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In re D.Q.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fifth Division

November 4, 2016

In re D.Q. and J.C., Minors
v.
Sabrina V., Respondent-Appellant. The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee,

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 15 JA 599-600 The Honorable Rena M. Van Tine, Judge Presiding.

          PRESIDING JUSTICE GORDON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Lampkin and Reyes concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          GORDON PRESIDING JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 The instant appeal arises from the juvenile court's entry of an adjudication order finding three-year-old D.Q. and one-year-old J.C. abused and neglected due to (1) an injurious environment and (2) substantial risk of physical injury, and making them wards of the court. Respondent Sabrina V., the children's mother, argues that the primary evidence against her consisted of a video in which she is shown repeatedly striking D.Q. with a stick, which was improperly admitted into evidence and, accordingly, there was no evidence to support the juvenile court's findings. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 On June 15, 2015, the State filed two petitions for adjudication of wardship, requesting that D.Q. and J.C. be adjudicated wards of the court; the State also filed motions for temporary custody the same day. The adjudication petition relating to D.Q. claimed that D.Q. was a female minor born on March 13, 2012, and was neglected under section 2-3(1)(b) of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Juvenile Court Act) (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b) (West 2014)) in that "she [was] a minor under 18 years of age whose environment [was] injurious to her welfare." The adjudication petition also claimed that D.Q. was abused under section 2-3(2)(i) of the Juvenile Court Act (705 ILCS 405/2-3(2)(i) (West 2014)) in that her parent "[i]nflicts, caused to be inflicted, or allows to be inflicted upon her physical injury, by other than accidental means, which caused death, disfigurement, impairment of physical or emotional health, or loss or impairment of any bodily function" and further claimed that D.Q. was abused under section 2-3(2)(ii) of the Juvenile Court Act (705 ICLS 405/2-3(2)(ii) (West 2014)) in that her parent "[c]reates a substantial risk of physical injury to such minor by other than accidental means which would be likely to cause death, disfigurement, impairment of emotional health, or loss or impairment of any bodily function."

         ¶ 4 The facts in the petition underlying all three claims set forth above were the same. According to the petition, on May 24, 2015, a video of respondent repeatedly hitting D.Q. with a spatula and stick was turned over to "police personnel."[1] In the video, respondent was observed striking D.Q. on various parts of her body while dragging her across the floor. Additionally, respondent and D.Q.'s father[2] had a history of domestic violence with each other in D.Q.'s presence. According to the petition, there was a no contact order between respondent and D.Q., and an order of protection which prohibited the father from having contact with D.Q.

         ¶ 5 The adjudication petition relating to J.C. was similar, claiming that J.C. was a male minor born on January 26, 2015, and was neglected under section 2-3(1)(b) of the Juvenile Court Act in that "he [was] a minor under 18 years of age whose environment [was] injurious to his welfare." The adjudication petition also claimed that J.C. was abused under section 2-3(2)(ii) of the Juvenile Court Act in that his parent "[c]reates a substantial risk of physical injury to the minor by other than accidental means which would be likely to cause death, disfigurement, impairment of emotional health, or loss or impairment of any bodily function." The underlying facts of J.C.'s claims were identical to those alleged in D.Q.'s petition.[3] J.C.'s petition also alleged that his putative father[4] was currently incarcerated and that paternity had not been established.

         ¶ 6 After a temporary custody hearing on June 16, 2015, at which the parties stipulated to the facts alleged in the State's petitions for adjudication of wardship, the juvenile court found probable cause that both children were abused and/or neglected and that an immediate and urgent necessity existed to support their removal from the home. The court granted temporary custody of both children to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) guardianship administrator, with the right to place the children and with the authority to consent to major medical care on their behalf.

         ¶ 7 On November 9, 2015, the State filed a motion to continue the trial date due to the State's "ongoing efforts to obtain evidence and information that would allow the People to locate the source of the video referenced in the petition, " including outstanding subpoenas for telephone subscriber information, metadata analysis of the video files, and a new individual with possible knowledge of the video source. On November 10, 2015, the juvenile court took the motion under advisement, and the parties proceeded with an adjudication hearing.

         ¶ 8 The State's first witness was Christopher Q., D.Q.'s father, who testified that the DVD marked as People's Exhibit 1 contained "a video of [respondent] abusing my daughter [D.Q.]" Christopher testified that he was able to identify the woman in the video as respondent, based on "[h]er body type, her voice, height, just[-]it's her." He further testified that he recognized D.Q. in the video based on "her physical appearance, her-her size, her voice, the sound of-the sound of her cheeks. It's my daughter. I know my daughter." He testified that he had observed both respondent and D.Q. numerous times in the past, and had known respondent since 2011. Christopher testified that there was no doubt in his mind as to who was on the video "[b]ecause *** I'm absolutely familiar with their appearance and how they sound and *** how they look."

         ¶ 9 Christopher testified that he became aware of the video when he received it on his cell phone from respondent's mother. After viewing the video, he brought it to the River Grove police department. Christopher was not present when the video was made and did not know when it was taken or who recorded it. He testified that the video he received on his cell phone and the video he reviewed in court were "the same exact video."

         ¶ 10 The State next called respondent as a witness, but respondent refused to testify and asserted her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination with respect to all questions concerning the case; respondent only answered questions identifying herself as the mother of D.Q. and J.C.

         ¶ 11 The State's next witness was Alicia Pickett, a child protection investigator with DCFS, who testified that she was assigned to the children's case in May 2015 and met with D.Q. on May 27, 2015, at approximately 4 p.m. at her maternal grandmother's place of employment. While D.Q.'s grandmother was present in the vicinity, she was not present during the conversation that Pickett had with D.Q. Pickett testified that she asked D.Q. her name and age, and D.Q. responded with her name and that she was three years old, and then showed Pickett a tea set she had received; Pickett described D.Q. as a "happy, happy kid." Pickett asked D.Q. what happened when she did not listen to her mother, and D.Q. responded "that Mom had hit her in the face." Pickett asked D.Q. what respondent had hit her with, and D.Q. responded "a stick." Pickett asked D.Q. why respondent had hit her with a stick, and D.Q. responded that it was because D.Q. was crying. ...


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