People v. Franklin

Decision Date30 September 2020
Docket NumberNo. 1-17-1628,1-17-1628
Citation2020 IL App (1st) 171628,446 Ill.Dec. 866,171 N.E.3d 971
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Jerome FRANKLIN, Defendant-Appellant.

James E. Chadd, Patricia Mysza, and Maria A. Harrigan, of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Chicago, for appellant.

Kimberly M. Foxx, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, Annette Collins, and Brian K. Hodes, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

PRESIDING JUSTICE GORDON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

¶ 1 Defendant Jerome Franklin claims that the trial court erred by denying him leave to file a successive postconviction petition challenging his sentence.

¶ 2 Defendant, age 18, was convicted after a bench trial of first degree murder and sentenced to imprisonment for the rest of his natural life. Defendant claims that, as applied to him, a sentence of life without the possibility of parole violates the eighth amendment and the proportionate penalties clause, when he did not have a single prior adult or juvenile conviction and when one considers his youth in conjunction with his mental health, substance abuse and other issues at the time of the offense.

¶ 3 For the following reasons, we find that his petition meets the very low threshold required for merely filing.


¶ 5 Defendant was convicted of the murder of his six-month-old son. When the baby was born, defendant's girlfriend, the baby's mother, was only 15 years old, and defendant was 17 years old and had left school in the tenth grade. When the baby died, defendant was five months past his eighteenth birthday. The assistant medical examiner testified that some of the baby's injuries were newer and others were more remote in time. A detective testified that, shortly after defendant was arrested, defendant told him "that he thought he needed help. He said things would run through his mind. He couldn't control himself." After his arrest, defendant was diagnosed at Cermak Hospital with a nonspecific psychosis and treated with psychotropic medication. Prior to trial, the trial court conducted fitness hearings and ultimately found defendant fit to stand trial.

¶ 6 I. Evidence at Trial

¶ 7 In this court's prior order denying defendant's direct appeal ( People v. Franklin , No. 1-97-0514, 298 Ill.App.3d 1152, 250 Ill.Dec. 267, 738 N.E.2d 231 (1998) (unpublished order under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 23 )), we described the facts established at trial. In summary, Katherine Means, also known as Katherine Taylor, was the baby's mother and defendant's girlfriend. On Thursday, September 17, 1992, Katherine, age 16, and defendant, age 18, went to Katherine's mother's house to retrieve their baby. Katherine's mother refused to give defendant the baby, so Katherine went into her mother's house to retrieve Jerome Jr., age six months.

¶ 8 Katherine's mother, Dorothy, told Katherine that Jerome Jr., had a cold, a diaper rash, was teething and had a scratch on his chest, which she noticed while changing his diaper, but no other injuries.

¶ 9 The couple then took Jerome Jr., to Katherine's aunt Regina Taylor's apartment. Katherine's friend, Karen Jones, lived in the same building and observed Katherine, defendant and the baby, and observed that the baby was fine. Katherine, defendant and the baby spent the night in a bedroom in Regina's apartment.

¶ 10 On Friday, September 18, Katherine awoke around noon and fed and bathed Jerome Jr., She noticed scratches on the left side of the baby's neck that were not there the previous day. Katherine spent the rest of the day at Karen's apartment while defendant had possession of the baby.

¶ 11 On Saturday, September 19, Katherine again woke around noon, and went to Karen's apartment. She was "in" and "out" of Karen's house during the afternoon, helping Karen clean her home. Defendant had possession of the baby at Regina's apartment. Katherine returned to Regina's apartment to check on the baby and defendant at around 7 p.m. and found the two asleep in the bedroom. Katherine returned to Karen's apartment where she remained until around 11 p.m. Returning to Regina's apartment, Katherine noticed that the baby's head was "hanging like a rag doll" and "he had been sleeping all day," which was unusual for the baby. Katherine noticed the scratches that she had observed on the baby's neck the day before and asked defendant what was wrong with the baby, and what had happened to the baby's neck.

¶ 12 Katherine testified defendant told her, "we have to talk." She said he told her the baby was crying all day. Defendant also said he "called [Jerome Jr.,] a sissy and * * * bit [Jerome Jr.,] * * * on his shoulders."

¶ 13 Katherine woke up the next morning at around noon, and the baby's condition appeared worse. The baby was "not responding to [Katherine], * * * he just was looking, like staring off into space. If [Katherine] would talk to him or try to talk to him he wouldn't respond." He made "little sighs" throughout the day. Katherine showed the baby to Karen. Karen noticed what she believed was a burn mark on Jerome Jr.,'s neck. The mark was oozing juicy flesh, and upon closer inspection Karen saw bite marks.

¶ 14 That night, Katherine took a bath, leaving the baby with defendant. When she returned, she laid the baby on her chest and went to sleep. When she woke up, after midnight, she noticed Jerome Jr., had stopped breathing. Katherine screamed and ran to Karen's house. Karen's boyfriend called an ambulance. Karen said the baby's entire body was blue.

¶ 15 While they waited for the ambulance, defendant and Katherine went into the hallway. Katherine testified defendant told her to think of a name and tell the police it was that person's fault the baby died. Paramedics arrived 10 minutes later and took Jerome Jr., to the hospital.

¶ 16 Lynn Huffman, a paramedic firefighter, testified that paramedics attempted CPR and other emergency measures, but Jerome Jr., did not respond. Huffman noticed the baby's left shoulder had bruises and burn marks, the baby's abdomen was bruised, and there were scabbed cuts all over his chest. He estimated the baby had been dead for at least 10 minutes.

¶ 17 While at the hospital, Officer Anthony Mickel observed the baby's body and said he observed "bruises and burn marks from [the baby's] neck to his feet. He had bite marks also on his back and shoulders. He had what appeared to be bruises or burns * * * on the bottom of one foot. And * * * what appeared to be trauma to the groin area."

¶ 18 Katherine testified before a grand jury that she did not burn or strike the baby, and that no one else except defendant took care of the baby the weekend of September 18.

¶ 19 The doctor who attended Jerome Jr., testified the baby was essentially dead on arrival. The baby had many fresh abrasions and some that were healing. The doctor identified circular marks on Jerome Jr.,'s back consistent with bite marks, and found bruises on the baby's back and chest as well as blisters on the soles of his feet.

¶ 20 Detective Michael Rose spoke with defendant who claimed to have had no involvement in his son's death. Defendant told Detective Rose, "until the baby walks, that baby is none of his responsibility and he wanted nothing to do with the baby until the time it walked."

¶ 21 Later, defendant told the police that Katherine caused the baby's injuries. He claimed Katherine shook the baby, the baby's eyes became really wide, and the baby did not act the same afterwards. Defendant said he bit and slapped the baby to make him respond, and that Katherine held the baby up to an open or uncovered light and burned the baby's back.

¶ 22 Subsequently, defendant told Detective Rose that he thought he needed help, that things kept running through his mind, and that he could not control himself. Defendant said the baby was crying all that day Friday, and that defendant slapped the baby's legs several times in an attempt to make him stop crying. However, the baby continued to cry most of Saturday. Around 3 p.m. Saturday, defendant lifted Jerome Jr., and shook him. The baby's eyes became really large and he never appeared the same again. Defendant said he slapped Jerome Jr.,'s chest and bit his shoulders to try to elicit a response. He bit the baby several times on Sunday for the same purpose. Defendant signed a statement attesting to these facts, read it out loud, and made corrections to it in front of the officers and an assistant state's attorney.

¶ 23 Dr. Robert Kirschner testified that he performed the autopsy on Jerome Jr. Dr. Kirschner said the baby had multiple injuries, both fresh and healing. The left side of the baby's head was bruised, as was the left outer margin of the baby's left eye and cheek. There was also a fresh tear in his upper lip, which was still bleeding, caused by blunt force from a fist or hand or an object being forced into his mouth. There were bruises to the baby's forehead and the side of his face that were probably caused by a fist or hand. Jerome Jr.,'s neck was covered with abrasions that were healing. The baby's left shoulder had numerous abrasions and contusions, most notably bite marks.1 These marks ranged in age from a day or two to several days old. Jerome Jr.,'s body had bite marks on the right shoulder that were also several days old. The bruises on the baby's face and head were more recent, having occurred 12 to 24 hours before the baby's death. Dr. Kirschner also noted severe bruises and abrasions to Jerome Jr.,'s left buttock cause by a hand or fist. There was also a burn to the mid-level of the baby's back that was four to five days old. Both of Jerome Jr.,'s feet had burns and blisters, some of which were ruptured. Dr. Kirschner opined that the burns were caused by a hot circular object such as a heated spoon or a light bulb.

¶ 24 Dr. Kirschner testified there was internal hemorrhaging under the baby's...

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