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In re Robert H.

February 09, 1999


Appeal from the Circuit Court of McHenry County. No. 98--MH--2

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Thomas

Honorable Haskell M. Pitluck, Judge, Presiding.

Following a bench trial in the circuit court of McHenry County, respondent, Robert H., was found to be a person subject to involuntary admission and was ordered to be hospitalized at the Northern Illinois Medical Center (NIMC). Robert timely appeals the trial court's order, contending (1) that the trial court committed reversible error in allowing evidence that he had shot his neighbor 20 years earlier while mentally ill; and (2) that the trial court's order must be reversed because the State did not present evidence, nor did the trial court consider, whether involuntary admission was the least restrictive alternative.

The following testimony was adduced at trial. Respondent's wife, Sharon H., testified that she and Robert had been married for 34 years. Sharon said that, in the two weeks prior to the time Robert was brought to the hospital, Robert was not sleeping much, was not eating, and was not shaving or washing. Robert also had asked her if someone could have poisoned the water supply to their house and asked if someone could have poisoned the food in their refrigerator. In addition, a few days prior to his admission to the hospital, Robert told her that he had gone past her room and that it was all lit up. Robert claimed that someone had pushed him down the stairs and also said that "they" were burning out Sharon's eyes and trying to make holes in them.

Sharon said that Robert did not threaten her but that he told her there was a conspiracy to try to get him out of Spring Grove and that she might be involved with the conspiracy. Robert also told her that, if she saw tapes of him doing "bad things," he was not aware of what he had done because someone had given him the "date rape" drug, Rohypnol. Robert had seen an Oprah show on Rohypnol where people said that they had no recollection of things they had done while under the influence of the drug. Robert warned Sharon not to leave her can of pop unattended at work because someone might try to put Rohypnol in it. Sharon said that Robert was talking to her in a strange little voice which was different from his usual tone. He also told her that the neighbors might be involved in the conspiracy.

Sharon said that she was very worried because she had seen this pattern before where Robert did not trust anyone and was very fearful. Over the objection of Robert's counsel, Sharon testified that 20 or 21 years earlier Robert also was not sleeping, was not cleaning himself, and would not eat food from the refrigerator because he thought it had been poisoned. This behavior went on for several weeks. Robert also accused Sharon of having a boyfriend. One Saturday morning, while the woman who lived above them was at work, Robert went to their apartment and Sharon heard a "pop, pop, pop noise." Robert had shot the man who lived above them. Robert's counsel again objected to the testimony, but the trial court overruled the objection, stating it was relevant to show that Sharon now was seeing the same pattern. Sharon said that Robert was put into Chester Mental Health Center for 72 hours and was given Thorazine. The only time Robert took medication was when he was in Chester.

Sharon testified that the week before Robert was admitted to the hospital she discovered that he had a gun. She and Robert were going downtown with their son when she saw Robert stick something in his coat pocket. She pulled it out and saw that it was a cylinder. She asked Robert what it was, and he said it was something for cars. She then realized it was for a gun and hid it. She also said that the last night Robert was home she heard some clicks outside her bedroom door and realized he had another gun.

On cross-examination, Sharon said that after the incident 20 years earlier Robert had received treatment at the Isaac Ray Center. Sharon said that after Robert was hospitalized she confirmed that he did have a second gun in the house. On the last evening that Robert was home, he had wedged things under the front and back doors, presumably so that no one could open them. Sharon said that, when the sheriff's police told Robert that she wanted him to go to the hospital, he agreed.

Dr. Elizabeth McMasters then testified as an expert witness. Dr. McMasters said that she was on staff at NIMC and had examined Robert there after his admission to the hospital and had spoken with him on two or three occasions afterward. Since that time, Robert had refused to speak with her. Dr. McMaster's diagnosis of Robert was that he had a delusional disorder, persecutory type, which is a mental disorder in which a person becomes convinced of situations or beliefs that are not real and is convinced that he is the center of some kind of persecution. The basis for her diagnosis was a conversation she had with Robert in which he told her that there was a conspiracy against him which might involve the Lake County and the McHenry County police, that a friend and some neighbors might be involved in the conspiracy against him, that he may have been videotaped engaging in sexual acts, and that the videotape was going to be used to blackmail him. Robert wanted to protect himself because of the conspiracy, so he began purchasing burglar alarms and locks. He also thought he had acquired a venereal disease and requested some tests for venereal disease. Robert told a nurse at NIMC that a technician in a hospital had rubbed his arm with a pencil, which had transmitted a venereal disease. Robert told another staff member that he felt that the leader of a group therapy session had a hypnotic voice, so he decided to leave the group. Dr. McMasters said that she was very concerned that Robert might harm another person in an act of self-defense due to his extreme paranoia. Dr. McMasters did not rely on Robert's past history in making her diagnosis, although his past behavior made her concerned about his future behavior. Dr. McMasters said that, with an antipsychotic medication to target his delusional beliefs, Robert's prognosis was fair. Dr. McMasters felt that Robert was in need of immediate hospitalization and that there were no less restrictive alternative treatments available.

On cross-examination, Dr. McMasters said that originally she told Robert that he was going to be discharged. The NIMC nurses called Robert's wife to come and pick him up, but, when she arrived, they decided to keep Robert at the hospital. Dr. McMasters explained that she had spoken with Robert's wife right after Robert was admitted and told her there was a potential for harm, but Robert's wife did not express grave concern if Robert came home. However, when she came to pick Robert up, she was extremely distraught and the staff did not feel comfortable allowing Robert to leave with her. Dr. McMasters then consulted with another doctor and decided to keep Robert at NIMC.

Dr. McMasters said that Robert did not threaten anyone at the hospital, did not threaten her, and never indicated that he would hurt himself. Dr. McMasters testified that she was concerned that Robert might perceive someone as a threat and harm that person. Dr. McMasters also said that Robert had expressed a strong interest in keeping his firearms, which she said made him a more imminent threat to others.

Robert then testified on his own behalf. He said that he had watched an episode of Oprah concerning people who had been given certain drugs and then had been photographed in various sex acts but did not remember anything after the drugs wore off. Robert began to wonder if this had happened to him because he had some strange memories. Robert also said that one morning his wife awoke and told him how bad her eyes were. Robert looked at her eyes and saw that they were all bloodshot, which jarred a memory from the night before. Robert remembered that someone was in the house and had pushed him down the stairs with a "policeman's push." He saw an entranceway which was all lit up. Robert said his memories were a "touch stronger than a dream."

Robert said that his state of mind was not the same as it had been 20 years earlier because 20 years earlier he knew he was "bad off" and knew that he was out of touch with reality. Robert believed there was a conspiracy, which was one of the reasons he had changed the locks on his doors. He could not say who the conspirators were other than that the police were involved. He said that he did not want to do the conspirators any harm and did not want to harm himself because of the conspiracy.

Robert said that he had agreed to go to NIMC because he thought he would be let go after a quick evaluation. Robert said that he had talked to other psychiatrists before and felt that Dr. McMasters was relatively inexperienced. Robert had spent time in Chester Mental Health Center and about a year at Reed before going to Isaac Ray Center on an outpatient basis. Robert said that the police had been concerned because he had a pocket knife and a gun clip on him when he was admitted. Robert tried to explain to Dr. McMasters that he was carrying the gun clip in order to disarm his gun at home. At the time, Robert had a valid firearm owner's ...

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