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People v. Williams

OPINION FILED APRIL 25, 1977.

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

v.

DANIEL WILLIAMS ET AL., PETITIONERS-APPELLANTS.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. RICHARD J. FITZGERALD, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE O'CONNOR DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Petitioners each sought habeas corpus relief following their individual fitness hearings, which had concluded with each being found unfit to stand trial. The trial court denied habeas corpus and petitioners' appeals have been consolidated here.

Daniel Williams, No. 76-421, was indicted for murder and attempt murder. He was found incompetent to stand trial on June 21, 1968. On December 3, 1975, on petition filed by the State's Attorney of Cook County, a fitness hearing pursuant to section 5-2-2 of the Unified Code of Corrections (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 1005-2-2) was held. The evidence presented at the hearing was that Williams was unfit to stand trial because he did not understand the nature of the charges against him and also did not have the ability to cooperate with defense counsel. The evidence also indicated that Williams was in need of mental treatment under the standards set by the Mental Health Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 91 1/2, par. 1-11) and that there was a substantial probability that he would never attain fitness to stand trial.

Frank Kulak, No. 76-422, was indicted on three counts of murder and two counts of aggravated battery. He was found incompetent to stand trial on February 27, 1970. At his fitness hearing on December 3, 1975, the evidence indicated that he understood the nature of the charges against him, but he could not cooperate with counsel for his defense; that he was in need of mental treatment under the civil code standard; and that he would not attain the state of mental fitness to stand trial in the forseeable future.

Joseph Dever, No. 76-423, was indicted for murder. On July 20, 1972, he was found incompetent to stand trial. At his fitness hearing, the evidence indicated that he understood the nature of the charge against him but could not cooperate with counsel for his defense; that he was in need of mental treatment under the civil code and that he "probably will never be fit to stand trial."

Francis Osewski, No. 76-424, was indicted for arson. On August 15, 1972, he was found incompetent to stand trial. At his fitness hearing, the evidence indicated that he could neither understand the nature of the charge against him nor cooperate with counsel for his defense; that he was still in need of mental treatment under the civil code; and that he would not attain substantial capacity to stand trial in the forseeable future.

Cornelius Parker, No. 76-425, was indicted for burglary. He was found incompetent to stand trial on November 5, 1970. At his fitness hearing, the evidence indicated that he was able to understand the nature of the charge against him, but was unable to cooperate with defense counsel; that he was in need of mental treatment under the civil code; and that he would not attain the state of mental fitness to stand trial in the forseeable future.

Manfred Sadowski, No. 76-426, was indicted for murder. On July 13, 1972, he was found incompetent to stand trial. At his fitness hearing, the evidence indicated that he was able to understand the nature of the charge against him, but was unable to cooperate with defense counsel; that he was in need of mental treatment under the civil code; and that he would not attain a state of mental fitness to stand trial in the forseeable future.

At the conclusion of the evidence in each case, the trial court directed a verdict of unfitness to stand trial. Counsel for the defendants then presented the court with petitions for habeas corpus for each defendant. Hearings on these petitions were consolidated and set for December 9, 1975. On that date, petitioners relied on the evidence presented at the respective fitness hearings, introduced no other evidence and argued the legal issues. The court denied the petitions at the conclusion of arguments and remanded petitioners to the Department of Mental Health to conduct a hearing to determine whether they were in need of mental treatment.

The issues presented as requiring reversal are that the court erred in not dismissing the indictments by means of the petitions for habeas corpus because (1) the statutory scheme in Illinois does not satisfy the "commit or release" rule of Jackson v. Indiana (1972), 406 U.S. 715, 32 L.Ed.2d 435, 92 S.Ct. 1845, (2) the defendants are denied equal protection of the law in Cook County by the way in which the statutory scheme is applied, (3) the court has power to dismiss indictments under the circumstances of these cases when section 5-2-2 of the Unified Code of Corrections (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 1005-2-2) is read together with Jackson v. Indiana, and (4) the petitioners were denied their rights to "speedy trial" by the operation of section 5-2-2 under the facts presented.

The State has responded to these arguments, but has also filed a motion to dismiss the appeal on the grounds that petitioners' habeas corpus actions were in substance and effect motions to dismiss the indictments, and denials of motions to dismiss indictments are not final appealable orders. Petitioners noted that their sole reason for bringing habeas corpus proceedings was to accomplish dismissal of the indictments, but argue that it is by reason of the indictments that they are confined within the jurisdiction of the criminal court; if the indictments are dismissed, they may remain confined as committed civilly under the Mental Health Code but would not suffer certain alleged discriminatory disabilities in treatment which are the result of the jurisdiction of the criminal court over them.

• 1 Therefore, the threshold question is whether this court has jurisdiction of the case on appeal. In People v. Culhane (1975), 34 Ill. App.3d 158, 340 N.E.2d 63, the court dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction where the defendant had appealed from the denial of his motion to dismiss the indictment. The court noted, however, that where circumstances of defendant's incompetency conflict with his assertion of constitutional rights, Illinois courts> recognize the propriety of habeas corpus to review the case (34 Ill. App.3d 158, 160). Habeas corpus may be the only means available to these petitioners to challenge the conditions of their confinement.

Petitioners have also alleged that their constitutional rights of equal protection of the laws and due process of law have been violated because of the present statutory scheme. Disregarding the merits of these claims for the moment, since we are initially concerned with the appealability of the dismissals below, we conclude that the habeas corpus petitions were legally sufficient to be considered as such and not solely as motions to dismiss. While it is true that petitioners do not assert that they must be released from civil commitment under the Mental Health Code, but only argue that they must be released from the condition of their confinement directly attributable to the jurisdiction of the criminal court, we believe that this is a sufficient allegation of "confinement" for habeas corpus purposes. In People ex rel. Chapman v. Brelje (1974), 22 Ill. App.3d 193, 317 N.E.2d 402, the court decided that the prisoner's petition for habeas corpus was entitled to a hearing where the relief requested was not absolute release from confinement, but release from the psychiatric division of the prison to the general prison population. Considering the claims of petitioners and the circumstances of their confinement, habeas corpus was an appropriate means of presenting their motions to dismiss the indictments against them, and accordingly the State's motion to dismiss the appeal is denied.

Jackson v. Indiana (1972), 406 U.S. 715, 738, 32 L.Ed.2d 435, 451, 92 S.Ct. 1845, limited the ability of the State to hold an accused, who is found unfit to stand trial, in the penal or ...


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