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People v. Hill

December 24, 2003


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 01 CR 13448 Honorable Diane Cannon, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Theis


Following a bench trial, defendant Rata Hill was convicted of possession of a stolen motor vehicle and possession of a controlled substance. As a result of his prior convictions, the trial court sentenced defendant to eight years' imprisonment for possession of a stolen motor vehicle under the mandatory Class X sentencing provision of section 5-5-3(c)(8) of the Unified Code of Corrections (the Code) (730 ILCS 5/5-5-3(c)(8) (West 2000)), concurrent to his one-year sentence for possession of a controlled substance. On appeal, defendant argues that (1) his due process rights were violated where there was a bona fide doubt of his fitness to stand trial and the trial court failed to hold a fitness hearing; (2) he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of possession of a controlled substance because the State failed to establish a proper foundation for the opinion given by the forensic chemist; and (3) the mandatory Class X offender provision is unconstitutional under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 147 L. Ed. 2d 435, 120 S. Ct. 2348 (2000), and the Illinois Constitution. For the following reasons, we affirm.

Defendant was charged with possession of a stolen motor vehicle, possession of an altered temporary registration permit, and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. Prior to trial, on September 5, 2001, the trial court granted defense counsel's request to order a clinical examination of defendant. On October 15, 2001, Dr. Michael Rabin of Forensic Clinical Services sent his report to the trial court. Dr. Rabin stated that he had examined defendant and found that defendant did not "display indications of current psychosis, serious mood disorder, or cognitive defects, but does have a history of mood disorders and does display current depressed mood." Defendant reported to Dr. Rabin that he was not taking any psychotropic medications at that time. Dr. Rabin opined that based on his clinical evaluation and record review, defendant was fit to stand trial. He stated that defendant was aware of the charges and proceedings pending against him, was able to cooperate and was competent to assist counsel in his own defense.

The court received this letter on October 25, 2001, and noted that it indicated that defendant had been recently released from psychiatric care. On its own motion, the court ordered a second examination and instructed defendant's family members to tender information concerning his psychiatric history to the examiner. On January 3, 2002, Dr. Philip Pan of Forensic Clinical Services submitted a report to the court. In that letter, Dr. Pan diagnosed defendant with "polysubstance dependence, malingering, and rule-out (or possible) bipolar disorder" and noted that defendant had a history of anti-social personality disorder. Dr. Pan stated that he could "come to no definitive opinion in regards to defendant's fitness to stand trial, due to defendant's lack of cooperation," and indicated that he had attempted to interview defendant twice. However, Dr. Pan found that the available clinical data "does not support that defendant suffers from a major mental illness." In reaching these conclusions, Dr. Pan reviewed police investigation reports, psychological summaries, treatment records from Madden Mental Health Center, psychosocial history and various court documents and correspondence.

On January 7, 2002, the trial court received Dr. Pan's report and the following colloquy occurred:

"THE COURT: Before the Court we have the return of a report from Forensic Clinical Services by Dr. Pan, in which Dr. Pan was unable to come to a definitive opinion regarding the defendant's fitness to stand trial, due to the defendant's lack of cooperation.

What's your pleasure, counsel?

[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: I would be asking that the case be set for trial.
THE COURT: Mr. Hill, the doctor does find, from the available clinical data that he had, that you do not suffer from any major mental illness."

The case proceeded to trial.

At trial, both parties waived opening statements. Officer Michael Vogenthaler of the Chicago police department testified that at 8:45 p.m. on April 29, 2001, he and his partner, Officer Bechina, were in an unmarked vehicle near 103rd and Halsted Streets. Vogenthaler then noticed a 1994 Toyota Camry without licence plates turn into a gas station at that corner. He identified defendant as the driver of that vehicle. Vogenthaler did not see a temporary registration sticker on the car at that time. When Vogenthaler pulled behind defendant's vehicle and activated his emergency equipment, defendant exited the car and fled on foot. Vogenthaler chased defendant and detained him while Bechina stayed with the vehicle. Vogenthaler then asked defendant for his driver's license and defendant stated that his license was suspended. Vogenthaler arrested defendant and performed a custodial search where he recovered a black container with 14 clear plastic bags, "all containing a rock-like substance which [he] believed to be cocaine" from defendant's right front pants pocket. Vogenthaler inventoried the bags under inventory number 2511074. Vogenthaler then checked the vehicle identification number (VIN) on the vehicle driven by defendant and discovered that it was owned by Arquella Garner and was reported stolen. While inside the vehicle, Vogenthaler found a temporary registration sticker on the back window with a different VIN than the VIN on the car.

The parties stipulated that, in the police station later that evening, Vogenthaler advised defendant of his Miranda warnings. Vogenthaler testified that defendant understood his rights and waived them. Defendant told Vogenthaler that he knew the car was stolen and that he bought it from someone for two bags of cocaine. When Vogenthaler asked him why he ran from the police, defendant responded that "he knew the car was hot and he had * * * some rocks in his pocket." Defendant also stated that he placed the temporary registration sticker in the window so he could drive the vehicle "because he knew the plates would come back hot." Vogenthaler testified that he recorded defendant's statement in his case report, but did not prepare a handwritten statement for defendant to sign.

The parties then stipulated:

"If [Jeanna Dufresne Walock] were called to testify, she would state she's a forensic scientist employed by the Illinois State Police Crime Lab.
She would be qualified as an expert in the field of narcotics testing. She would testify she received the fourteen items in a sealed condition under Inventory No. 2511074. She weighed the items, found they were approximately 2.2 grams.
She tested the some the [sic] fourteen items and found within a reasonable degree of scientific certainty they were positive for cocaine 1.1 grams.
No evidence of tampering. Proper chain of custody maintained."

The parties also stipulated that if Arquella Garner were called to testify, she would state that she was the owner of the 1994 Toyota Camry and that on April 29, 2001, she did not give defendant permission to possess her vehicle. The State then rested.

Defense counsel made a motion for a directed finding as to all counts, without argument. The court found defendant not guilty of possession of an altered registration permit and found that with respect to the possession-of-a-controlled-substance-with-intent-to-deliver count, the State proved the lesser included offense of possession only. The defense then rested and both parties waived closing arguments. The court found defendant guilty of possession of a stolen motor vehicle and possession of a controlled substance.

After trial, defendant's mother, Cynthia Hill, filed a motion for a new trial, stating that she was never informed of defendant's psychological testing results and that she was not given an opportunity to give the court his medical records. In her colloquy with the court without defendant and his counsel present, she was informed by the court that defendant was evaluated by the psychiatric institute and Ms. Hill agreed that she was interviewed for that evaluation. Ms. Hill was concerned about the records of defendant's previous hospitalizations, but stated that she informed the institute of these hospitalizations in her interview. The court explained that anything she told them ...

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