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People v. Chambers





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. HOWARD M. MILLER, Judge, presiding.


Defendant, Charles Chambers, appeals from a judgment entered after a trial without a jury, upon a finding of guilty of the charge of aggravated assault. He was sentenced to serve 6 months in the House of Correction with the direction that he there undergo psychiatric treatment. Upon appeal defendant contends the trial court (1) abused its discretion in not ordering a competency hearing on its own motion; (2) was without authority to order psychiatric treatment during his sentence; and (3) erred in permitting the original complaint to be amended at arraignment when defendant was not represented by counsel.

Defendant was charged with committing aggravated assault against one Sandra Hickman on January 9, 1975. He was arraigned on January 13, 1975, at which time he was advised of the nature of the charge, the possible penalties which could be imposed, and his rights as a defendant. When questioned, he stated that he understood the penalties and his own rights. When asked if he wished to be represented by an attorney, defendant stated that he could not afford one. The Public Defender was then appointed to represent him. At that time the prosecutor requested leave of court to amend the complaint from a charge of assault to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The prosecutor stated that the omission in the original complaint had been the result of a typographical error. The court permitted the complaint to be amended on its face, notwithstanding that defendant had not yet conferred with the Public Defender.

On February 19, 1975, defendant was informed by the trial court in the presence of the Public Defender that he was charged with aggravated assault. No objection was made to the amended complaint, nor was a motion made for a competency hearing. Defendant waived trial by jury and pleaded not guilty. The case immediately proceeded to trial.

At trial the Public Defender first brought to the attention of the court two reports which had been completed by the Psychiatric Institute of the Circuit Court of Cook County. The first report stated that defendant had been examined on February 3, 1975, and the diagnosis was "Schizophrenia, paranoid type." The report recommended that defendant be certified for involuntary commitment by the Illinois Department of Mental Health. The second report stated that he was reexamined on February 10, 1975, and that in addition to the original diagnosis it was further determined that defendant was "hostile, [with]drawn and unable to care for himself. He denied all symptoms, but his family is quite frightened by his threats in his unmanageable state. He is in need of hospitalization." The report concluded with a recommendation that defendant be certified for involuntary commitment. It was also brought to the court's attention that a civil commitment hearing was held on February 14, 1975, which resulted in defendant's being discharged back into the custody of the House of Correction. The Public Defender stated to the trial court that any information concerning the outcome of the civil commitment hearing would be hearsay concerning a determination of defendant's fitness to stand trial on the pending criminal charge. The court observed that a recommendation by the Psychiatric Institute for certification of defendant did not constitute a finding of his unfitness to stand trial, and held that all the available evidence, including the fact of defendant's discharge in the civil commitment hearing, demonstrated that he was fit to stand trial.

Sandra Hickman was called to testify. Defendant interrupted her preliminary testimony with the statement, "Your Honor, I will admit the charge, can I go to the hospital?" Sandra Hickman then stated that on January 9, 1975, defendant appeared in front of her home and shouted for her father, James Hickman, to come out of the house because he was going to kill him. Defendant then broke a glass pole lamp in the yard and kicked open the front door. Sandra Hickman's mother and younger sister fled into the basement while she ran out the back door. She stated that defendant chased her down the alley, shouting that he was going to rape and kill her and that he had a knife. She eventually eluded him and returned to her home. When she estimated how far defendant was from her when he made the threats defendant interjected, "I can outrun that dog any time." The witness stated that she had seen defendant around her home in the past and that he appeared to have a dislike for her entire family, rather than just her father. She said she had never spoken with defendant.

Defendant testified in his own behalf, and the direct testimony is set out at length.

"DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Mr. Chambers, on January 9, 1975, did you have occasion to see Miss Hickman, the lady over there?

DEFENDANT: Yes, I seen her, the bunch of them in the gate.

DEFENSE ATTORNEY: What happened when you first saw her, if anything?

DEFENDANT: They had water hoses and rakes out there picking their yard. I was passing to go to my cousin's house. She, this nigger over there called me over there. That is what he was at that time. This is what I have been reduced to, I admit that.

DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Who called you over?

DEFENDANT: This nigger over there.

DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Who are you referring to, do you know the name of the person that you are referring to?

DEFENDANT: A nigger, that is all I know. That is how I have ...

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