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People v. Jones

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, First Division

January 30, 2017

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MICHAEL JONES, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 13 CR 11594 Honorable James Michael Obbish, Judge Presiding.

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

          Justices Simon and Mikva concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          HARRIS JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Defendant, Michael Jones, was convicted after a bench trial of aggravated domestic battery, and the trial court sentenced him to five years' imprisonment and four years of mandatory supervised release (MSR). On appeal, defendant contends: (1) the State did not prove him guilty of aggravated domestic battery beyond a reasonable doubt where severe deformities in his hands and arms, along with his lack of strength and range of motion, rendered him incapable of stabbing the victim in her chest; (2) he is entitled to a new trial where the record shows that the trial court prejudged his case and rejected his defense before defendant's expert witness had testified; and (3) he was denied his right to present a full defense when the trial court refused to admit mental health records of the victim. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         ¶ 2 JURISDICTION

         ¶ 3 Defendant was sentenced on September 29, 2014. He filed a notice of appeal on September 29, 2014. Accordingly, this court has jurisdiction pursuant to Article VI, section 6, of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, § 6), and Illinois Supreme Court Rule 603 (eff. Feb. 6, 2013) and Rule 606 (eff. Dec. 11, 2014), governing appeals from a final judgment of conviction in a criminal case entered below.

         ¶ 4 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 5 Defendant was charged by information with attempted first degree murder, aggravated domestic battery, unlawful use or possession of a weapon by a felon, and aggravated battery in the stabbing of his ex-girlfriend, Cherelle Richardson. Prior to trial, on the State's motion, Richardson's mental health records were delivered to the trial court for an in camera inspection to determine their relevancy before tendering them to the defense. After reviewing the records, the trial court determined that they were not "relevant to any of the current allegations against [defendant]. I don't see how in any way they would be helpful to either party."

         ¶ 6 Defense counsel filed a motion to reconsider. At the hearing on the motion, counsel argued that the defense at trial would be that Richardson stabbed herself, and her mental health records would "help us determine her mental state and to possibly lead us to any other records" in preparation for confronting Richardson at trial. The trial court noted that the records were from 2009, and detail "an incident that occurred four years prior to the allegations that are before me. And although the complaining witness did in fact receive that mental health treatment for a short period of time, it ended in 2009 with respect to that particular incident. Nothing about that incident seems to me to be in any way relevant to the incident at hand here." The trial court denied the motion but informed defense counsel that if at trial, the mental health records may be necessary for impeachment purposes, "you could renew your motion at that time. And then if it becomes relevant that she had the condition that you describe, that you've learned of and she were to deny that and it was relevant, then the records could be used to impeach her."

         ¶ 7 At trial, Richardson testified that she met defendant in the spring of 2011. They began an intimate relationship in March 2012, and on November 29, 2012, Richardson gave birth to the couple's son, ZyYon. During this time, Richardson did not have a permanent place of residence, so she stayed intermittently with defendant at his house at 5345 South Wolcott in Chicago, Illinois. Richardson and defendant frequently argued, which would cause her to leave for a period of time before returning.

         ¶ 8 On December 11, 2012, they argued and defendant threatened to kill Richardson, placing her in a chokehold from behind as she sat on the couch. During the argument, ZyYon was in a car seat on the floor. Richardson flipped defendant on the floor but he continued to choke her until she "tapped out." The choking incident lasted about two minutes. Richardson left and called the police. Although the officers offered to call an ambulance for her, Richardson declined medical treatment. She filed an order of protection against defendant, but she did not go to court to ensure the order was still in effect because she did not have a way to get there. Subsequent to the incident, Richardson lost custody of ZyYon. When asked on cross-examination the reason Richardson no longer has ZyYon, she answered, "because [defendant] called [the Department of Children and Family Services] on me."

         ¶ 9 Richardson testified that the couple argued "all the time" from January to May of 2013. On May 26, 2013, Richardson went to defendant's house and they argued because defendant's brother had seen Richardson with another man. After they had calmed down from the argument, defendant performed oral sex on Richardson. Richardson, however, refused to reciprocate, which angered defendant. While defendant went into the kitchen, Richardson went into the bathroom. When she walked out of the bathroom, she saw defendant standing by the front door. Richardson went to the front door and as defendant walked past her, he stabbed her in the chest and told her "to go be with that n***a then." She did not realize she had been stabbed until she looked down at her shirt and "seen all the blood coming out." Richardson did not see the object defendant stabbed her with, but his hand touched her "left side, [her] left breast."

         ¶ 10 Richardson began to panic when she saw the blood. Defendant told her, "B***h, run, " and she ran out of the house. Richardson ran down the street trying to find someone to call an ambulance. She eventually passed out and when she awoke, the police asked her if she knew the person who stabbed her before putting her in an ambulance. At the hospital, Richardson underwent emergency surgery to repair the wound.

         ¶ 11 On cross-examination, Richardson was asked if she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She answered, "Wrong. I don't know how y'all diagnosed me with that because I'm not bipolar and they cannot make no diagnosis off of me." The trial court sustained the State's objection and held a side bar to hear argument on the issue. Defense counsel argued that the defense's theory is that Richardson stabbed herself, and the medical records showing she had been treated for bipolar disorder is relevant to their theory because it would "show her state of mind at the time this stabbing occurred." This exchange followed:

"THE COURT: Do you have any reason to believe by way of evidence that
[Richardson] stabbed herself?"
MS. PAYETTE [defense attorney]: Other than there's two people in the room and I have strong medical evidence to show that [defendant] ...

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