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People v. Spears





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon. WILLIAM L. BEATTY, Judge, presiding.


Defendant-appellant Larry D. Spears was charged by indictment with armed robbery and attempt murder in violation of sections 8-4(a) and 18-2(a) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, pars. 8-4(a), 18-2(a)). Defendant was found guilty by a jury on June 16, 1976 and was sentenced to concurrent prison terms of 7 to 21 years on each offense. Defendant contends on appeal that the State failed to meet its burden on the issue of defendant's sanity at the time of the offense and that he was denied a fair trial as a result of prejudicial remarks and incorrect statements made by the prosecution during closing arguments. Defendant also argues that he should have been given sentence credit for the period he spent in Federal institutions by reason of his unfitness to stand trial in Federal court for the same offense.

Defendant was arrested on August 6, 1973, by the East Alton police for robbing the State Bank of East Alton and shooting a bank guard during the course of the robbery. Defendant was released to the custody of the F.B.I. in order to stand trial on Federal charges stemming from the bank robbery. Defendant refused to speak during his arraignment and preliminary hearing on the Federal charges and on September 21, 1973, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois ordered defendant committed to the Federal Medical Center in Springfield, Missouri, for a determination of his competency to stand trial. A psychiatric evaluation made by the staff of the Federal Medical Center found that defendant was presently mentally ill and incompetent to stand trial. On February 22, 1974, the District Court found defendant Spears mentally incompetent to stand trial and committed the defendant to the Federal Medical Center in Springfield until such time as he became competent to stand trial or until an alternative disposition was reached. Later psychiatric evaluations concluded that Spears was still incompetent to stand trial and recommended long term hospitalization. The Federal charges against Spears were dismissed by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois on December 12, 1975, in view of defendant's incompetency to stand trial.

Defendant Spears was charged by indictment in Madison County with armed robbery and attempt murder on December 11, 1975. Defendant pleaded not guilty to these Madison County charges and filed a motion requesting a determination of his competency to stand trial. Pursuant to court order defendant was examined on January 28, 1976, by Dr. John Goldsborough who determined that Spears was suffering from schizophrenia in a partial state of remission and that he could cooperate with an attorney in his own defense. The case was set for trial on June 14, 1976.

The State presented several witnesses for purposes of identifying defendant and describing his behavior on the day of the robbery and shooting.

Lydia Heathcott, a teller at the Illinois State Bank of East Alton, testified that defendant stepped up to her cage, placed a valise on the counter and told her to fill it with money. When she responded by grinning or giggling, defendant peeled back part of the valise and drew her attention to a gun inside it which he had pointed at her. There were no policemen or security guards in sight. As she began to push bundles of money across the counter towards Spears, she turned and looked at the nearest bank employee in an attempt to attract his attention to her predicament. Defendant responded by warning her not to look at anyone, and when she attempted to pass him her smaller denominations of bills, he demanded bigger bills.

Robert Green, the bank security guard, testified that he was quickly informed of the robbery and that he ran out of the bank shouting at defendant to halt. Green stated that Spears did not halt but instead ran behind his car, levelled a gun across the top of the car and opened fire at the guard. One of the shots grazed him on the ribs. Green returned the fire and managed to get around the back of defendant's car and shoot Spears in the leg. The guard then took the defendant's empty gun and ordered him to put his hands on the car and "spread eagle out." The defendant followed these instructions. After he was subdued Spears did not say anything except to agree with Green's comment that defendant was a lousy shot.

The arresting officer, Dennis Childs, testified that while he was with defendant at the bank and at the jail, Spears followed instructions and appeared normal but did not say a word. He seemed to stare most of the time. The only exchange between them was when defendant thanked Childs for bringing a cup of coffee to his cell.

After the prosecution rested its case, defense counsel read the four psychiatric and psychological evaluations from the Federal Medical Center made between 1973 and 1975 into the record on stipulation of the State's Attorney. These staff reports indicated the examiners' opinion that defendant was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia with little chance of recovery and that he was in need of long-term hospitalization. The most specific report was the third in the series, a psychological report dated April 8, 1975. In that report, defendant Spears was described as fairly neat in appearance and polite. He spoke easily and displayed a sardonic smile at appropriate times. His statements were coherent, well phrased and articulate. The interviewer stated that Spears claimed an inability to remember the bank robbery except in disconnected flashes and that upon further questioning, he suggested that his behavior may have been controlled by a small radio device that moved about in his alimentary canal. Spears stated that the device was not affecting his behavior any longer. The psychologists concluded that Mr. Spears was of superior intelligence but was suffering from a serious disturbance of his emotional thought processes.

The United States Magistrate who had authorized the Federal arrest warrant for Larry Spears testified that, except for stating his name, the defendant had remained completely silent during the hearing on the warrant and at a later meeting in the magistrate's office at which he was represented by counsel.

Michael Urban, an East Alton police officer who was with Spears from the time of the arrest until after booking, testified that defendant did not speak for the entire time except to say "thank you" to Urban for his offer to get medical assistance for defendant's leg. It was Urban's impression that Spears had been booked "many, many times" before and was refusing to speak in order to give the police a hard time.

The next defense witness was Dr. John Goldsborough, a specialist in neuropsychiatry, who described his assessment of defendant's mental condition based on an examination made at the Madison County jail on March 28, 1976, pursuant to an order of the circuit court. Dr. Goldsborough's diagnosis was that defendant was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and was subject to severe depression. At the time of the March 28 examination Dr. Goldsborough did not have any information regarding defendant's medical history, but prior to trial the doctor learned that Spears had spent 17 days in a California mental institution after attempting suicide in 1970. Dr. Goldsborough testified that this history seemed to be compatible with what he had found during the 1976 examination and might indicate that Spears had been schizophrenic for at least 6 to 7 years. Dr. Goldsborough expressed a suspicion that had defendant seen a psychiatrist in 1969, he would have been diagnosed as schizophrenic. Dr. Goldsborough stated that a person subject to a schizophrenic process may hallucinate and hear voices which may advise him to take action which normally would be inappropriate, inadvisable or even illegal. The doctor added that paranoid schizophrenics usually suffer from delusions, paranoid fears and depression which impair good judgment and that if Larry Spears was suffering from schizophrenia at the time of the bank robbery, his judgment would have been so impaired that he would not have been totally aware of the criminality of his conduct. On cross-examination Dr. Goldsborough testified that he had no way of determining beyond a doubt that defendant could not have appreciated the criminality of the robbery and shooting on August 6, 1973. He said that the schizophrenic process is subject to partial remission and that it is possible that Spears did appreciate the criminality of the robbery and shooting on the date in question.

The testimony of defendant Spears, which was later corroborated by a presentence investigation and report, indicated that Spears had earned a B.A. and an M.S. in physics and a law degree. He had also completed substantial work on a Ph.D. in physics at the University of Arizona. Defendant had been married and had one child, but was divorced while he was attending law school. Defendant left Arizona and went to California in 1970 where he attempted suicide by cutting his wrists and spent 17 days in a State mental institution.

The release summary of that institution indicates that defendant was discharged as not mentally ill. The report indicated further that defendant did not show any evidence of psychosis and that he was diagnosed as suffering from a moderate form of depressive neurosis.

After defendant was discharged from the California mental institution, he returned to Arizona. Defendant re-enrolled at the university in order to earn enough money through a teaching assistantship to pay for his passage to Europe. In late 1970 he went to Spain. While there, his money ran out and he took a job assisting in the running of a restaurant. Defendant then moved to Germany, where he worked as an electrician for approximately 1 1/2 years. In March of 1973, he was apparently arrested and then deported to the United States. Defendant testified that it was his intention to be deported so he could return home. Following his return to the United States, defendant lived with his mother in Decatur, Illinois, and worked at part-time jobs until the time of the bank robbery. Defendant further testified that he could not remember anything about the bank robbery or shooting except riding in the ambulance. He did remember buying the gun he used in the robbery, but did not remember any of the officers who testified against him.

At the close of the defense's case, an instruction conference was held in the judge's chambers during which the trial judge found that the defendant had presented sufficient evidence to raise the issue of insanity.

The State presented two witnesses in rebuttal of defendant's evidence of insanity. Dr. James Hart, who treated defendant for the gunshot wound in his leg, testified that Spears had no problem following directions, that he responded appropriately to all the doctor's questions and that there did not appear to be anything unusual about his behavior. Dr. Hart had no expertise in psychiatry or mental disorders and on cross-examination stated that he had no opinion as to the defendant's mental condition.

The State's second rebuttal witness, F.B.I. agent Cecil Bond, questioned defendant at the East Alton police station and accompanied him on the ride to the Federal magistrate's office in Alton. Agent Bond testified that the defendant was completely silent at the police station and refused to respond to any questions except to point to a statement on the interrogation form which stated that he had a right to remain silent. Bond also testified that during the automobile ride to the magistrate's office Spears expressed surprise when he was informed that he could post bond for armed robbery.

After the State completed its case in rebuttal, defendant moved for a directed verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. The court denied the motion and submitted the case to the jury.

The jury then found defendant guilty of both armed robbery and attempt murder and defendant received concurrent sentences ...

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