Appeals court throws out 'legally inconsistent' verdicts in ex-teacher's case
A DuPage County jury last year convicted former Bartlett High School chemistry teacher Garry Brodersen of endangering the life or health of a child, deciding he knew harm was possible when he poured liquid nitrogen on a student's chest during a classroom demonstration.
The same jury at the same time also convicted Brodersen of reckless conduct, finding that while he may not have meant to put the student in danger, he ignored the risks of his experiment.
If those verdicts seem contradictory to you, you're not alone. A state appeals court reached the same conclusion last week, unanimously reversed Brodersen's convictions and sent his case back to DuPage County court for further proceedings.
The case stems from a science demonstration gone wrong in Brodersen's classroom on May 15, 2018.
According to trial testimony and cellphone video captured by students, Brodersen poured liquid nitrogen on the chest and groin area of a student who had volunteered to take part in the demonstration. The super-cold substance caused chemical burns to the teen's groin and a finger, requiring treatment at a hospital, authorities said.
Brodersen, of Carpentersville, resigned from his post and surrendered his teaching license in the wake of the incident, according to Elgin Area School District U-46.
After a two-day trial and four hours of deliberations in March 2021, jurors found Brodersen guilty of the two misdemeanor charges. He later was sentenced to a year of court supervision and 20 hours community service.
That verdict, however, was a legal impossibility, the Second District Appellate Court of Illinois has ruled.
"When the jury returns multiple guilty verdicts on knowing and reckless offenses for the same conduct, the verdicts are legally inconsistent, and the defendant is entitled to a new trial," Justice Mary S. Schostok wrote. "Here, the defendant committed one act of pouring liquid nitrogen on (the student's) body. Based on this one act, the jury found the defendant guilty of both endangering the health of a child, which requires a knowing mental state, and reckless conduct, which requires that the actions be done with a reckless state of mind. As the defendant's commission of the same act could not be both knowing and reckless, the jury's verdicts were legally inconsistent."
Messages seeking comment left at listed phone numbers for Brodersen were not returned.
The DuPage County State's Attorney's Office declined to comment on the ruling, but said it intends to retry the case.
Whatever happened to ...
Elsewhere on dailyherald.com, you'll see an article Susan wrote about a worker at a Naperville child-care business charged with misdemeanor battery and endangering the health or life of a child, over allegations she mistreated three children.
Which got Susan thinking: What happened to the cases of three workers at a Downers Grove child-care facility who were charged with battery and child endangerment in 2019? Mariah Flemister, Maura Healy and Stephanie Radke were accused of force-feeding solid food to two infants (one only 7 months old) by holding their mouths closed and tilting their heads back as they cried. One was also charged with hitting a child in the face with a plastic plate.
On Aug. 19, Flemister pleaded guilty to endangering the health or life of a child. She was sentenced to 18 months of court supervision. DuPage County Judge Monique O'Toole denied prosecutors' request that she be barred from working in child care.
Healy was convicted of battery in November 2019, but found not guilty of child endangerment. She was sentenced to three months of court supervision by Judge Robert Miller.
And Stephanie Radke pleaded guilty to child endangerment in September 2021. She was given 18 months of court supervision, and Judge Paul Marchese barred her from child-care work.
Mosser joins firearms panel
Kane County State's Attorney Jamie Mosser has been appointed to a state commission that will come up with strategies to implement the Firearms Restraining Order Act.
The 2019 law allows relatives and police officers to request an emergency order to restrict a person's access to guns, if they believe that person poses a danger to themselves or others. A judge can grant a temporary restraining order lasting up to 14 days.
Mosser is one of five state's attorneys on the panel, which also includes police chiefs, sheriffs and public health officials.
"If we can implement a process to safely and fairly remove guns from people who pose a danger to themselves or to others, we create a safer community," Mosser said in an announcement of her appointment.
• Have a question, comment or story idea? Email us at email@example.com.