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People v. Johnson

NOVEMBER 6, 1975.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. WILLIAM D. CONWAY, Judge, presiding.


Defendant was tried and convicted of murder in a bench trial in January 1971. Defendant appealed from that judgment and from a sentence of 20-30 years. In People v. Johnson, 11 Ill. App.3d 395, 296 N.E.2d 763, this court remanded for an evidentiary hearing on sanity, not deciding the other issues presented by the appeal, pending the outcome of the hearing. The hearing was held in July, 1974. Defendant was found to be sane at the time of the offense. Defendant raises an additional contention based on the finding of sanity and again presses the issues which were left undecided by the earlier opinion. We affirm the judgment and sentence.

Defendant raises four issues: (1) Whether he was proved sane beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) Whether the statements obtained from him and the evidence uncovered as a result should have been suppressed; (3) Whether the offense should be reduced from murder to involuntary manslaughter; and (4) Whether the sentence of 20 to 30 years is excessive.


At the hearing on defendant's sanity at the time of the offense, extensive testimony was offered. All of the expert witnesses basically considered the same information, as it was supplied by defendant, members of his family, or the reports of other doctors. The information briefly was as follows: At the time of the offense defendant was a single, male, homosexual. He had graduated from high school and was attending Illinois State University. According to standard objective tests, he was of average intelligence and did not have any brain damage or impairment.

Defendant was brought up by a relative of his natural mother and reacted badly when informed that the woman he thought of as his mother was not his mother in fact. At an age of five or six, defendant occasionally was tied up to trees, "hypnotized" by older children, who also played with him sexually. The children also engaged in a smothering ritual whereby pillows were used to induce unconsciousness.

When Jerome was seven or eight years old he hit another child with a hammer. As a result his mother brought him in for diagnosis at the Mental Health Center. She was told he would become a homosexual. He was a very nervous boy, but good.

At college defendant was hospitalized for psychiatric evaluation after an incident, in which defendant, apparently sleeping, attempted to stab his roommate.

Defendant's statement about the offense admitted that Thomas Porter, the decedent, a boy of 13 or 14, was invited to Johnson's house. With Porter's permission, defendant tied up his hands and feet and attempted to "hypnotize" him. After this defendant placed a pillow over Porter's face. The child was struggling at that point. In accordance with his practice, defendant then attempted to revive the boy but could not. He hid the dead boy and his bicycle in the basement of the house in which he was living.

Various boys testified about incidents involving defendant between the summer of 1968 and the date of Porter's death. The boys were about 10 to 13 at the time of the incidents. All involved tying of arms and legs, "hypnotizing" and frequently smothering with a pillow. The boys apparently were not sexually assaulted. Defendant's repeated explanation was that he just wanted to take care of the boys, to wash and feed them.

For the defense, Dr. Hicks, a psychiatrist, testified by deposition, that defendant was suffering from chronic, undifferentiated schizophrenia and stated, in the usual, ritualistic legal words, that defendant, at the time of the offense, because of mental disease, was incapable of conforming his conduct to the requirements of law and incapable of deciding the rectitude of his acts. Dr. Hicks read the diagnosis of Dr. Baumann, deceased at the time of trial. Dr. Baumann also thought defendant schizophrenic, with paranoid tendencies, but this was a different type of schizophrenia from Dr. Hicks' diagnosis. Dr. Baumann also considered defendant to be legally insane. Mr. Imhoff, a psychologist, found defendant to have significant mental disorders, but defendant's profile was unlike the usual criminal profile. He thought defendant would profit from treatment. Dr. Bornstein, who examined defendant in 1974, found defendant was a sexual deviate, suffering from transsexualism and did not have control over his smothering rituals, which were compulsive. Dr. Bornstein testified in the usual language; he thought defendant was insane. Defendant, he said, lacked free will, was not aware of how dangerous the ritual was, and did not intend to harm anyone.

Dr. Chapman, a psychiatrist, testified for the State that defendant had a passive-aggressive personality disorder but no gross psychiatric illness. Defendant, he said, was not psychotic, knew right from wrong and could refrain from wrong. Dr. Ludin, who had testified at the time of the original trial, believed defendant was a schizoid personality with neurotic compulsive obsessive tendencies in the area of sex. Dr. Ludin did not feel defendant was psychotic, felt defendant understood his conduct and could conform to the law.

• 1 Once the defense of insanity has been raised, the State has the burden of proving sanity beyond a reasonable doubt. (People v. Hawkins, 53 Ill.2d 181, 290 N.E.2d 231.) Whether defendant was insane is a question of fact for the trier of fact. (People v. Ford, 39 Ill.2d 318, 235 N.E.2d 576.) Two psychiatrists testified defendant was sane. The trial court heard the evidence and found that defendant was sane. When evidence is ...

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