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People v. Dutton

July 31, 2003


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Marion County. No. 01-CF-45 Honorable John W. McGuire, Judge, presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Goldenhersh


The defendant, Cheryl Dutton, was charged with attempted first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/8-4(a) (West 2000)) and aggravated battery (720 ILCS 5/12-4(b)(1) (West 2000)) after she stabbed her husband with a knife. Negotiations between the State and the defendant led to an agreement in which the defendant was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Thereafter, a dispositional hearing was held, during which defense counsel stipulated to a report which concluded that the defendant required inpatient treatment. The trial court found the defendant subject to involuntary commitment and committed her to the Department of Human Services (Department) for a period not to exceed 30 years. The defendant now appeals from the order of the circuit court of Marion County finding her subject to involuntary commitment. On appeal, the defendant contends that her attorney abandoned his role as her advocate and instead performed as a guardian ad litem. The defendant asks us to reverse the commitment order of the trial court and remand for further proceedings. We affirm.


On January 27, 2001, one of the defendant's neighbors called the Marion County sheriff's department to notify the police that the defendant's husband, Richard, had been stabbed and was bleeding profusely. When deputies arrived at the neighbor's residence, Richard informed them that the defendant had stabbed him. The deputies then proceeded to the Dutton residence, where they spoke with the defendant.

The defendant told the police that she and her husband had argued the night before and that she had gone home alone. The defendant said she took a butcher knife with her to bed as was her habit. During the night, someone entered her bedroom. The defendant thought it was an attacker, so she stabbed that person several times before realizing it was her husband.

The defendant's husband received medical treatment for his injuries and was later interviewed by law enforcement officials. He told officers that when he arrived home, he did not see the defendant in the bedroom. However, when he turned around, he saw her standing in the doorway with a butcher knife. The defendant told him, "Prepare to meet your maker." She then stabbed him several times with the butcher knife.

On February 16, 2001, a bill of indictment was entered. It charged the defendant with attempted first-degree murder and aggravated battery. Defense counsel entered his appearance and requested that the defendant undergo a psychiatric examination to determine whether she was fit to stand trial. Dr. S.D. Parwatikar, a psychiatrist at Alton Mental Health Center, evaluated the defendant. During the interview, the defendant told Dr. Parwatikar a different story than what she had originally told the police.

The defendant told Dr. Parwatikar that she went to sleep, woke up, and found her husband in critical condition with a knife in his stomach. She said she called 9-1-1 to report that she had stabbed her husband, but the dispatcher only laughed at her. Because she felt she was not being taken seriously, she then called the county police, who also laughed at her. She said that while she was on the phone, her husband went to the neighbor's house. The defendant claimed to have no recollection of whether or not she stabbed her husband. She told Dr. Parwatikar that since her 19-year-old son had died five years previously, she has been depressed. She explained that on the night of the stabbing, she had a dream that her youngest son's father was beating her oldest son. She said that in her dream she was using a knife to prevent him from beating her son but that in reality she must have been swinging the knife at her husband.

Dr. Parwatikar found that while the defendant was fit to stand trial, she might have a valid insanity defense. Dr. Parwatikar specifically noted as follows:

"If the given circumstances and the sequence of events is accurate, then it is this writer's opinion[,] within a reasonable degree of psychiatric certainty[,] that at the time of the criminal conduct, she lacked the capacity to appreciate the criminality of it due to the presence of mental disease."

Dr. Parwatikar diagnosed the defendant with posttraumatic stress disorder, dysthymic disorder, alcohol abuse, and dependent personality disorder.

After receiving Dr. Parwatikar's report, the parties entered into a plea agreement. The defendant agreed to plead not guilty by reason of insanity and to be referred to the Department for an evaluation to determine the type of treatment necessary. The defendant was admonished that the Department could find outpatient treatment sufficient to treat her or that the Department could determine that long-term involuntary commitment to a mental health facility was warranted. While the record reflects that the defendant was somewhat confused, it also reflects that the trial court went over the consequences of the plea with the defendant at least three times and that the defendant ultimately stated that it was her desire to plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

The trial court entered a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity and sent the defendant to the Alton Mental Health Center for an evaluation. Dr. Muddasani Reddy filed a report that concluded: "It is the opinion of the treatment team of Alton Mental Health Center that [the defendant] is subject to involuntary admission and in need of inpatient services. [The defendant] is appropriately placed in a moderately secure forensic facility at this time." The report lists the defendant's long history of mental illness, including depression, anxiety, and difficulty relating to others. It notes the defendant's adolescent trauma, including physical and emotional abuse, as well as later alcohol and prescription drug abuse. The report lists the defendant's history of violent and dangerous behavior. The report also notes, "[The defendant] tends to repeatedly insist on being discharged to the community, in spite of repeated counseling regarding the legal issues involved in her case." After receiving the evaluation, the trial court conducted a hearing to determine whether the defendant was subject to involuntary admission. The parties stipulated to the report signed by Dr. Muddasani. Defense counsel stated that while the defendant did not want to be committed, it was in her "best interests" that she be committed to the Department. The defendant was allowed an opportunity to speak. The defendant told the trial court that she did not want to be "locked up" and felt she could progress and get a handle on her mental illness by staying on her medication and continuing her counseling on an ...

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