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People v. Raseaitis





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Frank W. Barbaro, Judge, presiding.


Defendant, Jerome Raseaitis, under indictment for murder and having been repeatedly found unfit to stand trial, was given a discharge hearing (pursuant to Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 104-25), at which the court found that the State had sustained its statutory burden of proving his "guilt" of murder beyond a reasonable doubt. Defendant was then ordered to undergo a maximum extended treatment period of five years with the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (the Department). On appeal defendant contends: (1) the State failed to meet its statutory burden of proof; (2) the treatment period imposed was longer than the maximum permitted under the statute; (3) the statutory scheme under which defendant's treatment period was imposed is violative of his right to due process and the equal protection of the laws.

We affirm.

On December 1, 1975, the defendant was charged with the murder of Matti Griffin after having voluntarily appeared at a police station to confess to the commission of that crime, which had occurred on April 29, 1973. The defendant was subsequently found unfit for trial on March 9, 1976, and on several subsequent occasions, although the record also establishes that on several occasions mental health personnel had reached preliminary determinations that he had become fit. During this time the defendant was in the custody of the Department for treatment in accordance with section 5-2-2 of the Unified Code of Corrections. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 38, par. 1005-2-2.) While defendant was undergoing treatment, the fitness provisions of the Code were amended to afford criminal defendants found unfit for trial the right to demand a discharge hearing at which they could seek to establish their innocence. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 104-25.) Defendant requested such a hearing and on December 10, 1981, after a fitness hearing at which the court determined that defendant remained unfit for trial and would not be fit within one year, the discharge hearing was held.

At the discharge hearing the defendant pled not guilty and the State then proceeded with its presentation of evidence. It was stipulated that if called, Officer R. Olson would testify that on April 29, 1973, at 8:30 in the morning at the Planters Hotel at 19 North Clark in Chicago, he observed the partially clad body of a woman, known as Jerry Rice and Matti Griffin, lying on a fifth floor landing. A set of handcuffs was attached to her right wrist. The officer also observed a bedspread tied to a partially open window in apartment 807 of the hotel. The bedspread was hanging outside the window. It was also stipulated that, if called to testify, Dr. Radhakisnan, a pathologist with the Forensic Institute, would testify that he performed the autopsy on Griffin's body and determined that the cause of death was cerebral cranial injury, consistent with a fall from a high location.

The parties further stipulated that Officer Nowicki would testify that on November 30, 1975, the defendant appeared at the 17th District police station and indicated that he wished to confess to a crime. After being advised of his rights and waiving those rights, the defendant said, "I can't sleep nights since I killed her, I want to confess now." The defendant's written statement was then obtained. In that statement defendant said he was at the Planters Hotel at about 9 or 10 p.m. on April 29, 1973, with a black woman. He could not recall her height or weight. He had met her at 7 that night at Broadway and Wilson and went with her to the hotel to take LSD. He registered them under the names of Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Rice and they proceeded to an eighth floor room. At about 8 p.m. they both took LSD. Defendant then tied two or three bedsheets in knots and tied them to the window. He told the woman to jump out the window, threatening to stab her with a six-inch blade knife he had if she did not do so. He also attempted to stab her with the knife. She jumped out the window and hung on to the sheets for only a few minutes. The defendant admitted to having a set of toy handcuffs at the hotel that night but denied having handcuffed the victim. In the statement defendant said he was 21 years old and had an eighth-grade education. He denied being on drugs and stated that he had last used drugs a long time earlier. The parties stipulated that the investigator who took the statement would testify that the defendant signed each page of the statement and initialed it where errors were made.

After the presentation of this evidence, the defendant's counsel having rested without presenting any evidence, the court found that the defendant was "not not guilty" and imposed on him a maximum treatment period of five years with the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities.


The discharge hearing statute provides that the defendant must be acquitted if the evidence presented at the hearing fails to establish defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 104-25; People v. Rink (1983), 97 Ill.2d 533, 455 N.E.2d 64.) Although a court's determination that the State has met this burden does not constitute a technical determination of guilt, that issue being deferred until the defendant is fit for trial (People v. Rink (1983), 97 Ill.2d 533, 455 N.E.2d 64), the standard of proof is the same as that required for a criminal conviction. Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it found that the State had met this burden.

In this cause the State sought to meet its burden of proof with the use of defendant's confession. Because the same burden of proof is applicable in this case as in a criminal trial, we will apply the same standards with respect to the requirements for meeting that burden. For a conviction based on a confession to be sustained, the confession must be corroborated. (People v. Willingham (1982), 89 Ill.2d 352, 432 N.E.2d 861.) In Illinois proof of the corpus delicti satisfies that corroboration requirement. (People v. Willingham (1982), 89 Ill.2d 352, 432 N.E.2d 861.) And in a murder case the corpus delicti consists of two items, the fact of death and the fact that death was caused by the criminal agency of some person. (People v. Jones (1961), 22 Ill.2d 592, 177 N.E.2d 112; People v. Holmes (1977), 67 Ill.2d 236, 367 N.E.2d 663.) In evaluating such evidence the test is then whether the whole evidence proves that a crime was committed and that the accused committed it. People v. Perfecto (1962), 26 Ill.2d 228, 186 N.E.2d 258.

• 1 Based upon our review of the evidence presented at the discharge hearing we find that the State did meet its burden of proof. The defendant walked into a police station and admitted that he had killed the deceased by forcing her at knife-point to hang out of an eighth-floor window at the end of a bedsheet rope from which she fell to her death. Defendant stated that they checked into the Planters Hotel using the names of Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Rice. He admitted that he had with him some toy handcuffs, although he denied using them on the deceased. This confession was corroborated by the State's proof of the corpus delicti. The State proved that the body of the victim, who was known as Jerry Rice, had been found on the landing of the Planters Hotel on the day in question, although a later time than the confession of the defendant would have indicated. The pathologist who examined the body found her death to have been caused by a cerebral injury consistent with a fall from a high place. A bedspread was found tied to the eighth-floor window of one of the hotel rooms, and a handcuff was attached to one of the victim's wrists. Thus, in addition to the defendant's confession, the State presented independent evidence establishing that a death had occurred by the same criminal agency described by defendant. Viewing all this evidence as a whole, we find that the court did not err in its finding.


• 2 We next consider defendant's contention that the statute concerning extended treatment periods should be construed to permit a total maximum treatment period of five years for defendants accused of murder, so that the period of treatment he received since the effective date of the statute and prior to the discharge hearing ...

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