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People v. Lee

February 16, 2001

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLEE,
v.
ERIC LEE, APPELLANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Freeman.

Docket No. 87089-Agenda 4-September 2000.

UNPUBLISHED

Modified on denial of rehearing July 26, 2001.

Following a bench trial, the circuit court of Kankakee County convicted defendant, Eric Lee, of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 1996)) of a police officer and aggravated vehicular hijacking (720 ILCS 5/18-4(a)(3) (West 1996)). At a subsequent death penalty hearing, a jury found defendant eligible for the death penalty and concluded that there were no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude the imposition of a death sentence. The trial court sentenced defendant to death for the murder and to 30 years' imprisonment for the aggravated vehicular hijacking. Defendant's execution has been stayed pending direct review by this court. Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, §4(b); 134 Ill. 2d Rs. 603, 609(a).

BACKGROUND

The evidence at trial established that defendant killed Officer Anthony Samfay during a routine traffic stop at approximately 4 p.m. on October 17, 1996. Gary Dehmer identified defendant as the man he saw shoot Officer Samfay. The police recovered defendant's driver's license from the front fender of Officer Samfay's squad car and defendant's automobile insurance card two feet east of the squad car. Officer Samfay died of multiple gunshot wounds to the head, neck, shoulder, chin and forearm.

The evidence at trial also established that defendant hijacked Joann Story's car. At approximately 6:30 p.m. on October 17, 1996, defendant approached Story as she opened her car door in a shopping center parking lot. Defendant asked Story for her keys. She refused. Defendant opened his coat and started to pull a gun from his waistband. Story tossed the keys in the air and ran back into the store she had just left. Store personnel called 911 and Story gave a description of her vehicle to the police. Approximately one hour later, the police arrested defendant as he drove Story's car on Interstate 57.

The police recovered a loaded .357 Magnum revolver from the passenger side floorboard of Story's car. A forensic scientist testified that six empty cartridge cases recovered from defendant's bedroom, a bullet recovered from the fender of Officer Samfay's squad car, a bullet recovered from Officer Samfay's bulletproof vest, and bullet jackets recovered from Officer Samfay's body during the autopsy were fired from the .357 Magnum revolver to the exclusion of all other revolvers.

The State also introduced into evidence a videotape of defendant's confession to the shooting and the vehicular hijacking. The defense did not present any testimony at trial, but introduced an exhibit into evidence and made another exhibit part of the record. As noted above, the trial judge convicted defendant of murder and aggravated vehicular hijacking.

The State sought a death penalty hearing based on the statutory aggravating factor that the murder victim was a police officer killed in the course of performing his official duties. 720 ILCS 5/9-1(b)(1) (West 1996). Defendant elected to have a jury determine his eligibility for the death penalty and hear evidence in aggravation and mitigation. At the conclusion of the first, or eligibility, phase of the death penalty hearing, the jury determined that defendant was at least 18 years of age when he committed the murder, and that the State had shown the existence of a statutory aggravating factor beyond a reasonable doubt.

At the second, or aggravation and mitigation, phase of the death penalty hearing, the State presented evidence that defendant shot Officer Samfay with hollow point bullets, with some of the shots fired while Officer Samfay was on the ground. The testimony also showed that, in defendant's bedroom, the police found a federal firearms license application form; law enforcement and military equipment periodicals; gun and ammunition periodicals; and a catalog advertising automatic weapons and silencers. In his confession, defendant stated that, when transporting his gun, he kept it under the passenger side seat of his car. A witness testified that defendant carried a firearms owner's identification card in his wallet. However, a firearms owner's identification card does not allow a person to carry a concealed weapon or to carry a loaded weapon in the passenger side compartment of a car.

In mitigation, defendant's adoptive parents testified regarding problems that he had as a child. Several members of defendant's biological family testified regarding mental disorders and substance abuse in defendant's biological family. Defendant also presented expert testimony regarding his current mental condition and his mental condition at the time of the shooting. One expert testified that the shooting could be viewed as a manifestation of the mental disorders from which defendant suffers. Another expert testified that defendant was experiencing mental and emotional distress at the time of the shooting.

In rebuttal, the State presented the testimony of Dr. Mathew Markos. Dr. Markos disagreed with the defense experts. In his opinion, defendant was not suffering from any significant psychopathology at the time of the shooting. Three of defendant's former co-workers also testified on the State's behalf. They stated that defendant was able to deal with stress and frustration at work, that there was no change in defendant's behavior on the day of the shooting, and that defendant did not complain about being upset on the day of the shooting.

At the conclusion of the second phase of the death penalty hearing, the jury determined that there were no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude the imposition of a death sentence. Accordingly, the trial court sentenced defendant to death.

Defendant does not question the sufficiency of the evidence of his guilt. Nor does he claim error in any ruling made at the guilt and innocence phase of his trial. Rather, defendant asserts that numerous errors occurred at the death penalty hearing.

DISCUSSION

Defendant contends that he was denied a fair death penalty hearing because: (1) the trial judge ordered that defendant submit to a psychiatric examination by Dr. Markos; (2) the trial judge denied defendant's request for a continuance to adequately prepare a rebuttal to the evidence presented by Dr. Markos; and (3) the trial judge failed to admonish defendant that he had a right to refuse to be examined by Dr. Markos. Defendant also contends that his rights under the fourth amendment and fifth amendment to the Constitution were violated because he was forced to submit to the psychiatric examination and give evidence against himself. The facts related to this contention follow.

In November 1996, defendant requested, and the trial court allowed, appointment of a forensic psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist to assist defense counsel in trial preparation. In June 1997, defendant requested, and the trial court allowed, appointment of a neurologist and a neuropsychologist to further assist defense counsel. At a hearing on August 20, 1997, defense counsel represented in open court that it was not currently counsel's intention to raise the insanity defense, nor did counsel anticipate raising the insanity defense at a later date.

On August 26, 1997, the State filed a motion requesting that the trial court order the disclosure of any expert opinions on defendant's mental status at the time of the commission of the offense. The State also requested that, prior to trial, the court order defendant to submit to an examination by a psychiatrist retained by the State. The defense protested there were no rules or statutes requiring defendant to submit to a psychiatric examination. The defense also maintained that the State's request for disclosure of any expert opinions must be denied because Supreme Court Rule 413 (134 Ill. 2d R. 413), governing discovery, applies to criminal trials but not to sentencing hearings. At a hearing on September 3, 1997, the trial court noted the inconsistency between the State's current position and the State's position in earlier pretrial motions contesting defendant's right to discovery at a sentencing hearing in a death penalty case. The trial court reasoned:

"Speaking rhetorically, if there's no right to discovery at a sentencing hearing, what basis can there be in the law for appointing a psychiatrist and authorizing a psychiatrist or a psychologist to examine the defendant prior to a sentencing hearing?

There is no authority cited for the appointment of a psychiatrist when the issue of insanity or sanity at trial does not exist. It seems to me that it's an issue of symmetry of application of the law.

Clearly, I think things have somehow ended up differently maybe than both sides thought they were or maybe traditionally how they end up in a case like this. I think typically it is the Defense attempting to get as much information as possible before sentencing hearing ...


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