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People v. Butler

OPINION FILED OCTOBER 10, 1978.

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

v.

JOSEPH BUTLER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. R. EUGENE PINCHAM, Judge, presiding.

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

Rehearing denied November 6, 1978.

Joseph Butler was charged by information with the murder of his wife and attempt murder of his daughter. After a bench trial, defendant was found not guilty by reason of insanity of these offenses and was immediately committed to the Department of Mental Health by the trial judge. Defendant appeals from his commitment, asserting that the failure to conduct a separate civil commitment hearing at the conclusion of the criminal trial violated his rights to due process and equal protection of the laws.

In the afternoon of December 11, 1975, defendant went to Holy Angels Church and asked to speak to a priest. Father Kenneth Brigham testified at the trial that defendant told him he had just killed his wife. Defendant told the priest that he had been under the influence of witchcraft when he stabbed his wife, and asked the priest to call the police. When the police arrived, defendant told them "I killed my wife" before any interrogation by the police had begun. The arresting officer advised defendant of his rights. Defendant took the police to his home, opened the door with his key, led the police to the body on the couch, and produced the knife which he had used for the stabbing. There were six children in the apartment. Defendant told the police that he had tried to kill himself by swallowing pills, but had vomited. Pills were found on the kitchen table. There is no issue raised as to the voluntariness of defendant's statement to the police or the admissibility of his statements to the priest, Father Brigham.

Evidence was also adduced which showed that defendant, before the killing of his wife, had held the head of his five-year-old daughter under water in an effort to force his daughter to tell him about his wife's plots against him. Since early 1975 defendant had frequently raged about witchcraft and voodoo being practiced by his wife and her mother against him.

The two police officers who had interrogated defendant on the afternoon of his arrest were permitted to express their opinion that the defendant was sane at the time of their interviews and sane at the time of the offense.

Three psychiatrists testified. Dr. Robert Reifman, Assistant Director of the Psychiatric Institute of the Circuit Court of Cook County, examined the defendant on February 25, 1976, and March 23, 1976. He had also reviewed a psychiatric examination report prepared in 1970 by a Dr. Stern, the police report of the incident, two social histories and a discharge report from the V.A. Hospital. In the opinion of Dr. Reifman, defendant was suffering from schizophrenia, paranoid type, on December 11, 1975, and, as a result of this psychosis, was unable to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law and lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct. Reifman had concluded that, as of the date of his last examination, defendant had not recovered and was in need of further treatment. He testified further that defendant's schizophrenia dated back to at least 1974, and that the disease is a long-term mental illness. While defendant appeared, in March 1976, to have partially recovered, the doctor could not assess how much of the recovery was real and how much was only apparent and due to thorazine medication.

Dr. Bernard Rubin testified that he examined defendant for about two hours on August 17, 1976. He had also read all reports on defendant, including the report of Dr. Reifman. In his opinion, defendant was not, and had not been, schizophrenic or suffering from a psychosis at the time of the offense or at the time of his examination. In his opinion, defendant had a "character disorder or personality problem" which he would classify as "borderline," meaning that, under stress, he loses organization of self and responds with anger, feelings of helplessness and panic. Rubin believed that defendant could appreciate the criminality of his conduct and had capacity to conform his conduct to the law, but that defendant's control had been "diminished" by the stresses he had felt over 12 to 14 hours before the killing.

Dr. Nelson Bradley, who had examined defendant on October 21, 1976, was of the opinion that defendant was not legally responsible for his conduct on December 11, 1975. He diagnosed defendant as suffering from toxic psychosis produced by alcohol consumption. He found some evidence of paranoid schizophrenia, but his primary diagnosis was the toxic psychosis. Because of the disease, defendant could not control his actions or conform his conduct to the law. At the time of his examination, defendant was "not 100 percent" fine; though he was "[n]ot acutely psychotic," and was able to respond to the doctor's questions, the doctor would not say that defendant's answers were those of a "completely normal person."

After arguments were heard, the court stated as follows:

"* * * I will find the defendant not guilty by reason of insanity and find that the defendant is in further need of mental treatment and that evidence is unrebutted in the record."

The defendant then stated:

"Your Honor, I would like to say the only way I would be able to recover is for my trust and belief in God. That is the only way I was able to recuperate. [Sic.]"

No objection was raised by defendant or his counsel to the factual finding of the court or to the order of commitment. The supplemental record reveals that notice of appeal was filed by defense counsel on March 25, 1977, without defendant being present and without either argument on the grounds for the appeal ...


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