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People v. Bilyew

OPINION FILED NOVEMBER 23, 1977.

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

v.

JOHN WILLIAM BILYEW, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Williamson County; the Hon. DOROTHY SPOMER, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE GEORGE J. MORAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

On June 7, 1974, defendant John William Bilyew was charged by indictment with rape, murder and concealment of the homicidal death of Frances Buckner. Pursuant to a motion by defense counsel four experts were appointed by the court to examine defendant and a competency hearing was held on November 20 and 21, 1974. On December 13, 1974, the circuit court of Williamson County determined that the defendant was competent to stand trial. Subsequently the defendant withdrew his pleas of not guilty to each count of the indictment and entered guilty pleas to the murder and concealment of a homicidal death charge. Upon accepting these pleas the court sentenced the defendant to a term of 50 to 100 years imprisonment for the murder offense, and a term of 1 to 3 years for the concealment of a homicidal death offense. The court provided that the sentences run consecutively. This appeal ensued.

The testimony adduced in support of the guilty pleas revealed that at approximately 6 p.m. on June 1, 1974, the defendant was sitting on the front porch of his apartment at 613 1/2 East Main Street, Marion, Illinois, when he observed the deceased walking down the road. The defendant approached Ms. Buckner and requested her to join him on the porch. As they reached his yard defendant asked the deceased to have sex with him. When the deceased refused the defendant became extremely angry and choked the young woman thereby causing her death. In a statement made to the police the defendant explained that he undressed the woman, wrapped her in a gold-colored blanket which he had secured from his apartment and then placed the body in an opening under a nearby house. The following day defendant burned the victim's clothing in his trash barrel. The defendant stated that on Tuesday, June 4, 1974 a "voice" instructed him to reveal the murder. At approximately 11 p.m. the defendant removed the victim's body from its hiding place and dragged it into the street, throwing a rock through the window of a nearby house to attract attention. By way of corroborating evidence the gold-colored blanket in which the body had been wrapped was recovered at defendant's direction from a nearby shed, some of the victim's charred clothing was found in defendant's trash barrel, fibers from the defendant's trousers and from a rug located in defendant's apartment were retrieved from the victim's hand and fingernails, and some strands of hair caught on a screen in the hiding place beneath the house matched the victim's hair.

The court granted the competency hearing upon learning of prior sex related offenses committed by the defendant and upon an examination of the reports filed by the court-appointed experts in the case. During the competency hearing three expert witnesses testified regarding their personal interviews with the defendant. In addition, the deposition of Dr. Norris, a psychiatrist and professor-chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Southern Illinois University, was received into evidence. Dr. Norris testified that being apprised of the statutory definition of fitness to stand trial it was his opinion that the defendant would not be able to assist in his own defense in that he understood the nature and purpose of the proceedings only in a most superficial fashion. Much of the expert testimony focused upon the defendant's low intelligence quotient which according to some tests was as low as 41 and, according to another, as high as 66. Dr. Norris concluded that the defendant had little appreciation for geography, time, or the seriousness of his actions. He stated that the defendant would comprehend the proceedings "the same way as a six year old would understand."

Dr. Rubin, a psychologist who specializes in the study of sexual deviancy, testified that the defendant was unable to separate fact from fantasy and this inability would preclude him from effectively communicating with counsel in preparation of a viable defense. Dr. Rubin stated that the defendant could be easily manipulated and that during the interview each time he attempted to influence defendant's response, he was successful to the point of even reversing an initial response. On this basis Dr. Rubin felt that defendant would be unable to give accurate information to his attorneys. The following colloquy illustrates his reasoning:

"STATE'S ATTY: All right. What you're saying then is that counsel should take care to be most articulate with the defendant?

DR. RUBIN: I don't think that that would be enough. As articulate as you might be, as much as you might explain it, the client is going to respond in the way that he thinks is most appropriate, that you think most appropriate for him to respond; notwithstanding what might have occurred what [sic] when he — that the individual could have responded.

Q. And for that reason you say that even though he can communicate with counsel that he is unable to assist in his own defense?

A. Yes, sir."

Dr. Rader, a clinical psychologist, and Dr. Horecker, a psychiatrist, both testified that in their opinion defendant was fit to stand trial. Dr. Rader pointed out, however, that due to his diminished intelligence, a memory impairment, and a "rather severe deficiency and ability to understand and cope with situations," defendant only understood the basic nature of the proceedings and would only be able to assist counsel to a lesser degree than a normal person. Neither Dr. Rader nor Dr. Horecker found the defendant was unable to distinguish fact from fantasy. In addition, Dr. Horecker testified that he considered defendant to be logical, coherent, and able to make judgments regarding suggestions of his counsel before and during trial.

Several lay witnesses were also heard as to the defendant's behavior while incarcerated in the Williamson County jail. Upon this evidence the court determined that defendant was competent to stand trial and accepted the pleas negotiated in this cause.

Defendant urges on appeal that he was found competent pursuant to a statute which places the burden of persuasion upon him and thus denies him due process of law. The statute in question is section 5-2-1 of the Unified Code of Corrections (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 1005-2-1(i) and (j)) which provides:

"(i) The burden of proving the defendant is not fit is on the defendant if he raises the question and on the State if the State or the court raises the question.

(j) The party raising the question has the burden of going forward with the evidence. If the court raises the question, the State shall have the burden of going forward with the evidence. At a fitness hearing held at the instance of the court, the ...


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