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People v. Harrington

SEPTEMBER 24, 1974.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

WALTER HARRINGTON, JR., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County; the Hon. WILLIAM R. NASH, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE SEIDENFELD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

After a jury trial, defendant was convicted of the voluntary manslaughter of his wife and found not guilty of her murder. He was also found guilty of aggravated battery and not guilty of the attempted murder of one George Morehead. Defendant was sentenced to concurrent terms of 5-20 years in the penitentiary for manslaughter and 3-5 years in the penitentiary for aggravated battery. He appeals, contending that he was not proven sane beyond a reasonable doubt and that prejudicial closing argument by the prosecutor deprived him of a fair trial.

The charges arose out of a shooting on March 3, 1972, at the apartment of George Morehead's sister. It is undisputed that defendant came up the back stairs of the apartment at approximately 10 P.M., shot at the doorknob with a .22-caliber pump rifle, kicked the door in, and entered the apartment where he found his wife, his small son, and Morehead. He fired until his gun was empty, killing his wife and wounding Morehead. He kicked Morehead several times in the face, took his son and returned by car to a friend's home where he called his mother-in-law and then the police.

At trial, defendant sought to prove that he fired in self-defense and also offered the defense of insanity. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 38, par. 6-2(a).) On appeal defendant does not raise the issue of self-defense, but claims that he was not proven sane beyond a reasonable doubt and that the prosecutor made prejudicial remarks in closing argument.

Defendant first argues that the testimony of two psychiatrists that defendant was not criminally responsible for his conduct at the time of the shootings was sufficient to raise a reasonable doubt as to his sanity; and that the testimony was not impeached by the lay witnesses offered by the State in rebuttal.

Dr. J.G. Graybill, a psychiatrist, testified for the defense. He stated that he first met defendant on April 26, 1972, saw him four times in all, and examined a report of a psychologist to whom he referred defendant. Dr. Graybill related defendant's history substantially in accordance with defendant's own testimony at the trial. Defendant was 22 years old at the time of the trial; was born in Mississippi and had 16 brothers and sisters and half-brothers and half-sisters; and grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, where he excelled academically and in sports in high school. He also met his wife there and went together all throughout high school with her. After high school they got married, and defendant went to Wartburg College on a football scholarship. His second year in college his wife became pregnant and because of complications with the baby, the defendant's wife had to stop her work and the defendant had to quit school and get a job. They got deeply in debt, defendant was laid off and creditors were bothering them. They then moved to Rockford where defendant found a job with the Chrysler plant. He bought furniture on credit, but then injured his knee and was hospitalized for surgery.

On the basis of his interviews with defendant, Dr. Graybill learned that defendant considered himself almost ugly in grade school; that defendant thought attainment in other fields was necessary for him to compensate; and that defendant's wife emphasized her need for more luxurious surroundings causing defendant to purchase on credit. At the time defendant was hospitalized just prior to the Christmas before the shooting, defendant heard that his wife was carrying on an affair with George Morehead, but at first refused to believe this. When he came out of the hospital he confronted his wife who had first denied, but then admitted that she had been seeing George Morehead. This affected him emotionally. He did not believe in divorce and tried to discuss the situation with his wife and all concerned. His wife was undecided and put the defendant out of the house, but defendant could not stay away from his wife and son. About this time defendant filed bankruptcy. He was harassed by George Morehead who, defendant's friends had told him, was armed and intended to do him harm. Defendant was informed that Morehead was saying threatening things about him and on one occasion was followed by Morehead in a car.

On March 3, defendant borrowed $5 from his wife to play pool and drink beer and his wife told him she was going shopping. Because it was snowing defendant became worried about her absence when she did not return. He borrowed a car to look for her and because he knew George Morehead didn't live far from where he was going and that Morehead had threatened to shoot him, defendant got his rifle. Defendant testified that he didn't remember anything following the shooting incident until he ran into a pole with his son in the car; then he gradually remembered the incident. However, in a statement made by defendant to police which was introduced into evidence, defendant failed to indicate a loss of memory but rather stated that when he saw Morehead and his wife together he flew into a rage.

Dr. Graybill further testified that the defendant in relating the incident of the shooting was extremely self-condemning. This caused the doctor to diagnose his condition as severe depression, to change his medication, and to inform the jail of possible suicide.

The doctor gave an opinion that on March 3, based on defendant's history and the clinical examination concurred in by the psychological examination, the defendant lacked the capacity to appreciate the criminality of his acts or to conform his behavior to the requirements of the law. The doctor referred to the March 3 incident as an acute psychotic episode or an acute rupture of the ego functions. He stated that psychiatrically the ego is that function which permits an individual to perceive reality and react appropriately to the realistic situation. If an individual is overburdened by stress and is unable to defend himself against this stress he retreats to a lower level and loses contact with reality which may result in an assaultive or physical violence. When his hemeostasis balance is regained the individual may return to a relatively normal pattern of action; ego rupture may be very temporary with prompt restoration of normal function. The doctor stated that ego rupture is an extremely common occurrence. He concluded that defendant had been put through a succession of stresses and the night of March 3 was the final stress which caused the defendant to totally break from reality for a brief period.

On cross-examination, the doctor stated that the facts which defendant had told him were not otherwise verified so that the diagnosis was dependent upon the truth of the facts related to him by defendant. The doctor characterized defendant's actions as stemming from a mental disease, but stated that defendant manifested no prior serious symptoms of a mental disease. When asked if defendant were weak in ego strength, the doctor replied that the defendant is very vulnerable to protracted stress "as we all are," and that prior to the shooting incident defendant's ego strength was being eroded by the constant stress in which he was placed. When questions as to Dr. Meninger's five common threads in cases of episodic discontrol *fn1 as being present in defendant's case, the doctor gave negative, equivocal or uncertain answers on all five. The doctor also answered that if two 250-pound policemen had been present when defendant entered Morehead's apartment, they might have acted as sufficient control to prevent defendant from shooting.

Dr. Carl Hamann, a psychiatrist, also testified for the defense. He offered his opinion from his findings and the history of the defendant that on the evening of March 3, 1972, the defendant was probably suffering, or at least defendant's behavior was consistent with, an acute reactive psychotic episode and that it was conceivable, in a reasonable degree of accuracy, that defendant was suffering from an acute episodic reactive depression or psychosis which negated his criminal responsibility (as that term is defined in the Criminal Code).

When cross-examination was directed to his use of the term "conceivable," the doctor said it was more probable than not probable that defendant was not criminally responsible. He stated that an acute reactive psychotic episode is characterized by loss of the control of an individual, reality is not tested in its usual way, one's judgment is impaired, and one does not react or behave in the usual controlled manner. The episode could vary from a short time to a prolonged period of time, and people are prone to episodes such as defendant exhibited who have altered ego structures and lots of other personality deficits. The defendant manifested an early history of ego weakness and problems, but there was no evidence of a history of psychotic depression, activities, or episodes prior to March 3 that the doctor knew of from the defendant. The doctor explained defendant's episode was caused by a crescendo of many life-threatening events.

The doctor stated that his diagnosis was consistent with the behavior of the defendant both before and after the shooting based on what he had obtained in the way of case history from the defendant and also based on observing the defendant and reading between the lines. At the time the doctor examined the defendant, some weeks after the event of March 3, the defendant was in a deep suicidal depression. When asked if what happened was a case of someone violently losing his temper, the doctor said that part of one's behavior in a disorganized fashion could be described in a term of anger, or it also could be described in many other terms.

A detective, Charles Jackson, testified for the prosecution that when he answered the call to go to the apartment of a Jesse O'Neil, defendant was holding his son on his lap and a gun was on a bed near where he was sitting. No attempt was made to hide the gun and the defendant indicated that the gun was the one involved. In the squad car the defendant asked, "Are they dead yet?" When informed at police headquarters of his wife's death, the defendant broke down and cried for half an hour.

George Krebs, a detective, testified for the State that in escorting defendant to headquarters, the defendant stated, "If only she had stayed away from me, I wouldn't have done this." The witness testified that when he saw the defendant on March 3, 1972, from about 10:30 P.M., the defendant was coherent, calm, slightly nervous, had full understanding where he was and what he was doing and good recall in detail. The witness stated that some of his duties in the past 6 years involved experiences with some 12 to 14 people a year with mental problems. He expressed an opinion that when he saw the defendant, the defendant was not suffering from a mental disease or defect which would make him incapable of appreciating the criminality of his conduct or conforming his conduct to the requirements of law.

William Francis, a policeman, testified that he was with the defendant about 20 minutes shortly after defendant called about the shooting. He had 13 years of experience with persons with mental problems to the extent of about 10 such people a year. Defendant appeared calm, answered intelligently, his thoughts did not stray and he appeared normal. In the witness' opinion the defendant did not appear to be suffering from a mental disease or defect to the extent that he lacked ...


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