Criminal Law, Pages 281–284

People v. Kolzow

Appellate Court of Illinois, 1998

Facts:

Defendant arrived home very late one night after driving around with her three-month-old baby and meeting friends until she arrived home at 5:00 a.m. She waited in the car reading a book in a nearby parking lot until 6:30 a.m. so as not to wake her stepmother. She then went inside without her baby and went to the bathroom because she had diarrhea. She then set her alarm for 9:30 a.m., lay on the couch, and fell asleep. The alarm was not set however, and she did not wake up until 10:30 a.m. She then realized that she left her baby in the car, but he had already died from heat stroke. When police arrived, they found that the windows had been rolled down four inches, and that the baby had been in good health and well cared for until that morning. However, defendant's neighbor testified that he witnessed defendant leave her baby in her car at least six times before.

Procedural History:

Defendant was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to three years' probation with six months of in-custody counseling.

Issue:

Did defendant act recklessly in causing her son's death?

Rule:

LexisNexis IconWestLaw LogoGoogle Scholar LogoPage 283, Bottom
720 ILCS 5/4-6

"A person is reckless or acts recklessly, when he consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that circumstances exist or that a result will follow, . . . and such disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care which a reasonable person would exercise in the situation."

Reasoning:

The evidence supports the state's theory that defendant intentionally left her son in the car so that she could sleep uninterrupted. She intended to sleep as evidenced by her trying to set her alarm. She waited for her stepmother to wake up and leave, avoiding the possibility that she would question her decision. She locked the car doors and rolled up its windows before leaving it, evidencing that she did not intend to return to the car after her trip to the bathroom. Yet, she left the rear windows rolled down four inches, indicating that she was planning to leave the child in the car and took some measure to relieve him of the heat.

The trial court did not find that defendant's testimony constituted recklessness. It simply did not believe it. This determination of witness credibility is entitled to great deference.

While defendant may not have known that leaving her son in the car would kill him, this is not required. She was not charged with murder but with involuntary manslaughter, which requires recklessness. A reasonable person would be aware of the risks in leaving a three-month-old infant unattended in a parked car for four hours on a summer day, so intentionally doing so would be reckless.

Holding:

Yes, defendant acted recklessly by intentionally leaving her son in the car. Affirmed.


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