JUSTICE THEIS delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Chief Justice Karmeier and Justices Thomas,
Kilbride, Garman, and Burke concurred in the judgment and
1 Following simultaneous but severed bench trials in the
circuit court of Cook County, defendants Stevie Smith and
Jerry Brown were convicted of robbery and aggravated battery
of a senior citizen in which defendants caused great bodily
harm. In separate appeals, the appellate court vacated
defendants' convictions for aggravated battery of a
senior citizen under one-act, one-crime principles.
People v. Brown, 2018 IL App. (1st) 151311-B;
People v. Smith, 2018 IL App. (1st) 151312-B. For
the following reasons, we reverse the judgments of the
3 Defendants were charged by indictment with first degree
felony murder predicated on robbery (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(3)
(West 2008)), aggravated battery of a senior citizen
(id. § 12-4.6(a)), robbery (id. §
18-1(a)), and several counts of aggravated battery
(id. § 12-4(a), (b)(8), (b)(10)).
4 The evidence at trial established that on the morning of
November 16, 2009, William Burtner, a 65-year-old veteran,
was attacked while attempting to deposit money at the A.J.
Smith bank in Midlothian, Illinois. Burtner, in his role as
the commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post, was
responsible for making the deposits on behalf of the VFW.
That morning, he was walking toward the bank entrance,
carrying multiple deposit bags with $2100 in cash and a cigar
box containing cash and checks from a fundraiser held the
5 A bank teller saw Burtner, a regular customer, walking
toward the entrance with the deposit bags in hand. She saw a
man in a hooded sweatshirt walk quickly behind him. After
briefly losing sight of both men as they passed behind a
wall, she saw the hooded man run in the opposite direction,
carrying something in his hands. The man, later identified as
defendant Smith, got into the passenger seat of a black car
driven by codefendant Brown, and the car sped off.
6 A bank employee found Burtner lying on the ground by the
front entrance, taking labored breaths, and grabbing his left
side. Burtner told her that he had been punched in the side
and asked her to retrieve the cigar box, which was on the
ground. Burtner later told a paramedic that he fell after
being hit from behind. At the hospital, Burtner complained of
left side pain, difficulty breathing, and two bruised knees.
X-rays taken at that time did not reveal broken ribs.
7 Meanwhile, after a high-speed police chase, the black car
crashed and came to a stop. Defendants ran in opposite
directions. Police found defendant Brown minutes later hiding
underneath a car. During a custodial search, police recovered
$1200 in cash from defendant Brown's pocket; they also
recovered the A.J. Smith bank deposit bags and money from
inside the car. DNA evidence from blood samples taken from
the car was linked to defendant Smith.
8 Three days after the incident, Burtner died. Following an
autopsy, the medical examiner's opinion was that the
cause of death was a heart attack and that the assault was a
significant contributing factor because it stressed
Burtner's already weakened cardiovascular system. Burtner
had heart disease, had two prior heart attacks, and suffered
from lung cancer. The internal examination revealed three
broken ribs on Burtner's left side and hemorrhaging on
the left chest wall consistent with being punched. It was the
medical examiner's opinion that the injuries were no more
than four days old.
9 The trial court acquitted defendants on the felony murder
charge but convicted them of robbery and aggravated battery
of a senior citizen in which they caused great bodily harm,
after merging the other aggravated battery counts. The court
also found that consecutive sentences were warranted by the
nature of the crimes and defendants' lengthy criminal
histories. Smith was sentenced to 12 years for robbery and 6
years for aggravated battery of a senior citizen. Brown was
sentenced to 15 years for robbery and 7 years for aggravated
battery of a senior citizen.
10 On appeal, defendants argued for the first time that their
convictions for aggravated battery of a senior citizen
violated the one-act, one-crime rule because they were
predicated on the same conduct as the robbery conviction. In
each case, under a plain-error analysis, the appellate court
agreed, finding that the evidence demonstrated that
defendants committed one single physical act-a punch to
Burtner's left side. The court found that the single
punch became "the basis for the aggravated battery
conviction, and as the element of force for the robbery
conviction." People v. Brown, 2017 IL App.
(1st) 151311-U, ¶¶ 22, 25, vacated by No.
123080 (Ill. Mar. 21, 2018) (supervisory order); People
v. Smith, 2017 IL App. (1st) 151312, ¶¶ 22,
25, vacated by No. 123082 (Ill. Mar. 21, 2018)
(supervisory order). Accordingly, the court vacated
defendants' convictions for aggravated battery of a
senior citizen. Brown, 2017 IL App. (1st) 151311-U,
¶ 25; Smith, 2017 IL App. (1st) 151312, ¶
11 Subsequently, this court issued supervisory orders in each
case directing the appellate court to reconsider its decision
in light of People v. Coats, 2018 IL 121926. On
remand, the appellate court found Coats
distinguishable and reiterated its conclusions that there was
no evidence of a separate physical act to support both
convictions. Brown, 2018 IL App. (1st) 151311-B,
¶¶ 26-28; Smith, 2018 IL App. (1st)
151312-B, ¶¶ 26-28. We allowed the State's
petitions for leave to appeal (Ill. S.Ct. R. 315 (eff. July
1, 2018)) and consolidated the cases for review.
13 The sole issue in this appeal involves the application of
the one-act, one-crime rule, which was established by this
court in People v. King,66 Ill.2d 551 (1977), and
reaffirmed in People v. Rodriguez,169 Ill.2d 183
(1996). The one-act, one-crime rule prohibits convictions for
multiple offenses that are based on precisely ...