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People v. Stack





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. James M. Bailey, Judge, presiding.


Following a jury trial, defendant Richard Stack was convicted of the murders of his wife and 13-month-old son. He was sentenced to two concurrent terms of natural life.

On appeal, the issues raised by defendant include: (1) whether the trial court erred in refusing to ask certain voir dire questions designed to ascertain the prospective jurors' attitudes towards the insanity defense; (2) whether the admission of evidence and prosecutorial argument regarding defendant's silence following his Miranda warnings constituted reversible error; (3) whether it was reversible error to allow an expert witness to interpret another witness' testimony; (4) whether defendant was denied a fair trial due to the prosecutor's alleged misstatements regarding the consequences of an acquittal; and (5) whether defendant was proved sane beyond a reasonable doubt. We reverse and remand for a new trial.

The record discloses that on May 11, 1980, defendant murdered his wife by repeatedly kicking her in the head, stabbing her with a pool cue and then slashing and mutilating her body. After murdering his wife, defendant threw his 13-month-old son against a wall, fracturing the infant's skull. Defendant then repeatedly stabbed the baby with the same pool cue he used in murdering his wife.

Dr. Robert Stein, the Cook County medical examiner, testified that he performed autopsies on the bodies of Carol Ann Stack and Richard Stack, Jr. Dr. Stein found nearly 100 stab and slash wounds on the body of Carol Ann. He also found segments of wood, identical to a pool cue, along with other foreign objects within the pleural cavity of her body. Dr. Stein's examination of the infant's body revealed a depressed skull fracture in addition to numerous puncture wounds, contusions and lacerations of the head and chest areas.

Chicago police officers William Christopher and Thomas Scott testified that when they arrived at defendant's residence on May 11, 1980, they saw defendant leaning out of a broken window screaming and yelling. Officer Scott testified that defendant was yelling about devils and demons. Both officers said that defendant called out to them, "I have been looking for you. I just killed my wife and baby." At Officer Scott's instruction, defendant opened the front door and was handcuffed on the front porch without resistance. Officer Scott testified that defendant was given his Miranda rights and that defendant indicated he understood each right. Defendant was then transported to Holy Cross Hospital for treatment of superficial cuts to his hands and face.

Detective William Foley testified that he spoke with defendant in the emergency room of Holy Cross Hospital. Detective Foley advised defendant of his Miranda rights and then asked defendant why he was at the hospital. Defendant responded that he was being treated for hand injuries. In response to other questions, defendant stated that he had attended mass twice that day and that following the second mass he began fighting the demons which were coming from his wife and child. Defendant explained that the demons came from his wife because she had not gone to confession. Defendant further stated that there was evil in the world and he was trying to drive the demons out. When asked how he committed the murders, defendant stated that he did not want to say anything about the method he used because the answer was in the Bible. Foley testified that during the interview defendant appeared to be in contact with reality. Foley said that defendant's treating physician, Dr. Jane Caseley, wanted commitment papers signed and that several doctors and nurses were talking about transporting defendant to a psychiatric facility. Foley, however, disagreed, and defendant was taken to a lockup after being released from the hospital.

Mary Bolster, Carol Ann's mother, testified that she saw defendant on May 10, 1980, the night before the murders, and did not notice anything unusual about defendant's behavior that evening. Bolster also said that when she called Carol Ann the afternoon of the murders, defendant answered the telephone and "they conducted a very usual conversation."

Among those testifying for the defense was Dr. Jane Caseley, an emergency room physician at Holy Cross Hospital who treated defendant for cuts to his hands on May 11, 1980. Dr. Caseley stated that the police requested that defendant not be sedated and, thus, no anesthetic was used during the suturing procedure. Caseley recalled that defendant winced once during the suturing but his hands remained still during the remaining procedure. Defendant told Dr. Caseley that his left hand belonged to someone else. Dr. Caseley further stated that defendant was cooperative in answering questions, but when asked about his medical history he responded that Dr. Caseley and the nurses should ask the Pope. Dr. Caseley also stated that defendant spoke in a low coarse voice of demons. In Dr. Caseley's opinion, defendant was in need of psychiatric care, "so she signed commitment papers." At Officer Foley's request, however, defendant was instead taken to a lockup.

Various relatives and friends of defendant also testified and recounted occasions on which defendant acted unusually. Additionally, Father Robert Lutz, a Chicago priest, described a visit from defendant in which defendant discussed the evil in the world. Following the visit, Father Lutz suggested to defendant's brother-in-law, John Principato, that defendant seek professional help.

Father Joseph Bennett, Cook County jail chaplain, testified that a few days after the offense Father Lutz requested that he visit defendant. Father Bennett stated that defendant told him that he had special powers and was commanded by God to kill his wife and child. Defendant also said that he had used his hands to kill the child and used a perfume bottle to kill his wife. In Father Bennett's opinion, defendant was not in contact with reality.

Dr. Albert Stipes, a psychiatrist employed by the Cook County Court Psychiatric Institute, testified that he examined defendant on June 11, 1980. Stipes stated that defendant exhibited a well-organized system of active delusions concerning special powers such as reading backwards and the belief that he was being persecuted by non-Catholics. Defendant described a visual hallucination that he had, prior to committing the murders, of an old man turning into a child. Dr. Stipes testified that in evaluating defendant, he considered a report made by Dr. Garbin in which defendant stated that he had fought with his wife for three hours and had finally killed the demon within her. The report also included the following quote from defendant: "My baby handed me rosary beads in alcohol and I shoved it in her. The baby then changed, too, and came at me and I killed that demon too, beating it."

Dr. Robert Reifman, director of the Cook County Circuit Court Psychiatric Institute, examined defendant on December 18, 1981, and February 18, 1982. Dr. Reifman also reviewed defendant's medical records and the police report during this period. During the 1981 interview, Dr. Reifman observed that defendant exhibited extremely disoriented thought, agitation, confusion and hyperactivity symptoms attributable to, in Dr. Reifman's opinion, an inappropriate change in antipsychotic medication in the jail. During the examination, defendant told Dr. Reifman that defendant's baby looked like the baby Jesus, which was a sign that defendant's wife was possessed by demons. According to Dr. Reifman, defendant committed what defendant believed to be an altruistic act which was necessary to save the world from demons and devils.

Drs. Stipes and Reifman agreed that defendant suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, experienced a major break with reality and lacked both the substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct and the ability to conform his conduct to the requirements of law on the date of the murders. The doctors also agreed that defendant was not lying, feigning illness or malingering.

During the State's rebuttal, Patricia Greco testified that she had known defendant and Carol Ann since grade school. Greco testified as to arguments that defendant had with Carol Ann on four separate occasions in 1976, 1977, and 1979. During the 1977 argument, defendant bit off and swallowed the diamond from Carol Ann's engagement ring.

Diane Bolster, Carol Ann's sister, testified that on the day prior to the murders, defendant and Carol Ann visited her, and during the 45-minute conversation defendant never mentioned religion, demons or devils. On the morning of the murders, Bolster visited defendant and Carol Ann and, after offering to watch the baby for Carol Ann, defendant jumped up and said, "No, the baby stays here." Defendant then walked out of the house with the baby, saying, "Leave me alone, I will do what I want."

Dr. Werner Tuteur, a psychiatrist and chief consultant to the Elgin Mental Health Center, testified on rebuttal that he examined defendant on September 19, 1981, October 6, 1981, and February 17, 1982, and reviewed reports on defendant from the Chester Mental Health Center, the Cook County Circuit Court Psychiatric Institute, and the police. During the interviews defendant said that he had seen the devil come out of his wife's body and that it had laid hands on her. Defendant told Dr. Tuteur that he had one experience with demons the day after the murders but had seen devils and demons before the murders during hangovers. Dr. Tuteur found no evidence of mental disease during the interviews which, in his opinion, indicated that a mental disease never existed. Dr. Tuteur testified that defendant's belief about dying for people's sins were delusions and hallucinations caused by alcohol. Dr. Tuteur disagreed with the diagnoses of defendant as being a paranoid schizophrenic and believed that defendant could have conformed his conduct to the requirements of the law. According to Dr. Tuteur, defendant's conduct of screaming to police officers that he had just killed his wife and child indicated that defendant knew the criminality of his actions.


We first address defendant's contention that the trial court erred in refusing to question prospective jurors on the voir dire examination with regard to any bias or prejudice the jurors might have against the insanity defense. Prior to trial, defense counsel ...

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