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People v. Robles

July 20, 2000


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 93-CF-805 Honorable John J. Nelligan, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Galasso

Defendant, Eric J. Robles, was charged by indictment with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 2 counts of solicitation of murder for hire, for the stabbing deaths of his parents, Diana and Peter Robles. At his jury trial, defendant raised the affirmative defense of insanity. Following a jury trial, he was found guilty but mentally ill (GBMI) on all counts. After the duplicative murder charges were vacated, defendant was sentenced to a mandatory term of natural life imprisonment for the two counts of murder and to concurrent sentences of 35 years' incarceration for the solicitation-of-murder-for-hire offenses. Defendant appealed his conviction to this court, arguing inter alia that the GBMI statute (725 ILCS 5/115--4(j) (West 1992)) violates federal and state guarantees of due process. In People v. Robles, 288 Ill. App. 3d 935 (1997), this court reversed defendant's convictions and remanded the cause for a new trial, finding that the GBMI statute violated defendant's due process rights. The State's petition for certiorari was granted by the supreme court, which reversed this court's judgment, finding that the GBMI statute did not violate defendant's due process rights. People v. Lantz, 186 Ill. 2d 243 (1999). This cause of action was then remanded to this court to address the remaining issues raised by defendant.

Said issues are (l) whether the trial court's refusal to answer the jury's questions about the definition of mental illness violated defendant's due process rights to a fair trial, (2) whether the GBMI statute violates state and federal guarantees of equal protection, (3) whether the trial court committed reversible error by allowing one of the State's experts, Dr. Hardy, to give speculative testimony regarding the alleged opinion of Dr. Hartman, a non-testifying witness, on the issue of defendant's sanity, and (4) whether the trial court committed reversible error by denying defendant the opportunity to put on evidence to rebut a report relied upon by the State's psychiatric experts.

Our previous opinion set out the general facts, and there is no need to reiterate the vast majority of them at this point. We include only facts necessary for the determination of particular arguments raised by defendant.

We will first address defendant's argument that the trial court committed reversible error in denying the surrebuttal testimony of Dr. Michael Rabin regarding the unreliability of Dr. David Hartman's report. Defendant maintains that Dr. Rabin was offered to prove that Dr. Hartman's report, which was relied upon heavily by both of the State's experts, was replete with errors and utterly unreliable. Defendant argues that the trial court's refusal to permit Dr. Rabin's surrebuttal testimony was clearly an abuse of discretion, which resulted in a manifest injustice to him. The State maintains that defendant was not entitled to attack the report of a non-testifying expert (Dr. David Hartman) by means of Dr. Rabin's testimony. The State also argues that defendant first should have objected to the reliability of Dr. Hartman's report when it was first mentioned or, at the very latest, when the prosecution's witnesses first indicated their use of it. The State further contends that the exclusion of Dr. Rabin's testimony, under these circumstances, must be deemed harmless error.

Initially, we note that the term "surrebuttal" is used by the parties to describe the point in the proceedings at which defendant sought to have Dr. Rabin testify in response to Dr. Hartman's report, which was relied upon by Drs. Hardy and Lahmeyer. However, the attempt to have Dr. Rabin testify is best viewed as occurring during defendant's rebuttal on the issue of his insanity defense. Accordingly, we will employ the term "rebuttal" in those instances that were referred to by the parties as surrebuttal.

To review, Dr. Ruth Kuncel, a psychologist, testified for defendant in his case in chief. In response, the State called two psychiatrists, Drs. Henry Lahmeyer and Daniel Hardy, to counter Dr. Kuncel's testimony. It is unnecessary to review the subject testimony of Drs. Kuncel, Lahmeyer, and Hardy in detail, as their general testimony was set out in this court's previous opinion, People v. Robles, 288 Ill. App. 3d 935 (1997), and was further described by the supreme court in Lantz, 186 Ill. 2d at 250-51. During defendant's case, Dr. Kuncel, who conducted her own psychological testing of defendant, testified that at the time of the subject offenses defendant lacked the capacity to conform his behavior to the requirements of the law, i.e., he was insane. Further, Dr. Kuncel testified that, prior to reaching this conclusion, she had reviewed the reports of Drs. Hartman, Lahmeyer, and Hardy.

In response, the State called Dr. Lahmeyer and Dr. Hardy to counter Dr. Kuncel's opinion. Both psychiatrists testified that they based their opinions in part on a report completed by Dr. Hartman, a psychologist, who had administered a number of psychological tests to defendant. During his testimony, Dr. Hardy quoted verbatim from that portion of Dr. Hartman's report that dealt with Hartman's conclusions regarding defendant's sanity. Dr. Lahmeyer also testified that he relied in part on Dr. Hartman's report. His testimony regarding defendant's psychiatric diagnosis used virtually the same terms that Hartman's report employed in describing defendant's mental condition. Dr. Hartman had been scheduled to testify for the State but was not called during rebuttal.

In Dr. Hartman's absence, defendant sought to have Dr. Rabin testify during rebuttal for the purpose of disputing the reliability of Dr. Hartman's report. The State objected, arguing that Dr. Rabin's testimony would be inappropriate rebuttal because Dr. Hartman's opinion was not substantive evidence and that Dr. Hartman had not testified regarding his report. The trial court agreed with the State's position, stating that Dr. Rabin's testimony was "an inappropriate way to impeach Dr. Hartman *** and also an attempt *** to discredit the testimony of the two psychiatrists that did testify." The trial court then suggested that the defense call Dr. Hartman, a fact that would indicate the importance of Hartman's report. The defense responded that it would subpoena Dr. Hartman but wanted to have Dr. Rabin present in the courtroom to assist in the questioning of Dr. Hartman. Defense counsel maintained that he did not have the expertise to cross-examine and/or impeach Dr. Hartman without Dr. Rabin's assistance. The trial court denied the defense's request for Dr. Rabin to provide in-court assistance in the questioning of Dr. Hartman. The defense did not call Dr. Hartman to testify during rebuttal.

The defense then made an offer of proof in which Dr. Rabin, a psychologist, criticized the accuracy and reliability of Dr. Hartman's report regarding defendant. It is useful to describe in some detail the substance of Dr. Rabin's testimony. Dr. Rabin stated that he was a supervisor of forensic testing and evaluation for the Psychiatric Institute of the Circuit Court of Cook County and had testified as an expert in forensic psychology in many court proceedings. He stated that he had carefully reviewed Dr. Hartman's report and had found numerous mistakes and erroneous conclusions that would be misleading to anyone who read the report and was not able to independently analyze the underlying data. He further testified that psychiatrists are not competent to perform their own psychological testing and must therefore rely on psychologists to do all such testing for them.

Dr. Rabin took issue with Dr. Hartman's use of the Shipley Institute of Living Scale (Shipley test). According to him, the Shipley test was designed to check for early senility in geriatric patients and was inappropriate for use as an intelligence quotient (IQ) test for a 17- or 18-year-old high school student. He further opined that the report contained the scores of several items on the Shipley test that contained miscalculations. These errors had given defendant a higher IQ score than he actually had. Dr. Rabin also stated that the report erred by confusing the cognitive quotient (CQ) with IQ. He explained that, unlike the IQ, the CQ is not a measure of intelligence, as Dr. Hartman's report indicated. According to Dr. Rabin, the results of the Shipley test actually showed that defendant's IQ was in the borderline range, rather than the low-average range stated in the report.

Dr. Rabin also stated that the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory II (MMPI-II) administered by Dr. Hartman to defendant was an inappropriate test for defendant. He described the MMPI-II as a test designed for adults and stated that defendant should have been given a version of the test that is designed for adolescents and people with a history of learning disabilities. Additionally, Dr. Rabin pointed out that there was no indication in the report that Dr. Hartman had administered a reading test to defendant before the MMPI-II to determine whether he could read well enough to take the test properly.

Further, Dr. Rabin noted that, in the part of the report dealing with the MMPI-II's results, defendant was characterized as a "four eight code type." According the Dr. Rabin, the MMPI-II's results actually indicated that defendant was a "four six code type." As a result, Dr. Rabin stated that the report contained a completely irrelevant and inapplicable personality description of defendant. He noted that comparing a "four eight code type" to a "four six code type" was "like comparing apples to oranges." According to Dr. Rabin, this scoring confusion would result in a misunderstanding of the results by someone not versed in psychological testing.

Dr. Rabin also testified that the report omitted computer-generated results of the Millon test that indicated that defendant had a primary diagnosis of bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. When asked the significance of this omission, Dr. Rabin stated, "Again, it's misleading to anybody reading the report. They won't ...

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