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People v. Johnson





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EDWARD M. FIALA, JR., Judge, presiding.


Following a bench trial the defendant, Dean Johnson, was found guilty of the murder of Patricia Baldwin (Patty) and the attempt murder of Steven Bush (Steven). The defendant was also found guilty of two counts of aggravated battery and one count of armed violence in that while armed with a dangerous weapon he committed the offense of aggravated battery. The defendant was sentenced to a term of 20 years for murder, a term of 10 years for attempt murder, and a term of 10 years for armed violence. All sentences were to run concurrently.

On appeal, the defendant contends that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was sane at the time he committed the offenses. He also asserts that the court erred in sentencing him for both attempt murder and armed violence since both convictions arose from the same act.

The evidence presented at trial revealed that the defendant, Patty and Steven suffered from hearing impairments and were students at William R. Harper College in Palatine, Illinois. The three students had attended the same high school in Hinsdale where they were enrolled in the hearing impairment program.

During 1978 the defendant and Patty attended several social affairs together. At a party in November Patty and the defendant argued. Thereafter Patty refused to speak to the defendant.

Subsequently Patty began to date Steven. In February 1979 an incident occurred near the college cafeteria when the defendant attempted to discuss with Patty the reason she refused to go out with him. According to Steven, the defendant followed the couple to the campus parking lot where he slapped Patty's face. The defendant then followed Steven and Patty as they drove home and attempted to force Steven's automobile off the road. Steven stopped at a gas station to call the police. The defendant pounded on the car window and threatened to kill the couple if they told their parents about the incident.

Charlene Dwyer, the college's counselor for the hearing impaired program, spoke to the defendant concerning this incident. The defendant claimed that he became upset because Patty and Steven were talking about him in the cafeteria. The defendant admitted that he "blew up," but stated that the incident was now forgotten. Following a student conduct hearing the defendant was told not to contact Patty or he would be dismissed from school.

On March 1, 1979, Steven drove Patty to school and parked his automobile in the campus parking lot. As they got out of the car, Steven saw the defendant walk toward them. The defendant struck Patty in the face with his hand. When Steven tried to intervene, the defendant stabbed him in the neck with a knife. Steven fell, and the defendant stabbed Patty 14 times. When a campus nurse arrived at the scene, Patty had no pulse or respiration.

The defendant fled and was arrested that evening in a cemetery.

Dr. Eugene Mindel, a psychiatrist who specializes in working with the handicapped, testified concerning his examination of the defendant. The defendant told Dr. Mindel that he became very upset whenever Patty refused to speak with him. He began to have bad dreams about Patty which progessively caused him to become more disturbed. On the evening before Patty's death, the defendant went to the computer room at the college. However, images from his dreams prevented him from working. The defendant told Dr. Mindel that on March 1, 1979, he went to Lee & Eddie's Catering where he had worked for several years. The defendant took a nap and dreamed that Patty was a monster. When he left work, the defendant took a knife and placed it in his car's trunk. The defendant drove to the college, took out the knife and placed it in his belt. When he saw Steven and Patty, the defendant yelled "I have bad dreams" and stabbed Patty. The defendant only remembered one small cut on Patty. After the stabbing, the defendant wanted to kill himself. He drove his car very fast in an attempt to have a fatal crash. He stole and took some aspirins which made him dizzy. The defendant tore at the interior of his car before abandoning it in a snowbank. The following morning in jail the defendant attempted to cut his wrists on the bolts of a toilet bowl.

Dr. Mindel believed that at the time of the stabbing the defendant suffered from a dissociative reaction, a state in which certain functions of the personality escape the individual's control. The defendant was under extreme stress, exhausted from bad dreams, and had no rational control over his behavior. Dr. Mindel concluded that the defendant was unable to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law and was unable to appreciate the criminality of his acts. It was Dr. Mindel's opinion that the fact that the defendant recalled only one small cut on Patty indicated that the defendant was in a psychotic frenzy when the stabbing occurred and that he had lost control over his rational process.

Barbara Rayson, a clinical psychologist who works with the hearing impaired, tested the defendant at the request of Dr. Mindel. In her opinion the defendant had a borderline personality, a fragile organization of the personality which under extreme stress can become, for a short time, psychotic.

Dr. Melvin Seglin, a psychiatrist, examined the defendant one week after the murder. He found the defendant incoherent and concluded that at the time of the murder the defendant could not conform his conduct to the law and lacked substantial appreciation for what he was doing. Dr. Seglin believed that the defendant had an obsessive-compulsive neurosis which became a schizophrenic psychosis. As a result of the psychosis, the defendant was under the control of unconscious forces in his mind and had lost his ability to control these unconscious forces.

The State presented expert witnesses to rebut the defendant's claim of insanity. Dr. Gershon Kaplan, a psychiatrist employed at the psychiatric institute of the circuit court of Cook County, examined the defendant and concluded that although the defendant had a personality disorder, there was no evidence of psychosis. The defendant had a passive-aggressive personality in that he had difficulty handling anger. Dr. Kaplan felt that at the time of the stabbings the defendant could conform his conduct to the law and was able to appreciate the ...

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