"Child Murderer's Conviction Upheld"


The Fourth District Appellate Court recently affirmed the First Degree murder conviction of Defendant Emerson Burns.  Burns was convicted of First Degree Murder following a bench trial in which the Honorable Judge Timothy Steadman presided.  He was subsequently sentenced to 50 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.  Pursuant to statute, Burns must serve 100% of his sentence, receiving no day for day credit. 


At trial, Assistant State’s Attorneys Elizabeth Dobson and Mary Koll presented evidence showing that on December 7, 2008, the day before Amylah Smith- Allen was to turn six months old, the defendant beat her to death.  Burns was left alone with the infant victim to babysit while the infant’s mother worked away from the home.  The infant died a violent death, resulting from swelling to her brain and compression of her brain stem which eventually cut off her respiratory system.  The pathologist who performed an autopsy of the victim found extensive hemorrhaging and bruising to the head and brain, extensive damage to her retinas, and adult bite marks on each shoulder.  The injuries were consistent with the infant victim having been viciously beaten, bitten, and possibly suffocated. 


The trial of Emerson Burns began on May 4, 2011 and concluded on June 15, 2011.  Assistant State’s Attorneys Dobson and Koll presented more than 30 witnesses.  Melanie Long of the Macon County State’s Attorney’s Office provided victim and witness assistance and State’s Attorney Investigator Jason Van Alstine assisted the prosecution team with trial preparation. 


On appeal, Burns alleged that the trial court abused its discretion by coercing him into withdrawing his request to proceed pro se (without an attorney). Burns filed the motion to proceed pro se only two days before the trial was scheduled to begin.  Justice Steigman authored the Fourth District Appellate Court’s decision, holding that the trial court’s admonishments to Burns were not coercive and properly informed Burns of the risks and limitations of proceeding pro se.