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People v. Miraglia

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, First Division

December 2, 2013

KATHY MIRAGLIA, Defendant-Appellant.

HELD [*]

Where the appellate court found on direct appeal from defendant’s convictions for criminal sexual assault that the trial court erred when it determined, outside defendant’s presence, that there was no bona fide doubt as to her fitness to stand trial that would require a fitness hearing and remanded the cause to the trial court for a retrospective fitness hearing, the trial court properly rejected defendant’s request for a jury determination of her retrospective fitness, since the issue was raised after the trial began and the statute provides that the court is to determine defendant’s fitness at that time, and in defendant’s case, the trial court’s finding that she was fit at the time of the trial was not against the manifest weight of the evidence, especially in view of the testimony that she understood the nature of the proceedings and could assist in her defense, there was no conclusive evidence she was taking psychotropic medication at the time of the trial or was under any specific doctor’s care, and there was no observation of any behavior suggesting unfitness.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 04-CR-15651; the Hon. Gilbert J. Grossi, Judge, presiding.

Michael J. Pelletier, Alan D. Goldberg, and Emily S. Wood, all of State Appellate Defender’s Office, of Chicago, for appellant.

Anita M. Alvarez, State’s Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, William L. Toffenetti, and Margaret G. Lustig, Assistant State’s Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

JUSTICE HOFFMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Cunningham and Delort concurred in the judgment and opinion.



¶ 1 The defendant, Kathy Miraglia, appeals from the circuit court order which both denied her a retrospective jury determination on the question of her fitness to stand trial and found her fit to stand trial. For the following reasons, we affirm.

¶ 2 Following a bench trial in 2006, the defendant was convicted of two counts of criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/12-13(a)(4) (West 2004)) and sentenced to two consecutive four-year terms of imprisonment. The evidence adduced at trial revealed the following facts. In 2003, the defendant, a clinical psychologist at Hillside Academy High School, held group counseling sessions which included J.B., a 16-year-old male junior at the school. J.B. testified that he began to meet with the defendant in private sessions and that their conversations became "deeper." They eventually exchanged phone numbers and the conversations became sexual in nature. Thereafter, the defendant met with J.B. outside of school, and they engaged in sexual intercourse. On several occasions, the defendant bought liquor for J.B. and gave him money to buy marijuana, which they shared. Mike Miraglia, the defendant's husband, testified that on three separate occasions, he discovered letters written by the defendant to J.B., detailing the couple's drug and alcohol use and their sexual relationship.

¶ 3 Prior to trial, the State raised the question of the defendant's fitness to stand trial by informing the court that records indicated that the defendant was taking antidepressant medication and had checked herself into a mental health facility before her arrest in June 2004. Defense counsel requested a hearing outside of the defendant's presence to discuss the issue of her fitness to stand trial. The court expressed its reservations, but granted counsel's request and ordered the courtroom cleared. Defense counsel informed the court that the defendant had previously attempted suicide and had been hospitalized. He confirmed that she had been taking antidepressant medication, but could not verify the specific medication. The court noted that it had not developed any bona fide doubt concerning the defendant's fitness, but opined that defense counsel was better situated to make such a judgment and elicited his opinion. After counsel concurred with the court's assessment, the court concluded that was "all we have to go on, " and the matter proceeded to trial without a fitness hearing.

¶ 4 On direct appeal, the defendant argued, in relevant part, that she was denied her right to be present during a critical stage of the trial because the court discussed the issue of her fitness outside of her presence. This court reviewed the issue, finding that a proceeding at which a defendant's fitness to stand trial is discussed is a critical stage for purposes of a defendant's right to be present. People v. Miraglia, No. 1-06-2654 (2008) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). We concluded that the trial court erred in excluding the defendant from the proceeding and remanded "the matter to the trial court for a retrospective fitness hearing." Id. We held that, if the trial court determined that the defendant was unfit for trial, her convictions should be vacated and the court should conduct further proceedings pursuant to section 104-10 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Code) (725 ILCS 5/104-10 (West 2004)). Miraglia, No. 1-06-2654. We further held that, if the trial court determined that the defendant was fit, her convictions and sentences shall stand. Id.

¶ 5 On remand, the matter was returned to Judge Grossi, the trial judge in Maywood who presided over the defendant's trial. The defendant requested that a jury be impaneled for purposes of retrospectively determining her fitness to stand trial. Thereafter, the matter was transferred to the criminal courthouse in Chicago where jury trials on fitness are conducted. On April 12, 2011, the State moved to strike the defendant's request for a jury determination on the issue of her fitness, asserting that she was not entitled to a jury because the proceeding was to take place after trial and after her convictions were entered of record.

¶ 6 On May 9, 2011, Judge Mary Brosnahan granted the State's motion, finding that the facts of the case did not present a scenario in which the defendant requested a jury determination of her fitness hearing prior to trial. Rather, the court determined that, under the facts presented here, the defendant was not entitled to a jury trial on the issue of her fitness as the issue of the defendant's fitness was first raised after her trial had begun. See People v. Melka, 319 Ill.App.3d 431 (2000). The matter was then transferred back to Judge Grossi's courtroom in Maywood for a nonjury determination of the defendant's fitness.

ΒΆ 7 On August 3, 2011, the fitness hearing proceeded before Judge Grossi. Dr. Christofer Cooper, a forensic psychologist, testified that he received the defendant's medical records, police reports, and transcripts of some of the trial court proceedings, including the defendant's statement in allocution. He also met with the defendant on September 22, 2008, for over two hours to evaluate her present fitness. Dr. Cooper explained that to evaluate a defendant's retrospective fitness, he considers the defendant's current fitness and assesses whether there have been any significant changes or differences in the defendant's mental state or brain functioning from the time of trial. Dr. Cooper noted that the defendant had a doctorate in psychology and had been employed as a school counselor at the time of her offense. After her arrest, the defendant worked full-time for Ameri-Suites Hotel until the time of her trial. At the time of her trial, the defendant stated she had been taking medications prescribed by Dr. Blaise Wolfrum. However, Dr. Cooper noted ...

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