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People v. Littlejohn





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Leonard Grazian, Judge, presiding.


Following a jury trial, defendant Mack Littlejohn was found guilty of murder and attempted murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, pars. 9-1, 8-4), and was sentenced to 50 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Defendant appeals his conviction. For the following reasons, we reverse and remand for a new trial.

At trial, the State presented the testimony of Joanne Lee, defendant's common law wife. Lee testified that she first met defendant through his brother Odell nine years prior to the instant offense. At that time, defendant lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and he and Lee visited every two or three months over the next eight years. Defendant either worked or attended school during this time. In November 1980, defendant moved from Philadelphia to Chicago, Illinois, and he and Lee began living together. Defendant worked six days a week as a pharmacist and paid the rent and all other expenses. On October 19, 1981, the couple's daughter, Jane Marie Littlejohn, was born. Defendant was very proud of the baby, and Lee never saw him strike her.

Lee testified that after the baby's birth, defendant began having job difficulties. He never had problems at work before. Although defendant did not attend church, he had become very interested in religion. He and Lee also used drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and TAC. On the night of November 13, 1981, defendant and Lee smoked two marijuana cigarettes and drank mescal until early morning. Lee fell asleep, but was awakened at approximately 5 a.m. by defendant who had telephoned his brother, Odell, and got into a loud argument about a debt. Defendant and his brother normally got along well. Lee saw defendant put down the telephone and go into the bathroom, and she picked up the telephone and began talking to Odell. When defendant returned from the bathroom, he told Lee he would slap her if she did not put down the telephone. Lee sat down on the couch and heard defendant yell at his brother not to call or come over anymore. Defendant then went to the record player where he kept his knives. The next thing Lee knew, defendant was standing over her with the knives open and held in the shape of a cross. Without saying a word, defendant stabbed her, and she ran out the door.

Lee subsequently knocked on two neighbors' doors, but got no response. She then remembered the baby and ran back upstairs. She heard the click of her apartment door lock, and her legs collapsed. Lee crawled to the door and banged on it, calling out to defendant, "Mack, don't let me die in this hallway." Defendant did not respond, but Lee could hear the baby crying. The crying suddenly stopped and defendant said, "Everything's all right now." Lee then heard defendant call for an ambulance. Thereafter, she heard nothing but a radio. Police arrived, and Lee was taken to the hospital where she underwent surgery for 23 stab wounds.

Chicago police officer John DiMaggio testified that he responded to an emergency call at defendant's apartment on November 14, 1981. When he arrived, he found a woman covered with blood in a kneeling position on the second floor. He saw defendant, wearing only a black T-shirt, going toward the bathroom, and he handcuffed him. DiMaggio found a baby on the couch with numerous stab wounds. The baby was pronounced dead at the scene. DiMaggio testified that defendant told him in a calm manner, "I killed them both. God made me do it."

Dr. Joanne Richmond testified that she performed an autopsy on the infant. The child died of extensive bleeding due to five stab wounds.

Assistant State's Attorney Robert Loeb testified that he interviewed defendant on the morning of November 14, 1981. Defendant told Loeb that he attended three colleges, obtained degrees and worked as a pharmacist. Defendant stated that he and Lee smoked marijuana and drank tequila on the night of November 13, 1981. At approximately 5:30 a.m., their baby started crying. Lee went to change the baby's diaper and defendant called his brother, Odell. He was angry because Odell had "flimflammed" him out of some money. He became angrier when Lee got on the telephone and talked nicely to Odell because she and Odell had once been sexually involved. Defendant told Lee to hang up the telephone and he decided to stab her when she refused to do so. Defendant went over to the couch where he had placed two knives in the pattern of a cross. He recalled picking up one of the knives and stabbing Lee at least three times "in the fifth intercostal space" in order to "insure the total destruction of her heart." Lee ran screaming into the outside stairwell and defendant locked the apartment door. He decided to stab the baby in a "similar vital spot." Loeb testified that defendant stated with respect to Lee, "I knew what I was doing. I don't want to hurt my case anymore, but I should have known better." Defendant also told Loeb several times that he loved the baby, who was named after his mother.

The State rested and defendant relied on the defense of insanity. Testifying first for defendant was his brother, Odell Littlejohn. Odell testified that defendant got married in 1958 and was a very loving father to his four living children by that marriage. Odell never saw defendant strike any of his children. Defendant was in the Navy for four years and after being honorably discharged attended pharmacy school. Prior to 1980, defendant lived in Philadelphia and Odell visited him once or twice and saw nothing unusual about him. When defendant returned to Chicago in 1980, he took Odell to a store where he purchased a skull. Thereafter, Odell often saw defendant with the skull on a chain around his neck. Odell also twice saw defendant perform a ritual with the skull in which he darkened the room, lit the skull with a candle, read tarot cards and kissed and talked to the skull. This was the first time Odell saw defendant act in this manner.

Odell testified that when he spoke with defendant on the telephone during the early morning hours of November 14, 1981, defendant threatened him and "started talking out of his head." Defendant told Odell he had three rifles and that Odell should not come to his house. Odell and defendant did not have any "real fights" prior to this time. When defendant hung up the telephone, Odell called him back to ask what was wrong, but defendant hung up again. Odell testified that he had never seen defendant strike Joanne Lee.

Gwendolyn Littlejohn testified that she was the wife of Odell Littlejohn and had known defendant for approximately 17 years. She stated that defendant had been close with his family and was a good father. Gwendolyn never saw him strike any of his children. Defendant lived in Philadelphia from 1970 to 1980 and therefore she did not see him often. When defendant returned to Chicago in 1980, he stayed with her and Odell for a month. During that time, Gwendolyn went to defendant's bedroom and saw that it was darkened and that defendant was using a candle, skull and some tarot cards. This was the first time defendant acted in this manner. After a couple of months, Gwendolyn asked defendant to move out because she was scared of having the skull, cards and candle in her home.

Approximately one week prior to the instant offense, Gwendolyn went to defendant's house and talked with defendant. Defendant told Gwendolyn that he had spoken with his mother and had asked her about Joanne. Gwendolyn thought this was odd since defendant's mother died in 1978. During the next week, defendant called Gwendolyn two or three times a day and repeatedly asked her if she and her children were alright. He had never done this before.

Dr. Gerson Kaplan, a psychiatrist at the Cook County Psychiatric Institute, testified that he examined defendant four times during January and February of 1982. Dr. Kaplan was of the opinion that at the time of the offense defendant was incapable of appreciating the criminality of his conduct or conforming his conduct to the requirements of the law, and therefore was legally insane. In reaching this opinion, he reviewed social histories from defendant and Joanne Lee, police reports, psychological examination results by psychologist Joanne Sterling, and a report compiled on defendant by the Institute in 1977 on a different matter. Dr. Kaplan additionally relied on information supplied by defendant that his first wife had killed their child in 1960 and that as a result he was depressed and saw a psychiatrist while in the Navy. Dr. Kaplan was aware that defendant had experienced the death of a daughter in 1976, the death of a son in 1977, the death of his mother in 1978, the death of his older brother in 1979 and the death of his nephew in 1980. The death of defendant's mother was particularly significant and defendant was still grieving at the time he killed his child, who had been named after his mother.

Based on his personal examination of defendant and the foregoing information, Dr. Kaplan concluded that at the time of the offense defendant suffered from a mental disease, atypical psychosis. Atypical psychosis is a term used when the available information does not seem to fit other known diagnostic conditions but nevertheless indicates a definite psychotic condition. Approximately 5% of those diagnosed psychotic fall into this category. Dr. Kaplan stated that the atypical psychosis was triggered by the baby's birth and had progressed to a "full-blown" condition over the next few weeks.

Dr. Kaplan testified that by the time of the offense, defendant's psychosis had resulted in delusions relating to religious ideation, including defendant's belief that Joanne Lee was possessed by the devil and that God made him do it. The psychosis rendered defendant legally insane on November 14, 1981, the time of the offense. Dr. Kaplan stated that a legally insane person suffering from such a psychotic condition would not necessarily show symptoms of it 24 hours a day. The person could remain relatively calm and refrain from reporting delusional material during police interrogation. In fact, apparent calm frequently occurs and is "a very typical manifestation of psychosis resulting from the effort to hide confusion and turmoil." Dr. Kaplan stated that following his arrest, defendant spent four days in the psychiatric ward of Cermak Hospital where he was given Elavil, an antidepressant used to alleviate a major depressive condition or reaction. By the time Dr. Kaplan interviewed him, defendant did not show psychotic symptoms. Dr. Kaplan attributed this to the fact that defendant's psychosis was in remission and that no acute disturbance then existed.

Dr. Kaplan testified that he was aware of defendant's superior intelligence and advanced education. He did not believe, however, that defendant was lying when he reported to the police, "God made me do it." In fact, defendant actually denied hallucinations, delusions, severe anxiety or depression. Dr. Kaplan stated that such denial is common and results from the frightening and helpless nature of the experience. Dr. Kaplan was aware that defendant was alleged to have ingested four or five marijuana cigarettes per month and four or five cocaine usages per year. This frequency of drug use could not lead to drug-induced psychosis, nor could the two marijuana cigarettes and tequila that defendant allegedly ingested prior to the offense cause drug-induced psychosis.

Dr. Alan Stipes, a psychiatrist at the Cook County Psychiatric Institute, testified that he examined defendant in May 1981 and in May 1983. Dr. Stipes agreed that at the time of the offense defendant was unable to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or conform his conduct to the requirements of the law. In making this determination, Dr. Stipes relied on Dr. Kaplan's reports, other 1982 psychological reports, two 1978 psychological reports, police reports, the deaths of defendant's two children and three other family members between 1976 and 1980. Dr. Stipes also agreed with Dr. Kaplan's diagnosis of atypical psychosis. Dr. Stipes, however, believed that the psychosis was only in partial remission because defendant still experienced delusions at the time he examined defendant. Even at the time of the May 1983 interview, defendant talked of events evidencing supernatural forces and believed that his behavior and life had been influenced by evil spirits. The delusions exhibited by defendant could have fit schizophrenia or other psychoses considered forms of mental disease.

Dr. Stipes testified on cross-examination that dialing a telephone number or driving to work shows only an ability to control a particular behavior. Psychosis does not evidence itself every second of every day. From the time that defendant realized his delusional belief that Joanne Lee was Satan, he was compelled and was unable to control his behavior. His telephone call to the police reporting a stabbing was not inconsistent with a belief that the woman stabbed was Satan. The fact that defendant was calm and said, "God made me do it," was not inconsistent with psychosis. In fact, calmness and "flattened affect" are characteristic of psychosis. Dr. Stipes stated the fact that defendant told a prosecutor that he knew what he was doing and should have known better did not necessarily indicate that he was able to appreciate the criminality of the act. Dr. Stipes ruled out psychosis due to drug use and stated that he never sensed defendant was malingering.

Joanne Sterling, a State-registered clinical psychologist serving as a consultant to the Psychiatric Institute, testified that she first interviewed defendant on January 19, 1982, and again interviewed him in May 1983. Dr. Sterling was of the opinion that on the date of the offense defendant was too psychotic, mentally deranged and delusional to conform his conduct to the requirements of law or to appreciate his conduct. Her opinion was based on her two examinations of defendant, during which defendant was given screening tests consisting of basic IQ items, one ink blot card and one TAT (Thematic Apperception Test) card. Sterling also relied on police reports. Following the first examination, Sterling arrived at a diagnosis of depressive psychotic reaction. She stated that at the time of the offense, defendant was suffering from delusional religious ideation consisting of strange ideas that his wife and child were possessed by the devil and had great powers over him. He also believed that his wife had stabbed their baby. Sterling stated that defendant was severely depressed and had been given Elavil, an antidepressant having the most immediate effect, because of the danger of suicide.

Sterling further testified that at the time of the second interview, defendant was still talking about the power of tarot cards. Defendant stated that he was becoming an adversary of Satan, who had convinced him that Joanne Lee was a vessel of Satan. After this interview, Sterling concurred in the diagnosis of atypical psychosis in fair remission. She stated that while defendant may have appeared calm when talking to the police, he could have been in shock or in a stupor. The drug use reported to Sterling was not significant enough to take into account in a diagnosis. Sterling also testified that she is trained to spot malingering and that defendant was not feigning symptoms.

In rebuttal, the State presented the testimony of Drs. Orest Wasyliw and Robert Wettstein and Detective John Dolan. Dr. Wasyliw, a psychologist at the Isaac Ray Center, testified that he administered the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) to defendant in May 1982. Dr. Wasyliw determined that defendant was not malingering in his responses. If anything, he was trying to steer the results in the direction of denying psychological distress. Dr. Wasyliw believed the test results supported a diagnosis of paranoid personality disorder. In a report to Dr. Wettstein, Dr. Wasyliw recommended exploration of the possibility of delusions with respect to suspiciousness and perceived threats. His report stated, "The profile, in general, can be indicative of either severe characterological disturbance or psychotic process and the specific test results could support either possibility." Dr. Wasyliw gave no opinion as to defendant's sanity at the time of the offense.

Dr. Robert Wettstein, a psychiatrist at the Isaac Ray Center, testified he interviewed defendant in May 1982 and June 1982. Dr. Wettstein also relied on police records and interviews with Joanne Lee, Odell Littlejohn and the manager of the drug store where defendant worked. With respect to insanity, Dr. Wettstein could not identify any prior mental illness and was of the opinion there was no mental illness or defect at the time of the offense. Dr. Wettstein defined "mental disease" as "a condition which significantly impairs a person's ability to think or in some cases to act, as well as alters their emotional feelings at the time, which lasts for a period of time. It doesn't just come and go quickly over a period of time." Dr. Wettstein had no opinion as to whether defendant could conform his conduct to the requirements of the law at the time of the offense.

Detective John Dolan testified that he interviewed defendant on the morning of November 14, 1981, and that he spoke in a monotone voice. Defendant told Dolan that his knives were intended to show people what harm would come to them if they hurt his child and that he had planned to photograph the knives before he used them to stab Joanne Lee. Defendant also told Dolan that he stabbed Joanne because he felt she had to die and that he stabbed his baby because he felt "compelled" to kill her.


• 1 On appeal, defendant first argues that error occurred when, during the cross-examination of defense expert Dr. Kaplan, the State asked whether it would affect his opinion about insanity to know that defendant had given seminars on psychiatric disabilities. After defense counsel's objection was overruled, Dr. Kaplan testified that it would not change his finding but that defendant's answers to questions could have been influenced by sophisticated knowledge of psychiatry. Defendant contends that this cross-examination was improper because there was no evidence in the record that defendant had taught seminars on psychiatric disabilities. Defendant ...

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