Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed April 18, 2013


People v. Domagala, 2013 IL 113688

Appellate citation: 2011 IL App (1st) 092905-U.


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

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

      Justice Theis took no part in the decision.


      On October 21, 2003, an 84-year-old man died in a nursing home after pulling out his feeding tube several times, causing peritonitis, a systemic infection. He had been transferred to the nursing facility after a brief hospitalization, which had resulted from rough handling by this defendant, who had been a caregiver at the victim’s house. There was testimony that, at this house, approximately two weeks before the demise, the defendant had slapped the victim’s face several times and placed his forearm against the victim’s throat. In a Cook County bench trial, the defendant received a 40-year term for first degree murder and a 10-year concurrent term for aggravated battery of a senior. The appellate court affirmed.

      Domagala filed a postconviction petition in 2008 alleging that he was not responsible for the death because it had resulted from gross negligence of treating medical staff, which operated as a superseding, intervening cause. Affidavits of medical experts were presented. He claimed that his trial attorney had been ineffective in not bringing this out and, thus, he was denied his constitutional right to counsel. The circuit court did not initially dismiss the petition as frivolous and patently without merit, allowing it to proceed to the second stage. However, at the second stage of the postconviction proceeding, it did enter a dismissal at the request of the State, and the appellate court affirmed.

      In this decision, the supreme court said that second-stage review tests the legal sufficiency of the petition. The petitioner has to make a substantial showing of a constitutional violation. The supreme court held that Domagala had done that here and was entitled to have his petition advance to the third stage of postconviction proceedings, at which an evidentiary hearing is held.

      Both of the lower courts were reversed and the cause was remanded for that evidentiary hearing.