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People v. Radford

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

July 13, 2018

TAVARIUS D. RADFORD, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 21st Judicial Circuit, Kankakee County, Illinois Circuit No. 11-CF-662 Honorable Clark Erickson, Judge, Presiding.

          JUSTICE SCHMIDT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Wright concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 A jury convicted defendant, Tavarius D. Radford, of felony child endangerment (720 ILCS 5/12-21.6(a) (West 2010)), for which the trial court sentenced him to 42 months in prison. Defendant now appeals his conviction. First, defendant argues that the State's evidence failed to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Second, he contends that the trial court plainly erred by issuing a child endangerment jury instruction that misstated the requisite mens rea or, in the alternative, counsel provided ineffective assistance by not objecting to the instruction. Finally, defendant claims the trial court violated his right to a public trial by partially closing the courtroom during voir dire and, later in the trial, asking journalism students in the audience to find a seat or leave the courtroom. For the following reasons, we affirm defendant's conviction.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 The State charged defendant with murder and child endangerment after his 26-month-old daughter died from traumatic head injuries on October 26, 2011. Around 10 a.m. that morning, Kayleigh Reardanz found her daughter, M.R., unresponsive in their Bourbonnais apartment. By the time she reached the hospital, M.R. had fallen into cardiac arrest. After attempting to resuscitate her, the treating physician pronounced M.R. dead shortly after 11 a.m. The forensic pathologist who performed M.R.'s autopsy concluded that blunt head trauma from child abuse caused her death. M.R.'s death certificate described her manner of death as homicide due to child abuse. Defendant's jury trial began November 18, 2013.

         ¶ 4 Prior to voir dire, the trial court recognized that, although jury selection is a public proceeding, the courtroom could not accommodate over 90 potential jurors and spectators present for the proceedings. The record indicates that M.R.'s family members and other members of the public regularly attended pretrial hearings. Due to the nature of the case, the trial court also noted that the large congregation of spectators with "emotions running high" risked contaminating the jury pool.

         ¶ 5 The court observed that the spectators appeared equally divided between those who supported defendant and those who did not. In an effort to preserve defendant's public trial right and proceed with jury selection, the court asked all spectators, except two who supported defendant and two who did not, to leave the courtroom. The court let the spectators decide who would remain in the courtroom. Neither defendant nor his counsel objected to this partial closure.

         ¶ 6 Kayleigh testified that she, defendant, and M.R. lived in the Bourbonnais apartment for approximately one month before M.R.'s death. They lived in the apartment with Kayleigh's grandparents, Cheryl and David Heather, and close friends, Kimberly and Echo Brewington. On October 26, 2011, Kayleigh found M.R. unresponsive around 10 a.m. Her skin was blue in color and very cold. Kayleigh became upset and yelled for help. She called 911 and handed the phone to Kimberly. Before the ambulance arrived, David attempted to resuscitate M.R. by performing CPR. Doctors pronounced M.R. dead just after 11 a.m.

         ¶ 7 Kayleigh spoke with police at the hospital and again days after M.R.'s death. During these conversations, Kayleigh did not disclose M.R.'s prior falls or medical history. She testified that she believed M.R. died from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), so she did not think to disclose M.R.'s prior falls to police. After M.R.'s autopsy revealed that she died from head trauma caused by child abuse, police interviewed Kayleigh a third time. This time, she informed police of M.R.'s prior falls and medical history.

         ¶ 8 Kayleigh testified that M.R. was born in August 2009. Soon after, M.R. developed a blue sclera and grew to be unusually large for her age. Her pediatrician believed these symptoms were consistent with osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease) and recommended a blood test and appointment with a geneticist. When Kayleigh and defendant received M.R.'s blood test results, they decided not to consult the geneticist.

         ¶ 9 In January or February 2011, M.R. fell down and hit her head while defendant babysat her. Defendant took M.R. to the emergency room; Kayleigh met him there. M.R.'s computed tomography (CT) scans were negative, and the treating physician discharged her. Kayleigh noticed a "knot" on M.R.'s forehead at the hospital.

         ¶ 10 Kayleigh also testified that M.R. "split her eyebrow open" later in 2011 while Kayleigh's friend babysat. Then, on Easter in 2011, M.R. slipped in Kayleigh's mother's bathtub and "busted her chin." M.R. went to the emergency room after both falls.

         ¶ 11 In September 2011, M.R.'s pediatrician diagnosed her with mild anemia. On October 13, Kayleigh again took M.R. to her pediatrician due to a large rash on her chest. Kayleigh pointed out bite marks on M.R.'s arm where she bit herself. The pediatrician believed that capillary hemangiomas caused M.R.'s rash. M.R.'s self-harm stemmed from a behavioral issue unrelated to the rash. The rash subsided the next day, so defendant and Kayleigh never took M.R. to undergo bleeding and bruising panels that her pediatrician ordered.

         ¶ 12 On October 22, M.R. fell and hit her head on the pavement while playing outside with Kayleigh. Kayleigh examined M.R.'s head but saw no injury; she did not take M.R. to the hospital. However, she kept M.R. awake for at least one hour after the fall in case she sustained a concussion.

         ¶ 13 Kayleigh also testified that M.R. fell the day before her death. She threw herself backwards during a tantrum and hit her head on the pavement. After the incident, M.R. complained of head pain. While Kimberly and Kayleigh were styling M.R.'s hair later that night, M.R. complained of pain when they touched the back of her head. Cheryl, Kimberly, and Kayleigh examined M.R.'s head but did not see any indication of injury. Although Kayleigh stated these events occurred the day before M.R.'s death, Echo testified that it occurred on October 23, three days before M.R.'s death.

         ¶ 14 Kayleigh stated that she worked from 3 p.m. until 11 p.m. on October 25. When she returned to the apartment after work, she noticed M.R. whimpering and shaking. Kayleigh asked M.R. if she was in pain; she indicated that she was not. M.R. commonly shook when she became impatient, so Kayleigh was not alarmed by M.R.'s behavior. Kayleigh discovered M.R. unresponsive the next morning.

         ¶ 15 Cheryl testified that Kayleigh took her to the grocery store in the early afternoon on October 25. M.R. was asleep when Cheryl and Kayleigh returned to the apartment before 3 p.m. After quickly getting ready, Kayleigh left for work around 3 p.m. At around 5 p.m., Cheryl agreed to watch M.R., who was still asleep, while defendant and Echo biked to Kankakee.

         ¶ 16 Echo testified that she and defendant were gone for at least two hours-they biked to a friend's house, purchased marijuana, and smoked it in a nearby park. M.R. was still asleep when defendant and Echo returned to the apartment around 7 p.m.

         ¶ 17 Although defendant did not testify on his own behalf, the jury viewed his videotaped police interview. Before the jury viewed the interview, journalism students from a local university entered the courtroom to observe the proceedings, specifically the interview. The trial court asked the students to "find a place to sit" or they would have to leave the courtroom. The record does not indicate whether any of the students left the courtroom.

         ¶ 18 During the interview, defendant told police that he tucked M.R. in for a nap before 3 p.m. on October 25. A few minutes later, defendant returned to check on M.R. She was playing with a wooden unicorn plaque instead of sleeping. Defendant grew angry at M.R.'s insubordination and tucked her in "kind of roughly." He immediately apologized to M.R. and told her that he loved her.

         ¶ 19 Defendant told police that he did not believe M.R. could have been injured when he tucked her in. He speculated that she may have hit her head on the wooden plaque, but he was uncertain. However, when defendant demonstrated his action toward M.R. on a stuffed bear, he told police the demonstration was less aggressive than how he tucked M.R. in because he did not want to hurt the bear.

         ¶ 20 Defendant also told police that M.R.'s naps would typically last between 60 and 90 minutes; on October, 25, she slept for at least 4 hours. She seemed to have no appetite and ate very little at dinner after she awoke from her nap. Defendant also told police that M.R. may have vomited after dinner, but he could not remember for certain.

         ¶ 21 Two experts presented crucial testimony regarding M.R.'s manner of death. Dr. Valerie Arangelovich, the forensic pathologist who performed M.R.'s autopsy, opined that abuse caused M.R.'s fatal head trauma. Dr. Shaku Teas, an experienced forensic pathologist, disagreed with Arangelovich's conclusion and criticized her methods. Teas found no signs of child abuse in M.R.'s autopsy record.

         ¶ 22 Specifically, Teas disagreed with Arangelovich's conclusion that M.R.'s fatal injuries occurred within 24 hours of her death. Arangelovich found subgaleal and subdural injuries in M.R.'s brain-both experts agreed that the subdural injuries directly caused M.R.'s death. Both experts also agreed that the subgaleal injuries were likely old injuries. Arangelovich found iron when she sampled M.R.'s subgaleal injuries. ...

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