Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fourth Division
from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 09 CR 21018
Honorable Brian K. Flaherty, Judge Presiding.
PRESIDING JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court,
with opinion. Justices Gordon and Ellis concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 Following a jury trial, defendant Eric Smith was found
guilty of first degree murder and attempted first degree
murder and sentenced to a total of 58 years'
imprisonment. On appeal, defendant contends that (1) the
cumulative effect of multiple errors during his trial
resulted in the jury being presented with emotional argument
and inflammatory evidence which, in turn, created a pervasive
pattern of unfair prejudice that deprived him of a fair
trial, (2) his pretrial fitness hearing failed to meet
minimal due process requirements where the trial court merely
adopted an expert's conclusion based on stipulated
testimony that he was fit to stand trial, (3) People's
instruction No. 6 improperly limited the jury to return the
same verdict for both first degree murder and attempted first
degree murder, (4) People's instruction Nos. 17 and 18
misstated the law and confused the jury on how to reach its
verdicts, (5) the trial court abused its discretion in
sentencing him, and (6) he should be given an additional day
of presentence custody credit. Because we find that the
cumulative effect of multiple trial errors resulted in a
pervasive pattern of unfair prejudice that deprived defendant
of a fair trial, we reverse his convictions and remand for a
2 I. BACKGROUND
3 During an October 2009 family gathering in South Holland,
Illinois, defendant stabbed Fias Mannie to death and wounded
his infant daughter, Brooklyn, who was in her father's
arms. None of the family members present knew what
precipitated the stabbings. Defendant ran from the scene, and
the police arrested him a short time later. As a result, the
State charged him with, inter alia, first degree
murder and attempted first degree murder.
4 A. Pretrial Proceedings
5 In May 2011, at defense counsel's request, the trial
court ordered an evaluation of defendant to assess his
fitness to stand trial and fitness to stand trial with
medication. Dr. Mathew Markos, a psychiatrist, examined
defendant, reviewed his records, and submitted a document to
the court, opining that defendant was "mentally fit with
medications." The court subsequently found defendant fit
for trial with medications.
6 In June 2012, defendant hired a new attorney to represent
him, who later requested that defendant be assessed for his
sanity at the time of the alleged offenses and his ability to
understand Miranda warnings. The trial court ordered
the evaluation. Dr. Nishad Nadkarni, a psychiatrist, examined
defendant, reviewed his records, and submitted a document to
the court, opining that defendant "would have been
legally sane at the time of the alleged offense[s]" as
he "was not suffering from any mental disease or defect
that would have substantially impaired his capacity to
appreciate the criminality of the alleged act[s]." Dr.
Nadkarni further opined that defendant would have been able
to understand Miranda warnings at the time of his
7 Defense counsel subsequently requested a second opinion of
defendant's sanity at the time of the alleged offenses
from Dr. Georgia Conic, which the trial court allowed. Dr.
Conic examined defendant, reviewed his records, and submitted
a report to the court, diagnosing defendant at the time of
the offenses with a "[s]chizophrenic disorder paranoid
type" and a "[p]sychogenic fugue state, " as
well as an antisocial personality disorder. Dr. Conic opined
that defendant "experienced a psychogenic fugue state
and was unaware of his actions as related to the stabbing of
Fias and his daughter Brooklyn, and was not in control of
himself." She further believed that "[t]he fugue
state was probably induced by his mental illness or stress
from situations at home."
8 In April 2014, the parties commenced jury selection for
defendant's trial. During the questioning of a
prospective juror, defendant began crying loudly. Defense
counsel requested a break which the trial court allowed.
After the court instructed all of the prospective jurors to
temporarily leave the courtroom, counsel informed the court
that defendant was "upset" and had not taken his
medication that morning. Defendant stated that he was
"okay" to continue with jury selection, prompting
the court to bring the prospective jurors back into the
courtroom. Later, toward the end of jury selection, the State
expressed "concerns" about moving forward in light
of defendant's lack of medication that morning. The court
consequently dismissed all of the prospective jurors, and the
parties agreed to postpone defendant's trial.
9 At a subsequent court date, at the State's request, the
trial court ordered another evaluation of defendant to assess
his fitness to stand trial and fitness to stand trial with
medication. Dr. Nadkarni again examined defendant, reviewed
his records, and submitted a document to the court, opining
that defendant was "fit to stand trial." Dr.
Nadkarni also found that there was "no evidence that the
defendant suffers from bona fide major mental
illness, or cognitive impairment that would preclude him
from" assisting in his defense and maintaining
appropriate courtroom behavior. Dr. Nadkarni stated that
"[a]ny observations to the contrary should be
interpreted as volitional on the part of the defendant and
secondary to documented malingering of mental impairments, as
well as marked character pathology." Additionally, Dr.
Nadkarni determined that defendant's medication did not
impact his fitness and he did not need "psychotropic
medication in order to maintain his fitness or
functioning." Lastly, Dr. Nadkarni referred the court to
his psychiatric summary "for the basis of [his]
10 On June 17, 2014, the trial court held a fitness hearing
where the State and defense counsel agreed to proceed by
stipulation. The parties stipulated that, if Dr. Nadkarni had
testified, he would have opined that defendant was "fit
to stand trial." The court asked if there was any other
evidence, but neither side offered any additional evidence.
The court subsequently found defendant fit to stand trial
without further comment, and his case proceeded to trial.
11 B. Opening Statements
12 The State began its opening statement by telling the jury
that Fias Mannie was "a newlywed, " "a loving
husband, " a "loving father to two beautiful girls,
" and "a spiritual man." The State remarked
that he had fasted the week prior to his death as part of his
spirituality and invited family members over for a dinner to
break the fast. The State then commented that "Fias was
everything that the defendant is not, " which prompted
an unsuccessful objection from defense counsel. Following the
completion of the State's opening statements, counsel
moved for a mistrial arguing that the State's comments
were both argumentative and prejudicial. The trial court
denied the motion, finding the State's comments proper
and merely what its evidence planned to show. The court
further observed that it could not "think of an opening
statement where the [S]tate's not going to want to paint
the defendant in a negative light."
13 In defendant's opening statement, defense counsel
tacitly acknowledged that defendant committed the alleged
acts but told the jury that it would hear evidence that he
had "severe mental problems, " which caused him to
not understand his actions and to not be criminally
responsible for them.
14 C. The State's Case-in-Chief
15 The evidence in the State's case-in-chief revealed
that, in October 2009, Fias Mannie lived in South Holland
along with his wife, Shavon Mannie, and their daughters,
Lerrick and six-month-old Brooklyn. Shavon's brother was
Floyd Wimberly. That month, defendant and his brother, who
were cousins of Wimberly's wife, were staying at
Wimberly's house. ¶ 16 On October 23, defendant
helped Wimberly clean out a neighbor's house, during
which Wimberly handed him a box of knives to throw away in a
dumpster outside. Wimberly assumed that defendant threw them
away as instructed. The next day, defendant accompanied Fias
and his family, as well as Wimberly and his family, to church
services. During the services, defendant was listening,
clapping, and singing along to the hymns. At the completion
of the services, many people, including defendant, hugged one
another. Afterward, Fias invited the Wimberly family to his
house for a dinner the following day to celebrate the
completion of a week-long religious fast he had undertaken.
17 On October 25, defendant and the Wimberly family arrived
at Fias's house. Defendant greeted Fias, shook his hand,
and played with the family dog. After the families ate
dinner, some of them watched a Chicago Bears game. Later in
the evening, Fias, Brooklyn, and defendant were alone in the
living room together. Fias was standing against a wall
holding Brooklyn in his arms while he watched the football
game. Up until this point, according to both Shavon and
Wimberly, Fias and defendant seemed to be getting along well
without any semblance of contention. Defendant was pleasant,
acting normal, had not raised his voice, and never had an
argument with Fias.
18 Shavon briefly went upstairs and when she returned
downstairs, she observed defendant "swinging" at
Fias, who was still holding Brooklyn. She yelled for Wimberly
to help, who rushed into the living room. Shavon noticed a
knife in defendant's hand, and when she looked back at
Fias, she saw blood gushing from his face. Wimberly noticed
blood coming through Fias's shirt and also saw a knife in
defendant's hand, which he recognized as one of the
knives he had given defendant to throw away two days prior.
Wimberly immediately grabbed defendant, threw him against the
wall, and eventually pushed him outside of the house.
Defendant, however, wrestled himself away from Wimberly,
jumped over a fence, and ran away.
19 Fias also ran out of the house where a neighbor, Kelly
Heitmann, observed him covered in blood. She called 911 and
tried to help him by putting pressure on a wound on his neck.
The 911 operator had difficulty understanding Heitmann, which
caused her to throw her phone in frustration. Heitmann's
husband picked up the phone and continued speaking with the
operator. While Heitmann was aiding Fias, he began choking on
his own blood, and she noticed his eyes roll back into his
head. Heitmann told Fias "it was okay if he needed to
leave" and said a prayer for him.
20 The State played the 911 call from Heitmann for the jury.
In the call, Heitmann can be heard struggling to inform the
operator of her address, clearly panicked and overwhelmed.
After Heitmann disappeared from the call, her husband
appeared on the call and informed the operator of the address
while also observing that Fias was "bleeding all
over" from his neck. Crying and hysteria can be heard in
21 Paramedics arrived to the scene shortly thereafter and
transported both Fias and Brooklyn to the hospital. Fias
eventually died as a result of multiple stab and incised
wounds as well as congestion of his right lung. Brooklyn had
a small gash on her cheek and a large one above her mouth and
below her nose. Her injuries required surgery.
22 Meanwhile, at the scene, Wimberly talked to the police and
identified defendant as the offender. South Holland police
officer Robert Williams found defendant, approached him and
asked him to identify himself. Defendant told Officer
Williams that he was "Eric Smith from Michigan, "
and Officer Williams arrested him.
23 At the police station, South Holland police detective
Chris Lareau interviewed defendant and advised him of his
Miranda rights. Defendant stated that he understood
his rights and agreed to talk. Detective Lareau found
defendant's responses to the questioning to be
appropriate and thought defendant appeared
"inquisitive" about the police's knowledge of
24 Near Fias's house, the police recovered two knives.
One was the knife that Wimberly had seen defendant with
during the incident and the other was a knife that Wimberly
later discovered had been taken from a drawer in his house.
25 D. Defendant's Case-in-Chief
26 In defendant's case-in-chief, Patricia Smith,
defendant's mother, testified. She recounted that, during
a two-week period in August 2009, defendant exhibited strange
behavior, including hiding in a closet, being afraid to sleep
by himself, and commenting that he was hearing voices.
Because of his fears, defendant began sleeping in Smith's
bed, something he had never previously done, even as a child.
As a result, Smith took defendant to see a psychologist in
their hometown of Saginaw, Michigan, named Dr. Georgia Conic.
In October 2009, Smith thought that defendant was "doing
better" and could potentially find a job in the Chicago
area, so she sent him to stay with Wimberly.
27 Dr. Georgia Conic testified as an expert in the field of
psychology. She stated that she first met defendant in August
2009 when Smith brought him to her office based on
Smith's concerns over his recent behaviors, including
increased agitation, paranoia, and fear that people were
after him and his family. Dr. Conic evaluated defendant and
observed that he appeared normal in some respects but also
appeared to have some hallucinations. Ultimately, because he
exhibited some symptoms consistent with schizophrenia and
there had been a self-reported family history of it, Dr.
Conic diagnosed defendant with schizophrenia and instructed
him to have follow-up appointments with a psychiatrist, who
could prescribe medication if necessary. Dr. Conic, however,
acknowledged that normally a diagnosis of schizophrenia
cannot be made unless a person had exhibited such symptoms
for six months. As part of her evaluation, Dr. Conic examined
defendant's antisocial behavior, where he scored a 70%
antisocial rating. This rating was based on a history of rule
breaking, reckless behavior, being argumentative with
authority, verbal and physical fighting, and a pattern of
poor impulse control. Dr. Conic stated that an antisocial
personality disorder is not considered a mental illness but
rather a mental disorder.
28 The next time Dr. Conic saw defendant was in July 2013,
after he was charged for the instant offenses. In preparation
for another evaluation of him, she reviewed police reports,
witness statements, and defendant's own statements.
However, she acknowledged she did not review his criminal
history, a psychiatric summary of him by Dr. Markos, a
psychiatric summary of him by Dr. Nadkarni, a clinical social
work evaluation of him by licensed clinical social worker
Janine Bostick, or his recent medical records. After Dr.
Conic's evaluation of defendant, she concluded that he
seemed "more rational, " "more interactive,
" and generally "functioning better" than when
she initially met him, but he could not emotionally connect
to the fact that he had killed Fias. She also stated that, in
statements defendant made to the police, he indicated that he
had no recollection of the events, could not recall even
being present when the stabbings occurred, stated he did not
have a knife, and explained to the police the blood on his
shirt had been there for days.
29 Dr. Conic ultimately opined that, on October 25, 2009,
defendant was suffering from "schizophrenia paranoid
type" and was in a "psychogenic fugue state"
brought on by a combination of schizophrenia and stress at
home. Dr. Conic explained that a fugue state was "a
period of time where a person actually participates in
actions that they are not aware of. They have a break from
reality, and they are not functioning as their rational
self." The fugue state can last for hours, and
afterward, the person resumes normal functioning and has no
recollection of what occurred during the fugue state.
According to Dr. Conic, the conditions defendant suffered
from that day resulted in him lacking the substantial
capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct.
30 Dr. Conic acknowledged that some people "malinger,
" or falsely report the manifestation of psychological
symptoms, in order to avoid prosecution. But she concluded
that defendant was not malingering because it is "very
hard to fake a fugue state, " and he did not have the
"need to calculate or manipulate thinking." Dr.
Conic admitted she was unaware that other doctors had
suspected defendant of malingering.
31 E. The State's Rebuttal Case
32 In rebuttal, the State called Dr. Nishad Nadkarni, a
psychiatrist, who testified as an expert in forensic
psychiatry. In March 2013, in preparation for an evaluation
of defendant, Dr. Nadkarni reviewed his criminal history, a
psychological assessment of him prepared by GEC Psychological
Consultants from August 2009, the psychiatric summary of him
by Dr. Markos, the clinical social work evaluation of him by
Bostick, police reports, several witness statements,
statements from him, a DVD of him being interviewed by the
police, and his recent medical records.
33 Defendant's medical records revealed that he did not
seek treatment for his mental health issues until six or
seven months after his arrest, and there were
"significant notations" that defendant was
"malingering." Defendant's medications included
one milligram of Risperdal, an antipsychotic and mood
stabilizer, every 12 hours, which was a "very small
dose, " as people with "true mental illness like
schizophrenia" require four to six milligrams of
Risperdal per day. Dr. Nadkarni acknowledged, however, that
defendant's medications were ones designed to treat
people with a bona fide psychosis.
34 Dr. Nadkarni's review of the DVD revealed that
defendant showed "no signs of any psychiatric or
cognitive impairment." Rather, defendant appeared to be
"interactive in a high and logical level" and
"somewhat gamey in his demeanor." At one point,
defendant was left alone in the interview room and told
himself that he had left the scene and was not there, which
led Dr. Nadkarni to believe that defendant was acting
rational and logical, but merely antisocial.
35 During Dr. Nadkarni's evaluation, defendant reported
his symptoms as including paranoia and hallucinations but did
so in a "stilted and artificial manner, " which was
"atypical of somebody who has a true, major mental
illness." According to Dr. Nadkarni, people with true
mental illnesses appear "very ill" and are
"reluctant" to talk about their symptoms, which
oftentimes makes a diagnosis difficult. Defendant, however,
was "very well engaged" and called "attention
to [his] symptoms." He also possessed a goal-oriented
thinking process without any signs of hallucinations or
psychosis, and he acted "interpersonally charismatic,
" which was also contrary to the typical person with
schizophrenia who acts "very flat." Based on the
evaluation, Dr. Nadkarni concluded that defendant did not
demonstrate "any bona fide or true psychiatric
or cognitive impairments."
36 Dr. Nadkarni also discussed the stabbing incident with
defendant, who reported that, prior to it, he "was in a
bad spirit, " and heard voices and animals talking to
him. Defendant stated that, during the stabbings, he suffered
from "different psychiatric symptoms, " felt
"out of control" and possibly heard more voices. He
told Dr. Nadkarni that he "just stabbed" Fias and
"left the scene because [he] realized what [he] had
done." Defendant acknowledged to Dr. Nadkarni that his
actions were unlawful.
37 Dr. Nadkarni ultimately diagnosed defendant with
malingering, which is "the creation or feigning of
mental symptoms, " a history of mood disorder, and an
antisocial personality disorder, the latter of which was not
a mental disease or defect but rather a behavior problem. Dr.
Nadkarni opined that, at the time of the stabbings, defendant
did not "manifest a bona fide or true mental
disease or defect that would have substantially impaired his
capacity to appreciate the criminality of the alleged
38 When asked about a psychogenic fugue state, Dr. Nadkarni
stated that only a "few dozen case reports" of a
true fugue state had been documented and that most claims of
such were really just malingering. Dr. Nadkarni, who had
conducted over 3100 forensic evaluations in his capacity as a
psychiatrist, could not answer whether a person in a fugue
state would be able to appreciate the ...