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People v. Rath

OPINION FILED JANUARY 31, 1984.

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

v.

JAMES RATH, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of La Salle County; the Hon. Alexander T. Bower, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE SCOTT DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The defendant, James Rath, appeals a declaration of his unfitness to stand trial following a jury trial in the circuit court of La Salle County. The defendant had been charged with four counts of forgery.

At various times during the pretrial proceedings the defendant claimed to be the royal son of the Sultan of Turkey and Ethel Barrymore, a diplomat with immunity from prosecution, a doctor and an attorney.

The court believed that on the basis of these initial allegations, a bona fide doubt existed as to the defendant's fitness to stand trial and ordered, over defendant's objection, that he be examined pursuant to section 104-13 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 104-13).

Despite the fact that the defendant insisted on representing himself without additional counsel, the public defender's office was appointed "to assist the defendant on a standby basis" should he wish to consult with an attorney.

The matter proceeded to a fitness hearing before a jury and two psychiatrists testified.

Dr. Chuprevich testified that the defendant was suffering from a mental disorder despite the defendant's belief that he was sane. The doctor believed that the defendant was a paranoid schizophrenic who experienced delusions and hallucinations, had no sense of external reality and the mental disorder involved the aberration of the defendant's thought processes.

The doctor "doubted" whether the defendant understood the nature of the charges against him or whether he could assist in his own defense as required by section 104-10 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 104-10). He felt, however, that if provided with a course of treatment, the defendant might attain fitness within one year.

The State rested, and the defendant called Dr. Kruglik to testify in his behalf. The doctor had been previously appointed by the court to examine the defendant, but the defendant had not cooperated.

Dr. Kruglik believed that although he felt the defendant understood the nature of the charges against him, he had "some question" whether the defendant was mentally capable to cooperate with counsel in his own defense.

Dr. Kruglik agreed with Dr. Chuprevich that there was a "good likelihood" that the defendant would attain fitness within one year if he were provided with a course of treatment. The doctor also noted, however, that it was possible that defendant was a con man feigning his mental illness.

During the proceedings, the defendant totally refused to let the public defender assigned to his case assist him in any way. He specifically complained of appointed counsel looking over his shoulder at his briefs. The defendant attempted to subpoena various judges from the Federal court in Chicago as defense witnesses but without success. The defendant ordered the public defender not to say anything during the instruction conference. The defendant made his own closing argument which consisted of a pathetic attempt to prove his regal lineage, that he was only a poor baron who had been the victim of perjured psychiatric testimony and racial prejudice, and despite everything he was "a gentleman and a genius" who had "beat the Hell out of the best legal minds in Ottawa."

Both the defendant and the State contended that the defendant was fit to stand trial. The jury disagreed. The defendant was appointed counsel, over his objection, and the issue on appeal is whether the case must be reversed because the trial court permitted the defendant to proceed at the hearing on fitness without availing himself of his court-appointed attorney who was present but not permitted to intervene by the defendant.

First of all it must be noted that defense counsel on appeal contends that it was error under the facts of this case to permit the defendant to waive counsel when it was apparent that there was a bona fide doubt of ...


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