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People v. Brooks

OPINION FILED JULY 8, 1976.

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

v.

SHIRLEY BROOKS, A/K/A SHIRLEY WILLIAMS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. BIRCH E. MORGAN, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE SIMKINS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

On September 28, 1972, the grand jury returned a four count indictment charging defendant-appellant Shirley Brooks with the murder of John Shelton by stabbing with a knife. The incident allegedly occurred on September 9, 1972. Similar charges were returned against one Norma Jean Coleman. Brooks and Coleman were not tried together.

Defendant Brooks was tried beginning March 5, 1973, before a jury, convicted of voluntary manslaughter, and sentenced to a term of 3 to 10 years.

Norma Jean Coleman was called as a witness by the prosecution.

Defendant raises these three issues on appeal:

(1) Was defendant denied a fair trial by the failure of the court to grant a continuance pending the completion of a court-ordered psychiatric examination of the witness Coleman.

(2) Having appointed two psychiatrists to examine Coleman to determine her fitness to stand trial, the failure of the court to hold a hearing to ascertain her competency as a witness constituted a denial of due process, and

(3) Was defendant proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

We find no error and affirm.

The factual background as to the first two issues is as follows: On February 2, 1973, on Coleman's own motion, the court appointed psychiatrists Drs. Harry Little and Lawrence Richards to examine Coleman for the purpose of determining her fitness to stand trial. On March 2, 1973, three days before trial, defendant's attorney orally moved for a continuance until the psychiatric examination had been completed, and a determination had been made as to her competency since the prosecution had indicated its intention to call Coleman as a witness. Defendant's brief states that when the oral motion was made defendant's counsel "* * * argued that if there was a question as to her (i.e., Coleman's) competency to stand trial * * * that question would affect her competence as a witness in the instant case, * * *." That is not precisely what was contended. Counsel for defendant stated to the court that there is a distinction between competency to stand trial and one's competency to testify as a witness. This statement was made in reply to the court's remark that Coleman's competency to stand trial in her own case had nothing to do with the trial of Brooks. Subsequently counsel for defendant stated, "My point is that certainly if there is some question as to her own competency to stand trial in a case arising out of the same circumstances as this one, that the basic issue is one of credibility." (Emphasis supplied.) The court then denied defendant's motion for continuance.

Coleman was the first witness called by the prosecution. Defendant objected, stating that she was incompetent as a witness. The written report of Dr. Richards was made part of the record. Defendant requested a hearing "* * * so that the court will be fully advised as to the condition of this witness." The motion was denied, and Coleman then testified.

Dr. Richards' report was based upon a 1 1/2 hour interview with Coleman at the county jail on February 14, 1973. His conclusions were that she was cooperative, oriented and behaving reasonably; that she still had an incompletely resolved or remitted psychosis, her thought processes were inadequate for a good understanding of the nature and purpose of the charge against her, and that her thought processes "are even more inadequate at this time for cooperation with and assistance of counsel in her defense."

After defendant's trial was completed Dr. Little submitted his report which was based upon interviews with Coleman during the period January 11 to January 30, 1973. Dr. Little had concluded that she understood the nature of the charges against her, and that she could cooperate with counsel in her defense.

Following the Brooks trial Dr. Richards submitted a supplemental report to the court which was based on a second examination of Coleman made in August, 1973. He found her to be a person of limited intelligence, but able to ...


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