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People v. Vallo

June 14, 2001

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
DANIEL VALLO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT,



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hoffman

Not Released For Publication

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
DANIEL VALLO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT,

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hoffman

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY

HONORABLE PAUL J. NEALIS, JUDGE PRESIDING.

 Following a jury trial, the defendant, Daniel Vallo, was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to 50 years in prison. On appeal, the defendant argued that he had been denied effective assistance of counsel, that the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing him, and that the case must be remanded for a hearing to examine the circumstances surrounding his use of psychotropic drugs at the time of trial. On June 20, 1997, this court issued an order addressing those claims. People v. Vallo, No. 1-95-1899 (1997) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). We concluded that the defendant's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and excessive sentence were meritless and will address those claims no further. We did, however, remand the case with directions that the trial court conduct a hearing, pursuant to People v. Burgess, 176 Ill. 2d 289, 680 N.E.2d 357 (1997), regarding the defendant's use of psychotropic drugs and their effect upon him, if any. We ordered that, if the trial court determined that the defendant did not take psychotropic drugs at or near the time of his trial and sentencing or that the defendant did take such drugs at the relevant time but suffered no resulting impairment, the defendant's conviction and sentence would stand. We further ordered, however, that, if the trial court determined that the defendant was impaired as a result of psychotropic drugs taken in proximity to his trial and sentencing, it must vacate his conviction. People v. Vallo, No. 1-95-1899 (1997)(unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).

Pursuant to our order, the trial court conducted a hearing and concluded that the defendant did take psychotropic drugs during the relevant time frame but that he suffered no resulting impairment. The defendant now appeals the latter finding, arguing it is against the manifest weight of the evidence. He further argues that the trial court erred in denying his request for the appointment of an expert witness.

On remand, defense counsel, on February 5, 1999, filed a motion requesting, inter alia, that the court allow him to retain an expert witness to review the defendant's medical records with fees for said expert to be paid by the county. Defense counsel explained that he had been unable to contact either of the two psychiatrists that had treated the defendant at Cermak Hospital as neither doctor was still employed by that facility. In response to the defendant's request, the State informed the court that it intended to give the defendant's medical records to a psychiatrist at Forensic Clinical Services for review. It asserted that this doctor would be an independent expert, rather than an expert witness for the State, because Forensic Clinical Services is not part of the State's Attorney's office and because "that office is used for BCX's [behavioral clinical examinations] all the time in the court system here." The trial judge denied the defendant's request for the appointment of an expert witness. Instead, it ordered both the defendant and the State to attempt to locate the defendant's treating doctors. Defense counsel voiced concerns that even if the doctors were located, they would likely require compensation before speaking to him. The judge responded that the parties could issue subpoenas for the doctors and the doctors could submit fee petitions to the court.

On a subsequent status date, May 12, 1999, the parties informed the court they had located one of the psychiatrists in question but did not identify the doctor by name. The record contains a written order entered on July 28, 1999, ordering that Dr. Roxane Sanders review the defendant's medical and psychiatric records in preparation for her testimony. The order was prepared by the State but is marked as an agreed order. The record contains no transcript of proceedings for the date it was entered.

At the beginning of the August 19, 1999, hearing, the parties stipulated that jury selection for the defendant's trial took place on May 1, 1995, that the trial itself took place on May 2 and 3, 1995, and that the defendant was sentenced on June 5, 1995. The parties further stipulated that, if called, the records custodian from Cermak Health Services would testify that the defendant's medical records state that he was administered one or two doses of Haldol and/or one or two doses of Cogentin daily from April 13, 1995, to the end of May 1995. With specific regard to the trial dates, the records showed the defendant was administered both Haldol and Cogentin at 9 a.m. and again at 9 p.m. on May 1 and 2. On May 3, he was administered Haldol at 5 p.m. and Cogentin at 9 p.m. No records were available for the month of June. The State pointed out that it was stipulating only that the records stated that the defendant had been administered these drugs, not that he actually ingested them. It questioned whether the defendant could actually have been given the drugs in question at Cermak Hospital at 9 a.m. on the dates he appeared in court for his trial. The parties further stipulated that Haldol is a psychotropic drug and that Cogentin is a drug prescribed in conjunction with Haldol to prevent some of its side effects.

After the parties presented these stipulations, the trial court made a finding that the defendant was, in fact, administered psychotropic drugs in proximity to the dates of his trial and/or sentencing. Defense counsel then objected to continuing with the hearing in light of the fact that the trial court had not allowed the defendant to retain his own expert witness. Defense counsel informed the court that, after the parties had located Dr. Sanders, he sent her a letter asking her to review the defendant's medical records. According to counsel, Dr. Sanders refused to do so without compensation. Counsel further informed the court that he had again contacted Dr. Sanders after the court issued an order requiring her to review the defendant's records but that Dr. Sanders still refused to speak to him as she could not be assured of compensation. Defense counsel informed the trial court that Dr. Sanders did, however, inform him at that time that she would have no opinion regarding the defendant's fitness. The trial judge treated defense counsel's objections to continuing with the hearing as a renewed motion for the appointment of an expert and denied the motion.

The hearing continued, with the State calling as its first witness Dr. Sanders, who, during the latter part of 1994 and early part of 1995 was a staff psychiatrist and the Director of Mental Health Services at Cermak Hospital. Dr. Sanders was qualified as an expert in the field of forensic psychiatry. She testified that she had reviewed the defendant's medical records for the time period of October 1994 through May 1995. According to Dr. Sanders, those records revealed that Dr. Vacula had prescribed, and the defendant was administered, Haldol and Cogentin daily from November 1994 to January 1995. The doctor acknowledged that the records indicate the defendant was also administered Haldol and Cogentin on a daily basis from mid-April through the end of May 1995, but testified that she saw no prescription in the records for that time period. Dr. Sanders further testified that, according to the records, Dr. Vacula had given the defendant a diagnosis of schizophreniform disorder, a psychotic reaction which lasts longer than a couple of weeks. The records indicated he had based his diagnosis on the fact that the defendant was experiencing "a break with reality where he was hearing voices".

Haldol, the doctor testified, is an antipsychotic medication used to treat severe psychiatric symptoms or severe anxiety. Dr. Sanders testified that a typical dose of Haldol can range from ½ to 60 milligrams per day. The defendant was being administered 5 to 20 milligrams per day. Cogentin, she testified, is an anticholinergic drug used with Haldol to counteract its side effects. It is not a psychotropic drug. A typical dose of Cogentin can range from ½ milligram to 6 milligrams per day. The defendant was being administered doses of one or two milligrams twice daily. According to the doctor, the medical records indicate only that the defendant was administered the drugs, not that he ingested them. She testified that the records indicated the defendant sometimes refused his medication due to the side effects, stating that it made him tired and "made him feel not like himself."

Dr. Sanders testified that there are several classes of potential side effects of Haldol, the first of which includes dry mouth, constipation, blurred vision, and difficulty urinating. The drug can also produce symptoms of Parkinsonism, including tremors, a blank facial expression, stiffness, and a shuffling gait. Another class of potential side effects is muscle spasms, which are generally sustained and very painful to the patient and obvious to an observer. Finally, Haldol can cause neuroleptic malignant syndrome, a life threatening condition which requires immediate hospitalization, and tardive dyskinesia, permanent involuntary movement. According to Dr. Sanders, not everyone who takes Haldol experiences adverse effects. The doctor testified that a person taking Haldol and Cogentin could ...


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