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UNITED STATES EX REL. RIVERS v. FRANZEN

September 3, 1981

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, EX REL. CLARENCE RIVERS, PETITIONER,
v.
GAYLE M. FRANZEN, ET AL., RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Petitioner Clarence Rivers ("Rivers") was convicted of murder January 26, 1973 in the Circuit Court of Cook County. After exhausting all available state remedies Rivers brought what is now his Amended Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus (the "Petition")*fn1 alleging that he had been incompetent to stand trial. Respondents have moved for summary judgment as to all four counts of the Petition, and Rivers has filed a cross-motion for summary judgment as to Counts I, III and IV. For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order Rivers' motion is granted as to Count I,*fn2 respondents' motion is denied and the writ of habeas corpus is issued.

Facts*fn3

Rivers was indicted on charges of first degree murder March 20, 1972. Shortly thereafter the trial court ordered a psychiatric examination to determine Rivers' mental fitness to stand trial. On July 20, 1972 Staff Psychiatrist for the Psychiatric Institute of the Circuit Court of Cook County Dr. Robert H. Reifman reported to the court that Rivers was competent for that purpose. Rivers' trial began in December 1972 and culminated in his conviction January 26, 1973.

Almost immediately after the trial Rivers' trial attorney received several indications that caused him to doubt Rivers' competency. Accordingly the attorney filed with the trial court "Suggestions of Doubt of Competency of Accused," bringing to the court's attention a number of items of evidence to that effect. That led the trial court to order another examination by Dr. Reifman. On March 30, 1973 Dr. Reifman reported to the court that Rivers was not then competent to be sentenced (without stating the underlying basis for that conclusion).

    (a) Rivers was not then mentally competent to be
  sentenced.
    (b) Dr. Reifman had no opinion regarding Rivers'
  sanity at the time of the alleged murder.

(c) Rivers had been competent to stand trial.

Again Dr. Reifman did not report the bases for his conclusions or the reasons for his diametrically opposed opinions as of two dates so close together. Based on Dr. Reifman's report the trial judge again refused to grant a hearing, determined that Rivers was not fit to be sentenced and remanded him to the Department of Mental Health.

On June 18, 1973 Rivers was examined by Dr. Leonard Horecker, a staff psychiatrist at the Illinois Security Hospital. Dr. Horecker reported to the court that Rivers was then mentally unfit for sentencing. On January 30, 1974 Dr. Reifman again examined Rivers and reported to the court that he was now mentally fit to be sentenced.

On April 9, 1974 the trial court held a hearing on Rivers' mental competency for the first time, limited however to his competency then to be sentenced — not competency at the time of trial. Dr. Reifman testified, based on his fourth examination of Rivers, that he was then mentally fit for sentencing. No cross-examination was permitted by the trial court as to Rivers' competency and ability to cooperate with counsel at trial. Based on the Reifman report and testimony the trial court found Rivers mentally competent to be sentenced. It rejected a motion for a full hearing and an independent examination by another psychiatrist, imposing a 30- to 90-year sentence.

Rivers' Right to a Hearing

Rivers contends in the Petition that the trial court denied him due process of law by refusing to hold a post-trial hearing to determine whether he had been mentally fit to stand trial. Essentially Rivers' counsel argue that the matters brought to the judge's attention, especially when corroborated by the psychiatric finding that he was not fit to stand sentencing so soon after trial, raised enough doubt as to his earlier competency so that the trial court should have held a hearing.

Section 5-2-1 of the Unified Code of Corrections (Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 38, ¶ 1005-2-1) provides:

  (c) When a bona fide doubt of the defendant's fitness
      to stand trial or be sentenced is raised, the
      court shall order that a determination of that
      ...

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