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People v. Taylor





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Fred Suria, Judge, presiding.


Defendant Rex Allen Taylor was charged by indictment with murder, attempt murder, aggravated battery, and burglary. After a bench trial, defendant was found guilty of murder and attempt murder and sentenced to concurrent terms of imprisonment of 30 years. Defendant appeals.

On appeal, defendant contends (1) he did not receive effective assistance of counsel; (2) the admission of his cellmate's testimony violated his sixth amendment rights; (3) the prosecutor's closing argument was prejudicial; and (4) his sanity at the time of the offense was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

We affirm.

Initially defendant was found unfit to stand trial and was remanded to the custody of the Illinois Department of Mental Health. After a finding of fitness, trial commenced and defendant pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. The facts giving rise to the charges upon which defendant was convicted are undisputed and a brief statement of the facts as proved during trial are as follows.

Defendant and Betsy Taylor were married in 1973. On June 30, 1977, Betsy filed a divorce petition in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was given temporary custody of their son Brian, but Betsy continued to reside with defendant.

On August 7, 1978, Betsy left Milwaukee with Brian and drove to her parent's home. Betsy's parents Louis and Betty Jennings resided in Schaumburg, Illinois. Defendant phoned the Jennings' residence several times that evening and spoke with Betsy's sister Jenny. Defendant threatened to kill Betsy and her family.

The following day, defendant went to the Jennings' home and tried to take Brian. When Betsy and Mrs. Jennings attempted to stop defendant, he began striking them. David Boston, an off-duty police officer, witnessed part of the incident and assisted in subduing defendant. Defendant was charged with battery and criminal trespass to property and was released on bail after that afternoon. That evening, defendant phoned the Jennings approximately 10 times.

On August 9, 1978, defendant called the Jennings. He spoke to Jenny and threatened to kill Betsy. He also spoke to Louis and Brian. At 1 p.m., defendant arrived at the Jennings' residence. He broke the glass patio doors with a car jack and entered the apartment. Defendant went directly to the master bedroom where Betsy was trying to call police. Defendant stabbed Betsy several times. When Mrs. Jennings grabbed defendant's arm, defendant turned and stabbed her in the chest. Defendant then knelt over Betsy and stabbed her several more times. Thereafter, defendant locked himself in the bathroom and turned the knife on himself. When paramedics arrived, defendant was unconscious. Betsy Taylor died from the wounds inflicted by defendant.

Both the State and defendant called several witnesses to testify on the issue of defendant's sanity. Dr. James Cavanaugh, called as an expert by the defense, conducted three interviews with defendant. Based on his review of other psychiatric reports on defendant, defendant's records from Chester Mental Health Center, police reports, letters written by defendant, and his personal observations, Dr. Cavanaugh determined that defendant suffered from a psychotic depressive disorder. Significant to Dr. Cavanaugh's diagnosis were the reports from the mental health center which described defendant as disturbed and depressed. The reports further stated that defendant has hallucinations, suffered from schizophrenic reactions, and had received intensive care for several weeks. Dr. Cavanaugh further testified that defendant's suicide attempt was evidence of insanity and concluded that on the date of the crimes, defendant was incapable of conforming his conduct to the requirements of law or appreciating the criminality of his behavior.

Dr. Melvin Seglin, another defense expert, testified that defendant suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and on August 9, 1978, was unable to conform his conduct to the requirements of law. He based his diagnosis on interviews with defendant, police reports, defendant's prior attacks on his wife, defendant's auditory hallucinations and defendant's drinking problem.

Dr. Gursen Kaplan testified on behalf of the State. Prior to examining defendant, Kaplan reviewed police reports concerning the slaying of Betsy Taylor, defendant's medical records from Chester Mental Health Center, the pathological protocol on the death of Betsy, documents from the Psychiatric Institute of Cook County regarding examinations of defendant performed there, and letters written by defendant to Betty Jennings. After reviewing these materials, Dr. Kaplan expected defendant to exhibit indications of a long and severe mental illness, yet defendant expressed no depression, grief, or guilt. Doubting the prior opinions of the other experts that defendant was insane at the time of the offenses, Dr. Kaplan requested additional materials. He thereafter reviewed social service histories of defendant's family and police reports regarding prior domestic altercations between defendant and his wife. Dr. Kaplan interviewed defendant a second time. He determined that defendant was capable of controlling his impulses and was able to conform his conduct to the requirements of law on the day of the crimes.

Dr. Kaplan further testified that defendant was a malingerer and cited several discrepancies between defendant's statements to him and defendant's statements as mentioned in various other reports. Dr. Kaplan believed defendant was deceitful and lied in a self-serving manner. Kaplan further testified that defendant's acts on the day of the crime were premeditated and that this planning indicated a lack of impulsive behavior.

Both the State and defendant called several lay witnesses to support their respective theories of defendant's sanity and insanity on the day of the crimes. However, no issue is raised which directly relates to their testimony and therefore, specific references will ...

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