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Schultz v. Page

December 19, 2002

STEVEN B. SCHULTZ, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
THOMAS F. PAGE, WARDEN, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. No. 99 C 491--Michael J. Reagan, Judge.

Before Bauer, Posner, and Easterbrook, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bauer, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED NOVEMBER 1, 2002

Petitioner Steven B. Schultz filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 after the Appellate Court of Illinois affirmed his conviction for the November 7, 1995, murder of Betty Taft in Poplar Grove, Illinois. Prior to the trial, counsel for Schultz requested that Schultz be examined for fitness to stand trial as well as for his sanity at the time of the offense. The trial court granted the first request but not the second, and a doctor subsequently found Schultz fit for trial. After his conviction, Schultz appealed the denial of the sanity examination, but the appellate court affirmed the trial court's decision. Schultz then filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Southern District of Illinois, which was granted. The State of Illinois ("State" or "Illinois") now appeals the decision of the district court. Because we find that the Illinois appellate court erroneously applied federal law, we affirm the district court's decision.

BACKGROUND

A. Underlying Facts and Schultz's Murder Trial

Schultz was born in 1976 in Watseka, Illinois. To say that his childhood was a troubled one is an understatement. His mother apparently neglected him, preferring to spend her time in local taverns, and his older sister served as his primary caregiver. When Schultz was a young boy, a teenage acquaintance sexually abused him. Schultz dropped out of high school and studied for, but ultimately failed, the GED exam. In 1994, Schultz spent two weeks in a psychiatric hospital and was diagnosed with "affective disorder bipolar, depressed." Other members of his immediate family also have a history of mental illness, depression, and suicide. Schultz's father, who Schultz claimed also physically abused him as a child, employed him sporadically, but he was otherwise without employment. While he was close to his older sister who cared for him as a child, by November of 1995 Schultz lost contact with her. Though things had not gone well for Schultz to that point in his life, they certainly did not get better.

On November 7, 1995, Schultz killed his girlfriend, Betty Taft, by choking her to death after tying her arms and legs behind her back. The day after the murder, Schultz told police that he killed Taft because she insisted that "she wanted to be with her mother." The State charged Schultz with first degree murder and scheduled his trial in the Circuit Court of Boone County, Illinois, for May 6, 1996.

On May 1, 1996, Schultz's counsel filed a motion to have his client examined for fitness to stand trial. The following day Schultz's attorney received supplemental discovery from the State containing a letter written by Joan Lodge, a licensed clinical social worker at the Janet Wattles Center. The letter stated that Lodge had examined Schultz on March 14, 1996, after he complained of seeing bugs and worms on the walls while in pre-trial detention and that Schultz appeared depressed, that he reported sleep disturbance, and that he complained of little motor activity and poor concentration. Lodge noted the history of mental illness, depression, and suicide in Schultz's family as well as the fact that Schultz had been hospitalized for two weeks in 1994.

During the 1994 hospitalization, after diagnosing Schultz with "affective disorder bipolar, depressed" doctors prescribed the drugs Prozac and Depakote. Prozac is an antidepressant and Depakote has recently been used to combat manic episodes, a condition where the patient experiences mood swings from euphoria to depression. Lodge recommended, after her March 14, 1996, evaluation of Schultz, that he again be given those medications. Claiming that this information raised a bona fide doubt about Schultz's sanity at the time of the crime, his attorney filed a separate motion on May 2 to have Schultz evaluated for his sanity at the time of the murder.

On May 2, the trial court addressed the May 1 motion for a fitness examination by appointing Dr. Terrance Lichtenwald, a clinical and forensic psychologist, to examine Schultz for fitness purposes. The trial judge emphasized that his concern in appointing Dr. Lichtenwald was the doctor's ability to administer the exam and report back to the court by ten o'clock the next morning, so as not to delay the trial schedule. Dr. Lichtenwald met with Schultz on the afternoon of May 2 for several hours, administering various tests and reviewing reports on Schultz.

The following morning, the trial court held a hearing on Schultz's fitness to stand trial. Dr. Lichtenwald and two witnesses from the Boone County jail testified as to Schultz's current condition and complaints. Specifically, Dr. Lichtenwald opined that Schultz was fit to stand trial, and though he acknowledged Schultz's previous psychiatric hospitalization and prescription, he questioned the accuracy of Schultz's diagnosis. Interestingly, however, Dr. Lichtenwald stated on cross-examination that Schultz's hallucinations "could be part of some brain injury." He also conceded that given more time he would have conducted further testing into Schultz's childhood trauma and that eventually a neurological examination of Schultz might have been warranted or necessary. Following the hearing, the trial court ruled that Schultz was fit to stand trial.

The trial judge did not conduct any further hearing on the sanity issue and asked defense counsel whether notice of the insanity defense had been given according to Illinois law, 725 ILL. COMP. STAT. 5/115-6 and ILL. SUP. CT. R. 413(d). Schultz's attorney answered that notice had not been given because he had only filed the motion for a sanity examination the previous day, immediately after learning of Lodge's exam and his client's 1994 psychiatric hospitalization. After taking a short recess to consult Illinois case law, the trial judge denied Schultz's motion for a sanity examination.

The court based its ruling on the fact that notice of the insanity defense had not been given and that Dr. Lichtenwald's testimony revealed no reasonable basis from which to believe that an insanity defense could be raised. When Schultz's attorney pressed for clarification on the ruling, the trial judge responded that Dr. ...


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