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The People of the State of Illinois v. Ernesto Giraud

November 29, 2012

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
APPELLANT,
v.
ERNESTO GIRAUD,
APPELLEE.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Garman

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

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

OPINION

¶ 1 Defendant was convicted in the circuit court of Cook County of multiple counts, including one count of aggravated criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/12-14(a)(3) (West 2006)). The victim was his teenage daughter. The aggravating factor found by the jury was that "during *** the commission of the offense," he "acted in such a manner as to threaten or endanger the life of the victim" (id.), because on at least one occasion, he had forcible intercourse with her without wearing a condom, knowing that he was HIV positive. The appellate court reduced this conviction to criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/12-13 (West 2006)), on the basis that the victim was neither threatened nor her life endangered during the assault. 2011 IL App (1st) 091261, ¶ 30. We allowed the State's petition for leave to appeal pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 315 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010).

¶ 2 The facts of the multiple assaults, which took place over several months, are recounted in the appellate court's opinion, 2011 IL App (1st) 091261, ¶¶ 3-7, and need not be repeated here because the underlying facts are not in dispute. Although the victim was exposed to HIV during at least one of the assaults, she did not contract the virus as a result.

¶ 3 ANALYSIS

¶ 4 The statutory language at issue, section 12-14(a)(3) of the Criminal Code of 1961, states: "The accused commits aggravated criminal sexual assault if he or she commits criminal sexual assault and any of the following aggravating circumstances existed during *** the commission of the offense: *** (3) the accused acted in such a manner as to threaten or endanger the life of the victim or any other person." 720 ILCS 5/12-14(a)(3) (West 2006).

¶ 5 The State argues that the appellate court usurped the function of the trier of fact by concluding that "no rational trier of fact could have found that the evidence of defendant's unprotected sex with the victim during the criminal sexual assault could rise to aggravated criminal sexual assault." 2011 IL App (1st) 091261, ¶ 34. However, the appellate court understood that it was deciding a question of law when it interpreted the statute to mean that "HIV exposure alone during criminal sexual assault is not enough to raise criminal sexual assault to aggravated criminal sexual assault." Id. The appellate court then stated that as a result of this interpretation of the statute, "it follows" that no reasonable trier of fact could have found otherwise. Id. Thus, we reject the State's suggestion that we review this question under the standard applicable to a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence: whether the evidence is so improbable, unsatisfactory, or inconclusive that it creates reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt. People v. Evans, 209 Ill. 2d 194, 209 (2004).

¶ 6 The question we must answer is whether a defendant's knowingly exposing the victim of a sexual assault to HIV, thereby placing her at some risk of acquiring an infection that could eventually lead to her developing an incurable and potentially fatal disease, constitutes a threat or endangerment of her life during the commission of the offense. This is a question of statutory interpretation, subject to de novo review. People v. Donoho, 204 Ill. 2d 159, 172 (2003).

"The principles guiding our analysis are well established. Our primary objective is to ascertain and give effect to legislative intent, the surest and most reliable indicator of which is the statutory language itself, given its plain and ordinary meaning. Illinois Graphics Co. v. Nickum, 159 Ill. 2d 469, 479 (1994). In determining the plain meaning of statutory terms, we consider the statute in its entirety, keeping in mind the subject it addresses and the apparent intent of the legislature in enacting it. People v. Davis, 199 Ill. 2d 130, 135 (2002). Where the language of the statute is clear and unambiguous, we must apply it as written, without resort to extrinsic aids to statutory construction. People v. Collins, 214 Ill. 2d 206, 214 (2005).

If the language is ambiguous, making construction of the language necessary, we construe the statute so that no part of it is rendered meaningless or superfluous. People v. Jones, 214 Ill. 2d 187, 193 (2005). We do not depart from the plain language of the statute by reading into it exceptions, limitations, or conditions that conflict with the expressed intent. People v. Martinez, 184 Ill. 2d 547, 550 (1998). The traditional canons or maxims of statutory construction are not rules of law, but rather are 'merely aids in determining legislative intent and must yield to such intent.' In re Application of the County Treasurer, 214 Ill. 2d 253, 259 (2005)." People v. Perry, 224 Ill. 2d 312, 323-24 (2007).

¶ 7 Because we must interpret the statute in its entirety, we must discern the meaning of the phrase "during *** the commission of the offense" in conjunction with the phrase "acted in such a manner as to threaten or endanger the life of the victim."

¶ 8 Section 12-14(a) lists 10 possible aggravating circumstances to the crime of criminal sexual assault. Nine of the 10 must have "existed during *** the commission of the offense" to qualify as aggravating circumstances. 720 ILCS 5/12-14(a) (West 2006). These nine circumstances include seven that require certain conduct by the accused (720 ILCS 5/12-14(a)(1), (2), (3), (4), (8), (9), (10) (West 2006)) and two that pertain to attributes of the victim (720 ILCS 5/12-14(a)(5), (6) (West 2006)). By the plain language of the statute, none of these circumstances can elevate the crime of criminal sexual assault to aggravated criminal sexual assault unless they existed while the crime was being committed. Indeed, it would make little sense to have an aggravating factor for causing bodily harm to the victim (720 ILCS 5/12-14(a)(2) (West 2006)), if the accused caused the bodily harm in a separate incident apart from the sexual assault. Similarly, if the victim was one day short of her sixtieth birthday on the date of the assault, the accused cannot be said to have assaulted a victim "60 years of age or over when the offense was committed." 720 ILCS 5/12-14(a)(5) (West 2006).

ΒΆ 9 The phrase "during the commission of the offense" is the focus of the defendant's argument. Although he admits that he exposed the victim to HIV, he argues that he did not threaten or endanger her life during the commission of the offense. Further, although her life might have been endangered at some time in the future if she had become infected, she did not contract the virus and, thus, her life was not ...


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