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People v. Jakush

March 01, 2000


Appeal from Circuit Court of Champaign County No. 99MH11 Honorable Jeffrey B. Ford, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Steigmann


In March 1999, the trial court involuntarily admitted respondent, Judith Jakush, to Zeller Mental Health Center (Zeller) in Peoria, pursuant to section 1-119(2) of the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code (Code) (405 ILCS 5/1-119(2) (West 1998)). Jakush appeals, arguing, in pertinent part, that the court's finding that she was unable to provide for her physical needs so as to guard against serious harm was against the manifest weight of the evidence. We agree and reverse.


In March 1999, the State petitioned for Jakush to be involuntarily admitted, and the trial court conducted a hearing on that petition. The State's proof consisted of only the testimony of Dr. Albert Lo, a staff psychiatrist at Covenant Medical Center in Urbana (Covenant). Lo testified that police discovered Jakush in a car that had been reported stolen, apprehended her, and brought her to Covenant's emergency room in restraints. Jakush had reportedly been hostile to the police. Lo became Jakush's physician, and he saw her on a daily basis from that point on. Lo described Jakush's condition as follows:

"Ms. Jakush feels that we are out to harm her. She has not cooperated in any way while in our unit. Only with things such as vital signs. She suffers from grandiose delusions and hyper[]religious delusions. She feels that she is supporting herself with donations that are then distributed through the [P]ope. She feels that the [P]ope is paying her credit card bills. She feels that she has performed a number of miracles and can heal the sick. She tells me that she is a nun but yet cannot give details on how she became a nun. She reports to me that she's worked at NBC News but cannot give me information or details about that or where the building is located. When I have asked her for individuals who could support her claims and story, she refers me to the [P]ope and Sandra Day O'Connor. She can become hostile and threatening during examination and on occasion slammed the door in my face. Pretty much for the first few days she limited her interaction to yelling at me and saying very little."

Lo opined that Jakush suffered from grandiose paranoid delusions, and he diagnosed her with "psychosis not otherwise specified and probable schizophrenia paranoid subtype," which is a mental illness. He further opined that because of her mental illness, Jakush is not able to provide for her basic physical needs so as to guard herself from serious harm. He based this conclusion on the following:

"She interacts with the rest of the world based on a false belief system. That in itself makes her a person who is in danger. She is not able to care for herself adequately. And especially in light of the contact with the police she had recently makes us feel she cannot safely care for herself. She has not appropriately interacted with other staff. She is not taking medication. She shows no understanding in the fact that she suffers from illness. She was able to display no visible means of support."

Lo testified that Jakush's physical exam revealed no abnormalities. She ate on her own and dressed herself. If her mental illness went untreated, however, she would be at risk of "exploitation" and would continue to "wander about aimlessly without any direction."

Lo testified that outpatient treatment would not be appropriate for Jakush. Appropriate therapy would include anti-psychotic medication administered to Jakush as an inpatient. At the time of the hearing, Jakush had refused to take anti-psychotic medication. The trial court asked Lo how long Jakush would be hospitalized, assuming she started taking medication upon admission; Lo estimated three to four weeks.

Jakush testified that she is a Benedictine nun affiliated with the Catholic church generally, but not with any specific church or order. She left her home in Chicago to go out on the road to minister to broken families and was on her way to southern Illinois when the police apprehended her at a rest stop on Highway 57. She carried food supplies in an ice chest in the car and ate well while on the road. She stayed at less expensive motels. She had over $450 in cash when she was apprehended.

The car Jakush was driving was rented from Enterprise Rent-A-Car (Enterprise) and had been reported stolen because the scheduled return date had passed. Jakush testified that by the time of the hearing, she had worked out a payment plan with Enterprise that she believed she would be able to honor. Her plan for the immediate future was to return to Chicago, make further arrangements for transportation, and tend to the details of paying back what she owed on the car rental.

Jakush explained that she got her money "from ministers for donations." She further explained that money comes to her from the "highest order," meaning that the Pope sends money directly to her. Before embarking on her road trip, Jakush vacated her Chicago apartment and put her belongings in storage. She explained that apartments in Chicago cost between $700 and $900 per month, making it too expensive to maintain an apartment while living on the road. She stored her belongings with Rebe Storage for $140 per month. She intended to establish a new apartment upon returning to Chicago.

The trial court found, in part, as follows:

"Although she has been able to eat and sleep and has not apparently been the victim yet of a violent act with this type of delusional system in place, it is only a matter of time. She really does not have any visible means of support.

So at this time I do believe the State has shown by clear and convincing evidence that the [r]espondent is a person who is mentally ill and is unable to provide for her basic needs so as to guard herself from serious harm. She is just setting herself up and putting herself in a position for serious harm."

The court ordered Jakush to be transported to Zeller. The order was to remain in effect for 60 days, which, the court explained, would "be enough time for [Jakush] to start taking medication to get stabilized and then placed in a less restrictive environment after that." This appeal followed.


A. The Burden of Proof and the ...

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