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People v. Turner

OCTOBER 6, 1971.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JAMES J. MEJDA, Judge, presiding.


The defendant, Anderson Turner, appeals from a judgment entered in the Circuit Court of Cook County finding him guilty of murder. He was sentenced to not less than 18 nor more than 30 years in the Illinois State Penitentiary.

The issues on appeal are whether the State proved the defendant sane beyond a reasonable doubt, whether admission into evidence of defendant's exculpatory statement was a violation of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona (1966), 384 U.S. 436, and whether the prosecutor's questions during cross-examination deprived the defendant of a fair trial.

On February 14, 1967, Janet Alexander, a prosecution witness, saw her neighbor, Miguel Morales, struggling with the defendant. Morales was a 72-year-old man of Mexican descent, and the defendant was a 32-year-old Negro. The witness heard Turner ask Morales, "Why didn't you stay with my mother?" Morales said, "Who are you?" Both men then fell out of sight into the Morales apartment.

When the police arrived, Morales was lying on the floor, dead, and Turner was seated next to him with his feet over the body. It was stipulated by both parties that strangulation was the cause of death. Police officers testified that when they arrived Turner said to them, "My father is dead and I'll kill you if you come into my apartment." One officer went to call for additional help and upon returning observed the defendant attack his partner. After a struggle Turner was subdued and taken to the Third District Station.

The interior of the Morales apartment showed signs of a struggle and there was a butcher knife with a six-inch blade laying alongside of the body.

At the police station Turner was placed in the interrogation room while reports were filled out. He either fell or slid out of his chair and assumed a sitting position against a wall. The defendant also failed to answer any of the questions concerning constitutional rights, but when asked his name and address, he blurted out, "I didn't kill the old man." The interrogating officer said he smelled the "strong odor of alcohol" and characterized the defendant's speech as "very slurry" but understandable.

The killing occurred at approximately 3:30 P.M. At 8:30 A.M. Turner had consumed a pint of Wild Irish Rose wine. At 10:00 A.M. he arrived at the apartment of a friend, Miss Johnnie Mae Dennis. After fixing a record player he went to the store and bought some more liquor and returned to the apartment, where he consumed another pint of wine and a half-pint of gin. Turner testified that he went to the store with Miss Dennis and returned, but did not remember anything after that until he awoke in jail the next morning.

Anderson Turner's sister testified in his behalf. She stated that when they were children their father had pulled a gun on them and told them he would kill them because he was not going to take care of them the rest of his life. An uncle then took the gun away from him and threw him out of the house. She also said that four years previous her brother had begun drinking a fifth or two of liquor per day. On a couple of occasions it was like a stupor of some kind: "He wasn't falling down drunk or anything like that. It was like you know, out of his mind kind of thing. It was like as if you were talking to him, and he could hear you and see you but it was just no hearing, he just couldn't hear you, everything was, you know — ."

Two psychiatrists testified for the prosecution. One had examined the defendant in May, 1967, and the other in December, 1968. Both had found him competent to stand trial and sane at the time of their examinations. When asked a hypothetical question based on the facts in evidence, neither expressed an opinion as to the defendant's sanity at the time of the killing. Both were certified members of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

The psychiatrist for the defense, Dr. Rothstein, testified that a hypothetical man behaving similarly to the defendant in his opinion suffered from an organic psychosis, in which a person reacts to alcohol in a semiautomatic way without actual conscious control over his behavior, and that it was an acute rather than permanent brain syndrome. Dr. Rothstein testified that alcohol might have an explosive effect upon his personality, yet his manual dexterity would not necessarily be impaired. Dr. Rothstein was not certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

• 1, 2 The defendant's first argument is that the State failed to prove him sane beyond a reasonable doubt. The Illinois Supreme Court stated in People v. Gold (1967), 38 Ill.2d 510:

"This court has consistently held that once evidence is introduced which is sufficient to beget a reasonable doubt of sanity it becomes incumbent on the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had sufficient capacity at the time of the crime for its commission."

However, if the defendant fails to meet the burden imposed by law and does not introduce sufficient evidence to raise a "reasonable doubt" as to the defendant's sanity, the court will disregard the plea of insanity and the presumption of sanity will remain. In this case in order for a presumption of insanity to be established, the triers of fact would have to believe that the defendant was telling the truth when he said he blacked out from drinking ...

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