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10/18/89 the People of the State of v. Larry Lamerson

October 18, 1989





545 N.E.2d 1025, 190 Ill. App. 3d 52, 137 Ill. Dec. 264 1989.IL.1643

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Christy S. Berkos, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE CERDA delivered the opinion of the court. RIZZI, J., concurs. JUSTICE WHITE, Dissenting.


Defendant, Larry Lamerson, was tried by a jury and convicted of murder for which he was sentenced to an extended term of 60 years' imprisonment. Defendant argues on appeal that: (1) his trial counsel was ineffective for not raising an insanity defense due to her misapprehension of the law that the defense could not be raised because defendant had not admitted the crime; (2) the trial court improperly admitted defendant's involuntary confession; (3) testimony that defendant stated before the crime that he was "going to have to hurt someone" was improperly admitted; and (4) at sentencing, the trial court failed to consider in mitigation defendant's mental illness.

A psychiatrist reported in a letter to the court on February 5, 1985, that defendant was fit for trial. The same psychiatrist later reported that at the time of the offense defendant was legally sane. Another psychiatrist's letter of July 9, 1985, also concluded that defendant was fit for trial.

At the hearing on defendant's motions to quash arrest and to suppress, Chicago police officer Sydney L. Hill testified that at about 4:40 a.m. on July 4, 1984, he responded to a radio broadcast of a battery on east 38th Street in Chicago. Defendant met Hill there and told him he wanted to show Hill how he had found his stepdaughter. After entering an apartment, Hill observed a young woman with multiple head and neck wounds lying on a blood-splattered couch. Defendant's T-shirt had bloodstains in a spray pattern similar to the pattern on the wall behind the couch.

Chicago police officer Robert Utter testified that at the police station defendant was advised of his rights orally and in writing. He responded that he understood his rights, did not appear to have difficulty in understanding his rights, and was responsive to questioning. Chicago police officer Martin Anderson also testified that there was no time at which defendant did not appear to understand his rights.

Dr. Alan K. Rosenwald, a psychologist, was found by the trial court to be a qualified expert in his field. He interviewed and tested defendant on March 2 and 9, 1986, for about two to three hours on each date. Defendant was given an intelligence test, five personality tests including an ink blot test and a picture test, and tests from a mental examiner's handbook to explore his capacity to think conceptually.

The psychologist asked defendant what he would do if he was the first person at the movies to see smoke and fire. His answer was, "ou'd sound the fire alarm and you'd assist people in getting out." It was deemed ambiguous, and upon further questioning, defendant ultimately said that the best action to take was to yell fire, which was not a correct response. Defendant made several statements that appeared to be plausible but, on further examination, turned out to be implausible. When asked in what way a coat and suit were related, defendant's unacceptable response that part of a suit is a coat and a jacket did not compare the two items. Defendant had great difficulty in inferring relationships between objects that were intrinsically related.

Defendant stated that there were 51 weeks in a year and that William Faulkner wrote Hamlet. The psychologist was unaware of a work by Faulkner entitled The Hamlet but stated that no one had given this answer in the thousands of the tests he had administered. But he would not base his diagnosis on one wrong answer to the Hamlet question. On the other hand, defendant stated correctly that Martin Luther King was a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a civil rights activist. Defendant, who had had two years of college, had learned a number of items of information but did not apply them correctly. There was also an inconsistency in his acquisition of knowledge. The court indicated that it might have answered correctly only one of the three questions.

Defendant had written a confused and illogical 20-page account describing the events leading to his arrest. Defendant struggled to have a good grasp of English but misused words frequently and the meaning he intended would become obscure. However, the psychologist did not have difficulty understanding defendant.

Dr. Rosenwald's opinion was that defendant had chronic schizophrenia for some years, including at the time of the crime, and that defendant was insane at the time of the examination. The mental disease of schizophrenia is characterized primarily by a disturbance in one's ability to think conceptually. There are frequent disturbances in logic, and the person draws incorrect Conclusions on the basis of putting the wrong things together in terms of seeing relationships where none presumably exist. Often schizophrenia is characterized by delusions and hallucinations. The psychologist was not sure whether defendant was suffering from hallucinations but thought that he probably was suffering from delusions and misinterpretation of events. Defendant demonstrated clinical disturbance in thinking and unusual symbolism, which are illustrative of schizophrenia. Prognosis for defendant's recovery was poor.

Defendant was of low-average intelligence but did not function at that level because of severe intrusion into his capacity to think clearly. Defendant could understand the words of the Miranda rights, but he could not understand the implication of the rights. The fact that defendant had completed some college would not affect the psychologist's opinion as to his ability to understand Miranda warnings because he could be sufficiently psychotic to misinterpret the intent of the warnings or misunderstand the symbolism of the particular words.

Defendant's attorney argued during the motion to suppress that she did not know what tests the two court-appointed psychiatrists had given defendant, nor did she know the basis of ...

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