging the minors' environment was injurious to their welfare because father stabbed his estranged wife and the mother of the minors "30 times while in the presence of [E.T.] and a five year old girl, killing the mother," and that father had several criminal convictions in his history. The court entered a temporary shelter care order placing the minors with DCFS on February 5, 2010.

¶ 7 On June 29, 2010, after the adjudicatory hearing, the court found that the minors were neglected due to an injurious environment. At the dispositional hearing on August 3, 2010, the court found father dispositionally unfit to care for the minors, made the minors wards of the court, and placed them under the guardianship of DCFS. At that time, father was still incarcerated in the Peoria County jail pending trial on the murder charges involving the minors' mother's death.

¶ 8 Subsequently, on August 11, 2010, the State filed a petition for termination of parental rights on behalf of each of the minors alleging that respondent father was an unfit parent due to depravity, under section 1(D)(i) of the Adoption Act (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(i) (West 2010)), in that he had been convicted of several crimes from 1992 through 2006.*fn1 Specifically, the petition alleged father was convicted of the following offenses:

"92--CR-- 1300301 Aggravated Battery Cook County 93--C--22073401 Robbery and Aggravated Battery Cook County

Of Senior Citizen 95--CF--826 Theft (Misdemeanor) Sangamon County 98--CM--142 Battery Morgan County 98--CR--1822101 Aggravated Battery Cook County 03--CM--2397 Resisting a Peace Officer Peoria County

04--CM--2717 Retail Theft Peoria County

04--CM--2763 Domestic Battery (2 counts) ...


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