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The People of the State of Illinois v. Liam J. Mccauley

February 19, 2013


Appeal from Circuit Court of McLean County No. 09CF756 Honorable Robert L. Freitag, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Steigmann

Carla Bender 4th District Appellate

PRESIDING JUSTICE STEIGMANN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Justices Appleton and Turner concurred in the judgment and opinion.


¶ 1 Following a July 2010 bench trial, the trial court found defendant, Liam J. McCauley, guilty but mentally ill of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/6-2(c), 9-1 (West 2008)). In September 2010, the court sentenced defendant to 27 years in prison.

¶ 2 Defendant appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by finding him guilty but mentally ill of first degree murder because he did not meet the statutory definition of "voluntary intoxication" and he had proved that he was insane at the time of the murder. Alternatively, defendant argues that the trial court erred by (1) failing to sua sponte find him guilty of the lesser-mitigated offense of second degree murder and (2) imposing an excessive sentence. We affirm.


¶ 4 In August 2009, the State charged defendant with first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (2) (West 2008)), alleging that he killed his father, Joseph McCauley, by striking him in the head with a bat and stabbing him in the back with a knife. Defendant thereafter waived his right to a jury trial. In July 2010, defendant's bench trial commenced, at which defendant argued that he was not guilty by reason of insanity.

¶ 5 A. The State's Case In Chief

¶ 6 The State presented the following evidence through testimony from police officers, investigators, an emergency room doctor, as well as pathology and blood experts to prove that defendant murdered his father.

¶ 7 1. Officer Abigail Kern

¶ 8 Officer Abigail Kern testified that, while working as a 9-1-1 operator, she received a call from defendant. The State thereafter played a recording of that call in open court. That recording, and the accompanying transcript, revealed that defendant reported killing his father by hitting him with a baseball bat and stabbing him because he believed that his father was trying to rape him.

¶ 9 2. Officer Jeff Wernsman

¶ 10 Officer Jeff Wernsman responded to the McCauley residence where defendant answered the door with a "blank look on his face"; defendant appeared to him to be "in shock." Wernsman explained that he located the victim, Joseph McCauley, in a bedroom, where he found a knife sticking out of his back, "blood splatters everywhere."

¶ 11 3. Sergeant Brian Brown

¶ 12 Sergeant Brian Brown responded to the 9-1-1 call with Wernsman and agreed with Wernsman's observations that (1) defendant appeared to be in shock and (2) the victim was saturated in blood, a knife stuck in his back.

¶ 13 4. Professor Jane Camp Bartelmay

¶ 14 Heartland Community College Professor Jane Camp Bartelmay worked with Joseph McCauley at the college. She observed him interact with his children, particularly defendant, and noted that Joseph was a good father. She added that Joseph and defendant had a close, loving father-son relationship.

¶ 15 5. Dr. Scott Denton

¶ 16 Dr. Scott Denton, a coroner's forensic pathologist, conducted the autopsy on Joseph McCauley. Denton explained that Joseph (1) had suffered from blunt force trauma to the head with enough force to cause lacerations and a skull fracture, (2) had been stabbed in the back numerous times (45 wounds), and (3) had "defensive wounds" to his forearm and hand. Denton opined that Joseph died from the blunt force trauma and stab wounds, as they resulted in extensive blood loss. Denton added that Joseph's head injuries had been inflicted while he was sitting upright.

¶ 17 6. Officer Erik Yamada

¶ 18 Officer Erik Yamada placed defendant in his squad car, he observed that defendant appeared "scared." On the way to the squad car, defendant mentioned that his father had molested him. Yamada added that once defendant was in the squad car he seemed more "panicked" and repeated that his father molested him, noting that his "butt was sore."

¶ 19 7. Detective Michael Johnson

¶ 20 Detective Michael Johnson interviewed defendant at the police station. Johnson explained that defendant did not appear to have any visible injuries but complained that he had "pain in his rectum" and that he had been assaulted. Johnson thereafter transported defendant to the hospital for treatment. Defendant explained to the medical staff that he had "leakage" from his anus and problems peeing and that he believed his father was going to assault him.

¶ 21 8. Detective Dan Donath

¶ 22 Detective Dan Donath was present during defendant's interview at the police station and did not notice any visible injuries to defendant. Donath also explained that he inspected the crime scene and noted that the scene included significant blood spatter. Donath further noted that he sent a sample of defendant's blood to the State Police laboratory to be tested for lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and the results of that test were negative.

¶ 23 9. Detective Scott Mathewson

¶ 24 Detective Scott Mathewson was assigned to the crime scene. Mathewson explained that during his initial "walk-through," he observed a baseball bat lying on the floor in the dining room. The bat appeared to have blood spatter on it.

¶ 25 10. Dr. April Miller

¶ 26 Dr. April Miller, the emergency room doctor who treated defendant, testified that defendant complained of "rectal pain," claiming that the pain was an "8" on a scale of "1-to-10." Miller noted that defendant seemed calm and responsive, watching television and smiling. She said that defendant seemed to her to be "acting fairly normally." Miller explained that defendant complained about sexual abuse but could not recount specific incidents. On the issue of Miller's physical examination of defendant, the following colloquy occurred:

"[PROSECUTOR:] Okay, Based on this description of his symptoms and the reason for his symptoms, what did you do?

[MILLER:] In addition to the physical exam, I did a focused rectal exam.

[PROSECUTOR:] Can you tell me what you do in a focus rectal exam?

[MILLER:] I would do an external exam, looking for any skin abnormality or signs of trauma, such as, scrapes, cuts, bruises, or signs of infection, and then a digital rectal exam where I evaluate for his sphincter tone and rectal tone.

[PROSECUTOR:] What were you[r] findings after performing an exam on this patient?

[MILLER:] Perhaps a small hemorrhoid, otherwise unremarkable.

[PROSECUTOR:] What do you mean by unremarkable? [MILLER:] No obvious signs of trauma. Sphincter tone was normal. No discharge or signs of infection."

Miller added that she found no obvious signs of trauma after performing a sexual assault exam of defendant.

¶ 27 11. Detective Shawn Campbell

¶ 28 Detective Shawn Campbell met with defendant in the interview room at the police station. Campbell noted that defendant was complaining about rectal pain and added that defendant was "calm, cooperative, seem[ing] kind of detached from the situation." Campbell explained that defendant told him that on the day he killed his father, his father came into his room and "grasp[ed] his thigh." Defendant then admitted to Campbell that he hit his father with a bat and stabbed him with a knife. Campbell explained that defendant gave him two specific examples of alleged sexual assaults: one when he was three years old and woke up after having wet the bed to find his father standing over him, and the second when he was nine years old and his father asked him to "kiss his butt."

¶ 29 Campbell continued that defendant asked to see him because defendant wanted to provide a confession to "clear his dad's name and explain to his family what happened." Defendant thereafter provided a written confession, which he later read aloud. Defendant's verbal statement included a reference to being on LSD, a claim that defendant had not included in his written statement-indeed, Campbell explained that defendant had previously told him that he was not on LSD.

¶ 30 B. Defendant's Case in Chief

¶ 31 In support of his insanity defense, defendant presented the following evidence from his employer, family members, friends, a police officer, and mental health experts.

¶ 32 1. George Bartlow

¶ 33 George Bartlow, defendant's supervisor at Jewel grocery store, testified that a day or two before the murder, defendant was acting depressed, "staring off into the distance." When Bartlow asked defendant whether he was "okay," defendant responded that he was. Bartlow added that defendant's behavior was not that unusual; "[h]e was never talkative or anything."

¶ 34 2. Andrew Lucas

¶ 35 Andrew Lucas, defendant's co-worker, had seen defendant in the days before he learned that Joseph had been killed and noted that he "wasn't the same." He was "much quieter."

¶ 36 3. Jane Fender

¶ 37 Jane Fender, defendant's maternal grandmother, testified that her mother and grandmother's sister suffered from mental illness. She said that her mother would often threaten to kill the family, and her aunt died in a psychiatric hospital. Fender added that her daughter, defendant's mother, suffered from depression, and her cousin's son had been diagnosed schizophrenic.

¶ 38 4. Mark Slagel

¶ 39 Mark Slagel, a friend of defendant's brother, watched a movie with defendant the night before defendant killed his father and noted that defendant was "real quiet" and "kept to himself." Slagel added that although he had only met defendant once or twice before, defendant appeared to be off, "star[ing] off occasionally." He noticed that defendant was also writing something on a sheet of paper, but the writings did not seem to "make any sense."

¶ 40 5. James Leggett

¶ 41 James Leggett, the brother of defendant's roommate, knew defendant and his family and saw defendant two to three times per week. Leggett explained that he watched a movie with defendant and others the night before defendant killed his father, noting that defendant seemed a little more quiet than normal. Leggett described defendant as "[f]unny, outgoing, and compassionate" but noted that defendant was none of those things the night they watched the movie. He added that defendant was "doodling" on a piece of paper during the movie, and left the apartment after midnight.

¶ 42 Leggett further testified that he knew that defendant had used LSD in the past but did not see him use LSD that evening. When Leggett saw defendant use LSD in the past, he did not notice any apparent changes in defendant's behavior.

¶ 43 6. Dr. Lawrence Jeckel

¶ 44 Dr. Lawrence Jeckel, a forensic psychiatrist, reviewed defendant's records-including family history-and conducted a clinical evaluation of defendant. Jeckel opined that defendant "lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct at the time of the crime" in this case. Jeckel based his opinion on his conclusion that defendant suffered from delusions, hallucinations, and a "psychotic disorder, not otherwise specified." Jeckel noted that defendant actually loved his father but, through his delusions, believed that God wanted him to kill his father and that his father was homosexual. Jeckel continued that he found no evidence of premeditation or motivation in defendant's actions. Defendant was effectively acting out on a delusion that his father had been sexually abusing him. Jeckel further opined that defendant's psychotic episode the night he killed his father was not the result of his LSD use several days before. Jeckel explained that his research revealed that the effects of LSD did not extend beyond 12 hours.

¶ 45 On cross-examination, Jeckel said that defendant admitted to him that defendant had been using cannabis up to three times per day prior to killing his father. Jeckel also conceded that most of his opinion regarding the effects of LSD were garnered from articles and texts, rather than experience in his practice.

¶ 46 7. Officer Beth Acuncius

¶ 47 Officer Beth Acuncius testified that at 2 a.m. on August 13, 2008, she was on patrol when she received a call reporting a burglary in progress; a man was trying to "make entry to a house." The homeowners heard glass break and saw that someone was pounding on their front door, screaming that someone was trying to kill him and pleading to come in. Acuncius explained that she and other officers apprehended defendant and, as they were escorting him to the police car, he was kicking and flailing, screaming that he was going to kill them, adding, "he *** was screaming in terror the whole time." The police took defendant to the hospital, where he admitted to Acuncius that he had ingested LSD and mushrooms.

ΒΆ 48 Acuncius further testified that she spoke to defendant on August 15, 2008. She said that defendant sounded lucid and, in fact, noted that he had contacted the victims to ...

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