In re Brandon P., 2014 IL 116653

 

Appellate citation: 2013 IL App (4th) 111022.

 

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

      Chief Justice Garman and Justices Freeman, Kilbride, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

 

          In 2010, this juvenile respondent, who was then 14 years old, was involved in an incident in Danville which concerned his three-year-old female cousin and which resulted in a finding that he was guilty of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. An adjudication of wardship was entered in the circuit court of Vermilion County, and he was sentenced to the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice for a period not to exceed his attainment of age 21. The appellate court affirmed.

            Shortly after the incident, the victim had made an “outcry” statement to her mother that the respondent had touched her genitals. The trial court found the mother’s testimony reliable and admissible, and that ruling is not at issue here. At trial, male DNA evidence was presented which had been taken from the victim’s underwear. Although it did not provide a match to the respondent, it could not exclude him. The victim’s brother, who was in the room when the incident occurred, testified that he saw the victim lying on the floor without her pants on. The trial court also allowed admission of the child’s statements to a Danville police detective.

            Although the appellate court had said some things with which the Illinois Supreme Court disagreed in this decision, the supreme could upheld the appellate court’s affirmance of the circuit court’s adjudication. The victim’s statements to the police detective were testimonial in nature, and, although she was present at the subsequent trial which took place when she was four, she “froze” when an attempt was made to directly examine her. Thus, she was unavailable to testify. This raised the problem of denial of the respondent’s right to confront.

      Confrontation clause violations are subject to harmless error review. The issue for the supreme court to decide in this appeal was whether the erroneous admission of the child’s statements to the detective was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. In this decision the supreme court held that this was indeed the case because the detective’s testimony was merely cumulative of the mother’s properly admitted testimony and the error did not contribute to the conviction. The other evidence which was properly admitted overwhelmingly supported the adjudication, and, thus, the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

            The appellate court judgment was affirmed.