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People v. Smith





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Earl E. Strayhorn, Judge, presiding.


Defendant appeals following a bench trial in which she was convicted on January 18, 1983, of aggravated battery in the stabbing of an individual she knew to be an employee of the State of Illinois, Department of Public Aid (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 12-4(b)(5)). She was subsequently sentenced to 30 months' probation conditional upon her continued treatment as an outpatient at a mental health facility.

Defendant contends that her conviction should be reversed because (1) the stabbing was not intentionally or knowingly committed, as it was accidental; and (2) the State failed to rebut expert testimony which showed the defendant to be insane at the time of the offense.

The State's evidence established that defendant was present at the office of the State of Illinois Department of Public Aid located at 3910 West Ogden Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, on February 3, 1982, in an attempt to receive public assistance.

Marcella Keller, supervising caseworker for the Department of Public Aid (Department) testified that the defendant was brought into her office shortly before 10 a.m. on February 3, 1982, by one of Keller's employees who had had a problem dealing with defendant in her request for public assistance and food stamps.

When Keller discovered that defendant already had an active public assistance file under another name at the Department's Michigan Avenue office, she informed her that she would have to go to the Michigan Avenue office for any further assistance. After defendant protested that she did not wish to go, Keller proceeded to complete an interoffice referral along with a carfare slip to transfer defendant to the other office. While she was writing out these forms, with her head down towards the desk, she heard another caseworker shout, "Miss Keller, she has a knife," in reference to defendant.

Keller looked up from her desk and saw defendant coming "across" the desk with a knife in hand. She got out of her seat and backed up against the wall. At this point, two other Department employees hustled defendant out of Keller's office and into the hallway.

Keller, who followed them out of her office, further testified that defendant refused to surrender the knife to Naomi Pryor, a uniformed security guard, who then tried to disarm the defendant; that thereafter, Pryor shouted that she was cut; that Keller observed Pryor bleeding from the hand; but that she could not determine from her perspective whether the defendant released the knife once Pryor started to bleed.

The victim, Naomi Pryor, testified on behalf of the State that on February 3, 1982, she was employed by Great Lakes Security and assigned to the Department's office on Ogden Avenue; and that at approximately 10 a.m. on February 3, 1982, she was seated at her desk, approximately 50 feet from Keller's office, where she observed the defendant being led out of the office by the Department employees. As Pryor started down the hallway toward the office, the defendant came within arms length of her and she noticed a knife in defendant's right hand which was held down beside her coat.

After defendant refused to surrender the knife as requested, Pryor grabbed defendant's right wrist and a tussle ensued. She was shoved against a cubical as she held defendant's arm. Defendant then started "coming over" her back. Pryor took one of her hands off defendant's hand that was holding the knife, and held her elbow up against defendant's chin to prevent her from "coming over" her. As she did this, she continued to hold defendant's right hand which contained the knife.

When defendant started falling back, Pryor stretched her hand out to try to hold defendant, who was still holding the knife in her hand. Although she did not feel the five-inch blade cut through her fingers she soon realized that she had been cut. The defendant had twisted the knife while it was lodged in her hand, causing further damage. Her injury required two surgeries and a hospital stay of six days.

On cross-examination, Pryor testified that defendant had never threatened her with her knife; that defendant never raised the knife at her, but that defendant's knife had cut her as defendant jerked away from her; and that she was unable to release the knife during her struggle with the defendant.

Defendant's motion for directed finding based on the accidental nature of the injury was denied.

Doctor Henry Stipes, a psychiatrist employed by the Psychiatric Institute of the circuit court of Cook County, testified on behalf of the defendant. He examined defendant on March 31, 1982, and July 28, 1982. Pursuant to his examination of July 28, 1982, he formulated the opinion that defendant was suffering from schizophrenia, paranoid type. It was his opinion, based upon his (1) personal examination of defendant, (2) review of defendant's previous psychological records, and (3) the police record in this case, that defendant was not able to appreciate the criminality of her conduct on February 3, 1982, the date of the stabbing. Further, it was his opinion that defendant was not subject to involuntary admission on the hearing date. Stipes further testified that defendant was currently an out-patient in a mental center and was receiving 100 milligrams of Mellaril daily.

On cross-examination, Stipes acknowledged that he was the first psychiatrist to diagnose her as paranoid schizophrenic; and that defendant had previously been treated by psychologists at the Elgin Mental Health Center where she was diagnosed as having a paranoid disorder, mental retardation and paranoid personality disorder.

Stipes spent a total of approximately two hours interviewing defendant, and concluded that her inappropriate behavior on February 3, 1982, led him to believe she suffered from psychosis on that date, although he admitted that not all inappropriate conduct under the instant circumstances would equate to psychotic behavior. He further stated that her conduct, in and of itself, did not lead him to believe she was psychotic on February 3, 1982, but that it was her ...

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