People v. Wood, 2014 IL App (1st) 121408 (July). Episode 007 (Duration 12:33). Here, we explore the difference between insanity defense and GBMI in Illinois.
Difference Between GBMI and Insanity Defense
There is a clear and distinct difference between insanity defense and a GBMI finding in Illinois.
Insanity Defense Statute In Illinois
The Illinois Compiled Statutes Criminal Code states that:
“A person is insane and not criminally responsible for his conduct if he lacks substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of that conduct due to a mental disease or defect.” 720 ILCS 5/6-2(a).
The defense (or prosecution) has to present some evidence of insanity consistent with the above definition.
GBMI In Illinois
The guilty but mentally ill (GBMI) finding in Illinois is not a real defense to a charge. A defendant found guilty but mentally ill is going to prison.
The Criminal Code says that:
“… mental illness is not an affirmative defense, but an alternative plea or finding that may be accepted, under appropriate evidence, when the affirmative defense of insanity is raised or the plea of guilty but mentally ill is made.” 720 ILCS 5/6-4.
GBMI includes the word “guilty” to stress that the person who is GBMI is still convicted and still going to prison. What a person achieves by “winning” a GBMI finding is assured mental treatment while in prison. That might not be considered much. But sometimes, you have to take what you can get. This may be very valuable and beneficial to a guilty person and society.
The law, then, provides only two avenues to a finding of GBMI.
(1) A defendant can plead it. If for some reason a defendant chooses to not plead guilty, and
(2) Proceeds to trial, a court may make a finding of GBMI if the insanity defense is lost.
This, of course, presumes that a defendant initially raises the insanity defense at trial.
People v. Wood
If the insanity defense is not raised at trial, by pleading, then a defendant may not be awarded the GBMI finding even though there is evidence presented of mental illness.
This was exactly the problem encountered by counsel in People v. Wood.
Brief summary of the facts in this case, this defendant:
- Testified against counsel’s advice
- Refused to undergo evaluations by mental health experts
- Demanded a plea for affirmative defense unsupported by the facts
- Undermined entire defense by telling the judge he did it
- Wanted manslaughter when evidence was for murder
- AND Asserted ineffective assistance of counsel
More Detailed Facts Of The Case
Defendant had a long history of paranoid schizophrenia.
His elderly mother had an active order of protection against him. Defendant testified that he bound his mother with an extension cord because he was worried she would call the police on him.
When he thought she was making too much noise, he gagged her. Within minutes after she was gagged she died, in part, because her tongue was forced to the back of her throat blocking her airway. She also had severe injuries to her head that contributed to her death.
Defendant Testified In His Own Behalf
Defendant testified, against advice from counsel.
He thought it keenly important to tell the judge that he had no idea a person could die from “just being tied up.” (Clearly, there was some advice from counsel ignored here.) His entire life, Defendant had never heard of anyone dying from being tied up. He testified he did not kill his mother, and that all he had done was unlawfully restrain her.
Why Didn’t Attorney Plead And Claim The Insanity Defense?
The defense attorney did not plead the insanity defense because there were no facts that would have supported the pleading.
The only psychological evaluation that defendant agreed to undergo flat out said he was sane at the time of the murder. The only motivation explaining his conduct was that he did not want his mother to call the police. His paranoid schizophrenia did not contribute to his behavior.
Did I mention that he he also refused to undergo any other evaluations?
Why Didn’t He at Least Get the GBMI Finding?
All defense counsel could do is argue for a GBMI finding that the law did not support.
Remember, there are only two ways to a GBMI. Defendant has to plead it. Or the judge awards it after a trial where insanity defense is plead.
Defendant, certainly, was not going to plead in this case. In his grossly mistaken mind, he only committed manslaughter because he had never heard of anyone dying from being tied up. Apparently, schizophrenic Defendants can be just like other non-ill defendants who are unwilling to see the real mess they are in.
Counsel could not, in good faith, make a pleading of the affirmative defense of insanity. So nothing was left. GBMI was not on the table because insanity was never plead.
What was wrong here is that everyone involved knew that this defendant was GBMI. But he did not get the finding.
The defense attorney was in a tough spot because he had no good options. He could have plead the insanity defense knowing he had no good faith basis with which to do so, only for the chance to ask for the GBMI finding. Or he could have asked for the GBMI finding at the end of a trial where he did not make a claim for the insanity defense, knowing that the law would not allow a judge to give it to him.
Throw, in the fact the we have a client who is untethered from reality. Defendant was demanding that his attorney make an insanity defense when the law did not support it. Then Defendant insisted on a manslaughter instruction when the facts nor the law supported it.
Defendant then testified at trial and completely undermined the main defense that the state could not prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.