People v. Burnett, 2016 IL App (1st) 141033 (December). Episode 286 (Duration 7:59)
Trial judge denies an insanity defense to a defendant with recognized schizophrenia, psychotic disorder, suffering from hallucinations, “disorganized thinking,” drug addiction, and an IQ of 72, placing him within a “borderline range of cognitive functioning.”
Defendant hijacked a van from a gas station.
The owner jumped on a floor board and tried to get in the van to prevent defendant from taking it. Defendant crashed and killed the owner.
A jury found defendant guilty of first degree murder and vehicular hijacking.
He had been diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
He was taking an antidepressant medication, Sertraline, and an antipsychotic medication, Risperdal.
Defendant’s medical history showed he experienced auditory or visual hallucinations.
Nonetheless, he was fond fit to stand trial.
Defendant filed an amended answer to discovery giving notice that he was asserting the affirmative defenses of insanity and self-defense.
The trial court reviewed the amended answer and then stated:
“No, no, no. In addition, this Defense may allege that the Defendant was insane at the time of the offense. No. That is not how it’s done. It is definitively declared. You can’t go reasonable doubt or insane. It’s not — it doesn’t work that way. It’s not how it’s presented. If you are — if somebody is proceeding under the affirmative defense of an individual who was insane at the time of the alleged occurrence, that needs to be clearly alleged. It’s not in the alternative. So this is not properly filed.”
Trial Court Denies It
The trial court ruled that defendant was precluded from raising the insanity defense, mentioning insanity or defendant’s mental health during opening statement, and prevented from presenting a defense expert on the issue of insanity.
The judge then allowed the state’s doctor to testify in rebuttal that defendant was sane at the time of the incident.
Give Me Insanity Instruction
At the jury instruction conference, defendant requested instructions on insanity, second degree murder, self-defense, PSMV, and reckless homicide.
The trial court denied each of these instructions.
The defense also renewed its request to recall it’s own doctor in surrebuttal and moved for directed verdict, which the court denied.
In Illinois, a defendant is legally insane if at the time of the offense, he lacks the “substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct” as a result of a mental disease or defect. 720 ILCS 5/6-2(a).
Although a defendant must prove by clear and convincing evidence that he is not guilty by reason of insanity (720 ILCS 5/6-4), insanity is an affirmative defense, which means that the defendant merely needs to present “some evidence” to properly raise it (720 ILCS 5/3-2(a)).
The “some evidence” standard has been held to be “enough evidence *** that, if believed, *** would be sufficient for a reasonable jury to find in [the defendant’s] favor. An insanity instruction should be given where sufficient evidence has been presented to support a jury’s finding of insanity by clear and convincing evidence.
Neither psychiatric testimony nor medical or lay opinion is necessary to give the instructions if the evidence itself reveals serious mental defects or a substantial history of mental illness.
Rather, whether the instruction must be given turns on whether a reasonable jury, hearing the testimony presented by the defense witnesses, could find by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant, due to his mental illness, lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct at the time of the crime.
In this case, the trial court made an error in law and thus abused its discretion in refusing to instruct the jury as to an insanity defense.
At the outset, the trial court repeatedly stated that the question of defendant’s sanity did not arise because defendant’s expert witness found defendant fit to stand trial with medication but did not opine as to defendant’s sanity at the time of the offense.
This was error.
Different Time Frames
First, it is a deeply-rooted rule that the questions of fitness for trial and sanity concern different time frames and different standards.
The standards for competency to stand trial and sanity at the time of the offense are different and that a finding as to competency does not necessarily answer the question whether a defendant was sane at an earlier time.
Expert Not Required
In addition, the determination of sanity is not dependent upon any particular type of testimony, expert or otherwise.
This Record Sufficient
Moreover, the record in this case reveals sufficient evidence as to insanity that, if believed, would have resulted in the jury finding in defendant’s favor.
Defendant’s police interrogation and his trial testimony provided ample evidence of insanity for any rational jury to conclude he was insane at the time of the crime.
Finally, although the State’s two expert witnesses opined that defendant was sane at the time of the offense and defendant’s witness rendered no opinion, their reports all described multiple mental illnesses from which defendant suffered, including schizophrenia and psychotic disorder, and they further noted that defendant suffered from hallucinations, “disorganized thinking,” and drug addiction.
In addition, one of the State’s expert witnesses, testified in rebuttal as to these facts.
An intelligence test also revealed that defendant’s intelligence quotient (IQ) was 72, the third percentile, placing him within a “borderline range of cognitive functioning.”
Reversed and remanded for a new trial.