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02/11/88 the People of the State of v. Charles Martin

February 11, 1988





519 N.E.2d 1085, 166 Ill. App. 3d 428, 116 Ill. Dec. 870 1988.IL.205

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Thomas Fitzgerald, Judge, presiding.


PRESIDING JUSTICE LORENZ delivered the opinion of the court. SULLIVAN and MURRAY, JJ., concur.


In a bench trial defendant Charles Martin was found guilty but mentally ill on charges of murder and aggravated arson, receiving concurrent sentences of 35 and 10 years on those convictions. The court also found that defendant's guilt as to a charge of arson had been established, but entered no finding on that charge because it merged with the aggravated arson conviction. On appeal defendant contends: (1) the trial court erred in finding that defendant had failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that he was legally insane at the time he committed these offenses; (2) the guilty but mentally ill statute violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the United States and Illinois Constitutions; (3) it is a violation of due process to require a defendant to bear the burden of proving his insanity; and (4) defendant's conviction for aggravated arson must be reversed because the aggravated arson statute is unconstitutional.

We affirm defendant's murder conviction, reverse his conviction for aggravated arson, and remand the cause for sentencing on the remaining arson conviction.

It is undisputed that in the early morning hours of July 5, 1984, defendant set fire to the home in which his mother and 13 other people lived. In the ensuing fire defendant's seven-year-old nephew was killed. It is also undisputed that at the time of this offense defendant had a mental illness: schizophrenia, paranoid type. The factual dispute in this case concerns whether at the time of the commission of the offense defendant was legally insane; that is, did he, as the result of a mental disease or defect, lack substantial capacity either to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law or to appreciate the criminality of his conduct?

The evidence at trial established that defendant had been in and out of mental institutions for 10 to 15 years. Defendant's mother testified that at the time of this incident the defendant had stopped taking the medication prescribed for his mental illness. He had been acting unusual: eating off the ground and saying that he heard voices telling him to do things to her. Defendant had been living in the basement of the two-flat building where his mother and other relatives lived. At noon on July 4 defendant's mother refused his request to use her station wagon. She testified that she did so because he had no license and her insurance did not cover him. Although she testified that he did not appear angry at this, she also testified that she asked him to leave the house because of the way he was acting and because he was not taking his medication. One of his actions was to mockingly threaten to stab her in the back with a butcher knife. At about 4 p.m. a neighbor was told by defendant that the occupants of the house made him so mad, if he had the money he would burn them down. In the early evening hours defendant was observed walking back and forth in front of the two-flat, swearing and threatening to kill the occupants by burning up the building. This behavior continued for hours. At one point he threatened to throw bricks at his mother's car, but then dropped them. At about 10 p.m. he approached some of the occupants on the porch, and after borrowing a cigarette, again told them that he would burn down the house and kill everybody. At 11:30 p.m. defendant walked to a nearby gas station and, on the pretext of having run out of gas, bought two cans of gasoline, leaving a $10 deposit for the cans. He instructed the attendant to place the caps back on the cans so that the nozzles pointed out. At about 12:30 a.m. defendant used the gasoline to set fire to his mother's car and the two-flat. He left one can on the porch and, according to a subsequent statement to the police, threw the other in the bushes. A neighbor reported seeing defendant "cut out" after setting fire to the porch. The attendant who sold defendant the gasoline saw him walking by the station and heard him tell a passerby that he had burned down the building.

When arrested and questioned shortly after the fire was set, defendant initially denied having set it, although police reported that his clothes smelled of gasoline. The officer who arrested defendant at about 1 a.m. and the detective who first questioned him both reported that defendant appeared to be behaving normally. Subsequently defendant asked to talk to the police again and admitted having set the fire. At this time defendant appeared remorseful. The assistant State's Attorney who then took his statement (at about 11:20 a.m.) testified that he seemed in complete control of his faculties, was coherent, calm, responsive, and appeared normal in all respects. In his statement defendant said he set the fire because he was mad at his mother. Defendant refused to allow a court reporter to take down the statement but he did agree to allow the assistant State's Attorney to write down what he said.

Three expert witnesses testified for the defendant. Dr. Gerson Kaplan, a psychiatrist with the Psychiatric Institute of the Circuit Court of Cook County, saw the defendant on August 29, 1984, and September 28, 1984. He diagnosed defendant as having a schizophrenic disorder, paranoid type. It was his opinion that defendant was also suffering from this disorder on the day of the offense, but he had no opinion concerning defendant's sanity at the time of the offense.

Roger Thomson, a doctoral candidate in psychology, examined defendant on August 24, 1984. At that time he tentatively diagnosed defendant as a paranoid schizophrenic. He also tentatively concluded that at the time of the offense the defendant lacked the substantial capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law. However, he reached no Conclusion as to whether defendant could appreciate the criminality of his conduct at the time of the offense. In February 1985 Thomson obtained more information, including records of defendant's prior mental treatment and a social history of his family. This information resulted in a definitive diagnosis by Thomson of defendant as a schizophrenic, paranoid type. However, Thomson testified that his opinions concerning the two forms of insanity, as applied to defendant at the time of the offense, were unchanged. Thus it would appear that Thomson's opinion of defendant's insanity at the time of the offense remained a tentative one.

Defendant's key psychiatric witness was Dr. Michael Reinstein, who had treated the defendant from January 1982 until July 1984. In that period Dr. Reinstein had seen defendant in 60 out-patient visits as well as 7 to 10 times when defendant was hospitalized. His diagnosis was that defendant was a schizophrenic, paranoid type, chronic form. He had placed defendant on Navane, an antipsychotic drug, which was critical to the control of the illness, but he had difficulty getting defendant to take it regularly. Occasions when defendant failed to take the drug correlated with occasions when defendant got worse and had to be hospitalized. Defendant's symptoms included becoming very upset, believing people were trying to harm him, hearing threatening voices, and having to suppress ideas of trying to harm others. These symptoms were sometimes directed toward other people: his mother, sisters, or his girl friend.

Dr. Reinstein saw defendant as a patient on July 3, 1984. At that time it was his opinion that defendant still suffered from his mental illness. Defendant's condition had worsened in that he became paranoid easily, but the doctor at that time also reported that there was no real management problem with the defendant. At that time he prescribed a continuing dosage of Navane. Dr. Reinstein again saw defendant on December 11, 1984. By then he had reviewed the evaluations of Dr. Kaplan and Roger Thomson as well as the police reports concerning what had occurred and had also discussed those events with defendant's mother. It was Dr. Reinstein's opinion that at the time of the occurrence the defendant was suffering from acute exacerbation of his mental illness. His symptoms had dramatically worsened from July 3; he had become more agitated and his actions in setting fire to the car and house showed a lack of cohesion, or disorganized behavior. Other evidence of this disorganized behavior was what defendant told the doctor (on December 11) about hallucinations he experienced at the time of the occurrence. He ...

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