Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 93 CR 16707 Honorable Richard E. Neville, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Hourihane
On July 23, 1993, defendant Mary Braggs was indicted on two counts of first degree murder. On June 20, 1996, after refusing to conduct a hearing on a pending motion to suppress statements, the circuit court found that defendant was unfit to stand trial and, in all probability, would remain so indefinitely in light of her untreatable mental retardation. A discharge hearing followed. Therein, the circuit court found that the evidence introduced against defendant was sufficient to establish her guilt of first degree murder beyond a reasonable doubt. The circuit court then remanded defendant to the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities for a period of five years.
On appeal, defendant contends that (1) the circuit court erred in refusing to conduct a hearing on her motion to suppress statements and (2) the evidence introduced against her was not sufficient to establish her guilt of first degree murder beyond a reasonable doubt.
For the reasons that follow, we remand.
On June 23, 1994, almost one year after her indictment, defendant was examined by Dr. Roni Seltzberg, a psychiatrist charged with assessing her fitness to stand trial. Based upon that examination, a fitness hearing was scheduled.
Prior to that hearing, defendant, through counsel, filed a motion to suppress all statements she made to various law enforcement officials, both at the time of her arrest and thereafter. Within that motion, defendant alleged that she was interrogated following her arrest on June 23, 1993, during which time she made statements that were not voluntary. According to defendant, although she was duly advised of her constitutional rights upon arrest, she was nevertheless unable to understand their full meaning because of her mental retardation. Defendant also alleged that her statements were obtained through psychological and mental coercion.
Shortly thereafter, the circuit court conducted a fitness hearing. At that hearing, Dr. Seltzberg testified that defendant, although aware of the nature of the charges against her, had a very limited understanding of the roles of the pertinent courtroom personnel and an equally poor understanding of the nature of the proceedings against her. Dr. Seltzberg concluded that, based upon her examination, defendant was not fit to stand trial, but may attain such fitness within one year, depending upon the seriousness of her mental retardation.
Counsel for defendant offered no evidence to the contrary.
The circuit court, after considering the evidence before it, accepted the testimony of Dr. Seltzberg and found defendant unfit to stand trial. In light thereof, the circuit court refused to consider the pending motion to suppress. Counsel for defendant objected, arguing that pursuant to section 104-11 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (725 ILCS 5/104-11 (West 1994)), the circuit court could hear such a motion in that the presence of defendant was not essential to a fair determination of the issues therein. The circuit court, disagreed, reasoning that defendant could not be unfit for some purposes, yet fit for others.
On May 16, 1996, almost two years later, defendant was examined by Dr. Philip Pan, another psychiatrist.
A hearing regarding the continuing unfitness of defendant was conducted shortly thereafter.
At that hearing, Dr. Pan testified that defendant remained unfit to stand trial in light of her continuing inability to understand the roles of the various courtroom personnel or the nature of the proceedings against her. Dr. Pan also testified that, based upon his examination, defendant would never be restored to the fitness ...