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People v. Lee

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division

October 31, 2017

JIMMY LEE, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 14 CR 13802 Honorable Clayton Jay Crane, Judge, presiding.

          PUCINSKI JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Neville concurred in the judgment and opinion. Justice Hyman specially concurred, with opinion.



         ¶ 1 Following a bench trial in Cook County, defendant Jimmy Lee was convicted of aggravated battery of a nurse (720 ILCS 5/12-3.05(d)(11) (West 2014)) and sentenced to 27 months' imprisonment. On appeal, defendant contends that the State failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We reverse.

         ¶ 2 Defendant was arrested on July 24, 2014, as a result of a July 4, 2014, physical altercation with Emily Reich, a nurse who was treating defendant for an intentional drug overdose at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center (Illinois Masonic). He was subsequently charged with two counts of aggravated battery. Count I alleged that defendant knowingly caused bodily harm to Reich, whom he knew to be a nurse performing her official duties. Count II alleged that defendant used a deadly weapon to cause bodily harm to Reich. Count II was amended before trial to allege that defendant knowingly made physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with Reich, whom he knew to be a nurse performing her official duties. Defendant waived his right to a jury trial, and the case proceeded to a bench trial.

         ¶ 3 At trial, Reich testified that, at 11:30 p.m. on July 4, 2014, she was working as an emergency room (E.R.) nurse at Illinois Masonic when defendant was admitted to the hospital. Defendant was accompanied by paramedics and police officers. He was yelling abusively. Emergency personnel informed Reich that defendant had suicidal thoughts and had intentionally overdosed on prescription medication. Reich was familiar with defendant and had treated him at the hospital on approximately five previous occasions. When Reich entered defendant's hospital room, she was wearing her scrubs with embroidering that indicated she was a nurse.

         ¶ 4 As Reich entered defendant's room, she noticed that he had changed into a hospital gown but was still wearing a chain necklace with a four-by-three-inch metal cross at the bottom of it. Reich testified that hospital protocol dictates that, once it is known that a patient has had suicidal thoughts, all personal items are removed because they could be used as potential weapons against the patient or the staff. Reich told defendant that "[w]e're going to need to remove" the necklace. Defendant refused and called her vulgar names. He also threatened to kill her. Defendant told Reich the necklace was a gift and that she could not have it. Reich explained to defendant that the necklace needed to be removed for safety purposes and reached toward defendant to remove it. Another nurse in the room, standing on the opposite side of defendant, attempted to calm him down while Reich removed the necklace. As Reich was leaning over defendant trying to unclasp the necklace, he pulled away, cross clutched in his hand, and the chain broke. At this time, Reich noticed defendant's "elbow come down and his hand go back up, " which made her "flinch." She then felt something very sharp on her forehead and realized that defendant had hit her with the cross he was holding.

         ¶ 5 After doing so, defendant threw the cross onto the floor. Reich walked over to where defendant had thrown the cross and bent down to retrieve it. As Reich rose, she found defendant standing over her and threatening to kill her. Reich exited the room when additional staff entered the room. After Reich left the room, she noticed a red mark about three-quarters of an inch long right along her hairline. Reich stated that she felt a stinging pain throughout the night.

         ¶ 6 The State introduced into evidence a surveillance video depicting Reich's interaction with defendant. The video was played in open court. Reich testified that the video shows her entering defendant's room and telling him that his necklace needed to be removed. The video also shows a brief struggle between Reich and defendant. According to Reich, the video depicts her leaning over defendant to unclasp the necklace, defendant's hand reaching up to prevent her from removing the necklace, and defendant's hand briefly "flutter[ing], " which was when Reich said defendant hit her with the cross. Defendant is also depicted leaving his bed to stand over Reich as she is bent down in the corner of the hospital room picking up the necklace. Reich described the video as a true and accurate depiction of what occurred on the night in question.

         ¶ 7 On cross-examination, Reich testified that emergency personnel did not inform her that defendant was grieving the loss of a loved one. Reich admitted that she was familiar with defendant's mental health history and that she had a similar encounter with defendant during one of his previous visits to the hospital. Reich stated that she previously had a patient commit suicide using a similar item as the cross. About 20 minutes after defendant hit her, Reich noticed a mark near her hairline, which was visible until the next day. At 1:45 a.m. on July 5, 2014, Reich met with Officer Okazaki to report her injury and give a statement about what had occurred.

         ¶ 8 Katie Blazek testified that, on July 4, 2014, she was working at Illinois Masonic as an E.R. nurse. Blazek was familiar with defendant from his previous visits to the E.R. at Illinois Masonic. On the night in question, Blazek was wearing her scrubs and a badge that indicated she was a nurse. Before defendant entered the E.R., she could hear him yelling. Initially, defendant's yelling was not directed to anyone in particular. Blazek provided medical services to defendant, including taking his vital signs, drawing his blood, and starting an IV. Defendant was cooperative during those treatments.

         ¶ 9 Blazek testified that, per hospital protocol, all belongings are removed from patients and that defendant had a necklace with a cross on it that needed to be removed. When Reich entered the room and informed defendant that his necklace would need to be removed, defendant's yelling became directed at Reich. Defendant told the nurses "point blank" that they were not going to get the necklace off of him. Blazek and Reich were both standing at defendant's bedside but on opposite sides of the bed near his head. As Reich attempted to remove defendant's necklace, Blazek saw defendant's hand move "in a very fast motion across the bed towards the opposite side of the bed." Blazek did not see defendant's hand or fist strike Reich because she was focused on defendant at that time. Defendant then threw the cross to the other side of the room. Blazek turned her back to attend to her duties. When she turned around again, defendant was out of bed and standing over Reich, who was bending down in the corner of the room. Blazek wanted defendant to return to his bed but feared that he would hit her if she stepped in front of him. Because defendant was connected by cables to the monitor next to his bed, Blazek pulled the cables to get him back into the bed. The State then rested.

         ¶ 10 Defendant testified that, on July 4, 2014, he had learned that both his partner and his son were in a car accident and that his son had not survived the accident. Defendant attempted to commit suicide by overdosing on prescription medication. Defendant was then transported by ambulance to Illinois Masonic, where he has been a patient since 2006. Defendant is a diagnosed schizophrenic. He stated that he respects the staff at Illinois Masonic and credits them with saving his life "so many times." During his testimony, defendant referred to several of the hospital's nursing staff and doctors by their first names.

         ¶ 11 At the hospital, defendant was treated by Blazek and then Reich. When Reich entered the room, she said, "Jimmy, I need to take your cross off." Defendant described Reich as being "really loud and boisterous about it." He refused to remove the cross and explained that it had been a gift from his partner. At this time, Blazek, with whom defendant stated he has a "close relationship, " was attempting to reassure and comfort him. Defendant was calm and cooperative when Blazek was treating him because he "had no fear." He stated that Reich reached for his cross and said "[i]t's mine now." As Reich reached around his neck, defendant grabbed her hand. Reich then pulled on the necklace, which broke the clasp of the chain holding the cross, causing it to fall and slide across the floor. Defendant stated that the next thing he remembers is ...

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