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People v. Richardson

Court of Appeal of Illinois, First District, Third Division

November 13, 2013

The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Jenise RICHARDSON, Defendant-Appellant.

Page 965

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 966

Michael J. Pelletier, Alan D. Goldberg, and Rachel Moran, all of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Chicago, for appellant.

Anita M. Alvarez, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, Mary P. Needham, and Sarah L. Simpson, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

Justice NEVILLE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Pucinski concurred in the judgment and opinion. Justice Mason dissented, with opinion.

OPINION

NEVILLE, Justice.

[377 Ill.Dec. 79] ¶ 1 A jury found Jenise Richardson guilty of the aggravated battery of a child. In this appeal, Richardson contends that the trial court committed plain error by failing to ask the venire members whether they understood that the defendant had no burden of proving her innocence and the jury must not hold it against the defendant if she decides not to testify. Richardson also contends that the trial court improperly restricted cross-examination of prosecution witnesses about the circumstances under which Richardson signed the statement the prosecution put into evidence. Because we find both arguments meritorious, we reverse the conviction and remand for a new trial.

¶ 2 BACKGROUND

¶ 3 On January 12, 2007, Luenetha Crumb dropped off her children at the home of their babysitter, Richardson. When Luenetha retrieved the children, her seven-month-old son, Brandon Crumb, was crying. Richardson said Brandon had started fussing in the afternoon. Luenetha quieted Brandon down and Brandon stayed quiet on the ride home. Later that evening Brandon started crying inconsolably. Tylenol helped Brandon sleep through the night.

¶ 4 When Luenetha bathed Brandon the next morning, she noticed that he winced whenever she touched his leg. She took Brandon to his pediatrician, who ordered an X-ray. The X-ray showed a spiral fracture of the tibia, near Brandon's foot.

¶ 5 Luenetha called Richardson the next day and told her about the fracture. Richardson told Luenetha that Brandon had had no special problems at her home. Brandon's injury fully healed over the following weeks.

¶ 6 Detective Kathleen Moriarty arrested Richardson around 3 p.m. on March 28, 2007. Richardson discussed Brandon's injury with Moriarty. Moriarty then contacted Jaclyn Lantz, an assistant State's Attorney, who interviewed Richardson around 8:30 p.m. Richardson told Lantz and Moriarty that she had done nothing wrong and she did not know how Brandon's leg broke. Richardson remained in lockup overnight.

¶ 7 Around 9 p.m. the next day, Lantz wrote out a statement Richardson signed. According to the handwritten statement, Richardson babysat the Crumb children during the day and other children at night

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[377 Ill.Dec. 80] during the week that began January 8, 2007. Every night that week, Richardson got home from the other family's home after 1:30 a.m. and woke up in time to take care of Luenetha's children, who arrived at 6 a.m. each morning. On January 12, 2007, Brandon slept in his car seat until 9:30 a.m., and he fell asleep again at 1 p.m. Richardson also napped in the afternoon until Brandon's crying awoke her around 3 p.m. Brandon refused a bottle and a pacifier and he kept crying.

¶ 8 The handwritten statement continues:

" [Richardson] says she placed her hands on [Brandon's] thigh area and started shaking him. * * * [S]he had a strong grip on his legs and shook him for two minutes. * * * [S]ometimes her hands move inward motion while shaking. [Richardson] says she was still tired and irritated because she had to get up at this point out of her sleep. * * * [S]he now took the baby out of the car seat feet first, but by grabbing him by his waist. [She] says she did this in an aggressive way. * * * [S]he was aggravated and did not take him out of the car seat the correct way. * * * [A]s she was taking him out of the car seat, his foot twisted. * * * [H]is foot twisted all the way around. * * * [S]he knew Brandon was hurt, but did not know how bad. * * * [S]he knew she hurt Brandon when she pulled him out of the car seat. * * * [W]hen Brandon's mom called that day she did not tell Brandon's mom about his leg because she was scared and did not know how badly she hurt his leg."

¶ 9 Prosecutors charged Richardson with aggravated battery of a child. See 720 ILCS 5/12-4.3(a) (West 2006). The trial court denied Richardson's motions to quash the arrest and suppress the handwritten statement.

¶ 10 Before jury selection, the trial court said to the jury:

" [T]he defendant is presumed to be innocent of the charges against her. The presumption remains with her throughout the trial and is not overcome unless by your verdict you find the State has proven her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Is there anyone here who has any quarrel with the proposition of law, the presumption of innocence? If so, raise your hand.
No hands have been raised.
* * * The State has the burden of proving the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. This burden remains on the State throughout the trial.
Does anyone have any quarrel with this proposition of law, the burden of proof? If so, raise your hand.
Again, no response.
The defendant is not required to prove her innocence.
Does anyone have any issues with that proposition?
Again, no response.
And, finally, the defendant has an absolute right to remain silent and to elect to sit here and not testify in her defense and rely on the presumption of innocence. You may draw no inference from the fact that the defendant chooses to remain silent either in favor or against the defendant because she elects to remain silent.
Does anyone here have any quarrel with this proposition of law, the right of the defendant to remain silent?
Again, no response."

¶ 11 No one objected to the ...


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