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People v. Sims

OPINION FILED JANUARY 14, 1976.

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

v.

OLIVER W. SIMS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EARL E. STRAYHORN, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE BURMAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The defendant, Oliver W. Sims, was charged by indictment with three counts of murder, six counts of aggravated battery, three counts of attempted murder and five counts of attempted armed robbery. During a jury trial, three counts of aggravated battery, three counts of attempted murder and two counts of attempted armed robbery were dismissed on the State's motion. The jury rendered verdicts finding the defendant guilty of murder and of three counts of aggravated battery. The defendant was subsequently sentenced to serve prison terms of 14 to 20 years for murder and 3 to 9 years for each of the three counts of aggravated battery, such sentences to run concurrently.

On appeal, the defendant contends that (1) the State did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was sane at the time of the incident and (2) the court's instruction to the jury on motive was improper.

A review of the record indicates that on the morning of October 29, 1972, the defendant was in his cousin's home watching television with some relatives and friends. He asked his cousins, Anthony and James Lyles and Albert Sims, his brother, Henry, and two friends, Earl Avery and Richard McQueen, to go into a bedroom with him. Subsequent to all these individuals entering the room, the defendant asked them for $400 which he claimed was stolen from him. Although each individual denied having the money, the defendant picked up two guns and stated that he would shoot them if they did not return the money. After departing from the room for five minutes, the defendant returned and repeated his demand for the money. When each individual again denied possessing the fruits of such request, the defendant fired one shot into the wall and, after making another inquiry, he shot Albert Sims in the shoulder, Anthony Lyles in the leg, James Lyles in the stomach, and Henry Sims in the leg. Upon termination of his assault, the defendant proceeded to carry James Lyles to the porch and, when the police arrived, he accompanied Lyles to the hospital in a paddy wagon. At the hospital, the defendant informed the police that he was standing in front of the building when he heard shots. He stated further that he saw two men run out of the house and down the street. Subsequent to a telephone conversation with other police personnel, Officer Thomas Scherry, the police officer who questioned the defendant for ten minutes, placed him under arrest. The defendant was indicted by the grand jury on seventeen counts, including murder, attempted robbery, and aggravated assault.

At the trial, the defendant raised the defense of insanity to the shootings pursuant to section 6-2 of the Criminal Code. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 38, par. 6-2). In response to the assertion of this affirmative defense, various individuals, which included several members of the defendant's family, the arresting officer and two psychiatrists, were called to testify as to the defendant's sanity before, during, and subsequent to the commission of the offenses on the day in question.

The State called four of the surviving victims as witnesses. After giving their respective accounts of the shooting on direct examination, Anthony Lyles, Albert Sims, and Richard McQueen testified on cross-examination that based on their observations of the defendant, he was not in control of his conduct during the shooting. Lyles and McQueen also described the defendant's behavior during the two weeks prior to the shootings as well as in the hospital subsequent to the incident as strange and/or unusual in which he would talk to himself, stare at the ceiling and not respond when other individuals tried to converse with him. However, Albert Sims testified further that he had seen the defendant frequently prior to the shooting and did not notice anything unusual about him. Richard McQueen noted further that when he and the defendant were watching television, there was nothing unusual about his conduct. The defendant's brother, Henry, stated on cross-examination that he saw nothing unusual about his brother at the time of the shootings.

The State also called Officer Thomas Scherry who testified that during the ten minutes in which he observed the defendant at the hospital, he appeared nervous but did not seem to be suffering from a mental disease or defect.

Two psychiatrists, Drs. Robert Reifman and Ronald Shlensky, testified in behalf of the defense. Dr. Reifman, who interviewed the defendant for about an hour on April 6, 1973, found the defendant "in fairly good reality contact," but described him as apathetic, withdrawn, and quiet. He expounded that based on his examination, which included an analysis of the defendant's social history derived from his mother and the police report of the shootings as well as an evaluation of a battery of tests which were administered by a psychologist of the Psychiatric Institute of the Circuit Court of Cook County, the defendant was suffering from schizophrenia, paranoid type, in partial remission. Dr. Reifman also testified that the defendant informed him of the rationale behind the shootings, namely, to fulfill a religious obligation to cure his family of their drug addiction because they would not do so voluntarily. He further opined that in light of his examination, the defendant was unable to appreciate the criminality of his acts on October 29, 1972.

Dr. Ronald Shlensky, who, analogous to Dr. Reifman, examined the defendant for approximately an hour on June 26, 1973, also found the defendant "in good contact with reality." Although he did not administer any tests nor review any police or history reports and did admit that it was difficult to make a judgment about a person's mental state nine or ten months later, Dr. Shlensky concluded that the defendant had a psychosis on October 29, 1972, which could have interfered with his ability to distinguish right from wrong. He testified further that his diagnosis was made without conferring with Dr. Reifman, whom he had never met.

The defense also called the defendant's mother, Annie Laura Sims, and Freddie Mitchell, a minister, to testify about the defendant's conduct two weeks prior to the incident. Mrs. Sims stated that the defendant would sit around and just stare at the wall almost every day. She also testified that the defendant had a breakdown one week before the shooting and asked her to take him to a doctor. Freddie Mitchell indicated that the defendant came to his church every night during the two weeks prior to the shootings to seek the right religion because he "heard voices telling him things."

After hearing the testimony of all the witnesses, the jury found the defendant guilty of murder and three counts of aggravated battery. The trial judge entered a judgment upon the jury's verdict and subsequently sentenced the defendant to prison terms of 14 to 20 years for murder and 3 to 9 for each of the three counts of aggravated battery, such sentences to be served concurrently.

• 1, 2 We first consider whether the defendant was proven sane at the time of the shooting beyond a reasonable doubt. According to section 6-2 of the Criminal Code, the affirmative defense of insanity is defined as follows:

"(a) A person is not criminally responsible for conduct if at the time of such conduct, as a result of mental disease or mental defect, he lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law.

(b) The terms `mental disease or mental defect' do not include an abnormality manifested only by repeated criminal or otherwise anti-social conduct." ...


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