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06/20/97 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. ERIC J. ROBLES

June 20, 1997

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ERIC J. ROBLES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 93--CF--0805. Honorable John J. Nelligan, Judge, Presiding.

Released for Publication July 18, 1997.

The Honorable Justice Rathje delivered the opinion of the court. McLAREN, J., concur. Justice Thomas, dissenting.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rathje

The Honorable Justice RATHJE delivered the opinion of the court:

On April 30, 1993, defendant, Eric Robles, was indicted on 10 counts of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9--1(a)(1) (West 1992)) and 2 counts of solicitation of murder for hire (720 ILCS 5/8--1.2 (West 1992)) for the stabbing deaths of his parents, Peter and Diana Robles. It was alleged that defendant had paid a high school classmate, Sean Helgesen (Helgesen), to help him kill his parents. Following a jury trial, defendant was found guilty but mentally ill (GBMI) on all counts. The duplicative murder convictions were vacated, and, on April 5, 1995, defendant was sentenced to a mandatory term of natural life for the two counts of murder and to concurrent sentences of 35 years' incarceration for the solicitation of murder for hire convictions. The trial court subsequently denied defendant's motion for a new trial, and this timely appeal followed.

On appeal, defendant raises four issues, namely: (1) whether the Illinois GBMI statute (725 ILCS 5/115--4(j) (West 1992)) violates state and federal guarantees of due process; (2) whether the trial court's refusal to answer the jury's questions about the definitions of mental illness violated defendant's due process right to a fair trial; (3) whether the Illinois GBMI statute violates state and federal guarantees of equal protection; and (4) whether the trial court committed reversible error by allowing certain expert testimony offered by the State, while denying defendant the chance to put on evidence to rebut a report relied upon by the State's experts. Because of our determination of the first issue, we do not need to address defendant's final three arguments.

Initially, we will address a motion filed by the State to strike portions of the statement of facts found in defendant's brief. Specifically, the State maintains that the opening and closing sentences of the statement of facts are argumentative and not based on the record, respectively. In response, defendant essentially maintains that the disputed sentences contain no improprieties. After reviewing the subject sentences, we find the State has properly characterized them. Accordingly, both sentences will be stricken from defendant's statement of facts.

Defendant made a pretrial motion to suppress his statements to the police and an assistant State's Attorney. This motion was denied on October 7, 1994. The jury trial began on December 5, 1994. In its opening statement, the defense introduced the insanity defense.

State's Case

Elgin Detectives Daniel Rodmer and Michael Gough testified that, after 11 p.m., on the evening of April 17, 1993, they came upon defendant and Sean Helgesen near Elgin High School. The detectives were investigating a parked car at Elgin High School and noted that the license plate was covered by duct tape. Defendant was naked from the waist down. Both defendant and Helgesen had substantial amounts of blood on their persons, and defendant had an injury to his right leg. The detectives retrieved a blood-covered folding knife from defendant's person. En route to Sherman Hospital, defendant was asked who should be notified of his injury. Defendant replied, "I just killed my mom." Helgesen, who was not injured, was transported to the Elgin police department.

Sergeant Robert Page of the Bartlett police department testified that at 11:20 p.m. on April 17, 1993, he went to defendant's home. Sergeant Page found a woman, later identified as defendant's mother, Diana Robles, on the front room floor. He then found the body of a man, later identified as defendant's father, Peter Robles, in the downstairs bathroom. Both victims had been cut and stabbed numerous times in their necks and chests. Sergeant Page testified that Diana was still alive when he found her. Evidence showed that she subsequently died in the hospital.

Paul Weiland testified that he was defendant's cousin. According to Weiland, on April 14, 1993, defendant requested a gun from him. Weiland took a .22-caliber handgun and three bullets from a locked closet in his parents' bedroom and gave these to defendant the following day. Weiland's father, Gary, subsequently identified this handgun as a .22-caliber Derringer which he had kept in a locked closet at his home.

Chris Washburn testified that he spoke several times with defendant on April 15, 1993. Defendant demanded that Washburn get $100 within four hours and threatened him with "trouble." Washburn stated that he obtained the money from a friend and met defendant later that day. During this meeting, which took place in defendant's car, defendant held a gun to Washburn's head, took the money, and told Washburn not to tell anyone.

Shane Jones testified that he saw Helgesen and defendant on April 17 in Helgesen's home. They drove to another friend's house, with defendant driving in a separate car. According to Jones, on April 18, police officers and an assistant State's Attorney searched his car and found two gloves, a black dress shirt, a pair of black jeans, black socks and black shoes, none of which belonged to Jones.

Helgesen's girlfriend, Melissa Mazur, testified that she went out with him on April 16, the day before the murders. When defendant was paying for some food, Mazur saw him pull out a "wad" of $20 bills, which according to her, was unusual. Later that day, she was in Helgesen's bedroom and saw a gun and a knife in the dresser drawer.

Donald Cicikakus, the father of one of defendant's friends, testified that he called defendant at approximately 10:30 p.m. on the evening of the murders. Defendant told Cicikakus that his parents were dead. Cicikakus asked him whether he had had a fight with his father. Defendant answered that he had "it planned" and that they used a knife, not a gun.

Joseph Birkett, then chief of the criminal division of the Du Page County State's Attorney's office, testified that, on April 18, 1993, he went with the police to defendant's hospital room. They introduced themselves and advised defendant of his rights. Defendant signed a rights form and agreed to speak to them. He could not recall how the stab wound to his leg occurred. When asked about the murders, defendant said, "All I did was pay [Helgesen] to do this." A tape-recorded statement made by defendant during this interview was played for the jury.

Early in the morning of April 18, police returned to the murder scene. They followed a trail of blood from the house to the intersection of Heather and Morning Glory Lanes, a distance of between an eighth of a mile and quarter of a mile in length.

Postmortem examinations of Peter and Diana Robles conducted by Dr. Shaker Teas revealed the following. Diana had a large deep slash wound to her neck, which severed the carotid artery. Another slash wound went from her right ear to her mouth. She had sustained 11 additional wounds to the head and face, some applied with enough force to penetrate the skull. She had been stabbed in her chest at least four times, with one wound going into her left lung and heart. Diana's arms had a number of wounds, which were consistent with attempts to defend herself. Dr. Teas opined that these stab wounds and slashes could have been inflicted by the knife that police took from defendant on the night of April 17.

Dr. Teas further testified that Peter had been slashed or stabbed nine times in his head and neck. His carotid artery and jugular vein had been "nicked" and several of the stab wounds went through the scalp. He received two trunk wounds, both of which entered a lung and one of which broke his clavicle. Peter's arms and hands had sustained a number of wounds consistent with attempts to protect himself. The knife wounds could have been caused by the subject knife, according to Dr. Teas.

Several witnesses described incidents occurring in the months prior to the subject murders in which defendant had lost his temper with his mother, accusing her of favoring his brother, Jason. There was also testimony regarding an occurrence in which defendant had threatened a school official.

Defendant's Case

Lois Budzyn testified that she was a neighbor of defendant's family for a number of years. She baby-sat for defendant and his brother, Jason, on occasion. She recalled over 10 incidents in which Peter Robles had come home and shouted at and hit his sons, causing them to cry. She did not recall seeing any physical signs of injuries to defendant and Jason.

Cheryl Watkins, a learning disabilities resource teacher, stated that she had taught defendant from 1988 to 1990. According to Watkins, defendant had a low to average intelligence quotient and exhibited no emotional disturbances. Defendant showed deficits in long- and short-term memory, in sequencing, and in visual motor skills. Watkins, who also taught Jason, recalled that Peter was helpful in educational matters related to Jason but was angry when called about defendant. She did not see any signs of physical abuse on either boy.

Brian Haske testified that he met defendant when both played on the freshman football team at Elgin High School. Haske had been in a car accident in which another friend of defendant's, Diane Wagner, had been killed. After the accident, defendant assumed the role of a "father figure" to Haske, until the latter felt a need for more freedom. Haske stated that he had been to the Robles' home many times and never saw the father being physically or mentally abusive. He described the father as a man of differing personalities, sometimes nice, and other times temperamental and quick to anger. Haske stated that, in the week prior to the murders, defendant seemed very quiet and did not associate with his old friends. On April 17, while driving to a party, Haske saw defendant in another car. Haske thought that defendant looked confused but not intoxicated.

Janell St. Louis stated that she had known defendant since the fourth grade. He was like a brother to her. According to St. Louis, defendant loved his mother and was protective of her. Late in 1992, defendant told her that his parents were going to get a divorce and that he was tired of their arguing. Defendant did not tell her that his father was abusive to family members.

Kristin, whose last name is not found in the record, testified that she dated defendant intermittently from August 1991 to January 1993. During this time, Kristin became pregnant and underwent an abortion, against defendant's wishes. Subsequently, their relationship gradually deteriorated and Kristin sought to avoid all contact with defendant. Kristin stated that she never saw defendant's father abuse him. According to Kristin, defendant quit the Elgin High School football team because he did not like it anymore. Further, she said that defendant was not close to his grandfather, who died in 1992. Late on April 16, 1993, defendant called Kristin, asking repeatedly to see her. After she hung up, defendant called again, seeking to meet her outside her home.

Another girlfriend of defendant's, Jennifer Engel, testified that she began dating him in January 1993. Despite an incident in February or March 1993, in which defendant had become intoxicated, they continued seeing each other. Around Easter, they had arranged to go to a movie. Defendant told Engel that his mother was crying and that his father had gone off to a bar. Rather than go to the movie, defendant wanted to look for his father. Defendant carried a baseball bat in the car. They drove to one bar and then drove back to defendant's home, where they saw that his father's car was parked outside. Defendant went inside the house and then came out, telling Engel that the date was cancelled.

Engel further testified that on April 16, 1993, she went with defendant to watch a videotape at his home. When they entered the house, defendant's father called him upstairs. Defendant appeared startled. When defendant returned, he looked troubled; they decided to go to Engel's home. On April 17, she saw defendant during the day and talked to him on the telephone at about 10 p.m. During this phone call, defendant said that he was with Helgesen, and they were going over to Sean's house to shower and get some clothes. In Engel's view, he sounded normal.

According to Engel, defendant's relationship with his mother was "pretty good." She stated that defendant had told her that his father was an alcoholic; that his father had beaten his mother; and that he hated his father. Engel stated that she had never seen the father abuse anyone.

Tim Riordan stated that he had been a friend of defendant's since the third grade. Riordan played with defendant on the football team, where defendant had assumed a leadership role. Riordan stated that, on several occasions, he had seen incidents in which defendant's father had yelled at him. Defendant told Riordan that he hated his father's drinking and his parents' fighting. Late in 1992, defendant asked Riordan if he could stay at the latter's home to get away from the fighting. Riordan testified that defendant drank throughout high school but cut back while he was dating Kristin. Riordan quit the football team along with defendant and Brian Haske after their sophomore year. Riordan stated that defendant was bored with football and did not want to play. In March and April 1993, Riordan noted that defendant kept to himself and that his hair grew long and his style of dress changed. Riordan conceded that he had once described defendant as a "thick-headed stubborn individual" and had said that defendant lied.

Ted Praznowski, who lived next door to the Robles for 16 years, stated that he was aware of Peter's drinking. When defendant was about eight, Praznowski saw the father yell at defendant and kick him "in the butt." He did not see other instances of physical abuse but did hear yelling on several occasions. Praznowski also stated that he heard the parents arguing on many occasions.

Lorraine Chiodo, the mother of Diana Robles, stated that, early in 1993, her daughter arrived at her house, looking upset, and stayed there for three days. This had occurred several times during the Robles' marriage. According to Chiodo, when Peter drank alcohol, he became withdrawn. Chiodo stated that she had never seen Peter abuse his wife or his children.

Defendant's brother, Jason, testified that his father drank 10 or more beers on a daily basis. His father's drinking caused many arguments between his parents. On occasion, the parents would push or hit each other. According to Jason, defendant, who was very close to their mother, took his mother's side, at times getting into a physical altercation with his father. Jason stated that, when he and defendant were young, their father regularly spanked them with a paddle. As they grew older, their father switched to "mind games," i.e., playing up to one son and turning on the other. During one four- to five-month stretch, their father discontinued drinking, and the family fighting stopped.

Jason testified that in November 1992 he began working with his father, whose drinking was again causing problems between the parents. After the death of his grandfather in August 1992 and the accident in which Diane Wagner was killed and Brian Haske injured, defendant seemed to change. He began drinking more, and he became sloppy in appearance. He quit the football team, and his attendance at school slipped. According to Jason, defendant became temperamental and quick to anger.

Jason stated that early in April his parents had a fight, during which his mother took off her wedding rings, threw them at her husband, and left the house. She stayed away for several days and, upon returning, was cold and quiet toward her husband. Defendant was upset by this situation and remained angry after his mother's return.

Jason stated that his father had been upset by defendant's police problems, appearance, and poor school attendance. Defendant would talk back to his father, sometimes using foul language. According to Jason, defendant did not use such language towards their mother. He recalled an incident in February 1992 in which ...


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