Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. Nos. 01-CF-1104 & 02-CC-5. Honorable James T. Doyle, Judge, Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Grometer
Defendant, Phillip A. Meyers, was convicted of aggravated battery (720 ILCS 5/12--4(b)(4) (West 2000)) following a jury trial in the circuit court of Kane County. Defendant was also held in contempt of court as the result of an outburst directed at the trial judge during proceedings after the verdict was announced. Defendant now appeals. He argues that the trial court erred in not holding a fitness hearing and that the contempt citation should be reversed. In addition, he complains of two trial errors. We agree with defendant's first two contentions, and we will address his claims of error during the trial only briefly. We reverse both defendant's conviction and contempt citation, and we remand this matter for further proceedings.
On April 18, 2001, defendant was arrested for an incident that resulted in two charges, aggravated battery (720 ILCS 5/12--4(b)(4) (West 2000)) and resisting a peace officer (720 ILCS 5/31--1 (West 2000)). Daniel Woods, an Aurora police officer, testified that he observed defendant standing in the middle of a road with cars driving around him. Defendant was gesticulating to passing vehicles with a raised middle finger and yelling at the occupants of the vehicles. Woods and his partner pulled up in their car and told defendant to get off of the road. Defendant stated that he was from Chicago and knew what the deal was. Defendant walked toward the side of the street and threw some paper to the ground as he passed the officers' car. The officers pulled over to the roadside and instructed defendant to come over to the car. Woods told defendant he was under arrest. Woods attempted to grab defendant's arm, but defendant pulled away. A struggle ensued, and, in its course, Woods' partner, Mark Knepp, was struck. With some discrepancies, Knepp testified to a similar version of events.
Defendant's testimony, on the other hand, was markedly different. He stated that he was at a convenience store when he noticed two police officers watching him. After he left the store, he attempted to cross the street. The officers pulled out of a parking lot and cut defendant off. One of the officers rolled down a window and asked what defendant was doing walking around like he was tough. Defendant tried to walk around the car, but the officers maneuvered it to block his path. Eventually, he made it to the sidewalk. One of the officers then exited the squad car, ran to defendant, grabbed him by the neck, and slammed him to the ground. The other officer then came over, and the two beat defendant for several minutes. Two other squads arrived and took defendant into custody. The jury apparently accepted the officers' version of events.
Defendant was initially represented by Greg Brown, an assistant public defender. During a bond reduction hearing, defendant acknowledged that he had two other charges pending against him, criminal damage to government property and aggravated fleeing and eluding a police officer. As to the fleeing and eluding charge, defendant explained that police officers from Du Page County and Naperville, with the assistance of the Aurora police, had beaten him and threatened him with death. During the course of the hearing, defendant added that the police had robbed his apartment. He stated that, since the police had been beating him, "I guess that means that you will kill me here, I guess."
On June 26, 2001, attorney Brown requested a fitness evaluation. The trial judge, Keith Brown, who did not preside over defendant's trial, ordered one. During a hearing on July 19, 2001, defendant stated that he would not undergo a psychological evaluation and that he wanted his attorney fired. Judge Brown ordered defendant to cooperate with the examination. On August 24, 2001, a report was filed stating that defendant was fit to stand trial.
On September 5, 2001, a hearing was held on defendant's pro se speedy-trial motion. During the hearing, attorney Brown requested a finding regarding fitness. Judge Doyle, who ultimately presided over defendant's trial, asked defendant if he was fit and defendant responded affirmatively. Judge Doyle then found defendant fit based on defendant's statement and the report that had previously been filed.
On February 4, 2002, during a pretrial hearing, attorney Brown apprised the trial court of a potential conflict between him and defendant based on defendant's statements that he intended to sue Brown. Brown stated that he was not raising the fitness issue again. Judge Doyle stated that he was uncomfortable with the way the case was proceeding and acknowledged that Brown was in a difficult spot. Judge Doyle stated that if Brown was asking leave to withdraw, he was granting the request. Brown stated that he was not sure whether he was asking to withdraw. The court then took a recess so that the situation could be resolved.
After the recess, attorney Regina Harris appeared before the court. The court described her as "the expert in the Public Defender's Office on fitness issues, mental health issues." Regarding defendant, Harris stated that she did not believe there was an "active psychotic process." However, she noted that a "great deal of agitation" existed and that it was "[p]ossibly mania." She added that defendant "[s]eems convinced that his attorney is not working for him, perhaps is even working against him." The trial judge then stated that, in his experience, "it also seems like it's a paranoia." The court noted that defendant was currently laughing hysterically at the counsel table. The court stated that defendant's conduct and Harris's opinion sufficiently raised the issue of fitness.
The judge then took the case off the jury trial call and questioned whether there was a doctor available who could examine defendant immediately. Defendant pointed at the judge and said, "I don't know what you think you're doing. I'm never going to speak to a psychiatrist. Do you understand what I'm saying? I already did. You keep bullshitting around. You a [sic] bitch. Punk."
A recess was then taken, and Dr. Timothy Brown evaluated defendant. Upon resuming, the court stated, "And Dr. Tim, we'd [sic] appreciate that you could get over here as quickly and rapidly as you did and in terms of my belief at this time during his conduct all morning that it was raising an issue in my mind of a bona fide issue on fitness." The court added, "Fortunately, we had an expert like yourself that got over here quickly." Dr. Brown then testified, and the following ensued:
"THE COURT: Have you had a chance to interview him? And the defendant is in the courtroom. If you could report to the Court, please, on the issue for fitness for trial today.
DR. BROWN: It is my opinion that Mr. Meyer [sic] is not fit to stand trial. He is unable to control his behavior in the courtroom and he is unable to cooperate and assist in the preparation of his defense as a result of a mental illness.
THE DEFENDANT: I ain't even talked to this guy. You mother fuckers are stupid,man.
DR. BROWN: That would be an example of it.
THE COURT: What else would you like to say, sir?
THE DEFENDANT: Well, I got warrants, man, in Du Page County where you all refused to take me to court. *** And if you all think you're going on with the trial, you need to give me an I bond so I can get out of here and because I don't need to be fucked with. You [sic] stupid. You know you're stupid, man. You're the stupidest one of all.
THE COURT: Let the record also reflect that the colloquy that just started --
THE DEFENDANT: I ain't even talked to that guy.
THE COURT: -- started with a burst of laughter ...