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In re Benny M.

Supreme Court of Illinois

November 30, 2017

In re BENNY M.
Benny M., Appellee. The People of the State of Illinois, Appellant,

          JUSTICE KILBRIDE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Karmeier and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 In this case, the trial court permitted the respondent to remain shackled during a hearing on the State's petition seeking to administer psychotropic medication involuntarily. The trial court granted the State's petition. The appellate court reversed the trial court's judgment, holding that the trial court erred in allowing respondent to be physically restrained during the hearing. For the following reasons, we reverse the appellate court's judgment.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 After being found unfit to stand trial on a charge of domestic battery against his mother, the respondent, Benny M., was admitted involuntarily to the Elgin Mental Health Center. Respondent was medicated involuntarily and later found fit to stand trial. Respondent was transferred to the jail, stopped taking his psychotropic medication, and was again found unfit to stand trial. Respondent was then transferred back to the Elgin Mental Health Center, and the State filed the petition at issue in this case seeking to administer psychotropic medication involuntarily.

         ¶ 4 A hearing was held in Kane County circuit court on the petition on two separate days. On the first day, respondent was physically restrained while being transported, but the shackles were removed before he entered the courtroom. Dr. Donna Luchetta testified that she was a treating psychiatrist at the Elgin Mental Health Center and diagnosed respondent with schizoaffective disorder. Respondent suffered from several symptoms, including delusions that he did not have a mental illness and a belief that he did not need medication. Respondent also experienced severe mood swings with depressive periods followed by "elevated" periods when he would attempt to grab and kiss female interns.

         ¶ 5 Dr. Luchetta testified that respondent's condition and ability to function deteriorated when he did not take his medication. She noted that an order to treat respondent involuntarily expired the previous day and respondent was refusing medication. Following Dr. Luchetta's direct examination, the hearing was continued for two weeks.

         ¶ 6 When the hearing resumed, respondent was physically restrained, and his attorney asked for the shackles to be removed. The trial court inquired whether the shackles were necessary for security. The security officer stated that respondent was "listed as high elopement risk" and submitted a "patient transport checklist" to the court. The checklist was not admitted into evidence and is not included in the record on appeal. In response to the trial court's inquiry, respondent's attorney stated she had not reviewed the document. Respondent then stated,

"I just want to say something. High risk case for elopement, where am I going to go? I'm trapped. *** I said I wanted to be here, and I was willing to even be present in this crap. This is kind of interesting. I mean I can laugh about it, too. I have a sense of humor."

         The trial court then stated, "I will leave him in custody in the shape he is in now. The request is denied."

         ¶ 7 Respondent's attorney asked if respondent's right hand could be released to take notes and communicate with her during the hearing. Respondent interjected, "Do you think I am going to take the pen or something and try to stab someone with it?" The trial court stated, "There's obviously got to be a balance of whatever security feels is necessary and his ability to participate. Do you feel that he is unable to participate in the court proceedings *** with his hands restrained?" Respondent's counsel replied that respondent was unable to participate with his right hand restrained. When the trial court asked respondent if he was right-handed, respondent stated he used both hands and asserted,

"I would try to use my left hand as well because I'm not saying most or everyone, but people tend to try different things, have to learn how to write with both. *** If one hand is hurting or whatever, or for some reason, like if someone loses their hand *** through amputation, they may be forced to use their left hand."

         ¶ 8 At that point, the trial court stated, "If there is need to take notes, I will consider your request." Respondent replied, "I'm speaking, which is even better." The trial court asked respondent's attorney to begin her cross-examination of Dr. Luchetta. When respondent continued to speak, the trial court urged him to listen to his attorney and stated, "If there is a need for you to be writing down some notes or things of that nature, I will consider it at that time. I'm trying to do the best to balance both the security information given to me and your ability to participate."

         ¶ 9 During cross-examination, Dr. Luchetta testified that respondent had refused to take his medication since the last involuntary treatment order expired 15 days prior and his condition was deteriorating. Respondent interrupted occasionally and commented on Dr. Luchetta's testimony. The trial court told respondent that his attorney was there to represent him and admonished respondent several times that he would be removed from the courtroom if he kept interrupting.

         ¶ 10 During his own testimony, respondent asserted that he had not been taking his medication because he did not have a mental illness. Respondent commented about the shackles, stating they were "very restrictive." When the judge told respondent he could step down from the witness stand, respondent stated, "If I am still able to walk. I just got up."

         ¶ 11 In its closing argument, the State observed that respondent's condition had deteriorated since the original hearing date two weeks earlier. The State noted that respondent was able to sit still without interrupting at the first hearing date, but he interrupted repeatedly when the hearing resumed following the continuance. When the State referred to respondent kissing an intern on the cheek without her consent, respondent interrupted the State's argument. The trial court advised respondent that he would be removed from the courtroom the next time he interrupted. The following exchange then occurred:

"[RESPONDENT]: It's crazy.
THE COURT: I will ask him to leave now, please.
[RESPONDENT'S ATTORNEY]: Judge, just for the record, he's been complaining about the shackles the whole hearing.
THE COURT: I have not heard that.
[RESPONDENT'S ATTORNEY]: He's been complaining to me.
THE COURT: I have heard him complain about the language that's being used to describe people. I have heard him interrupt and criticize or comment on what Dr. Luchetta has testified to. I have not heard that. I have heard ...

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