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People v. Lantz

April 20, 1999

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLEE,
v.
JAMES LANTZ, APPELLANT THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OFILLINOIS, APPELLANT,
v.
ERIC J. ROBLES, APPELLEE



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Miller

Agenda September 7, 1998

The common question in these consolidated appeals involves the constitutionality of the guilty but mentally ill (GBMI) statute, section 115-4(j) of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (725 ILCS 5/115-4(j) (West 1994)). In cause No. 83527, the defendant, James Lantz, was charged in the circuit court of Lake County with first degree murder. After a jury trial, Lantz was found guilty but mentally ill of that offense and was sentenced to a term of 38 years' imprisonment. The appellate court affirmed Lantz's conviction and sentence in an unpublished order. No. 2-95-1569 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23 (166 Ill. 2d R. 23)). We allowed the defendant's petition for leave to appeal. 166 Ill. 2d R. 315(a). In cause No. 83641, the defendant, Eric J. Robles, was charged in the circuit court of Du Page County with the first degree murders of his parents and with the solicitation of their murders. A jury found Robles guilty but mentally ill of those offenses, and the trial Judge sentenced Robles to a term of natural life imprisonment for the first degree murder convictions and to concurrent terms of 35 years' imprisonment for the solicitation convictions. The appellate court, with one Justice Dissenting, reversed the defendant's convictions and granted the defendant a new trial, finding the guilty but mentally ill statute unconstitutional. 288 Ill. App. 3d 935. Because the appellate court found the statute unconstitutional, the State's appeal from that decision is before us as a matter of right. 134 Ill. 2d R. 317. We consolidated the two cases for purposes of oral argument and Disposition, and we now hold that the GBMI statute is constitutional.

The issues before us are fairly narrow, centering on the constitutionality of the GBMI statute, and much of the evidence in these cases is uncontested, so only an abbreviated recitation of the testimony is required; additional evidence will be provided as it becomes necessary.

No. 83527

The defendant in No. 83527, James Lantz, stabbed his wife to death early in the morning on March 16, 1995, inflicting 68 separate wounds to her neck, chest, arms, and hands. The defendant next obtained a can of gasoline from the garage and poured gasoline around the victim and in the living room. The defendant also severed natural gas lines connecting the stove and clothes dryer. The defendant then woke up his daughter, telling her to wake her brother and to leave the house because he was going to set it on fire. The defendant led the children from the house, saying repeatedly that "he was sorry but he had to do it," "she deserved it," and "she drove me to it." The defendant then set the family's house on fire. While the house was in flames, the defendant tried to re-enter it several times, suffering burns to his feet, a leg, and face. When police arrived, defendant approached the officers with out-stretched hands, as though he expected to be handcuffed. Police asked where the defendant's wife was, and the defendant replied, "I killed her." When firefighters asked the defendant about his wife, he answered, "She's dead." Without prompting, defendant told one officer who was guarding him that his wife spent the preceding night telling him he was going to hell and that he could not take it anymore. The defendant did not complain about his injuries, appeared to be dazed, and was non-responsive to medical personnel.

At trial, the defense presented extensive evidence of the defendant's mental condition and history. In 1991, defendant went to a hospital emergency room complaining of fatigue and headaches. At that time, defendant had just quit drinking coffee and smoking. The treating physician, Dr. Antonio Lee, noted in the defendant's records that the defendant was nervous and had trouble sleeping. The defendant visited Dr. Lee in August 1991, complaining then of increased anxiety. Dr. Lee found that defendant was anxious about his employment situation but noted that defendant could not explain his concerns logically and concluded that they were groundless. Dr. Lee prescribed tranquilizers at the time. Dr. Lee saw defendant again three months later. On that occasion, Dr. Lee noted that defendant's condition had not improved; believing defendant to be delusional, Dr. Lee advised him to see a psychiatrist.

The defendant saw different doctors at various times during the next several years. In general, they found defendant to be depressed and agitated, and they prescribed different drugs for him to take. On March 15, 1995, the day before the offense involved here, defendant interrupted a meeting at his workplace, believing that it was about him. Defendant's boss attempted to reassure the defendant that the Discussion did not concern him and sent him home for the rest of the day. The defendant instead went to a nearby psychologist's office and made an appointment for that day. The defendant did not keep the appointment, however. The defendant next went to an office of the Lake County sheriff's department, where he asked whether his wife had served divorce papers on him. The defendant then went to his accountant's office, without an appointment, to discuss some unreported income from baby-sitting. The defendant returned to the accountant's office later that afternoon, again without an appointment. The accountant testified at trial that the defendant was anxious and "hyper." The defendant went home, where he argued with his wife, accusing her of conspiring with the accountant to have him committed. Early the next morning, the defendant committed the offense charged here.

While awaiting trial, the defendant was examined by two experts, Dr. Michael Gelbort, a clinical psychologist, and Dr. Donald Chapman, a psychiatrist, who later testified on the defendant's behalf. In formulating their opinions the defense experts tested the defendant and reviewed police reports, the defendant's medical records, and statements of various witnesses. Dr. Gelbort testified that the defendant was insane at the time of the offense. He found the defendant to be suffering from a delusional syndrome and experiencing persecutory ideas. Dr. Gelbort also said that the defendant was showing evidence of a bipolar disease characterized by depression and hypermanic presentation. Dr. Chapman also believed that the defendant was insane at the time of the offense. Dr. Chapman concluded that the defendant was suffering from a bipolar disorder and was experiencing a psychotic episode with paranoid delusional features.

The defendant was also examined by the State's expert witness, Dr. Henry Lahmeyer, a psychiatrist. Relying on the same materials as the defense experts, Dr. Lahmeyer concluded that the defendant was not insane at the time of the murder.

At the close of evidence, the jury found the defendant guilty but mentally ill of first degree murder. The trial Judge sentenced the defendant to 38 years' imprisonment for the offense. The appellate court affirmed the defendant's conviction and sentence in an unpublished order. No. 2-95-1569 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23 (166 Ill. 2d R. 23)). The court concluded that the jury's finding of mental illness was not against the manifest weight of the evidence, that the defendant was not denied a fair trial by several instances of alleged trial error, and that the defendant's 38-year sentence for the offense was not excessive. We allowed the defendant's petition for leave to appeal (166 Ill. 2d R. 315(a)), and we later consolidated the cause with No. 83641, People v. Robles.

No. 83641

In cause No. 83641, the defendant and a friend were arrested on April 17, 1993, after Elgin police officers found them near their parked car covered with what appeared to be a red substance. While being taken by ambulance to the hospital, the defendant was asked who should be notified of his injuries, and the defendant replied, "I just killed my mom." Investigating officers found Mrs. Robles on the floor in the front room of the family's house; she had a deep cut in her throat. Mrs. Robles was taken to the hospital, and she died there several hours later. Officers found the body of Mr. Robles in a downstairs bathroom; he also had slash wounds in the neck.

At trial, the defendant did not challenge the evidence of his participation in the charged offenses, and contended instead that he was insane at the time. The principal witness for the defense was Ruth Kuncel, a clinical psychologist, who provided expert testimony on the defendant's mental condition. In formulating her opinion, Dr. Kuncel separately interviewed the defendant and the defendant's brother, and she reviewed relevant records in the case, including the defendant's medical and school records, reports prepared by the State's experts, police reports, and grand jury transcripts. Dr. Kuncel testified that the defendant had a significant personality disorder, had significant deficits in his cognitive functioning, had been pathologically attached to his mother, and had been depressed for years. She believed that the defendant was borderline, dependent, paranoid, histrionic, and antisocial. She believed that the defendant was insane at the time of the offenses, lacking substantial capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law. She stated that the defendant was experiencing a brief psychotic disorder at the time of the attack on his parents. The defense also presented extensive testimony from the defendant's friends, who described the defendant's difficult home life and the troubled nature of his parents' relationship and of his relationship with his father.

Dr. Henry Lahmeyer, a psychiatrist, examined the defendant on behalf of the State. Dr. Lahmeyer concluded that the defendant was not insane at the time of the offenses here. In reaching this Conclusion, Dr. Lahmeyer relied on his interview with the defendant, as well as on his review of police reports and grant jury transcripts, the defendant's school records, and other relevant materials. Dr. Daniel Hardy, a psychiatrist, also examined the defendant on behalf of the State. Like Dr. Lahmeyer, Dr. Hardy concluded that the defendant was sane at the time of the offenses.

At the Conclusion of the trial, the jury returned verdicts finding the defendant guilty but mentally ill of the murders of his parents, and guilty but mentally ill of the solicitation of their murders. The trial Judge sentenced the defendant to a mandatory term of natural life imprisonment for the first degree murders. The Judge also imposed concurrent terms of 35 years' imprisonment for the solicitation convictions.

The defendant appealed, and the appellate court, with one Justice Dissenting, reversed the defendant's convictions and remanded the cause for a new trial. The court found the GBMI provisions unconstitutional on two grounds. First, the court believed that the statutory scheme is confusing and can only encourage juries to reach compromise verdicts. Second, the court believed that the statute places conflicting burdens on the defense, by requiring the defense to prove both insanity and mental illness. 288 Ill. App. 3d 935. The State appeals, as a matter of right, from the ...


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