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People v. Uppole





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Tazewell County; the Hon. IVAN L. YONTZ, Judge, presiding.


Following a discharge hearing pursuant to section 104-25 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat., 1979 Supp., ch. 38, par. 104-25), the Circuit Court of Tazewell County found the defendant, Ronald W. Uppole, guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of murder. The court further found that the defendant remained incompetent to stand trial after two years of psychiatric treatment and three previous fitness hearings and remanded him to the Illinois Department of Mental Health for an extended treatment period of five years (Ill. Rev. Stat., 1979 Supp., ch. 38, par. 104-25(c)(2)). The only issue presented for review is whether the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant's sanity at the time the offense occurred. Because the evidence on the issue of the defendant's sanity is a close question in the case at bar, we report that evidence in detail.

The State's first witness in its case in chief was Officer Patrick Quinn. At approximately 10:40 a.m. on August 2, 1978, Quinn responded to a call that gunshots were being fired at 123 Spring Street, East Peoria, Illinois. As he arrived, two more shots were fired inside the house. Using a public address system, Quinn ordered the occupants of the house to exit. The defendant and his daughter came out. Quinn then ordered the defendant to kneel and he complied. The officer asked the defendant whether anyone else remained in the house, to which he replied "she's upstairs." Quinn also asked the defendant where the gun was located, and he answered, "in the living room." The officer then entered the house and found a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol on the living room table and the victim, the defendant's estranged wife, Nelma Uppole, dead in a second floor bedroom.

Officer John Boesh testified that the defendant's clothes were spattered with blood. During booking, the officers inventoried the defendant's personal property and found two receipts from Jack Hunter's Gun Supply, one for a Colt pistol and the other for a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol. The latter receipt matched the pistol recovered at the scene and which was ultimately determined to be the murder weapon. The sales were made a few days before the shooting.

Robert DuBois, a crime scene technician, testified as an expert in reconstructing the instant offense from the evidence gathered. Using the six-shot .38-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol, the assailant shot the victim, who stood in front of the upstairs bed, once in the chest. She clutched her wound and was shot again in the right hand. She then fell back on the bed, whereupon she was shot in the head at point blank range four more times. The assailant then apparently walked downstairs and emptied four of the six bullet casings from the revolver. He returned to the bedroom, placed four more cartridges into the gun from a box located behind a chest of drawers, and while leaning over the victim, fired three more shots into her chest and another bullet into her head. Then all six cartridge casings were removed from the revolver and five more rounds were loaded into the weapon. The weapon was in this condition when recovered by police from the living room table. DuBois further testified that the fingerprints on the revolver matched those of the defendant.

The defendant's father, Marvin Uppole, testified on behalf of the defendant to establish his defense of insanity. Marvin related a conversation with the defendant which took place in early June 1978. The defendant informed his father that his wife, Nelma, was seeing other men and had told the defendant of her sexual encounters with her paramours. The defendant told his father that this situation was "hard to take," but he still confessed love for her. He also assured his father that he "couldn't hurt her." After that, Marvin received reports that the defendant "started acting kind of funny and didn't act like himself." Then on June 23, 1978, the defendant attempted suicide by taking an overdose of pills and inhaling gas. After being released from the hospital, the defendant left his wife and lived with his brother until August 2, 1978, the date of the offense. He did, however, see his wife on several occasions. The defendant informed his father that he received several calls from his wife asking him to return home and have sex. He also admitted he had threatened her with a gun because, "she won't even talk to me when I'm trying to talk to her and that's the only way I can get her to talk to me." During these conversations, Marvin described his son's demeanor as "funny." He related no specific details.

Kim Kelly, a law clerk for defense counsel, testified that he first saw the defendant on August 2, 1978, as the police held the defendant in custody. Kelly attempted to ask the defendant about the shooting, but he failed to respond and remained absolutely motionless throughout the encounter with Kelly. The law clerk, who had an educational background in psychology, described the defendant's demeanor as catatonic-like.

The final defense witness, Dr. James Ward, a psychiatrist, first treated the defendant following the June 23 suicide attempt. He saw the defendant twice more before the August 2 shooting. According to the doctor's observations, the defendant was "emotionally invested" in his marriage. Because the marriage was "the central theme of his life," the defendant's feelings toward his wife were proprietary. Consequently, the defendant developed an enormous fear of losing her. This fear also manifested itself in anger against her. To allay these fears, the defendant invoked two ego-defense mechanisms, repression and denial. Thus, he internalized his feelings and his actions became over-controlled. In the opinion of Dr. Ward, the defendant's wife acted as a stimulus that created the intense anger and emotions within him.

Believing the defendant to be non-psychotic, the psychiatrist released the defendant from the hospital shortly after the attempted suicide and prescribed a combined antispasmodic and tranquilizer for the defendant. On July 27 the defendant informed Dr. Ward that he had purchased a gun and had threatened to kill his wife and himself. At the same time, however, the defendant believed his wife was "mellowing," and he expressed optimism to Dr. Ward that he would soon be reunited with his wife.

The doctor next saw the defendant after the shooting on August 2. At first the defendant appeared extremely mute and withdrawn, and Dr. Ward was unable to gather any information from him. Later that night, however, the defendant gave a "pretty good" account of the shooting. In fact, at that encounter the defendant was in his most lucid state of mind. According to the doctor's notes, the defendant was logical, coherent, and oriented to time, place, and person. He said he waited for his wife to return home from a date with another man on August 1. She failed to return that night, but came home during the morning of August 2. He approached her and put his arms around her. She told him that he would have to become accustomed to seeing her with other men. The defendant then became uncontrollably enraged, shot his wife several times and attempted to shoot himself but failed.

Following this lucid moment, Dr. Ward observed the defendant's condition steadily deteriorate. His behavior became extremely infantile. He denied shooting his wife and informed Dr. Ward that he spoke with and saw his wife months after her death. He has received psychiatric treatment in a mental health facility since August 2, 1978.

From these examinations, Dr. Ward formulated an opinion as to the defendant's mental condition at the time of the shooting. Dr. Ward believed that the defendant was driven by impulses, caused by his fear of losing his wife, over which he had no control. When asked on direct examination whether the defendant suffered from a mental disease or defect at the time of the shooting, Dr. Ward said the defendant was not suffering from a psychotic process (an inability to appreciate reality). Instead, he characterized the problem as depressive neurosis (incapable of dealing with personal conflicts). Dr. Ward described the neurosis as affecting the defendant's affective (emotional) processes, but leaving his cognitive processes substantially unaffected. Thus, because his senses were not disabled, he could appreciate the criminality of his conduct, as well as respond to his environment. However, when stimulated by his wife, he then became enveloped in repressed emotions and feelings which he was unable to contain. Dr. Ward believed that if a non-psychotic disorder could be characterized as a mental defect, then the defendant suffered from a mental defect.

On cross-examination, Dr. Ward again declared that in his opinion the defendant suffered from a non-psychotic emotional disorder, not a cognitive one. The doctor stopped short, however, of saying that the defendant's neurosis was a mental defect. When asked whether depressive neurosis was a fairly common ailment, Dr. Ward replied in the affirmative. When confronted with his unsureness as to whether the defendant's uncontrollable conduct was a product of a mental defect, the doctor again equivocated by not directly answering the question. On redirect examination, he answered that the neurosis was a "classifiable mental defect."

The defense then rested and the State waived rebuttal. The court, sitting without jury as directed in section 104-25(a), found that the State proved the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of murder. Moreover, the court ruled that the defendant had made no progress under psychiatric treatment toward attaining fitness and ...

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