MOUNT VERNON – The Fifth District Appellate Court has vacated an aggravated domestic battery conviction because the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim suffered great bodily harm.
Justice Thomas Welch wrote for the unanimous panel that also included Justices James Moore and Richard Goldenhersh, in a case arising from Madison County Associate Judge Neil Schroeder's court involving victim Malaya Collins.
In the Sept. 1 ruling, the panel ordered the trial court to enter a conviction of defendant Scottie Musgraves on a lesser charge of domestic battery and to modify his sentence.
Musgraves was convicted in 2014 on aggravated domestic battery and sentenced to eight years in the Illinois Department of Corrections to be served at 85 percent with four years of mandatory supervised release.
According to the ruling, “the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Collins suffered great bodily harm because her injuries were merely scrapes, minor lacerations, and contusions."
Citing Illinois Supreme Court ruling in People v. Mays (1982), Welch noted the importance of the definition of bodily harm versus great bodily harm that is “a question of fact” solely based on a jury with no direction from the court.
“When a defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the state and determine whether any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt,” Welch wrote.
Explaining that the term "great bodily harm" cannot hold an exact lawful classification, Welch noted that harm "requires proof of an injury of a greater and more serious nature than ordinary battery.” He further noted that the one-inch laceration Collins had in her palm, which required four stitches she later removed herself, did not hold enough “testimony about the depth of the laceration,” or “indication from the medical professional that stitched the laceration as to why stitches were required to close the wound."
No evidence of fractures or follow-up photos of bruising and Collins' overnight change of testimony from notable pain one day to feeling fine the next, were noted in the ruling.
"We find that the state did not present sufficient evidence of great bodily harm where it failed to present sufficient evidence of the details of Collins' treatment for her injuries or how long after the incident she suffered the effects of those injuries,” Welch wrote. Calling the modification of “great bodily harm” suitable in modifying Musgraves sentence, the judge remanded the defendant's conviction to the trial court for the lesser charge of domestic battery.